This glorious city, standing with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, was founded in 7th century BC, and was a capital of three big empires- Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. Today it is a modern city that cherish its rich history and has a lot to offer to the visitors. In these term, there are only a few places in the world that can come even close to majestic Istanbul.
1. Aya Sofya
Byzantine emperor Justinian wanted to show the world how wealthy and technologically advanced his empire is. The result of that is Aya Sofya. It was built in 537 and for over nine centuries it served as a Greek orthodox cathedral, expect the period between 1204 and 1251 when it was converted and became a Roman catholic church. In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror proclaimed it a Mosque. Finally, the founder of the modern Turkish state, Ataturk, declared Aya Sofia a museum. Building is beautifully decorated with mosaic, mostly depicting the Byzantine period. This jewel of the Byzantine architecture is number one tourist attraction in Istanbul with 3.3 million visitors annually.
2. Grand Bazaar
This chaotic and colorful marketplace is the heart of the Old city and it dates from 1461. The oldest shopping mall in the world and a heaven for shopaholic covers over 5,000 shops stuffed with spices, oriental carpets, ceramics, jewelry, leather goods, old coins, antique furniture and many, many more. Besides the shops, there are two mosques, two steam baths, and four fountains.
3. Galata Tower
Want to have a 360 degrees view at entire Istanbul and admire its beauty and magnitude? There is no better spot than the balconies of Galata tower. This stone watchtower was built in 1348 and at the time, it was the highest building in the city. Even today it dominates the Istanbul skyline. The structure originally served for holding prisoners of war. Later it was used as an observation tower which main purpose was to spot fires. Today, it includes a nightclub, cafe and a restaurant where you can enjoy in delicious food and stunning view.
4. Topkapi Palace
This large palace was the home of the emperors of Ottoman Empire in the period between 15th and 19th century. It is placed at the shores of Bosphorus and surrounded with a 5 kilometers long stone wall and 27 towers. There are no words to describe the lavishness of this place. It is out of this world! The Imperial Treasury filled with gold and jewels, complex hand-painted tiles, magnificent paintings on the walls, unbelievable courtyards. Visitors are allowed to enter the Harem quarters and have a glimpse into lives of the Emperors. You will need at least half of a day to check out the entire Topkapi Palace.
5. Basilica cistern
Who would say a water cistern can be a tourist attraction? The mysterious and dark atmosphere is very alluring to the visitors. The project was initiated by Constantin the great and finished by emperor Justinian in 532. It can hold as much as 2.8 million cubic feet of water. The most attractive feature of this place are the Medusa stones with medusa head carvings, located in the northwest part of the facility. The location is used for filming the 1963 James Bond movie, due to its unique and enigmatic atmosphere. If you want to admire the mastery of Roman engineers and get away from the city throng, this is the perfect place.