Historical Places in Istanbul

written by
Transfer Expert Team
March 10, 2021
Historical Places in Istanbul

We wrote about the most popular historical places in Istanbul that once used as places of worship. The city is one of the most visited cities of Turkey, which straddles Europe as well as Asia across the Bosphorus Straits. The city attracts approximately 15 million tourists every year.

Historical Places of Istanbul: The Old Town

Istanbul Historical Sites are mostly concentrated on the Old Town. Its Old City traces cultural links of the several empires that once ruling here. In the Sultanahmet neighborhood, the largest open-air, ancient Roman-style minaret still preserves the remains of a once thriving Hellenistic city. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia contains rare Christian mosaic and an exquisite dome.

Istanbul Old Town
IStanbul Old Town (Bottom Left Peninsula)

The Popular Historical Places

Istanbul’s top touristic attractions include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace. All three of these structures are world famous. Also, There are other historical worship places in Istanbul. This vast mosque, which dominates the skyline of the Golden Horn, is the crowning achievement of Architect Sinan, greatest of Imperial architects.

Hagia Eirene (Aya İrini)

Istanbul Historical Places:  Hagia Eirene IStanbul
Hagia Eiren - Aya İrini

The two masterpieces of religion and architecture that Byzantine emperors devoted to the attributes of God, peace and wisdom, are found in İstanbul. Aya Irini (Hagia Eirene) was devoted to Divine Peace and was built before Hagia Sophia which was devoted to Divine Wisdom. Both were built by Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great when the city was founded and were rebuilt several times until the reign of Justinian in the 6th century.

Hagia Eirene, located in the courtyard of Topkapı Palace, was restored and reused during the Ottoman era. The mosaic decoration in the apse is arguably the most noteworthy feature of Hagia Eirene as it is a rare example of Iconoclastic art.

Church of St Mary of the Mongols

Istanbul Historical Places:  Church of St Mary of the Mongols

Princess Maria, illegitimate daughter of Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologos, married Khan Abaka of the Mongols. On his death in 1281, she founded a convent and this church – Istanbul’s only Greek Orthodox church to have been granted immunity from conversion to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror.

Neve Shalom Synagogue

Istanbul Historical Places:  Neve Shalom Synagogue
Neve Shalom Synagogue

Built in 1949–51 for the Sephardic Jewish community, this is the largest of several synagogues in Istanbul. There have been Jews in the city since Roman times, but numbers rose in 1492 when Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed by the Ottomans.

Church of St George, Hagia Yorgi

Istanbul Historical Places: Church of St.George
Church of St.George

The Church of St George stands within the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate complex. Built in 1720, it includes a superb 11th-century mosaic of the Virgin Mary.

Eyup Mosque

Istanbul Historical Places: Eyup Mosque
Eyup Mosque Istanbul

Also rebuilt after the 1766 earthquake, this mosque at the top of the Golden Horn is one of the holiest places in Islam. It is built around the tomb of a 7th-century saint, Eyyub Ensari, standard-bearer of the Prophet Mohammed.

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul Historical Places: Hagia Sophia
Istanbul Hagia Sophia

Next on our list of Istanbul places to visit is the Hagia Sophia. Until the Blue Mosque’s construction, Hagia Sophia was the principal mosque of Istanbul. Hagia Sofia is a fascinating part of history when it comes to architecture. Founded in the 7th Century, it was the first church built in the region.

One of the best historical places in Istanbul is Sultanahmet

Glory to God who has thought me worthy to finish this work.

Solomon, I have outdone you

Emperor Justinian

Built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Hagia Sophia is one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. Justinian was so proud of his basilica that he proclaimed: “Glory to God who has thought me worthy to finish this work. Solomon, I have outdone you”

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque of Istanbul
Suleymaniye Mosque of Istanbul

One of the finest creations of the Ottoman Empire’s greatest architect, Sinan, Suleymaniye Camii was built in 1550–57 for Suleyman I.

He established this magnificent hilltop mosque as a charitable foundation (Kulliye) as well as a place of worship – and it stands in a vast complex that includes medreses, a Turkish bath, a hospital and a caravansary.

The mosque’s towering domes dominate the skyline in a matchless display of imperial power, while its delicate calligraphy, stained-glass windows and decorative carvings add a lightness of touch. Suleyman and his wife Roxelana are buried in tombs in the courtyard.

Blue Mosque - Sultanahmet

One of the best historical places in Istanbul is Sultanahmet

The Blue Mosque is also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It is located next to the Hagia Sophia.

Sultan Ahmed was only 19 when he commissioned this superb mosque, known in Turkish as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

So great was his enthusiasm for the project that at times he even worked alongside his laborers. With his architect, Mehmet Ağa, he wanted to surpass the Suleymaniye Mosque (the work of Ağa’s teacher, Sinan) and Hagia Sophia.

The result of their labors, completed in 1616, has become one of the most celebrated mosques in the world, known widely as the Blue Mosque because of the blue İznik tiles in the interior.

How to go from Istanbul Airport to Historical Places in Istanbul?

As the Istanbul Airport is located 40 km away from the city centre and the subway system is still under construction, you should decide among the following options if you are going to visit historical places in Istanbul:

  • Istanbul Airport Shuttle Bus
  • Istanbul Airport Taxi Service
  • Istanbul Airport Private Transfer Service

We wrote an article of "How to Get from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet?". You'll find a detailed answer.

However, long story short, Istanbul private transfer service of us beneficial in many cases if you need a hassle-free Istanbul airport transfer.

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