Published By: Nirtika Pandita

Must visit places in Istanbul for full immersion in the culture

From the people to the streets to the landscape, Istanbul is a place to be.

A major city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is a city to fall in love with. The Old City of Istanbul goes on to reflect the cultural influences of the various empires that once ruled the country and have left behind pieces of history. Therefore, there is something for everyone to explore there. Here are some places that one must visit.

The Topkapi Palace

This majestic palace beside the Bosphorus, constructed by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, was the place where Ottoman sultans lived and ruled. The sprawling complex is a spectacular display of Islamic art, with extravagant outdoor spaces lined with elaborate hand-painted tilework designed to connect a labyrinth of sumptuously adorned rooms, all accompanied by battlemented walls and towers. The Harem complex (where the sultan's numerous concubines, as well as children, would spend their days); the Second Court, which allows you to walk through the massive palace kitchens and gaze in amazement at the spectacular decor of the Imperial Council Chamber; and the Third Court, that also enclosed the sultan's private rooms, are among the many highlights.

The Hagia Sophia Mosque

The Byzantine Emperor Justinian entered his finished church for the first time in CE 536 and was mind blown by the interiors and the construction. Tradition retained that the area within the church encompassing the emperor's throne was the official centre of the world. The Hagia Sophia has managed to remain one of Istanbul's most treasured historic sites, from its own conversion to a mosque just after Ottoman armies successfully invaded Constantinople, to its further conversion into a museum in the 20th century, as well as its reconversion back into a working mosque in 2020.

The Great Blue Mosque

This magnificent mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, was Sultan Ahmet I's spectacular architectural blessing to his capital. The mosque, which was built between 1609 and 1616, sparked controversy throughout the Muslim world when it was finished because it had six minarets, the same number as the Great Mosque of Mecca. The mosque was given its name out of its interior decoration which included tens of thousands of Iznik tiles. The mosque's spatial patterns and colouring factor makes it among the greatest examples of Ottoman architecture. Walking through the gardens between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia is indeed the highlight.

Some more places to visit in Istanbul are The Hippodrome, Galata Tower, Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Chora Church, and Basilica Cistern among various others.