There are many mosques, churches and museums among the best places to visit in Istanbul. In this article, you can find 10 of the most popular historical monuments in the city.
As a private tour guide in Istanbul for many years, I accompanied hundreds of tourists. In this article, I have selected the most preferred places among tourists visiting the city. Thus, I believe that this list will help you in planning your trip to Istanbul.
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Best Places to Visit in Istanbul 2023
There are 10 titles in the list of the best places to visit in Istanbul for 2023. These places bear the traces of three empires that ruled in Istanbul. In this way, you can witness the history that started from the Roman period and spread over 1800 years.
The history of Istanbul has a sophisticated structure consisting of many layers. There are world-famous historical buildings in the city, which was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built as a church during the Byzantine period. The building, which draws attention with its 1500-year history, opened a new page in the history of world architecture.
Hagia Sophia remained a church for about 900 years. The building, which was converted into a mosque in the 15th century, continued as a mosque for 500 years. Hagia Sophia, which remained a museum for 90 years during the Republican era, is now a mosque again.
If you want to get updated information about Hagia Sophia located in Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, you can review this article. This article contains Hagia Sophia visiting hours and many other insider tips.
2. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is one of the most mysterious places in Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern, a 1500-year-old underground water reservoir, was built by the most famous ruler of Byzantium, Emperor Justinian.
Basilica Cistern is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul today. Some scenes of Hollywood movies such as James Bond and Inferno were shot in the cistern. You can review this article to learn interesting facts about Basilica Cistern.
3. The Hippodrome
Hippodrome was a circus that hosted sporting and social events for the people of Constantinople. Today, it’s known as Sultanahmet Square and you can still see some of the surviving fragments of the original Roman structure.
In this square are the Theodosius Column, the Serpentine Column and the Walled Column, which are among the oldest historical monuments of Istanbul. Especially the Column of Theodosius was originally an Egyptian Obelisk and is 3500 years old.
4. Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, is a historic mosque found in the city of Istanbul. It’s a popular tourist attraction that still operates as a mosque, and its name comes from the beautiful hand-painted blue tiles that cover its interior walls.
The Iznik Tiles inside the Blue Mosque represent the pinnacle of Ottoman art. Although the pencil works and tiles on the walls of the mosque have various colors, the most dominant color is blue.
The Blue Mosque has undergone a major restoration since 2015. Marbles, tiles and pencil work have been refurbished. If the restoration is completed this year, the Blue Mosque will be among the best places to visit in Istanbul in 2023.
5. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace once served as the majestic headquarters and residence of the Ottoman sultans. Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the palace was transformed into a museum. It contains hundreds of rooms that are mostly closed off, but tourists can still explore some of the most important and iconic rooms in the palace.
When you visit crowded museums such as Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, you need to buy a museum card to avoid waiting in the ticket lines. For more information on this subject, you can also read the Museum Pass Istanbul article.
6. Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world. It consists of over 57 covered streets and around 3,000 different shops, bringing in around 300,000 different visitors each day.
Grand Bazaar is also regarded as one of the first shopping malls in the world and an excellent place to browse when you’re visiting Istanbul. You can buy tiles, jewelry, leather, colorful lamps and Turkish rugs in Grand Bazaar.
7. Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque is an imperial Ottoman mosque that was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan.
Suleymaniye Mosque is currently one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the world and also the second largest mosque in the whole of Turkey. The largest mosque in Turkey is the Selimiye Mosque, located in the city of Edirne, on the country’s European border.
Suleymaniye Mosque is often overlooked by tourists because it is a little far from the tourist center of Sultanahmet. However, after your visit to the Grand Bazaar, you can reach this magnificent mosque with a short walk.
With all these historical features, Suleymaniye Mosque is among the best places to visit in Istanbul in 2023. Don’t forget to add Suleymaniye, one of the best mosques to visit in Istanbul, to your list!
8. Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar is one of the most legendary covered shopping complexes in the world and is the must-see place for exotic spices from all around the country. Spice Bazaar is a fantastic place to visit in Istanbul if you want to bring a unique culinary gift to your friends and family members.
After visiting the Spice Bazaar, it is highly recommended to explore the street food places and public markets around it. Most street food tours in Istanbul start from here.
9. Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace is located on the European shores of the Bosphorus and once served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahce Palace is one of the most popular historical places to visit in Istanbul and definitely a must-see destination.
The Palace also represents the change in Ottoman architecture over time. While Topkapi Palace was adorned with classical period architecture, Dolmabahce Palace is a European building with its baroque and neoclassical architecture.
10. Chora Church
Chora Church is a magnificent building that gives clues about the late period architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The best preserved Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul are inside this historical building.
Chora Church was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and was named the Kariye Mosque. The building, which was used as a museum for 90 years like Hagia Sophia, has now been converted into a mosque again.
If you are interested in the Byzantine heritage in Istanbul, you can join my private guided tours. There are many mysterious Byzantine structures to discover in Istanbul, and you can take the tours suggested in this article to better understand their history.
In this article, we have listed the best places to visit in Istanbul. Of course, there is much to see in Istanbul apart from these 10 historical monuments. If you are looking for more information about Istanbul, you can review the blog page of this site.
For example, there is another place that we did not mention among the historical places to visit in Istanbul, but it is very important. For information about this historical monument located near Taksim Square, you can read the Galata Tower article.
Written by Serhat Engul