10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open space below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center). The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. Inside the Hagia Sophia, I feel small. Inside the Blue Mosque, I feel peace. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest traditional covered markets, with more than 4,000 shops on over 60 streets. Just about everything you can think of is for sale here, but leather, gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, textiles and carpets are good buys. The bazaar is located in the country’s largest city, near such famous sites as Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern on the  city’s historical peninsula (surrounded on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn). The bazaar’s first shops were built in the 15th century, on order of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II soon after he conquered the city.

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Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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10 Must-See Sites in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is a 6th-century Christian basilica, converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, now a museum. If the word awesome still had meaning, I would use it to describe the Hagia Sophia, temple of Holy Wisdom. It set the standard for Byzantine architecture, though it was 1,000 years before another cathedral surpassed its size. From the outside, it’s a red-orange mountain that seems to anchor the city to the Bosphorus shore. It’s not particularly beautiful but the air of greatness can’t be missed. On the inside, it’s vast, immense, vast and vast and filled with the light of heaven. The massive dome practically floats above the wide-open enormity below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble.

 

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Mosque is just down the way from Hagia Sophia. Together they are like bookends to the Hippodrome (Roman entertainment center), sort of. The Sultanahmet Mosque is commonly called the Blue Mosque after the 20,000 hand-painted tiles on the interior walls. It pairs well with the Hagia Sophia, not only in proximity but also as a complementary experience. While Hagia Sophia draws the attention upward, the Blue Mosque induces inward reflection. Hagia Sophia makes me go Wow! Blue Mosque makes me go ahhh. One more… Hagia Sophia makes me feel small. Blue Mosque makes me feel peaceful. There’s a lot happening on the walls, with all the painted tiles, but the atmosphere is light and serene. Continue reading

3 Hotels We Love in Istanbul’s Old City

Hagia Sophia Hotel Istanbul Old City

This hotel’s best feature is its location in the heart of Sultanahmet. It’s practically on top of the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) and the Basilica Cistern and an easy walk away from Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. It’s a modern hotel, converted from an existing building and opened in August of 2011. The rooms are clean and spacious and some offer sweeping views of the Hagia Sophia Museum. We use this 5-star hotel in the Diamond and Platinum categories of our Istanbul tours.

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Old City

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Old City

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Old City

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Old City

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Istanbul, a wee bit off the beaten path

Basilica Cistern

One of my favorite places in Istanbul is the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, also known as the Kariye Camii or the Chora Museum. The surviving structure is mostly from the 11th century, but when the original church was built on this site in the 4th century, it was outside the city walls. Chora means country in ancient Greek. It’s a relatively small church and although pleasant enough, there’s nothing outstanding about the architecture. The real reason to visit is to see the 14th-century mosaics and frescos that cover the interior walls. Continue reading