Do you desire to take a step back in time and visit a place that not only will stimulate your mind but will also play wondrously on your eyes and bring exotic scents that most people have only dreamed about? As a child, I often dreamed of faraway places with Kings and Queens, longing to be a princess with my very own palace. Istanbul offers so much from a small girls dreams to an adult’s wildest expectations. To experience Istanbul firsthand brings a little bit of magic into one’s life. Are you ready to go? Travel back with me as I describe some of Istanbul’s most historic places.
Let’s begin our fascinating journey with Beylerbeyi Palace which was built by Sultan Abdulaziz in the early 1860’s. This palace holds a great many stories within its walls, some of which include the likes of Kings and Princesses roaming its halls to tales of keeping a sultan captive for a six year stay. The majestic palace is sitting on the banks of Bosphorus is a time capsule just waiting to be opened up. With guided tours available, now is the time to see this wonderful palace full of history and beauty.
No vacation to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to the Hagia Sophia, a magnificent church dating back to the sixth century. This church was later turned into a mosque, and is now operating as a museum filled with Istanbul’s rich culture. The unique architecture of this church is stunning beyond belief due to the amazing mosaics, Muslim altars, and old chapels which line the inside of the building. Step outside and see cannonballs scattered along the paths from a past invasion by Mehmet the Conqueror. Take in the eighteenth century fountain that is used for ritual ablutions. Hagia Sophia is a rewarding experience for your travel itinerary.
If you do not suffer from acrophobia (which is fear of heights), a visit to the great Galata Tower offers a breath-taking, panoramic view of Istanbul. Built in 1348 with massive walls surrounding it, most of which have long ago crumbled, the Galata Tower still stands tall with all its greatness. If you are feeling hungry, take advantage of the upper floor restaurant. If you want a more personal experience, I recommend staying till evening to witness the beautiful sunset call to prayer.
Whether you are Muslim or not, you will appreciate all of the unique details of the Blue Mosque which has inner walls lined with beautiful blue tiles which can be attributed to this namesake. Built around 1609-1614 (during the reign of Ahmed I), this is one of the few mosques which are still operating as its intended used to this day. Intertwined in the beautiful architecture, the mosque is comprised of a tomb for its founder, a madrasa, and also a hospice. The best way to take in its vastness is to approach it from the west side coming from the Hippodrome.
The Yedikule Fortress
The Yedikule Fortress, sometimes known as the Castle of the Seven Towers, dates all the way back to medieval times. Built by Theodosius I in the 5th century, this fortress features several additions added over the centuries and houses a prison and treasury. Aside from these offerings, the fortress was also used as a stronghold. Its many dungeons can still be toured today so tourists can take an eerie walk along the preserved walls and all its battlements.
Ciragan Palace was built by Sultan Abdulaziz between 1863-1867, during a period when Sultans constructed their own palaces. After this era, using a palace handed down from your ancestors was a more common practice. This palace’s history of Sultans has not been a fond one. Once Sultan Abdulaziz moved in during 1872 and was found dead on May 30, 1876. After a short reign, his successor and nephew only reigned for 93 days. He was deposed by a brother, Abdulhamid II, who blamed this on his alleged mental sickness. He lived the rest of his life under house arrest until his death in 1904. Today, Ciragan Palace rests beside the river Bosporus and is a five star hotel. With its dark and rich history, it is a must-see site for visitors.
Topkapi Palace has housed Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years and has also been the setting for many royal and state entertainments. At one time in history, as many as 4,000 people resided within its walls. The palace has encountered many disadvantages and undergone major renovations due to earthquakes and fire. It was renovated into a museum in 1924 and houses a large number of Ottoman collections and Islamic calligraphic manuscripts.
Whether you need to check into for one night or wanting to explore the entire city where around every turn and corner offers great history, Istanbul is a wonderful choice. This city has much more to offer than what meets the eye. The many stories pertaining to love and war are endless. When planning to visit this beautiful land, the best times to experience this endless city of treasure would be during September through November. Istanbul was once the capitol of two of the greatest empires in history: the Roman Empire (Byzantine) and the Ottoman Empire. With this in mind, the possibilities are endless on what you can discover in breath-taking Istanbul.