Istanbul is a city that wears its cultures
and history well, blending them into an exciting city that has much to offer travelers from
around the world. Founded during Neolithic times, Istanbul today
is a modern city that remains true to its historic heritage through its mosques, basilicas
and ancient bazaars. Standing between the East and the West, Turkey’s
largest city offers an aura of intrigue and charm that will appeal to all visitors. Here’s a look at the top tourist attractions
in Istanbul: Number 10. Galata Tower. At 219 feet high, the Galata Tower rules over
the Istanbul skyline, offering great views of the old city and its surroundings. The medieval stone tower, known as the Tower
of Christ, was the tallest building in Istanbul when it was built in 1348. The tower has been modified over the centuries,
at one time being used as an observation tower to spot fires. Today, its upper reaches include a restaurant
and a night club, both reached by elevator in the nine-story building, where one can
find the stunning vistas. Number 9. Istanbul Archaeological Museum. One of the most important museums in Turkey,
the Istanbul Archaeological Museum is housed in three separate buildings which contain
more than 1 million objects from civilizations around the world. Founded in 1891, it was the first Turkish
museum, and is located on what used to be the grounds of the outer parks of Topkapi
Palace. The museums contain thousands of precious
artifacts, including the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. Number 8. Chora Church. The Chora Church may be a little bit off the
beaten tourist path, but visitors say the beautiful Byzantine art is well worth the
effort to get there. Magnificent mosaics and frescoes depict the
life of Jesus and his mother Mary. Dating back to the days of Constantine, the
Chora was a monastery in its early years; a few centuries later, it became a mosque,
and in 1948, it was converted to a museum. Number 7. Basilica Cistern. The Basilica Cistern has been providing Istanbul
residents with water since the sixth century when it was ordered built by the Roman Emperor
Justinian I. A visit leaves travelers raving about the
technology the ancient Romans used to build this architectural wonder that was very advanced
for its day. Known as the Sunken Palace, the cistern s
one of the locations used in From Russia with Love, a James Bond movie filmed in 1963. Number 6. Dolmabahce Palace. Luxurious, plush and beautiful are just some
of the adjectives used to describe the Dolmabahce Palace, which has been compared to the Palace
of Versailles. Built in the 19th century using 14 tons of
gold leaf, Turkey’s most glamorous palace blends traditional Ottoman architecture with
the European styles of Neoclassical, Baroque and Rococo. Home to six sultans from 1856 to 1924, the
palace’s setting is stunning: It was built along the Bosphorus coastline. Number 5. Suleymaniye Mosque. Visitors to the Suleymaniye Mosque say its
beauty and peacefulness gives them an inspiring sense of spirituality. Located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, the
mosque was built in 1550 by the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. The mosque, indeed, is magnificent, blending
the best of Islamic and Byzantine architecture. The mosque was extensively damaged over the
years, including during World War I when a fire broke out while the gardens were used
as a weapons depot. Number 4. Grand Bazaar. Travelers who love to shop shouldn’t miss
out on a visit to the Grand Bazaar, with 5,000 shops making it one of the largest indoor
marketplaces in the world. Receiving more than a quarter-million visitors
a day, the bazaar features such items as jewelry, carpets that may or may not fly, spices, antiques
and hand-painted ceramics. The bazaar dates back to 1461 and today is
home to two mosques, four fountains, two hammams and the jewelry market, where the rarest and
most valuable items have been found traditionally. Number 3. Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace is one of the must-see attractions
in Istanbul that combines history and stunning scenery in an experience that is not to be
rushed. The palace, which dates back to the 15th century,
is situated on a hill overlooking the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. At one time it was an official royal residence
of the Ottoman Empire sultans and seat of Turkish government, but is now a museum. Visitors can get a glimpse of the harem’s
quarters, where the government worked, the palace kitchens with a huge porcelain collection,
and the treasury with its collection of jewels and clocks. Number 2. Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque, built in the early 17th century,
remains an active house of worship today. This means visitors need to time their visits
carefully, as the mosque is closed to sightseers during the five daily prayer times for Muslims. All visitors must remove their shoes and women
must cover their hair. This is a small price to pay for seeing its
priceless treasures that include 20,000 ceramic tiles in various tulip designs and 200 stained
glass windows, all with intricate designs. The mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet, takes its
name from the blue tiles on the dome and the upper levels of the interior. Number 1. Hagia Sophia The Hagia Sophia was once a house of worship
that served several religions well over the centuries. It started out as a Greek Eastern Orthodox
basilica that was home to the Patriarch of Constantinople when it was built in 537. For almost six decades in the 12th century
it was a Roman Catholic church. It became a mosque in 1453, remaining that
way until 1935, when it reopened as a museum. At one time, it was the largest cathedral
in the world and served as the inspiration for other mosques, including the Blue Mosque. It is most famous for its mosaics depicting
various religious scenes.