The highlights of Istanbul for a first-time visitor are:
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, superlative dome practically floats above the wide-open enormity below. Interior surfaces are decorated with frescos, mosaics, calligraphy and marble. Continue reading
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.