Area: 5.712 km²
Population: 7.309.190 (1990)
Traffic Code: 34
“There, God and human, nature and art are together, they have created such a perfect place that it is valuable to see.” Lamartine’s famous poetic line reveals his love for Istanbul, describing the embracing of two continents, with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe.
Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires – Christian and Islamic. Once capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural pulse of Turkey, and its beauty lies in its ability to embrace its contradictions. Ancient and modern, religious and secular, Asia and Europe, mystical and earthly all co-exist here.
Its variety is one of Istanbul’s greatest attractions: The ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars reflect its diverse history. The thriving shopping area of Taksim buzzes with life and entertainment. And the serene beauty of the Bosphorus, Princes Islands and parks bring a touch of peace to the otherwise chaotic metropolis.
Adalar, Avcılar, Bağcılar, Bahçelievler, Bakırköy, Beşiktaş, Bayrampaşa, Beykoz, Beyoğlu, Eminönü, Eyüb, Fatih, Gaziosmanpaşa, Kadıköy, Kâğıthane, Kartal, Küçükçekmece, Pendik, Sarıyer, Şişli, Ümraniye, Üsküdar, Zeytinburnu, Büyükçekmece, Çatalca, Silivri, Şile, Esenler, Güngören, Maltepe, Sultanbeyli, Tuzla.
Golden Horn: This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbours in the world, it was once the centre for the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests. Today, attractive parks and promenades line the shores, a picturesque scene especially as the sun goes down over the water. At Fener and Balat, neighbourhoods midway up the Golden Horn, there are entire streets filled with old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues dating from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides at Fener and a little further up the Golden Horn at Eyup, are some wonderful examples of Ottoman architecture. Muslim pilgrims from all over the world visit Eyup Camii and Tomb of Eyup, the Prophet Mohammed’s standard bearer, and it is one of the holiest places in Islam. The area is a still a popular burial place, and the hills above the mosque are dotted with modern gravestones interspersed with ornate Ottoman stones. The Pierre Loti Cafe, atop the hill overlooking the shrine and the Golden Horn, is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.
Beyoğlu and Taksim: Beyoglu is an interesting example of a district with European-influenced architecture, from a century before. Europe’s second oldest subway, Tunel was built by the French in 1875, must be also one of the shortest – offering a one-stop ride to start of Taksim. Near to Tunel is the Galata district, whose Galata Tower became a famous symbols of Istanbul, and the top of which offers a tremendous 180 degree view of the city.
From the Tunel area to Taksim square is one of the city’s focal points for shopping, entertainment and urban promenading: Istiklal Cadesi is a fine example of the contrasts and compositions of Istanbul; fashion shops, bookshops, cinemas, markets, restaurants and even hand-carts selling trinkets and simit (sesame bread snack) ensure that the street is packed throughout the day until late into the night. The old tramcars re-entered into service, which shuttle up and down this fascinating street, and otherwise the street is entirely pedestrianised. There are old embassy buildings, Galatasaray High School, the colourful ambience of Balik Pazari (Fish Bazaar) and restaurants in Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage). Also on this street is the oldest church in the area, St Mary’s Draperis dating back to 1789, and the Franciscan Church of St Antoine, demolished and then rebuilt in 1913.
The street ends at Taksim Square, a huge open plaza, the hub of modern Istanbul and always crowded, crowned with an imposing monument celebrating Attaturk and the War of Independence. The main terminal of the new subway is under the square, adjacent is a noisy bus terminal, and at the north end is the Ataturk Cultural Centre, one of the venues of the Istanbul Theatre Festival. Several five-star hotels are dotted around this area, like the Hyatt, Intercontinental and Hilton (the oldest of its kind in the city). North of the square is the Istanbul Military Museum.
Taksim and Beyoglu have for centuries been the centre of nightlife, and now there are many lively bars and clubs off Istiklal Cadesi, including some of the only gay venues in the city. Beyoglu is also the centre of the more bohemian arts scene.
Sultanahmet: Many places of tourist interest are concentrated in Sultanahmet, heart of the Imperial Centre of the Ottoman Empire. The most important places in this area, all of which are described in detail in the “Places of Interest” section, are Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, Sultan Ahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque), the Hippodrome, Kapali Carsi (Covered Market), Yerebatan Sarnici and the Museum of Islamic Art.
In addition to this wonderful selection of historical and architectural sites, Sultanahmet also has a large concentration of carpet and souvenir shops, hotels and guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants, and travel agents.
Ortaköy: Ortakoy was a resort for the Ottoman rulers because of its attractive location on the Bosphorus, and is still a popular spot for residents and visitors. The village is within a triangle of a mosque, church and synagogue, and is near Ciragan Palace, Kabatas High School, Feriye, Princess Hotel.
The name Ortakoy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life, when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed at weekends and holidays.
Sarıyer: The first sight of Sarıyer is where the Bosphorus connects with the Black Sea, after the bend in the river after Tarabya. Around this area, old summer houses, embassies and fish restaurants line the river, and a narrow road which separates it from Buyukdere, continues along to the beaches of Kilyos.
Sarıyer and Rumeli Kavağı are the final wharfs along the European side visited by the Bosphorus boat trips. Both these districts, famous for their fish restaurants along with Anadolu Kavagi, get very crowded at weekends and holidays with Istanbul residents escaping the city.
After these points, the Bosphorus is lined with tree-covered cliffs and little habitation. The Sadberk Hanim Museum, just before Sariyer, is an interesting place to visit; a collection of archaeological and ethnographic items, housed in two wooden houses. A few kilometres away is the huge Belgrade Forest, once a haunting ground of the Ottomans, and now a popular weekend retreat into the largest forest area in the city.
Üsküdar: Relatively unknown to tourists, the suburb of Üsküdar, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, is one of the most attractive suburbs. Religiously conservative in its background, it has a tranquil atmosphere and some fine examples of imperial and domestic architecture.
The Iskele, or Mihrimah Camii is opposite the main ferry pier, on a high platform with a huge covered porch in front, often occupied by older local men watching life around them. Opposite this is Yeni Valide Camii, built in 1710, and the Valide Sultan’s green tomb rather like a giant birdcage. The Cinili Mosque takes its name from the beautiful tiles which decorate the interior, and was built in 1640.
Apart from places of religious interest, Uskudar is also well known as a shopping area, with old market streets selling traditional local produce, and a good fleamarket with second hand furniture. There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes with great views of the Bosphorus and the rest of the city, along the quayside. In the direction of Haydarpasa is the lhe Karaca Ahmet Cemetery, the largest Muslim graveyard in Istanbul. The front of the Camlica hills lie at the ridge of area and also offer great panoramic views of the islands and river.
Kadıköy: Further south along the Bosphorus towards the Sea of Marmara, Kadıköy has developed into a lively area with up-market shopping, eating and entertainment making it popular especially with wealthy locals. Once prominent in the history of Christianity, the 5th century hosted important consul meetings here, but there are few reminders of that age. It is one of the improved districts of Istanbul over the last century, and fashionable area to promenade along the waterfront in the evenings, especially around the marinas and yacht clubs.
Bagdat Caddesi is one of the most trendy – and label-conscious – fashion shopping streets, and for more down-to-earth goods, the Gen Azim Gunduz Caddesi is the best place for clothes, and the bit pazari on Ozelellik Sokak is good for browsing through junk. In the district of Moda, is the Benadam art gallery, as well as many foreign cuisine restaurants and cafes.
Haydarpaşa: To the north of Kadikoy is Haydarpasa, and the train station built in 1908 with Prussain-style architecture which was the first stop along the Baghdad railway. Now it is the main station going to eastbound destinations both within Turkey, and internationally. There are tombs and monuments dedicated to the English and French soldiers who lost their lives during the Crimean War (1854-56), near the military hospital. The north-west wing of the 19th Century Selimiye Barracks once housed the hospital, used by Florence Nightingale to care for soldiers, and remains to honour her memory.
Polonezköy: Polonezköy, although still within the city, is 25 km. away from the centre and not easy to reach by public transport. Translated as “village of the Poles”, the village has a fascinating history: It was established in 1848 by Prince Czartorisky, leader of the Polish nationals who was granted exile in the Ottoman Empire to escape oppression in the Balkans. During his exile, he succeeded in establishing a community of Balkans, which still survives, on the plot of land sold to him by a local monastery.
Since the 1970s the village has become a popular place with local Istanbulites, who buy their pig meat there (pig being forbidden under Islamic law and therefore difficult to get elsewhere). All the Poles have since left the village, and the place is inhabited now by wealthy city people, living in the few remaining Central European style wooden houses with pretty balconies.
What attracts most visitors to Polonezkoy is its vast green expanse, which was designated Istanbul’s first national park, and the walks though forests with streams and wooden bridges. Because of its popularity, it gets crowded at weekends and the hotels are usually full.
Kilyos: Kilyos is the nearest beach resort to the city, on the Black Sea coast on the European side of the Bosphorus. Once a Greek fishing village, it has quickly been developed as a holiday-home development, and gets very crowded in summer. Because of its ease to get there, 25km and plenty of public transport, it is good for a day trip, and is a popular weekend getaway with plenty of hotels, and a couple of campsites.
Şile: A pleasant, small holiday town, Şile lies 50km from Üsküdar on the Black Sea coast and some people even live here and commute into Istanbul. The white sandy beaches are easily accessible from the main highway, lying on the west, as well as a series of small beaches at the east end. The town itself if perched on a clifftop over looking the bay tiny island. There is an interesting French-built black-and-white striped lighthouse, and 14th century Genoese castle on the nearby island. Apart from its popular beaches, the town is also famous for its craft; Sile bezi, a white muslin fabric a little like cheesecloth, which the local women embroider and sell their products on the street, as well as all over Turkey.
The town has plenty of accommodation available, hotels, guest houses and pansiyons, although can get very crowded at weekends and holidays as it is very popular with people from Istanbul for a getaway, especially in the summer. There are small restaurants and bars in the town.
Prince’s Islands: Also known as Istanbul Islands, there are eight within one hour from the city, in the Marmara Sea. Boats ply the islands from Sirkeci, Kabatas and Bostanci, with more services during the summer. These islands, on which monasteries were established during the Byzantine period, was a popular summer retreat for palace officials. It is still a popular escape from the city, with wealthier owning summer houses.
Buyukada The largest and most popular is Buyukada (the Great Island). Large wooden mansions still remain from the 19th century when wealthy Greek and Armernian bankers built them as holiday villas. The island has always been a place predominantly inhabited by minorities, hence Islam has never had a strong presence here.
Buyukada has long had a history of people coming here in exile or retreat; its most famous guest being Leon Trotsky, who stayed for four years writing ‘The History of the Russian Revolution’. The monastery of St George also played host to the granddaughter of Empress Irene, and the royal princess Zoe, in 1012.
The island consists of two hills, both surmounted by monasteries, with a valley between. Motor vehicles are banned, so getting around the island can be done by graceful horse and carriage, leaving from the main square off Isa Celebi Sokak. Bicycles can also be hired.
The southern hill, Yule Tepe, is the quieter of the two and also home of St George’s Monastery. It consists of a series of chapels on three levels, the site of which is a building dating back to the 12th century. In Byzantine times it was used as an asylum, with iron rings on the church floors used to restrain patients. On the northern hill is the monastery Isa Tepe, a 19th century house.
The entire island is lively and colourful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses and shops. There are huge well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas.
Burgazada Smaller and less of a tourist infrastructure is Burgazada. The famous Turkish novelist, Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived here, and his house has been turned into a museum dedicated to his work, and retains a remarkable tranquil and hallowed atmosphere.
Heybeliada ‘Island of the Saddlebag’, because of its shape, is loved for its natural beauty and beaches. It also has a highly prestigious and fashionable watersports club in the northwest of the island. One of its best-known landmarks is the Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with an important collection of Byzantine manuscripts. The school sits loftily on the northern hill, but permission is needed to enter, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener. The Deniz Harp Okulu, the Naval High School, is on the east side of the waterfront near the jetty, which was originally the Naval War Academy set up in 1852, then a high school since 1985. Walking and cycling are popular here, plus isolated beaches as well as the public Yoruk Beach, set in a magnificent bay. There are plenty of good local restaurants and tea houses, especially along Ayyıldız Caddesi, and the atmosphere is one of a close community.
Environment: Wide beaches of Kilyos at European side of Black Sea at 25th km. outside Istanbul, are attracting Istanbul residents during summer months. Belgrade Forest, inside from Black Sea, at European Side is the widest forest around Istanbul. Istanbul residents, at week ends, come here for family picnic with brazier at its shadows. 7 old water tank and some natural resources in the region compose a different atmosphere. Moğlova Aqueduct, which is constructed by Mimar Sinan during 16th century among Ottoman aqueducts, is the greatest one. 800 m. long Sultan Suleyman Aqueduct, which is passing over Golf Club, and also a piece of art of Mimar Sinan is one of the longest aqueducts within Turkey.
Polonezköy, which is 25 km. away from Istanbul, is founded at Asia coast during 19th century by Polish immigrants. Polonezköy, for walking in village atmosphere, travels by horse, and tasting traditional Polish meals served by relatives of initial settlers, is the resort point of Istanbul residents. Beaches, restaurants and hotels of Şile at Black Sea coast and 70 km. away from Üsküdar, are turning this place into one of the most cute holiday places of Istanbul. Region which is popular in connection with tourism, is the place where famous Şile cloth is produced.
Bayramoğlu – Darıca Bird Paradise and Botanic Park is a unique resort place 38 km. away from Istanbul. This gargantuan park with its trekking roads, restaurants is full of bird species and plants, coming from various parts of the world.
Sweet Eskihisar fisherman borough, to whose marina can be anchored by yachtsmen after daily voyages in Marmara Sea is at south east of Istanbul. Turkey’s 19th century famous painter, Osman Hamdi Bey’s house in borough is turned into a museum. Hannibal’s tomb between Eskihisar and Gebze is one of the sites around a Byzantium castle.
There are lots of Istanbul residents’ summer houses in popular holiday place 65 km. away from Istanbul, Silivri. This is a huge holiday place with magnificent restaurants, sports and health centers. Conference center is also attracting businessmen, who are escaping rapid tempo of urban life for “cultural tourism” and business – holiday mixed activities. Scheduled sea bus service is connecting Istanbul to Silivri.
Islands within Marmara Sea, which is adorned with nine islands, was the banishing place of the Byzantium princes. Today they are now wealthy Istanbul residents’ escaping places for cool winds during summer months and 19th century smart houses. Biggest one of the islands is Büyükada. You can have a marvelous phaeton travel between pine trees or have a swim within one of the numerous bays around islands!
Other popular islands are Kınalı, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeliada. Regular ferry voyages are connecting islands to both Europe and Asia coasts. There is a rapid sea bus service from Kabataş during summers.
How to Get
By Road : Not surprisingly, Istanbul is well connected to every part of Turkey. Buses are frequent and plentiful, and the main coach station (otogar) is at Esenler, on the European side.
There are countless independent bus companies, all of whom have a ticket office at the station and the larger ones have offices dotted around town, especially in areas like Taksim, Sultanahmed and Besiktas.
Prices vary slightly regarding quality of the vehicle. There are also departures from Harem, on the Asian side. For journeys further afield, there buses to Greece, Macedonia, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Russia, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria and Jordan.
Bus Station Tel: (+90-212) 658 05 05, 658 10 10, 333 37 63, 310 63 63.
Within the city, public transport is a good way of getting around. There are minibuses, buses, taxis, trams (from Aksaray) a new subway (between Taskim and Levent) and a tiny electric tramcar (Beyoğlu to Taksim).
By Rail : Not as popular a mode of transport as buses, with a much smaller network, there are rail connections from Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir and Eastern Anatolian cities. Most of the services are slower than buses, although between the three main cities there are the mavi tren, mototren or ekspresi, which are fast and comfortable.
Reservations are essential for these journeys, and there are several classes of seats and sleepers. International services from Sirkeci (on the European side) and Haydarpasa (Asian side) stations include Vienna, Munich, Budapest, Salonica, (via Eskisehir, Konya, and Gaziantep), Aleppo, (via Tatvan and Van), Tehran, Moscow and Bucharest. Trains heading west leave from Sirkeci, and east from Haydarpasa station.
Sirkeci İnformation Tel: (+90-212) 527 0050/51. Reservations Tel: (+90-212) 520 6575
Haydarpasa İnformation Tel: (+90-216) 336 0475/2063. Reservations Tel: (+90-216) 336 4470, 337 8724.
By Boat : Maritime Lines run both the urban and national transport. Marinas also have connections with European ports.
Urban Maritime Transportation runs ships which operate between the following destinations within Istanbul: Kadikoy – Haydarpasa – Karakoy; Eminonu – Uskudar; Eminonu – Kadikoy; Bridge – Yenikoy; Beykoz – Kavaklar; Sirkeci – Bostanci, Bridge – Prince’s Islands; Bridge – Yalova; Kabatas – Cinarcik; Bostanci – Cinarcik.
Boats operate from Istanbul to the following Black Sea towns: Zonguldak, Sinop, Samsun, Giresun, Trabzon, Rize, as well as Izmir. Marmara Lines run to Marmara Island, Bandirma and Mudanya.
Port Tel : (+90-212) 245 53 66/249 71 78/249 18 96.
Address: TDY Maritime Lines Agency, Rihtim Cad. Kadikoy, Istanbul
Head Office Tel: (+90-212) 245 53 66/249 71 78/249 18 96.
Reservation Tel: (+90-212) 249 92 22/293 74 54
Information Tel: (+90-212) 244 25 02/244 02 07
By Air : Ataturk International Airport is 20 km from city centre. The new airport is the biggest in the country, with the most international flights. There are direct flights to every European capital, and many to Asia, USA and the Middle East.
The domestic terminal has flights to every domestic airport in the country, with several a day to major cities like Ankara and Izmir. Turkish Airlines (THY) is the national carrier.
Atatürk International Airport
THY Head Office: +90 212 663 63 00 71 (5 Lines)
THY Reservations: +90 212 663 63 63
Domestic flights: +90 212 663 63 00
International flights: +90 212 663 63 00
Cargo Reservation: +90-212 663 63 00
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Where to Visit
A stay in İstanbul is not complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to yalı (shore-front wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see the Bosphorus is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark at Eminönü and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip excursion, very reasonably priced, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, there are agencies that specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruises.
During the journey you pass the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of the Yıldız Palace. On the coastal edge of the parks stands the Çırağan Palace, refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz, and now restored as a grand hotel. For 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore its ornate marble facades reflect the swiftly moving water. At Ortaköy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery. The variety of people creates a lively scene. Sample a tasty morsel from one of the street vendors. In Ortaköy, there is a church, a mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years – a tribute to Turkish tolerance at the grass roots level. Overshadowing İstanbul’s traditional architecture is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.
The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Çamlıca Hill, the highest point in İstanbul. You can also drive here to admire a magnificent panorama of İstanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutköy create a contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther along stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city. The Göksu Palace, sometimes known as Kücüksü Palace graces the Asian shore next to the Anadolu Hisarı. The second link between the two continents, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past these two fortresses.
From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Bosphorus. Below Duatepe, the beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when its tulips bloom in the spring. On the Asian shore is Kanlıca, a fishing village that is now a favored suburb for wealthy İstanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlıca and Çubuklu is the Beykoz Korusu (İbrahim Paşa Woods), a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants there you can enjoy the delightful scenery and clear, fresh air. Back on the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coastal road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sarıyer and Büyükdere. Sarıyer has one of the largest fish markets in İstanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and börek (pastries). On past Sarıyer, the narrow strait widens and opens into the Black Sea.
MUSEUMS AND ANCIENT CITIES
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Museum : Aya Sophia was, for nearly a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world’s most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey’s most popular attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art.
For 916 years it was a church, then a mosque for 481 years, and since 1935 has been a museum. Thought to have been constructed by Emperor Konstantinos I (324 – 337) it was burned down during a revolt. Rebuilt by Emperor Theodosium II, it was opened for worship in 415 and once again was burned to the ground, during the Nika revolts of 532.
Emperor Iustanianus (527 – 565) wanted to construct something even bigger than the original two and appointed architects Isidoros from Miletos, and Anthemios from Tralles to build the Aya Sophia which still stands. Columns, heads, marble and coloured stones were imported to Istanbul from ancient cities in Anatolia for the purpose.
The construction began on 23 December 532, and was completed exactly five years later. The main, central section measured 100m x 70m, covered with a 55m high dome which was a mammoth 30m in diameter – appearing to be a great feat of design. The mosaics are of great importance, and the oldest ones are dominated by geometric and plant motifs decorated with gold.
The worst desecration of the church was in 1204, ransacked by Catholic soldiers during the Fourth Crusade. In 1453, after a failure of the Byzantine Church to fend off the Turks, Mehmet the Conqueror captured the city, rode into Aya Sofia and immediately turned it into a mosque. It was repaired several times, and Islamic ornamentation added, for example an extract of the Koran by calligrapher Izzet Efendi inscribed on the dome. The other reminders of its previous status as a mosque include huge wooden plaques bearing the names of Allah, the Prophet Mohammed and the first four caliphs.
The marble and mosaics remain the most interesting aspects today. The columns supporting the gallery are made from antique marble, and in the western gallery is the green marble which marks the position of the throne of the Empress. The impressive figurative mosaics include Virgin and Child flanked by two emperors, dating back to the late 10th century, and one depicting Christ, the Virgin, and St John the Baptists. Even though there is partial damage, the haunting images on their faces remain as strong as ever.
Hagia Sophia Museum – Mahmut
Topkapı Palace Museum
Fethiye Museum (Pammakaristos)
Museum of Classical Ottoman (Divan) Literature (Galata Mevlevi Lodge)
Small St.Sofia Mosque – Ss. Sergius and Bacchus Church
St. Irene (Aya İrini) : This ranks as the first church built in Istanbul. It was commissioned by Constantine in the 4th century, and Justinian later had it restored. The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Built in 1524 by İbrahim Pasa, the Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent, this was originally a palace and the grandest private residences in the Ottoman Empire – and one of the few which have survived. Some of it, however, was destroyed and rebuilt in stone to the original designs in 1843.
Now home to the museum, this is considered one of the finest collections of Islamic art in the world, with a superb display of ceramics, metalwork, miniatures, calligraphy and textiles, as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world. Equally as impressive is the grace of the building, with the central courtyard giving something of an insight into the atmosphere of the residence.
Opposite is the Great Hall, which houses a collection of Turkish carpets, with exquisite antique carpets and kilims and one of the finest collections in the world, the oldest exhibit dating back to 13th century.
The Great Palace Mosaic Museum :The Mosaic Museum preserves in situ exceptionally fine 5th and 6th century mosaic pavements from the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors. Because of the way they are exhibited, it is easy to understand their size and scale especially because many of them can be viewed from a catwalk above.
Kariye (Caria) Museum : This is actually Kariye Mosque, once the 11th century church of St Saviour in Chora, is considered to be the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul, after Aya Sofia. Whilst unremarkable in its architecture, the interior walls are decorated with superb 14th century mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigour of Byzantine art. The restored wooden houses in the surrounding area are a good place for relaxation and refreshment.
The church was probably built in the early 12th century, of which only the nave and central apse remain. Theodore Metochites rebuilt it between 1316 and 1321, the same years from which the mosaics and frescoes date, which depict the life of Christ in picture-book fashion. There is a series of mosaics in the form of devotional panels in the narthexes, the theme of which is reflected in the frescoes in the nave and funerary chapel.
Museum of Turkish Carpets : Across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa residence is the Museum of Turkish Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey. Open days to visit: Everyday except Monday
Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Cistern) : Nearby Aya Sofia is the 6th century Byzantine underground Basilica cistern, with 335 massive Corinthian columns supporting the immense chamber’s fine brick vaulting. This is one of several buried into the city’s foundations, and the first to have been excavated and renovated. Thought to have been built in the 4th century by the emperor Constantine, then enlarged two centuries later, it was supplied with water from Belgrade Forest, amd supplied it to the Great Palace and Topkapi Palace.
It fell into disuse and was then restored in 1987 with the mud and water removed, and narrow raised pathways providing easy access for visitors. It is the largest covered cistern in the city, measuring 140 by 70 metres.
Aviation Museum : The Aviation Museum in Yesilkoy traces the development of flight in Turkey. Closed Tuesdays.
Military Museum : Highlight of this museum is definitely the Mehter Takimi, the Ottoman military band, which performs every afternoon between 15.00 – 16.00. It also has a good collection of Ottoman military memorabilia, like the cotton and silk tents used by the sultans at war, and armour and weaponry like heavily decorated jambiyah daggers.
The band, which originated in 1289, became an institution which came to symbolise the power and independence of the Ottoman empire, and these musicians, who were janissaries, always accompanied the Sultans into battle. But quite apart from their benefit on the battlefield, they came to create new musical styles in Europe, and even influencing Mozart and Beethoven.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 17.00, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Maritime Museum : The collection is divided into two buildlings: The one facing the water has seagoing vessels, and the one opposite the road has exhibits relating to maritime history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. Highlights include items from Ataturk’s yacht, the huge wooden figureheads of tigers and swans, and the imperial caiques of the sultans, the largest dating back to 1648, which needed 144 oarsmen to power it.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 12.30 & 13.30 – 17.00, closed Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Atatürk Museum : Ataturk’s former residence in Şisli, 2 km north of Taksim Square, now serves as the Ataturk Museum and displays his personal effects.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Naval Museum : The grand imperial caiques used by the sultans to cross the Bosphorus are among the many many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history that can be seen at the Naval Museum located in the Besiktas district. Open days to visit: Everyday except Saturday and Sunday.
Museum of Fine Arts This collection is in the east wing of Dolmabahce Palace, once the apartments of the heir to the throne. Although closed for some time following damage after the 1999 earthquake, it is best known for its late 19th century and early 20th century work, which gives an insight into the life of the late Ottoman Turks. Osman Hamdi is one of the best artists exhibited.
Opening hours: 12.30 – 16.30, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
City Museum : Located inside the gardens of Yıldız Palace, this museum preserves and documents the history of Istanbul since the Ottoman conquest, including ornaments and paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries reflect the way of life. Also within the gardens are the Yildiz Palace Theatre, and the Yıldız Sarayı Theatre (Museum of Historical Stage Costumes), with richly decorated scenery, stage and costumes. Also exhibited are portraits of some of the stars who appeared here, including Sarah Bernhardt.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 16.30, Closed Mondays.
Rahmi Koç Industry Museum : The museum is set in an Ottoman-period building, an 18th century factory which produced anchors and their chains. It was recently converted, although has retained many of its original features, and restored by Rahmi Koc, one of Turkey’s most powerful industrialists. It was essentially done so he could house his private collection of models, machines and vehicles which he had collected from all over Europe, and exhibits include original penny-farthing bicycles, a ship’s bridge, and an engine from the Kalender steam ferry. The museum is trying to raise the Australian navy’s first submarine sink of gallipoli in World War I.
Opening hours: 10.00 – 17.00, closed Mondays.
Sadberk Hanım Museum : Up the Bosphorus and shortly before Buyukdere, the collection of an Armenian civil servant fills two charming 19th century wooden villas. The larger of the two villas belonged to the Armenian, who became a politician and died in the great Beyoglu fire of 1922. His collection was put together in memory of Sadberk Hanim, wife of millionaire businessman Vehbi Koc.
A private museum which originally displayed only Turkish decorative arts, was recently expanded to include a new collection of archeological exhibits. This is the oldest section, and includes sixth-millenium BC mother goddesses. In the ethnography section, there are maternity and circumcision beds, clothing and jewellery.
Opening hours: 10.00 – 18.00, closed Wednesdays.
One of the most astounding and popular places to visit in Istanbul is Topkapi Palace, the symbolic and political centre of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. It stands on the tip of land where the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus come together, and is a maze of buildings centered around a series of courtyards, typical of Islamic tradition. Such is the complexity of each building, it will take many hours in order to be explored properly.
It was built between 1466 and 1478, a couple of years before the death of Fatih. Unlike any European Palace, its architecture is predominantly Middle Eastern in character. The initial construction was Cinili Mansion, a Glass Palace finished in 1472, and the imposing main gate facing Sultanahmet, Bab-I Humayun, and the Palace ramparts, were completed in 1478.
There were originally 750 residents of the Palace, during Fatih’s period, which became drastically more congested reaching 5000 during normal days and 10,000 during festivals. Extensions had to be built, and the harem was completed in 1595 during the third Sultan Murad’s era, after which the harem residents were moved in from the palace at Beyazit, with a total of 474 concubines. Special tours of the Harem are available. The Harem, literally meaning “forbidden” in Arabic, was the suite of apartments in the palace belonging to the wives, concubines and children of the head of the household.
Around the Harem were the Circumcision Room, the apartments of the Chief Black Eunuch, and apartments of the sultan – in total over 400 rooms. Other highlights in the Palace are the Spoonmaker’s Diamond (the fourth largest diamond in the world), the Topkapi Dagger, (a gift from Mahmut I), a vast collection of paintings and miniatures, and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle (including a footprint, a tooth and a hair of the Prophet Mohammed).
Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 17.00, winter closed Tuesday.
Built in the reign of Sultan I Abdulmecit during the 19th century, this over-ornate palace lies along the European coast of the Bosphorus. Dolmabahce Palace was constructed between 1843 and 1856, mixing different European artistic influences and built by Abdulmecit’s architect, Karabet Balya. It was built over three levels, and symmetrically planned, with 285 chambers and 43 halls. It has a 600m long pier along the river, with two huge monumental gates. The palace is surrounded by well-maintained and immaculate gardens, with an immense 56-columned greeting hall, with 750 lights illuminated from 4.5 tonnes of crystal chandelier. The entrance was used for meeting and greeting Sultans, and opposite the ceremonial hall was the harem. The interior decoration, furniture, silk carpets and curtains all remain with little defect.
The palace has a level of luxury not present in most other palaces, with walls and ceilings decorated with gold, and European art from the period. Top quality silk and wool carpets, southeast Asian hand-made artifacts, and crystal candlesticks adorn every room. The men’s hamam (public bath) is adorned with alabaster marble, and the harem also contains the Sultan’s bedrooms and the women and servants’ divisions. One of the highlights is the throne room, which stands at an amazing 36-metres high – almost twice the height of the rest of the rooms. The east wing is home to the Museum of Fine Arts.
Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 16.00, except Monday and Thursday.
Telephone number to book guided tours: (0212) 23 69 600.
The most picturesque spots along the Bosphorus and Golden Horn were reserved for the palaces and mansions for the Sultans, and other important dignitaries, most of which have now gone. The huge palace was constructed by architect Serkis Balyan in 1871, as appointed by Sultan Abdul Aziz, from the ruins of the old palace.
The interior was rebuilt, at a cost of four million gold coins, beginning with covering the ceiling with wood and the walls with marble. The rooms were decorated with rare carpets, furniture, gold and silver. The sides of the building were decorated with coloured marble, and monumental gates connected it to Yildiz Palace, via a bridge, which is how the harem women went between the two, in total privacy.
It briefly housed the Turkish Parliament from 1908, but was destroyed by a fire two years later, and was only rebuilt in 1991. Now, it is Istanbul’s premier luxury hotel, and has retained something of its former glory.
Beylerbeyi, in which the Asian Tower of Bosphorus Bridge was constructed, is a beautiful district allotted for palaces since the Byzantium era. Sultan Abdulaziz built the Palace, to replace the older, wooden palace, between 1861 and 1865. Eastern and Turkish motifs are used with Western design elements, on the sides and for internal decoration, and the atmosphere is something resembling that of Dolmabahce Palace.
The building comprises of three floors, and contains 26 rooms and six halls, which includes the harem and men’s greeting rooms. The interior is decorated with Bohemian chandeliers, valuable tiles and ceramic vases. Silver-edged furniture and luxurious carpets add something to the beauty, and even till today the authentic furniture, carpets, curtains and other property have been well preserved.
A huge pool, terraces and stables, face the back cliff. A road and tunnel, used until 1970, passed under the palace garden and were used by the most distinguished foreign dignitaries when visiting the palace.
Open daily except Monday and Thursday.
This vast park consists of mansions, gardens and lakes, the whole area surrounded by high walls, and all set in a superb hillside location. Popular at weekends and holidays with locals, it offers one of the few green areas within the city centre, and is a great place for walking, relaxing and eating. There is a steep walk up the hill from Ciragan Caddesi up to the first pavilion, but rewards are cooling breezes and sweeping views of the Bosphorus.
It was the centre of the Ottoman Empire for 30 years, during the reign of Abdulhamid II, and the second largest palace in Istanbul. Its main structure, Yildiz Palace, was built in the old Ottoman style and the pavilions which are dotted around the park were transformed into a power base. The most important remaining building is Sale Koske, where receptions were held, and is the largest and most ornate and reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. The first section was modelled on a Swiss Chalet, the second two completed in the late 19th century.
Some of the mansions are undergoing restoration, but Sale is open for visitors, and two have terraces serving food and drinks. Further along the path is a State museum, the Belediye Sehir Muzesi, and Yildiz Sarayi Theatre.
Park: Open daily 09.00 – 17.30
Sale Kosku: Open daily 09.30 – 17.00, except Monday and Thursday.
Museum: Open daily 09.00 – 16.30, except Monday.
Yıldız Porcelain Factory
Kücüksu Small Palace: Built by Abdulmecit I in the mid-19th century, it was used as a summer residence.
Closed Mondays and Thursdays.
Aynalıkavak Summer Pavilion : Built in the early 18th century and later restored by various sultans, this timber royal pavilion is in the Hasksoy district, on the Karakoy side of the Golden Horn, incongruously placed between a naval dockyard and cemetery. The last surviving structure of a large group of buildings, the pavilion is famous for its mirrors, hence its Mirrored Poplar, which were gifts from the Venetians and installed in 1718. One of the most beautiful examples of traditional Ottoman architecture, the composition room, a private room of Ahmet III where he used to compose music, includes a central brazier and low divans – typical interior of the era.
The pavilion, most recently restored in 2000, also has exhibition of old Turkish musical instruments. The windows facing the sea are decorated with stained glass.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 16.00, closed Mondays and Thursdays.
Çinili Köşk (Tiled Pavilion) : The oldest secular building Istanbul, this was constructed as a mansion in 1472. It was a type of grandstand from which the Sultan would sit and watch wrestling or polo, and its interior is beautifully decorated with Selcuk art. It now houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, containing fine example of 16th century tiles from Iznik, as well as other renowned examples of art and pottery from Selcuk and Ottoman times.
Ihlamur Köşkü : The 19th-century Ihlamur Pavilion is named after the linden trees growing in its gardens. Although now in the heart of metropolitan Istanbul, when it was originally constructed, the pavilion lay in the rolling countryside that surrounded the city.
The Merasim Pavilion This was used for official ceremonies while the Maiyet Pavilion sheltered the sultan’s entourage and, on occasions, his harem on their excursions out of the palace confines.
Closed on Mondays and Thursdays.
Maslak Pavilion : Maslak Pavilions, situated on a shady green hill, were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges. These are particularly noteworthy as superb examples of the late 19th century Ottoman decorative style.
Closed Mondays and Thursdays.
Florya Atatürk Sea Pavilion : The Florya Ataturk Sea Pavilion served as a summer residence for Turkish presidents, beginning with Ataturk. Built in 1935 in a T-shaped design on land jutting out over the Sea of Marmara, it serves as a showcase for some of the finest examples of early-20th century furnishings.
Closed Mondays and Thursdays.
Hereke Silk Fabric and Carpet Factory
Yalova Atatürk Mansions
MOSQUES AND CHURCHES
Sultanahmet Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, Rustem Pasa Mosque, Fatih Mosque, Eyup Mosque, Yeni Mosque, Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque and Mihrimah Sultan Mosque are amongst the most famous places of interest.
There are many churches and monasteries active within the city, some of which have been turned into mosques. Studios Monastery Church, Sergios-Bakhos Church, Hagia Eirene Church, Pantakrator Monastery Church, Vefa Church (Hagios Theoderos), Nyrelaion Monastery Church, Eglise D’hagia Thekla Monastery, Eski Imaret Mosque (Pantepoptes Monastery Church), Kalenderhane Mosque (Akataleotos Monastery), Fenari Isa Mosque (Lios Monastery Church) and Fethiye Mosque (Pammakaristos Monastery Church) are the best-known ones.
City Walls : The location of old Istanbul is marked in a triangular shape by the 6½ km-long city wall, called Theodosius II city walls, which started construction in 413. An earthquake in 447 almost destroyed them, so were rebuilt in a hasty two months. The mammoth effort was thanks to 16,000 citizens who were forced to work to get it completed in time to prevent Attila’s forces who were fast advancing. They completed construction of the original walls, 5m thick and 12m high, plus and outer wall of 2m by 8.5m, and a moat. Since 1990, some areas have been rebuilt, and some unrestored areas collapsed during the 1999 earthquake. It is possible to walk along the entire length, which would take a full day, with highlights including Yedikule, Edirnekapi and Mihrimah Camii.
At the southern point of the walls is Yedikule and the Golden Gate, the most impressive within the walls. The area is an old, attractive quarter with many churches, since this is the centre of Rum Orthodoxy, the last remaining descendants of the Byzantine Greeks. The Gate is flanked by two marble towers, a monumental entrance through which important state visitors and triumphant emperors would pass through. The gold-plated doors were removed after the collapse of the empire and the entrance bricked up, although the three arches are still visible.
The other five towers were added by Mehmet the Conqueror, and together with the 12m wall it forms the enclave which can be seen today. Two of the towers were prisons, and the one in the second tower was also an execution chamber. The wooden gallows and the well into which the heads would roll, are still visible today, as are some instruments of torture. While the entire enclave was used as a treasury, warehouse and ambassadorial jail, now it is a museum, still with the Golden Gate towers and in the summer months, concerts performed here.
Anadoluhisarı and Rumelihisarı : On the Asian side of the Bosphorus, Anadolu Hisari is a small castle built during the 1390s by Sultan Beyazit. Together with Rumeli, on the European side built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452, the two fortresses had complete control of passing transport between the Black Sea and the Marmara. Rumeli, an early Ottoman fortress built in only four months, before the Ottoman conquest of the city, to prevent the aides of Byzantine from the north.
Anadolu is always open to explore the walls, and Rumeli has a small open-air theatre showing concerts and plays in summer. There is also a café perched on the top, a popular place in summer evenings for tea, served from great samovars, and light meals. Both fortresses have, of course, a great panoramic view of the Bosphorus.
Shopping in Istanbul is often a huge part of any visit, and the city’s famous historical bazaars offer a wonderful insight into city life. Whether shopping for carpets, spices, vegetables or clothes, the process of making your purchase is likely to be enhanced by the atmosphere of wandering through the crowded stalls – and of course haggling. As usual when bargaining with persuasive shop owners, have an idea of a good price before you start.
Kapalı Carşı (Covered Bazaar) : The oldest and biggest closed bazaar in the world, also known as the Grand Bazaar, has around 4000 shops and over 60 alleyway, covering a huge labyrinth in the city centre. The original two structures, covered with a series of domes and remains of the 15th century walls, became a shopping area by covering the surrounding streets and adding to it over the following centuries. In Ottoman times this was the centre of trading, and a vital area of town. The Sandal Bedesten was added during Suleyman’s reign, to cope with the rising trade in fabrics, during the 16th century.
Traditionally the more valuable goods were in the old central area, called Ic Bedesten, because it was more secure. As quite typical of the area, most streets are laid out and devoted to a particular trade, for example gold on Kuyumcular Caddesi, leather on Bodrum Han, and shoes on Kavaflar Sokak. But the trade has also spilled out onto the surrounding streets, and it is very common to see Russian traders buying up huge sacks of leather jackets or shoes outside the main entrance. Even the streets leading to the Golden Horn are lined with outdoor stalls, which have traditionally been controlled by strict trading laws to reduce competition between traders.
Apart from the usual shops selling clothes, textiles, jewellry and carpets, there are small workshops where craftsmen cast and beat silver or brass, in a skilled trade handed down through the generations. If all that shopping, bargaining and fending off persuasive salesmen is a little too tiring, there are also traditional cafes dotted inside the bazaar in which to relax, eat and sip tea. There are also money-changing booths inside and out. It is slightly less crowded during weekdays, as most locals shop at weekends.
Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) : Also known as the Spice Market, this is Istanbul’s second bazaar, constructed in the same complex as Yeni Camii (or New Mosque). There are six gates, which make it an attractive exterior. The L-shaped market, together with the mosque, were built for the mother of Mehmet IV, a powerful woman who ruled the harem and, some would say, much of the empire.
Although no longer the prime spice trading area of the city, there is still the aroma of ginger, cardamom, pepper and saffron from the piles of spices sold from many stalls. These days it is also popular for great varieties of lokum (turkish delight), small souvenirs, flavoured teas and local delicacies – including the dubious sounding “Turkish Viagra”. Locals come here to shop for bed linen and towels, as well as for fruit and vegetables, coffee, clothes, pots and pans in the surrounding cramped backstreets. Outside the market on the Galata Bridge end, is this is the best place to choose olives from huge barrels, and many varieties of beyaz penir (white cheese).
Bakırcılar (Copper Smiths) : Bazaar Lesser known and smaller, but nonetheless just as interesting is this market in Beyazit, under the north and east walls of Istanbul University. Copper is beaten and produced into many shapes, sizes and forms, and shops sell cauldrons, saucepans, buckets, candlesticks and the like.
Bit Pazarları (Flea Markets) : Away from the classical, historical markets which have always attracted tourists, there are many flea and street markets around the city, usually consisting of streets of junk shops. As usual, getting a real quality bargain is often down to luck, but it is still an interesting way to shop.
Cukurcuma Sokak is the central point of streets of shops selling old wooden furniture, antiques, and books, near the Galatasaray Hamam off Istiklal Caddesi. Uskudar’s Bit Pazari is on Buyuk Hama Sokak, and in Kadikoy, Ozelli Sokak sells mainly furniture. Horhor market, behind Aksaray mosque, is famous for antiques, selling rare Ottoman furniture. The Entel, or Intellectual Market in Ortakoy sells arts, craft and antiques, music cassettes and books, and is open every Sunday and usually very crowded. Besiktas Pazar is open every Sunday, a warren of streets near Sair Nedim Caddesi, sells bargain clothes. Terkoz Cikmaz, next to the Pasabahce glass store off Istiklal Caddesi, has bargain designer clothes, factory seconds or overruns from France, England and Germany at rock-bottom prices. Sahaflar Carsisi is near a flea market, and specialises in second hand books.
Kız Kulesi : Considered to be symbolic of Istanbul, this tiny tower was established on a small island at the entrance of the Bosphorus. In the past, it was used as a watchtower and a lighthouse, until its present purpose of a tourist attraction. Western sources describe this as Leander’s Tower, who was drowned while swimming, to reach his lover Hera. Another story suggests that it was a tower where an emperor’s daughter put her there for security, having dreamt that she would be bitten by a snake.
Galata Tower : The tower was built by the Genoese in 1348, during their occupation of the area, primarily to prevent attacks. Originally known as the Tower of Christ, it stood above the fortification surrounding the Genoese city-state. There is a spiral rock staircase which ascends to the top viewing platform, which today offers visitors spectacular 360 degree panorama of the entire city. The tower was restored in 1967, and an elevator was installed to offer a less tiring alternative to the steep climb. There is also a restaurant on the top floor.
Beyazıt Tower : Within the grounds of the central building of Istanbul’s University (formerly the palace of Mehmet the Conqueror) this wooden tower was built for fire watchers, and remains a landmark throughout the city. Mahmud II demolished it in order to construct a better one, and according to the inscription, he ordered a rock-filled tower in 1828 to be built by the Ministry of Defense. The monument is 50m high, and from the upper landing, accessible via wooden staircase, offers a superb overview of the city.
MONUMENTS AND SQUARES
Hippodrome : The ancient Hippodrome, scene of chariot races and the centre of Byzantine civic life, stands in the area that is now in front of the Blue Mosque, and now part of Sultanahmet. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine. Remains of the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of the three.
Today, the square forms the centre of Istanbul’s historical, cultural and tourist life, and the surrounding wooden houses – especially the 18th century ones on Sogukcesme Sokak – were recently restored giving them a new lease of life as small hotels.
Theodosius Obelisk : Theodosius Obelisk is originally an Egyptian piece of art erected in 1547 BC and originally 60m tall, but only the upper third of it survived the shipment from Egypt, brought to Istanbul by Emperor Theodosius in 390. Made from pink granite, its pictures and hieroglyphs depict the victories of Thutmos III, and reliefs of members of his family can be seen on the base.
Gotlar Column : This ancient monument remains unchanged since the Roman Period, and lies at the entrance of Gulhane Park, the external garden of Topkapi Palace. Erected in the third or fourth century, it composes of a 15m high marble monolith on a high platform. The column head is adorned with an eagle, typical of Corinthian method. It is also known as Gots Column, due to the inscriptions which mention the victory against the Gots.
Çemberlitaş (Constantine Obelisk) : Also known as Cemberlistas obelisk, this burnt column of masonry was erected by Constantine the Great in 330 AD, in celebration of the dedication of the capital city of the Roman Empire. It was placed in the middle of an oval square on the city’s second hill, in the area now known as Cemberlitas, and was burnt during the great fire of 1779 which destroyed much of the area.
Yılanlı Obelisk (Burmalı Obelisk) : Also known as Burmanli Obelisk, it was imported from the Apollo Temple in Delphi, to Istanbul during the fourth century and is one of the oldest monuments in the city. The original one was constructed in 409 BC, and made from melting and moulding the guns of the Persian Army, after their defeat to the United Greeks.
Beyazıt Square : When constructed in 393 AD during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, it was the biggest square in the city. Originally named as Form Tauri, die to the bronze bull heads in the victory cases in the middle, today only a few marble blocks and columns remain, on which the statue of the Emperor rises. At the north end was the first palace constructed by Fatih, and is now Istanbul University. The monumental gate at the university’s entrance, and the fire tower, date back to the 19th century.
The square which decorates the 15th century Beyazit Mosque (the oldest surviving imperial mosque in the city) lies adjacent to the crowded Kapali Carsi (Covered Market).
Mualla Aqueduct : One of the many built by Mimar Sinan, this is one of four in the Alibey river valley.
Uzun Aqueduct : Constructed by Mimar Sinan during Kanuni Sultan Suleyman period, this is approximately 1500m north west of Kemerburgaz.
Güzelce Aqueduct : These piece of art, also known as Cebeci Koy Aqueduct, was contructed by Mimar Sinan during Kanuni Sultan Suleyman’s period, and lies 1500m east of the village of Cebeci, south of Kemerburgaz.
Bahçeköy Aqueduct : Also known as the Sultan Mahmut Aqueduct, it lies 1km from Bahcekoy through Buyukdere, and was completed in 1731 during the reign of Mahmut I.
Sultanahmet Fountain (III. Ahmet Fountain) : Also known as Ahmet III Fountain, it lies in front of Bab-I Humayun, the gate of Topkapi Palace. Considered an artistic masterpiece, it is intricately decorated with wooden eaves, masonry and bronze calligraphy. It is altogether different to the period’s more classical, modest style, and became a unique example of an elegant, rich beauty.
Üsküdar III. Ahmet Fountain : Situated in the main square by the pier in Uskudar, it was constructed in 1728. This four sided fountain has a wooden ceiling, and is considered an architectural masterpiece because of its calligraphy, masonry and poetic art.
German Fountain : Contructed in Germany to mark German Emperor Wilhelm II’s second visit to Istanbul, it was imported and officially opened on January 1 1901, lying in Sultanahmet Square. The fountain’s three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
Tophane Fountain : Located in Tophane Maydani, Mahmut I’s senior architect, Mehmet Aga was appoint to construct this in 1732.
Beykoz Ishak Ağa Fountain : Situated in the Beykoz area of Istanbul, this is one of the most beautiful fountain monuments in Turkey.
Ayazma Fountain : In the Ayazma Camii courtyard in Uskudar, this fountain was commissioned by Mustafa III during the 18th century, and holds architectural characteristics typical of the period.
Azapkapı Saliha Sultan Fountain : Constructed under the orders of Sultan Mahmut I, this was built in the memory of his mother, Saliha Sultan in 1732.
Göksu Fountain : The building of this was commissioned by the wife of Sultan Mustafa III, and the mother of Selim III, Mihrisah Sultan.
Esma Sultan Fountain : The daughter of Ahmet III, Esma Sultan, ordered the building of this in 1799, and is built on a square design.
Mausoleums : Hagia Sophia Mausoleums, III. Murat Mausoleum, III. Mehmet Mausoleum, Mimar Sinan Mausoleum, Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Mausoleum, Sultan II. Mahmut Mausoleum should be visited.
NATIONAL AND NATURAL PARKS
Göknarlık Nature Protection Area
Istanbul Natural Monuments
Polonezköy Natural Park
Türkmenbaşı Natural Park
Islands, Yıldız Park, Emirgan Grove, Gülhane Park, Bosporus, Strait, Belgrad Forest, Atatürk Forest, Çamlıca, Taşdelen, Beykoz Meadow, Karakulak, Polonezköy, Küçük and Büyükçekmece Lakes, Kumburgaz, Kilyos, Piyerloti Coffee House and Şile are the recreations that should be seen.
There are beaches in Büyükada, Beykoz, Poyrazköy, Kilyos and Sarıyer.
Camp – Caravan : There are sites available in Silivri, Buyukcekmece, Kucukcekmece, Florya, Atakoy, Bakirkoy, Kilyos and Sile.
Hunt Tourism : The main areas for hunting are Bakirkoy, Catalca, Beykoz and Sile. Foreigners can only hunt in parties organised by Turkish travel agencies which have been authorised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. These agencies provide all information concerning seasons, authorised zones, permits, weapons and ammunition. A list of agencies can be obtained from the Union of Travel Agencies (TURSAB).
For more information, contact;
– Forest Ministry, National Parks and Wildlife General Directorate, Gazi Tesisleri No 11, Gazi, Ankara.
Tel: (312) 221 1769/212 6300. Fax: 222 5140.
Youth and Sport General Directorate, Hunting and Marksman Federation
Ulus Ishani A Blok 4 Kat No 404, Ulus, Ankara.
Tel: (312) 310 6160/310 3960. Fax: 310 6160.
Around Kucukcekmece there are rare ducks and wild geese. Alibeykoy Dam lake also has ducks and geese, and in the hunting areas of Belgrade Forest around Kemerburgaz there are wild boar, foxes, rare jackals and wolves. In the dense forest areas, woodcock, pheasants and wild pigeons are found.
Catalca is the best hunting area in the city, and Yalikoy is a pheasant production area. Binkilic and its surroundings have wild boar, woodcock wild pigeon, rabbits and foxes. In the higher regions of the Istranca Mountains, it is possible to catch a rare sighting of a wolf in the dense forest. Quail and freckle-partridge hunting can be done in the open expanses of the plains, or between the southern areas of the forests.
Water buffalo, which get separated from their herds and become wild within the forest, and now rarely seen, may be hunted with the permission of the Borough Master. Calm waters and municipal lakes are good areas for hunting ducks and wild geese, as well as small rivers and lakes.
In the southern, provincial areas of the city, quails, stoke doves, freckle partridges, rabbits and foxes are hunted. Further north in the forests are wild boar and woodcocks. The Sinekly region has been determined as a pheasant protection area.
In the northeast part of Beykoz, woodcocks, rabbits and foxes are hunted, as well as the rare mountain partridge. Around Omerli Dam lake there are ducks and geese for hunting, and the dense forest areas have wild boar.
The Asian side is the best hunting ground in the city, and the forests on the Black Sea coast, especially around Sile, are good for wild boar and woodcock. During migration season, its surrounding river and small lakes, Rez and Riva, have wild geese and wild ducks.
Yachting : Istanbul is a popular starting point for yachting, and sailors can reach the Black Sea harbours, Istanbul Straits and Marinas via the European channel system, and the Rhine and Tuna with the European internal seas from the North Sea, and may reach Turkish Mediterranean coasts and marinas. The beautiful bays of the islands and the Bosphorus, especially around the two bridges which joins the two continents, are also preferred routes.
Golf : There are two golf courses in the city with licenses from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism:
Klassis Golf and Country Club
Address: Seymen Koyu, 34930 Silivri, Istanbul
Telephone: (0212) 748 4600, Fax: 748 4643
Kemer Golf and Country Club
Address: Goktur Koyu Uzun Kemer Mevkii, Kemerburgaz, Istanbul.
İstanbul Forest Camps
Congress Centers : Istanbul is one of the most dense cities of Turkey in connection with congress tourism due to its position, history and natural beauties as well as richness of transportation possibilities.
The summer months in Istanbul are generally hot and quite humid. The winters can be cold and wet, although not as extreme as other areas of the country. June, July and August see temperatures creep up to 30 degrees, with very little rain. Spring and autumn are popular times to visit because of the comfortable climate, good for lots of walking and sightseeing, with highs between 15 – 25 degrees C, in April, May, September and October. By the winter, the dry cold air mass from the Black Sea and cold damp front from the Balkans brings a chilly season with daytime highs of between 10 – 15 degrees C, and nights much colder. Although rarely falling to freezing point, there is the occasional light snow in the city.
The city has been conquered, fought over and rebuilt many times over the centuries. Istanbul’s history dates back to the first settlement possibly in the 13th Century BC, although was founded by Byzas the Megarian in the 7th Century BC, from when the city was named Byzantium. A small colony of Greeks inhabited the area until 3rd Century BC, and over the next 1000 years became a thriving trading and commercial centre. Whilst continuing life as a trading city during the Roman Empire, it was then conquered by Emperor Septimus Severius in 193 AD.
During the 4th century, Istanbul was selected by the Roman Empire to be the new capital, instead of Rome, by Constantine. It was a strategic choice: Built on seven surrounding hills – echoing that of Rome – the city would have control of the Bosphorus and easy access to the harbour of the Golden Horn. The city was re-organized within six years, its ramparts widened and the construction of many temples, official buildings, palaces, hamams and hippodrome.
With great ceremony, in the year 330 the city was officially announced as the capital of the Roman Empire, and known as Constantinople in the late eras. It remained the capital of the eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) for a long period, due to the fall of the west Roman Empire in the 5th century. By the sixth century, the population exceeded half a million, and was considered a golden age under Emperor Justinyen’s reign.
The Byzantium Empire and Istanbul’s latter history is full of palace and church intrigues, was overrun by the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries, the Bulgars in the 9th and 10th, but could not keep out the Crusaders who conquered in 1204. They destroyed and raided it for many more years – including churches, monasteries and monuments, which led to a decline in the population. The city passed reign to Byzantium again in 1261, did not regain its former richness, and was conquered by Turks in 1453 after a 53-day siege and the hands of control changed yet again.
It then became the capital city of Ottoman Empire, which saw a population increase with immigrants from other parts of the country, with religious freedom and social rights granted to Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Mehmet the Conqueror began to rebuild it, with a new palace and mosque (Fatih Camii) and tried to inject new life into the economy.
The reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-66) was considered the greatest of all the Ottoman leaders, and the military conquests paid for the most impressive Ottoman architecture, the work of Mimar Sinan. The city was also the centre of the Islamic work, and domes and minarets from hundreds of mosques dotted the skyline.
But a century after the death of Suleyman, the Empire started to decline again. By the end of the 18th century the empire was in decline with more territory being lost to the West, and sultans becoming more interested in Western institutional models. There was a short-lived Ottoman parliament and constitution in 1876, and by the end of the World War I during which allied troops occupied the city, the once-great empire was in shambles.
This changed radically with the emergence of a prominent commander of the Turkish army, who entered the struggle for the Turkish nation. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was considered a hero after the 4-year long War of Independence, after which he established the Republic if Turkey in 1932. Moving the capital to Ankara, then a small provincial town in Anatolia, Istanbul was simply the commercial and cultural centre, which it still remains today.
Where to Eat
The Istanbul kitchen is regarded as one of the best in the world. Ingredients, chefs, styles and tastes came from every part of the Empire to the capital, making the Ottoman Turkish kitchen significant in world cuisine. But Turkish cuisine has not ceased to develop, and is growing and enhancing long after the end of the Empire.
The typical dish of Istanbul would consist of lamb, mutton and veal, to which a variety of vegetables are added. Pilaf, all kinds of pastry, bulgur, haricot beans, rich olive oil and vegetables are used as side dishes. Meat balls, shish kebab and doner kebab are the classic, most classic dishes found in any kebab restaurant, together with peppers, yoghurt, eggplant. Because of its coastal location, fish is also popular although is usually cooked simply, such as grilled or fried with olive oil and lemon juice.
Like the rest of the country, the usual way of starting a big meal is with mezzes, a selection of hot and cold dishes such as meat, fish, salads, vegetables and cheese, shared amongst the table and eaten with fresh bread. To finish your meal, pastry tarts, baklava, kadayif and a whole host of sweets are available not only in restaurants, but in pastry shops which have often been going for generations.
Because it is the commercial and cultural centre of Turkey, there are restaurants of many nationalities in Istanbul, like Korean, Russian, Italian and Chinese. American-style fast-food outlets are becoming more popular, but for a quick snack it is more appropriate to fill up at the plethora of tiny takeaways with kebabs and snacks. It is easy to sample good quality regional cuisine in typical small restaurants, usually at low cost, especially in the commercial and business areas.
To wash down your meal, Turkey’s most famous two drinks are milky-coloured – although could not be more different: Ayran is a cooling, salty yoghurt drink which is refreshing in summer and can be found everywhere, from street stalls to restaurants. Raki, with the nick-name Lion’s Milk is a strong spirit with the taste of Aniseed, which turns milky-white when mixed with water. It is usually drunk to accompany food, especially at the beginning with mezzes. The main area of beer and wine production is Anatolia.
Turkish coffee is legendary, usually served very sweet and strong and drunk from tiny cups. It normally follows a meal, or is popular in cafes and offered when visiting people or even sitting in carpet shops! The expression, “a cup of coffee has a memory of 40 years”, has been repeated by Turks since the 16th century.
For a meal out which is lively and entertaining, the taverns and fish restaurants around Kumkapi, west of Sultanahmet, are great for outdoor dining and street atmosphere, and very popular in the summer. People have been meeting for years at Cicek Pasaji in Beyoglu for snacks and seafood specialities, and nearby is the narrow Nevizade street, the best place in Istanbul for eating Turkish specialties and drinking raki. On the Bosphorus, Ortakoy is another good nightlife spot, with a good range of nightclubs, jazz clubs, fine seafood restaurants and bars. At Eminönü don’t miss an opportunity to see fishermen dressed in traditional Ottoman clothes and their Ottoman-style boats cooking delicious fried fish, whilst bobbing on the water around Eminonu.
What to Buy
Many people come to Istanbul for the shopping alone. The Kapali Carsisi, or Covered Market, is the logical place to start as the area and variety is immense. Still the commercial centre of the old city, the bazaar is the original shopping “mall” with a vast selection of carpets, souvenirs, clothes, shoes, jewellery and handicrafts made from ceramics, copper and brass. Many shops have recently sprung up around Aksaray selling leather, suede and fur coats, catering mainly for Russian and Eastern European buyers. The Misir Carsisi is good for picking up spices, locum, flavoured teas and small souvenirs. (See section on Bazaars.)
Sultanahmet has become another shopping mecca in the old city mainly because it has the highest concentration of tourist attractions. The Istanbul Sanatlari Carsisi (Bazaar of Istanbul Arts) in the 18th century Mehmet Efendi Medresesi, and the nearby 16th-century Caferaga Medrese, built by Sinan, offer you the chance to see craftsmen at work and to purchase their wares. In the Arasta (old bazaar) of the Sultanahmet Mosque, a thriving shopping arcade selling carpets, jewellery and local arts makes both shopping and sightseeing very convenient. There are many carpet shops in this area, and the chances are that sooner or later you will be approached by one of many dealers to visit his shop.
The sophisticated shops of in the Taksim and Nisantasi districts contrast with the chaos of the bazaars. Istiklal Caddesi and Cumhuriyet Caddesi have shops selling elegant fashionwear made from Turkey’s high quality textiles. Exquisite jewellery, as well as finely designed handbags and shoes can also be found. Nisantasi is the main area for clothes by top Turkish designers.
For an even more modern, European shopping experience, the huge new malls of the Atakoy Galleria Mall in Atakoy, the Akmerkez Mall in Etiler and the Carousel Mall in Bakirkoy have have European outlets, Turkish fashion shops, as well as restaurants and a cinema. have branches of Istanbul’s most elegant shops. In Bakirkoy, the Carousel Mall is worth a visit, as is the Atlas Passage in Beyoglu. Bahariye Avenue, Bagdat Avenue,and Capitol Mall on the Asian side, offer the same shopping opportunities.
In Istanbul’s busy flea markets there is an astonishing assortment of goods, both old and new. There is a daily opportunity to poke about the Sahaflar Carsisi and Cinaralti in the Beyazit areas. On Sundays, in a flea market between the Sahaflar and the Covered Bazaar, vendors uncover their wares on carts and blankets. The Horhor Carsisi is a collection of shops selling furniture of varying age and quality. Flea markets are open daily in the Topkapi district, on Cukurcuma Sokak in Cihangir, on Buyuk Hamam Sokak in Uskudar, in the Kadikoy Carsi Duragi area, and between Eminonu and Tahtakale. After a Sunday drive up the Bosphorus, stop between Buyukdere and Sariyer to wander through another lively market.
Art, Culture and Entertainment
İstanbul is an international art and cultural center. The International Arts and Cultural Festival is held each year in June and July with famous artists coming from all over the world. These performances are held mostly at the Atatürk Cultural Center. The İstanbul Science Center (Bilim Merkezi), founded by the Science Center Foundation and located on the campus of İstanbul Technical University, has hands-on experimental and theoretical opportunities for adults and children of various educational levels. In March and April you can lake in the International Film Festival. Those who enjoy classical music can hear it at the Cemal Reşit Rey Hall. Operas, operettas, ballets, films, concerts, exhibitions and conferences all contribute to the cultural palette of the city.
İstanbul also has a rich program of light entertainment. Nightclubs provide splendid entertainment throughout dinner, ranging from a selection of Turkish songs to belly-dancing. Alongside these are modern discos, cabarets, and jazz clubs in the Taksim-Harbiye district. In Sultanahmet, there are a number of restaurants in restored Byzantine and Ottoman buildings which offer a unique setting for an evening out.
Kumkapı, with its many taverns, bars and fish restaurants, is another attractive district. People have been meeting for years at Çicek Pasajı in the district of Beyoğlu for snacks and seafood specialties. Also in the area near Çiçek Pasajı is the narrow Nevizade Street, which is the best place in İstanbul for eating Turkish specialties and drinking rakı, the special Turkish drink.
On the Bosphorus, Ortaköy is the best place for nightlife in İstanbul, with its nightclubs, jazz clubs, line seafood restaurants and bars.
At Eminönü do not miss the opportunity of seeing the fishermen dressed in traditional Ottoman dollies and their Ottoman-style boats on which you may board to sample their delicious fried fish.
You may also want to visit Tatilya Cumhuriyeti, a large amusement park in Beylikdüzü past Haramidere on the road to the Atatürk International Airport.
Concert Halls and Showlands
Galleries and Art Houses
Exhibition and Congress Centers
Don’t Leave Without
– Seeing two of the master pieces of religious art of Istanbul, Süleymaniye Mosque and Sultanahmet Mosque,
– Visiting Hagia Sophia and Museum,
– Visiting Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace and Rumeli Hisarı,
– Having a ship voyage at Bosporus and Islands,
– Watching Istanbul panorama from Galata Tower and Pierre Loti,
– Following art and cultural activities,
– Being curious and seeing entertainment life,
– Visiting Ortaköy bazaar,
– Having a tour via phaeton in Büyükada,
– Eating fish in Bosporus, Kumkapı and çiçek bazaar, yogurt in Kanlıca, and profiterole in Beyoğlu,
– Buying carpet, jewelry, leather clothes in Kapalıçarşı, and Turkish delight, baklava, pastırma and deserts in Mısır Bazaar,
– Shopping in Beyoğlu and all mega shopping centers.
Registered Immobile Cultural and Natural Heritages in İstanbul
Archaeological Sites: 14
Urban Sites: 14
Natural Sites: 11
Historical Sites: –
Archaeological and Natural Sites: 8
Historical and Natural Sites: 4
Archaeological and Urban Sites: 2
Historical and Urban Sites: 1
Natural and Urban Sites: 4
Cultural (at Single Construction Scale) and Natural Heritages: 19512
Governorship : (+90-212) 514 17 50
Municipality : (+90-212) 512 55 00
Hospital : (+90-212) 588 48 00
Police : (+90-212) 635 00 00
Gendarme : (+90-212) 779 30 18
Provincial Directorate : (+90-212) 243 34 72
Tourism Information Office : (+90-212) 527 45 03
Provincial Cultural Directorate : (+90-212) 518 18 03 – 04
Harbour : (+90-212) 245 53 66 – 249 71 78 – 249 18 96
İstanbul Governorship http://www.istanbul.gov.tr/
Atatürk International Airport href=”http://www.ataturkairport.com/goodbye.html
İstanbul City Guide http://www.istanbulcityguide.com/
İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts http://www.istfest.org/default.asp?lang=en
İstanbul Stock Exchange http://www.ise.org/
İstanbul Cymbals http://www.istanbulcymbals.com
İstanbul Hotels Reservation Centre http://www.istanbulhotelsweb.com/