Istanbul’s Historical Landmarks

Istanbul is full of history and culture.  It is a very old city.  Istanbul witnessed great nations such as the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans.  Here are some of the most famous historical landmarks in town.

Blue Mosque.  A beautiful, magnificent building built in the early 1600’s.  The “blue” in the name is due to all the blue tiles on the walls.  Its official name is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, after its illustrious founder.  The general area in Istanbul on which the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are situated is known as Sultanahmet.

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia). Built in 360 CE, the Aya Sofya was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople (i.e., the “capital” of the Orthodox Church) for 1000 years.  During this time, it was also the largest building in the world.  When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the building was converted to a mosque.  That’s why you see the Orthodox design as well as the minarets.  The Turkish Republic government turned the Aya Sofya into a museum in the 1930’s.

Basilica Cistern.  Used by the Byzantines as a reservoir for drinking water, in case the city was besieged.

Topkapi Palace.  This grand palace was used by the Ottoman sultans for centuries.  Now it’s a museum – Turkey’s most popular tourist attraction.  It contains dozens of beautifully decorated rooms and courtyards; museum relics of jewelry, royal clothing, and weapons; great views of Istanbul and its waterfront; and even a Harem (which may not be what you think).  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us take photos of the museum relics.

Galata Tower.  Built in 1348 by the Genoans, the Galata Tower overlooks the landmass north of the Golden Horn.  It’s the home of modern-day Beyoglu.  You can get a great 360 degree view of Istanbul from the tower.

Aqueduct of Valens.  Construction of this aqueduct was done by the Romans in 348 CE, when the city was still known as Byzantium.  Later, the Byzantines and Ottomans used the aqueduct even more extensively, as the city grew in size.

Suleymaniye Mosque.  Built in 1558 by the Sultan Suleymaniye I, this Mosque is the most important mosque in Istanbul.  It sits high on a hilltop, overlooking the city.  Unfortunately the mosque is currently under renovation, so we couldn’t get in.

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