Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya] was first an Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and is presently a museum. Its fascinating history and stunning beauty make it a must-see attraction for any tourist visiting Istanbul. In the past 1500 years, the museum has been through a multitude of earthquakes, collapses, fires, and battles. Over the centuries, there have been three churches. The first church, know as ‘Great Church’, was completed in 360 under the reign of Constantius II in the Byzantine Empire. During riots in 606, it was almost entirely burned down. A second church was ordered by Theodosius II, which was inaugurated in 615. A fire started during the riots of the Nika Revolt in 532 burned the second Hagia Sophia to the ground. Several marble blocks from the second church remain and are presently situated outside the museum’s entrance. In 532, for the construction of the third church, Emperor Justinian I had material brought from all over the empire – such as Hellenistic columns from Ephesus, large stones from quarries in Egypt, green marble from Thessaly, black stone from the Bosporus region, and yellowstone from Syria. More than ten thousand people were employed to build the new church. The emperor, together with the Patriarch Menas, inaugurated the new basilica in 537. Ayasofya Hagia Sophia Hotels – Istanbul
Sultan Abdülaziz (1861 – 1876] had Beylerbeyi Palace built as a summer residence for Ottoman sultans and a guest house for foreign heads of state and sovereigns. Construction began in August of 1863 and was completed less than two years later in April 1865. Today, it’s positioned directly north of the 1973 Bosphorus Bridge. It’s estimated that construction for the palace cost 500,000 Ottoman liras. The rectangular palace and its surrounding grounds occupy about 2,500 square meters. It’s comprised of 6 halls, 26 rooms, one hamam, and one bathroom.
Although smaller, Beylerbeyi Palace is just as stunning and lovely as Dolmabahçe Palace. The Ottomans of the 19th century embraced artistic influences from both the Western and Eastern worlds. Many foreign artists from France, Italy, and Germany were commissioned to work on Beylerbeyi Palace. Japanese and Chinese artwork is seen in pottery and ornaments throughout the museum.
Each room in the palace is entirely different from the one before it, but equally spectacular and dripping with tiny details. Much of the expertly crafted furniture and luxurious linens are original. Every room has intricate and delicate chandeliers reflecting countless prisms.
The mosque’s courtyard has an impressive fountain and is encircled by beautiful carved double doors beneath intricate painted designs. The mosque inner domes are beautifully embellished with floral and geometric patterns, as well as Quran verses.
If you have time, be sure and visit the nearby tomb (Turkish: türbe] of Şehzade Mehmed. It’s shared with his only daughter Hümaşah and his brother, Cihangir. This lavish tomb features extremely rare İznik tiles in apple green and lemon yellow. Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha’s tomb is situated nearby.
On the first floor, you’ll find artifacts from Istanbul throughout the prehistoric, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine eras. Here you can also view a short video on the archeological digs that uncovered some of the museums recently acquired items. If you can’t make it to some of Turkey’s unforgettable ruins, head upstairs to the second floor and enjoy the Anatolia and Troy through the ages displays. On the third flooryou’U find “Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Artifacts from Syria, Palestine, and Cyprus”.
The Tiled Kiosk museum is opposite the main museum and holds approximately 2000 artifacts from the Seljuk and Ottoman eras (11th-20th centuries]. The brilliant colors of the pottery and tile artifacts make it seem as though these items were crafted yesterday and not hundreds of years ago. Possibly the most stunning item in the Tiled Kiosk is the ornate and vibrant Tile Mihrab.
The Ancient Orient Museum houses Pre- Islamic Arabian Art, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia collections. Fifteen to twenty minutes is enough to appreciate its sunny galleries and ancient artifacts. Nobody wants to miss out on an Egyptian sarcophagus and its mummified occupant Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
The museum also has a small cafe where visitors can enjoy coffee, tea, and other refreshments. Outdoor tables are within arms reach of a surplus of unmarked pillars and headless statues.
The design includes diverse elements from the Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles, fused with traditional Ottoman architecture. The palace layout and decor reflect the increasing influence of European styles and standards on Ottoman culture and art during the Tanzimat period (1839-1876). Functionally, however, it retained elements of traditional Ottoman palace life.
Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six sultans from 1856 until the abolition of the Islamic state in 1926. A law that went into effect on March 3, 1926 transferred the ownership of the palace to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of his most important works there. He spent his final days at the palace, as his health deteriorated. He died at 9:05 a.m. on November 10, 1938 in a bedroom that is now part of the museum.
It was designed by the famed imperial architect, Mimar Sinan, for Suleiman the Magnificent’s favorite daughter, Princess Mihrimah. The mosque was built between 1562 to 1565. Like many monuments in Istanbul, it was greatly damaged by several earthquakes (1719, 1766,1816, and 1896). Although the mosque was rebuilt each time, its surrounding buildings were never fully restored.
The cube shaped interior rests below a dome 20 meters in diameter and 35 meters in height. The expansive floor area of the mosque is around 1000 square meters. With its abundant stained glass windows, Mihrimah Sultan is one of Mimar Sinan’s most illuminated mosques. The ornamentation inside is relatively simple, allowing visitors to focus on the architecture of the mosque’s vast interior. The stenciled decorations are all modern, however, the white marble mimbar is from the mosque’s original construction.
- Before entering the mosque, women must cover their heads, shoulders, and legs and men must wear trousers.
- Try to plan your visit around prayer times.
Yıldız Park (Turkish: Yıldız Parkı] is a historical, urban park in the Beşiktaş district and is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul. Originally a large forest, the area it occupies was once used as a hunting ground for Ottoman rulers and was a favourite haunt of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Later, the park was part of the imperial garden of Yıldız Palace and was reserved only for palace residents during his reign.
Today, the park is a popular picnic spot, especially on weekends. The cheeps, chirps, and occasional bark drown out the hustle and bustle of surrounding city life. Certain areas in the park offer an impressive view of the Bosphorus. You could easily spend half a day strolling throughout the sweeping grounds and stopping at the lovely pavilions. Much of the park is uphill, but well worth the climb. If you get winded, there are benches galore. The outer section of the park includes the Yıldız Palace, Qadir pavilion, Malta pavilion, and the still- operating Yıldız Porcelain Factory.
The greenery of the park includes magnolias, bay leaves, Judas trees, silver limes, and horse-chestnuts. In addition, the park is filled with oak, cypress, pine, yew, cedar and ash trees. Much of the pathways are lined with lovely flower beds. Sunbathing dogs lounge around as if they have nowhere better to be. Meandering cats, amiable magpies, and busy squirrels go about their days.
There’s a small cafe called Kir Kahvesi that is shaded and catches a breeze, even on the hottest days. In addition to teas, coffee, and cakes, the cafe offers entrees between 10-20 TL.
Summer 10:00 – 21:00
Winter 9:30 – 17:30