Hoca Paşa, Alemdar Cd. No:17, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Let’s go! I’ll share a short history lesson as you follow your navigation toward Gulhane Park.
The history of Istanbul is a mesmerizing tale that spans over two and a half millennia. Originally founded as Byzantium by the Greeks in 657 BC, it later became Constantinople, the glorious capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD. With the rise of the Byzantine Empire, Istanbul blossomed into a center of art, culture, and trade. Its iconic structures, such as the majestic Hagia Sophia and the grand Hippodrome, were testament to its grandeur.
In 1453, the city underwent a momentous transformation when the Ottoman Turks, led by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, captured Constantinople, renaming it Istanbul. The city became the thriving capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire for centuries, witnessing the construction of architectural wonders like the Topkapi Palace and the Süleymaniye Mosque.
With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Istanbul underwent significant changes and became the vibrant cultural and economic center of the newly established Republic of Turkey. Today, Istanbul stands as a living testament to its diverse and storied past, where Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern influences coexist harmoniously, enchanting visitors with its rich history, captivating architecture, and vibrant spirit.
Please keep following your navigation.
Cankurtaran, Soğuk Çeşme Sk. No:11, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Please turn left here and enter Gulhane Park.
This amazing space has a captivating history that dates back centuries. Originally part of the royal gardens of the Topkapi Palace, it was a private retreat for the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. In 1912, it was transformed into a public park, welcoming locals and visitors alike. The park witnessed significant historical events, including the announcement of the Imperial Edict of Tanzimat in 1839, which introduced political and legal reforms. Today, Gulhane Park offers a serene escape with its lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and tranquil atmosphere, providing a glimpse into Istanbul's rich past amidst its natural beauty.
There’s so much to explore here so feel free to do so! Our next stop is the Archaeological Museums. The navigation will guide you there whenever you are ready.
Alemdar Caddesi,Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu,Gülhane, Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
The Istanbul Archaeological Museums are a treasure trove of historical artifacts that provide a comprehensive insight into the city's rich past. Comprising three main sections—the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum—the complex houses a vast collection of antiquities from various civilizations.
The Archaeological Museum is the main section, featuring artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and other ancient civilizations. Its highlights include the Alexander Sarcophagus, a stunning marble sarcophagus adorned with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the life of Alexander the Great.
The Museum of the Ancient Orient focuses on the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Egypt. Its collection includes cuneiform tablets, Assyrian reliefs, and Egyptian mummies, offering a glimpse into the diverse cultures that once flourished in the region.
The Tiled Kiosk Museum showcases a remarkable collection of Ottoman-era ceramics, including exquisite Iznik tiles and pottery.
Visiting the Istanbul Archaeological Museums allows visitors to delve into the city's rich and diverse history, spanning thousands of years. The museums provide a fascinating journey through time, showcasing the cultural, artistic, and archaeological heritage of Istanbul and its surrounding regions.
Let’s not look past the beautiful architecture of these historic structures. The main Archaeological Museum is located in the neoclassical style building designed by renowned architect Alexander Vallaury, while the Tiled Kiosk Museum occupies an impressive Ottoman-era structure.
With its extensive collection of artifacts, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums serve as a testament to the city's crossroads of civilizations and provide a captivating exploration of the ancient world.
Explore the museums and then please follow your navigation to our next stop.
Cankurtaran, Topkapı Sarayı No:22, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
If you see a long line of tourists, then you are in the right place. If you don’t see a line, you might still be in the right place but you are also very lucky! The Topkapi Palace Museum, is a testament to the grandeur and opulence of the Ottoman Empire. It served as the residence and administrative headquarters of the sultans for nearly four centuries, from the 15th to the 19th century.
The palace complex spans a vast area, comprising various courtyards, pavilions, gardens, and administrative buildings. Its architecture showcases a fusion of Ottoman, Byzantine, and Islamic influences, creating a unique and captivating atmosphere.
Feel free to explore the Topkapi Palace Museum, with its diverse sections, each offering a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Ottoman Empire. The Imperial Treasury exhibits an exquisite collection of jewelry, precious gemstones, and historical artifacts, including the famous Topkapi Dagger and Spoonmaker's Diamond.
The Harem section provides insights into the private lives of the sultans and their families, with opulent rooms, courtyards, and living quarters adorned with intricate tiles and elaborate decorations.
The Palace Kitchens showcase the vast culinary operation of the palace, featuring massive cauldrons, cookware, and utensils used to prepare lavish meals for the sultans and their entourage.
The sprawling palace grounds also house beautifully manicured gardens, offering tranquil spaces for relaxation and reflection.
When you are done exploring here, just follow your navigation to our next stop.
Davutpaşa Cad. Davutpaşa Emintaş Matbaacılar Sit. No: 103 Kat: 2 No: 465, Cankurtaran, Topkapı Sarayı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
On your right is Aya Irini. Also known as Hagia Irene, is one of the oldest churches in the city. Built in the 4th century, Aya Irini predates its famous neighbor, Hagia Sophia, which is next on our tour. It underwent multiple reconstructions over the centuries, resulting in a combination of architectural styles. The church features a simple yet elegant exterior, while the interior boasts a spacious nave and a beautiful apse.
Unlike Hagia Sophia, which has served different purposes throughout history, Aya Irini remained a church for most of its existence. It played a vital role in religious ceremonies and imperial gatherings during the Byzantine period.
Today, Aya Irini is no longer an active place of worship but serves as a museum and cultural venue. Its interior preserves an atmosphere of tranquility, enhanced by the absence of elaborate decorations. The church hosts concerts, exhibitions, and cultural events, attracting visitors who appreciate its historical significance and serene ambiance.
Sultan Ahmet Sultanahmet Meydanı Topkapı Sarayı, Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
We are now walking alongside Hagia Sophia. This architectural masterpiece has stood for over 1,500 years. Originally built as a Christian cathedral, it later transformed into a mosque and currently operates as a museum, captivating visitors with its grandeur and historical significance.
The exterior of Hagia Sophia displays a blend of Byzantine and Ottoman influences. Its massive central dome, flanked by four minarets, dominates the skyline and serves as an iconic symbol of Istanbul. The exterior walls showcase intricately carved stone and impressive arched windows.
Stepping inside Hagia Sophia is a mesmerizing experience. The vast interior space is filled with natural light pouring in from the windows and the oculus of the dome. The focal point is the massive central dome, which appears to float effortlessly above the space. The dome is adorned with stunning mosaics depicting religious scenes, floral motifs, and intricate geometric designs.
The interior of Hagia Sophia boasts marble columns, some repurposed from ancient Greek and Roman structures, supporting the weight of the magnificent dome. The mihrab, added during its conversion to a mosque, stands as a testament to its Islamic heritage.
The upper galleries of Hagia Sophia offer breathtaking views of the main space, allowing visitors to appreciate the architectural marvel from different perspectives. The mosaics adorning the upper galleries showcase the skill and artistry of Byzantine artisans, depicting emperors, saints, and biblical figures.
The museum also houses a treasury containing a collection of religious artifacts, including exquisite Byzantine reliquaries, manuscripts, and sacred objects.
Hagia Sophia holds immense historical significance. It was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century and served as the primary cathedral of the Byzantine Empire for almost a thousand years. It witnessed significant events, such as imperial coronations, religious ceremonies, and the conversion of the Byzantine Empire to Islam.
The building's transformation into a mosque occurred after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 when minarets were added, and Islamic features were introduced. It served as a mosque until 1935 when it was converted into a museum to showcase its architectural and historical value.
Hagia Sophia's unique blend of architectural styles, intricate mosaics, and historical significance make it a must-visit destination for travelers and history enthusiasts. Its preservation as a museum allows visitors to appreciate the convergence of different cultures and religions, standing as a symbol of unity and shared heritage.
Cankurtaran, Kabasakal Cd. No:12, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
As we head toward our next stop, the Basilica Cistern, you may want to take this opportunity to stop at the public restroom ahead of you, or grab a quick snack from one of the many vendors here. Go ahead and take a break. Then follow your navigation and I’ll meet up with you.
Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. NO:13, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
The Basilica Cistern is an awe-inspiring underground water reservoir that dates back to the Byzantine era. Also known as the "Sunken Palace" or "Yerebatan Sarayı" in Turkish, it is one of the largest and most remarkable ancient cisterns in Istanbul.
Built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, the Basilica Cistern provided water to the Great Palace of Constantinople. It was constructed with impressive engineering feats, featuring rows of massive columns and vaulted brick ceilings. The cistern has the capacity to hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water.
Exploring the Basilica Cistern is a captivating experience. Dimly lit and filled with a mystical ambiance, it offers visitors the chance to wander through its atmospheric corridors, marvel at the symmetry of its columns, and gaze into the still waters below. Two of the most famous columns within the cistern are the Medusa Heads, which are believed to have been repurposed from ancient structures.
Go check it out, and then follow your navigation to our next stop.
Sultan Ahmet, Sultan Ahmet Cami, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Behold, the Blue Mosque. Known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Turkish, it is one of the most stunning and popular attractions in the city, drawing visitors from around the world.
Built during the early 17th century, the Blue Mosque stands out with its exquisite blue-tiled interior, which gives it its renowned name. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I and designed by the architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha. Its design blends elements of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, showcasing an impressive central dome, six soaring minarets, and multiple cascading domes.
Stepping inside the Blue Mosque is a breathtaking experience. The interior is adorned with over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, primarily in shades of blue, green, and white, creating an ethereal ambiance. The intricate floral patterns, calligraphy, and geometric designs add to the mosque's beauty and serenity.
The mosque's courtyard is equally stunning, featuring a central fountain and surrounded by domed arcades. It offers a peaceful retreat where visitors can soak in the architectural splendor and marvel at the mosque's grandeur.
The Blue Mosque is not only a place of worship but also a significant cultural and historical landmark in Istanbul. It serves as a symbol of the city's rich Islamic heritage and architectural brilliance.
Sultanahmet, Binbirdirek, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Did you know we are currently standing on an ancient chariot racing track? The Hippodrome of Constantinople, also known as At Meydanı (Horse Square) in Turkish, was built during the Roman period, and served as the centerpiece of Byzantine civic life for over a thousand years.
The Hippodrome was an immense structure, stretching approximately 450 meters in length and 130 meters in width. It could accommodate up to 100,000 spectators who gathered to witness thrilling chariot races and various other events. The spina, a central barrier, was adorned with obelisks, statues, and decorative monuments that added to the grandeur of the venue.
One of the most iconic features of the Hippodrome was the four bronze horse statues, known as the Horses of the Hippodrome, which were originally part of a monumental chariot group. These statues were looted during the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century and are now displayed in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy.
Today, the Hippodrome's layout is no longer visible, as it was gradually transformed into different public spaces over the centuries. However, remnants of its grandeur can still be observed. The Egyptian Obelisk, also known as the Obelisk of Theodosius, and the Serpent Column are two surviving monuments that give us a glimpse into the rich history of the site.
Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Üçler Sk. No:3, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Mollafenari, Divan Yolu Cd. No:82, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
The Column of Constantine, also known as the Burnt Column or Cemberlitas, was erected in the 4th century AD and stands as a testament to the triumphs and legacy of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
The column is made of porphyry, a rare reddish-purple stone, and measures approximately 35 meters (115 feet) in height. Originally, it was adorned with a statue of Constantine at its summit, but the statue has since been lost to time. Nevertheless, the column itself remains an impressive sight.
The Column of Constantine holds historical significance as it marks the center of the ancient Roman city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. It was erected to commemorate Constantine's victory over his rival Licinius in 324 AD, solidifying his control over the Eastern Roman Empire.
Throughout history, the column has faced several challenges. It was partially destroyed by a fire in the 18th century, earning it the name "Burnt Column." However, it was later restored and reinforced, preserving its historical importance.
Mollafenari, Vezirhan Cd. No:31, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
A left turn here will take us to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque. Commissioned by Sultan Mahmud I and designed by the renowned architect Mustafa Ağa, Nuruosmaniye Mosque boasts a stunning combination of Ottoman and Baroque architectural styles. Its grand dome, elegant minarets, and intricate decorations exemplify the opulence and grandeur of the 18th century. The mosque's interior is equally impressive, featuring exquisite calligraphy, colorful tiles, and ornate chandeliers that create a serene and awe-inspiring atmosphere.
The location of Nuruosmaniye Mosque holds historical significance as well. It was constructed near the site where the ancient Forum of Constantine once stood, emphasizing its connection to Istanbul's rich past. The mosque also includes a madrasa (theological school) and a library, contributing to its role as a center of religious and intellectual learning.
Nuruosmaniye Mosque has undergone several renovations and restoration projects to preserve its architectural beauty and historical value. Today, it continues to be an active place of worship, welcoming Muslims for daily prayers and Friday sermons.
Ok, who’s ready for some shopping? Are you sure? Good. Please follow your navigation.
Mollafenari, Ç. Nuruosmaniye Cd. No:18, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Don’t go spend all your money just yet. Let me share some history with you first. Then you can shop, and then meet me at our next stop. But feel free to stay here for as long as you need to.
The Grand Bazaar, or Kapalıçarşı in Turkish, is one of the most vibrant and historic markets in Istanbul. It has a captivating history that spans centuries, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists.
The origins of the Grand Bazaar can be traced back to the mid-15th century during the reign of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. What began as a small marketplace gradually expanded over time and evolved into the sprawling maze-like complex it is today. With its labyrinthine streets, bustling alleys, and over 4,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is a shopper's paradise.
This sprawling marketplace offers a plethora of goods, ranging from exquisite Turkish carpets and rugs to intricate jewelry, traditional textiles, spices, ceramics, and more. Visitors can immerse themselves in a sensory overload of vibrant colors, rich aromas, and the sounds of haggling and bargaining. The Grand Bazaar is not only a shopping haven but also an opportunity to experience the rich cultural tapestry of Istanbul.
Beyond the shopping experience, the Grand Bazaar holds historical significance. It has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, survived fires and earthquakes, and has been a hub of commercial activity for centuries. Exploring its narrow streets and hidden corners is like stepping back in time and discovering the secrets of Istanbul's past.
The Grand Bazaar is not just a market; it's an institution that has become an integral part of Istanbul's identity. It embodies the city's vibrant spirit, architectural beauty, and centuries-old trading traditions. It continues to attract visitors from around the world, offering a unique and unforgettable shopping experience in the heart of Istanbul.
Mercan, Fuat Paşa Cd. 16/A, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
So how was your shopping experience? If you are hearing my voice now, you successfully made it out of the Grand Bazaar.
Istanbul University, is on your left. Founded in 1453, it holds a significant place in history as one of the oldest universities in the world. Originally known as the Ottoman Empire's House of Sciences, it was established just a few months after the conquest of Constantinople. Over the centuries, the university evolved and expanded its academic offerings, becoming a prestigious institution of higher learning. It played a pivotal role in advancing education, knowledge, and culture in the region. Today, Istanbul University stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of intellectual pursuit and academic excellence in Istanbul and continues to shape the minds of generations of scholars.
The university offers a vast array of academic disciplines, encompassing faculties and schools in fields such as arts and sciences, engineering, law, medicine, business administration, and more. With a commitment to fostering critical thinking, innovation, and research, Istanbul University has played a significant role in shaping the intellectual landscape of the country and beyond.
Students from diverse backgrounds and cultures flock to Istanbul University, drawn by its academic reputation, world-class faculty, and vibrant campus life. The university provides a nurturing environment that encourages intellectual growth, cultural exchange, and personal development. Its libraries, laboratories, and research centers serve as hubs for academic exploration and innovation.
Moreover, Istanbul University serves as a hub of cultural and social activities, organizing events, conferences, and exhibitions that celebrate art, literature, music, and scientific achievements.
Süleymaniye, Şamdancı Sk. No:8, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
The Süleymaniye Mosque, an architectural masterpiece and an iconic symbol of Istanbul, stands proudly here on the city's skyline. Commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and completed in 1557, the mosque is a testament to the grandeur and sophistication of Ottoman architecture.
Designed by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan, the Süleymaniye Mosque showcases a harmonious blend of Islamic and Byzantine influences. Its vast courtyard, elegant domes, and towering minarets create a striking silhouette against the horizon. The interior boasts intricate tile work, delicate calligraphy, and an atmosphere of serenity.
The mosque complex also includes a madrasa (theological school), a library, a hospital, and a hamam (bathhouse), reflecting the Ottoman Empire's commitment to education, healthcare, and public welfare.
Beyond its architectural magnificence, the Süleymaniye Mosque holds immense historical and cultural significance. It is the final resting place of Sultan Süleyman and his wife, Hürrem Sultan, making it a pilgrimage site for many.
Today, the Süleymaniye Mosque continues to be a vibrant place of worship, attracting visitors from around the world who are captivated by its beauty, spirituality, and the sense of awe it evokes.
Also, I think perhaps we haven’t done enough shopping. Am I right? Great! Follow your navigation and prepare for another unbelievable shopping experience.
Hobyar, Vakıf Hanı Sk. No:2, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
The Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul, also known as the Spice Bazaar, is a bustling haven of sensory delights that offers an unforgettable shopping experience. Step into this vibrant marketplace, and you'll find yourself immersed in a world of captivating sights, enticing aromas, and a treasure trove of unique products.
First and foremost, the bazaar is renowned for its extensive collection of spices. Here, you can discover a dazzling array of aromatic wonders, including cumin, paprika, saffron, turmeric, and countless others. The air is filled with the fragrant symphony of these spices, inviting you to explore their rich flavors and delve into the culinary traditions they represent.
But the Egyptian Bazaar offers much more than just spices. As you navigate through the labyrinthine alleys, you'll come across stalls adorned with a kaleidoscope of colorful teas, from traditional Turkish black tea to delicate herbal blends. The bazaar is also a haven for sweet tooths, with stalls overflowing with delectable Turkish delights, nougats, and honey-soaked baklava.
Ceramics and decorative items are another highlight of the bazaar. Intricately hand-painted plates, bowls, and tiles showcase the timeless beauty of Turkish craftsmanship, while ornate lanterns and traditional coffee sets transport you to the magical world of the Orient.
Beyond culinary delights and crafts, the bazaar offers a range of products to cater to various needs and interests. From exquisite jewelry and textiles to traditional Turkish textiles, leather goods, and fragrances, there is something to captivate every visitor.
The Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul is a true melting pot of culture, history, and commerce. Its vibrant atmosphere, diverse offerings, and warm hospitality make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a captivating and immersive shopping experience.
And with that, we have come to the end of this UCPlaces tour of Istanbul, Turkey. I hope you’ve had a great time and have picked out a few places you’d like to go back to and explore even more!
Enjoy the rest of your day!