Top Sights in Istanbul (Part 1)

by - August 05, 2017

This post is belated, but recently, I was inspired to relive my experience in Turkey. It happens to be an all-time favorite place of mine, and has everything to offer, from history and culture, to nightlife and activities.Well, I haven't explored too much of Turkey but I have explored the hell out of Istanbul. Fortunately, for me, I did the top sights in a few days as most of them were in Sultanahmet area, easily accessible by walking or tram.

For Istanbul, take at least 3 days, and visit these places:

Hagia Sophia
This goes without saying. Hagia Sophia is perhaps one of the first reasons you ended up in Turkey. It is one of my favorite historical places in Turkey and it makes it worthwhile if you read up on it. When you go inside, think about the fact that this building is ​over ​1500 years old. You’ll be impressed. Hagia Sophia is just across Sultanahmet Square from the Blue Mosque. It was originally built as a Greek Orthodox church in the sixth century but over the years it’s also been a Catholic cathedral and a mosque. Today it’s a museum, with a mixture of east-meets-west influences, so characteristic of Turkey itself. From the Christians there’s the grand dome and Biblical mosaics (well preserved as they were hidden away when it was used as a mosque), then from the Muslims there are the hanging chandeliers and Arabic calligraphy. Added together you have a mixture of gold-tinged paintings, carvings, mosaics and delicate latticework.

Notice in the above picture, Prophet Gabriel holding a globe in his hand. The painter who drew this depicted the earth as round. How so? For in the 5th century, we thought the earth was flat.

This is the upper gallery mosaic with  Mary in between  Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife Irene.  Empress Irene is offering a scroll that symbolizes the donations to the church, and the Emperor is carrying a purse of gold as a symbol of donations to the church.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapı Palace was the main residence of the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years until the mid-19th century. At its peak it housed 4000 people with its own mosques, hospital and mint. It's now a museum, with some of the grandest rooms open to the public. The entrance fee of Topkapi Palace is around 40 Turkish Lira per person, and an additional 25 Turkish Lira for the Harems. However, you can easily spend an entire day in this place.

Around four main courtyards you can see treasures like jewellery, calligraphic manuscripts and porcelain. You can also visit the Harem – home to the Sultan’s mother, wives and up to 300 concubines, and beautifully decorated with painted tiles and stained glass windows.

The palace also has fantastic views across the Bosphorus from its gardens and terraces.​​ Also you might want to visit the Chamber of Sacred ​Islamic ​Relics if it is open.​ They have the Prophet's mantle among other things. ​

Its hard to capture the spendour of this place through photographs, because often they are forbidden and secondly, the rooms have very little light. Anyways, highly recommend everyone to go here. It is right next door to Hagia Sophia but requires you to come a bit early, since it closes around 5 pm from Nov-April and closes around 7 pm the remainder of the year. However, you can easily spend around  4 hours there as there are four different courtyards and seventeen different exhibitions.

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