We will continue with our part 2 of the best 10 places to visit in Istanbul.
Places to Visit
The most important center for the historical peninsula is Sultanahmet.
Because of that, we will start with Sultanahmet and give you a brief list about best places.
1 ) Sultanahmet – Beyazıt – Sirkeci – Eminönü
You can travel all the historical structures around Sultanahmet just 1 day by walking.
The Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern are one of the most prominent places to see first.
But if we go into detail, to visit this place can take your two days at most. Because the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul Archeology Museum and Büyük Saray Mosaics Museum are among the places to be seen in Sultanahmet.
”We can take the Sultanahmet as the heart of the Historical Peninsula. But the peninsula isn’t just limited with Sultanahmet of course.”
As an example, the Grand Bazaar in Beyazıt and the Used-book Bazaar are among the must-see places for bookworms. And the Mahmutpaşa Bazaar is a long and historical avenue which connects the Grand Bazaar with the Spice Bazaar which is Eminönü. Since these Bazaars has more meanings from just a shopping place, they will definitely amaze you.
”For the travelers visiting the Egyptian Bazaar in Eminönü, I recommend visiting Rüstem Paşa Mosque at the corner too.”
Inside this mosque, you can find many Iznik tiles that is the best of its era. Even though it is a small mosque, the fame of it already surpassed Turkey and reached the Newsweek Magazine. The magazine mentioned the Mosque as one of the secret treasuries of Earth.
”Travelers who are traveling this side of the historical peninsula, generally takes their food break at the famous Sultanahmet Köftecisi which is famous for its meatballs.”
But Hocapaşa Restaurants which are placed at the center of Sirkeci could be considered as good alternatives too.
Tastes such as Kasap Osman and Filibe Köftecisi which dates back to hundreds of years back, in a walking range from the Sirkeci tramway station.
2 ) Süleymaniye – Vefa – Şehzadebaşı – Unkapanı – Zeyrek
The name of the Süleymaniye county comes from the Süleymaniye Mosque. The Magnificient Süleyman ordered the Mimar Sinan to build this mosque in the 16th century. The fame and the skills of Sinan the Architect are undisputable.
Moreover, it also is one move ahead by being a giant külliye ( Islamic social complex). It is the most beautiful mosque in every aspect…
After exploring the huge Süleymaniye Mosque, you can see another artifact from the hands of Sinan the Architect, Şehzade Mosque.
”Sinan built the Şehzade Mosque as his apprenticeship structure, Süleymaniye as the assistant master structure. But the Selimiye in Edirne is his mastership structure.”
Vefa is the neighboring area of Süleymaniye. It is known mostly by the Vefa Bozacısı. Boza is a thick, slightly fermented millet drink. Vefa is also the place in which it holds one of the oldest Byzantine era churches in history.
These churches were turned into mosques during the Ottoman Era and preserved by this way all the days to this one. By the way, Unkapanı which located inside of Vefa has two important aspects: First, the Atatürk Street which divides the Historical Peninsula in the middle passes from Unkapanı, and the second is that you can find most important ruins of aqueducts which were built around the 4th century by Roman Empire.
Valens Aqueduct was the only part of a gigantic system built by the order of Emperor Valens in order to get water to the Istanbul.
”When you pass across from the Atatürk street, you will reach to the Zeyrek area. Zeyrek, promises you one of the most reflections of Istanbul during the Ottoman Era.”
With its bath-houses, frame houses with bay windows, historical fountains and many more… The most important structure of this area is the Zeyrek Mosque or the Church of Pantocrator. The church which is a part of an old monastery complex shows you the best sides of Byzantine architectural style.
3 ) Cibali – Fener – Balat – Ayvansaray
The tours which start at the Kadir Has University, Cibali and goes to the Fener, Balat are so popular nowadays.
These culture tours generally end at the Virgin Mary Ayazma Church at the Ayvansaray and show you how cosmopolitan is the Istanbul of Ottoman Era. These areas contain churches, mosques, synagogues and many more in even the same street.
We can list the most beautiful historical structures inside of Cibali, Fener, Balat and Ayvansaray like this:
- Gül Mosque
- Phanar Greek Patriarchate
- Phanar Greek Orthodox College
- Balat Homes
- Ahrida Synagogue
- Ayvansaray Vlaherna Ayazma Church
- And the Chora (Kariye) Church
4 ) Edirnekapı – Chora Museum / Church
If we are talking about the historical peninsula, we need a specific topic just for the Chora Museum which is located inside of the Edirnekapı area. Even though the Chora is not as famous as the Hagia Sophia, it is still one of the most precious structures from the Byzantine Era.
One of the most distinguishing arts of the Byzantine Empire, Mosaics art can be seen fully in this beautiful building. You can see all the vivid mosaics of late Byzantine era in here. Chora, which was a monastery outside of the city center during the Byzantine era, is actually consisted of many other buildings. The church was originally built during the 5th century outside of the first wall of Constantinople so the name Chora means ”countryside” in old Greek. The reason behind other buildings destroyed was the harsh earthquakes of Istanbul. Even the museum got destroyed by these quakes but it was rebuilt in the 11th century by the mother of Alexius I. After that, in the 14th century it was rebuilt again and it stood strong till the 20th century. During the great Istanbul earthquake, one minaret of this fascinating building collapsed so they rebuilt the dome but some of the most important mosaics got lost forever. The church started to serve as a museum after 1958 during the Republic era of Turkey. It is still a museum and you can visit it for a fee of 30 Turkish Lira but it will definitely worth the money and the time you spent.
But only the Chora Museum reached to this day. Mosaics and many other things inside of this church are enough for one to imagine how the other buildings were in this monastery complex. And its only rival at reflecting the Byzantine Mosaics art is the St. Vitale Church which is located at the Ravenna, Italy.