Are you ready to explore Istanbul’s highlights? From Galata Tower to Süleymaniye Mosque, from Ahi Çelebi Mosque to the 600-year-old Old World sycamore, an unforgettable historical journey through Istanbul’s finest sites awaits its visitors
With its unique architecture and thousands of years of rich history, Istanbul is undoubtedly one of the world’s most special and captivating cities. Over the centuries, this metropolis has been home to many civilizations, where the past and the future embrace each other. While witnessing this embrace, you must not forget to explore the most extraordinary architectural wonders of history. This article, featuring some of the structures that can be described as Istanbul’s best,will offer you a completely unique experience during your trip to Istanbul.
Oldest tower: Galata
Did you know that Galata Tower, one of Istanbul’s iconic structures, is the oldest tower in Istanbul? It is also one of the oldest structures in the city and will offer you a mystical atmosphere and a magnificent view of the metropolis. With its strong and imposing stature, the tower will definitely offer a glimpse into the pages of history.
Largest palace: Topkapı
The heart of the Ottoman Empire, a symbol of splendor, Topkapı Palace awaits visitors who want to witness a grand lifestyle. In the palace’s stunning gardens and intriguing sections, you will see all the lived experiences come to life. It’s recommended to allocate a considerable amount of time for a visit to Topkapı Palace, which carries the distinction of being Istanbul’s largest palace.
Islamic landmark: Süleymaniye
One of the most beautiful mosques that adorn Istanbul’s silhouette is Süleymaniye Mosque, which is also one of the largest mosques in Istanbul. With its elegant minarets and magnificent dome, the mosque offers a visual feast and provides a sense of peace and tranquility within.
Oldest mosque: Ahi Çelebi
Among the many minarets rising into the sky in Istanbul, Ahi Çelebi Mosque is just one. However, it stands out with its status as the oldest mosque. The mystical atmosphere of Ahi Çelebi Mosque, which allows you to trace the past from ancient times to the present day, will deeply affect you.
Largest church: St. Anthony of Padua
Located in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district on Istiklal Street, this historic church, constructed in the second half of the 19th century and opened in 1912, holds the title of Istanbul’s largest church. Its grand and majestic towers that rise toward the sky, along with its attention-grabbing façade, invite you inside. Inside St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, you’ll find elegant designs, stained glass windows, frescoes and artistic decorations.
This church, reflecting Istanbul’s religious and cultural diversity, is an important stop for those who want to witness the city’s history.
Oldest church: St. John
Located in the Fatih district, known as the historical peninsula of the city, the church, now a mosque, presents itself as a structure from the Byzantine period in Istanbul. Built in the fifth century and undergoing repairs at various times, the church holds the distinction of being Istanbul’s oldest church. With its period-specific features and simple yet elegant design, the church offers a significant opportunity for those interested in history to witness the past.
Oldest synagogue: Ahrida
Situated in the historic district of Balat in Istanbul, Ahrida Synagogue is believed to have been built in the 15th century, although exact information is not available. With varying opinions about its construction date, Ahrida Synagogue carries the distinction of being Istanbul’s oldest synagogue. It is thought that during the Ottoman Empire period, the Jewish community that came from the Balkans established this synagogue, and its name is believed to have originated from Ohrid, a city in Macedonia.
Today, this synagogue still actively hosts worship, serving as evidence of Istanbul’s historical role in accommodating various cultures and religions, as well as a symbol of tolerance toward different cultures and religions.
Oldest structure: Obelisk of Theodosius
Located in the historical peninsula of Sultanahmet, this column in the square is estimated to have a history of 3,500 years. The obelisk of Theodosius was erected in memory of one of the cities conquered during a campaign to Egypt by Pharaoh Thutmose III.
This impressive column, standing at a height of 32 meters, made a long journey to reach this square. Initially brought to Alexandria over the Nile River to commemorate the 20th year of Emperor Constantius II’s reign, the column was brought to Sultanahmet Square in A.D. 390. The column is adorned with hieroglyph inscriptions and Arabic inscriptions from the Ottoman period.
The obelisk, an integral part of Istanbul’s historical and cultural heritage, is a valuable structure that leaves visitors in awe and amazement.
Oldest hammam: Balat
Named after the district it’s located in, Balat Hammam is Istanbul’s oldest hammam, and its construction date is not precisely known. Throughout the ages, from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods to the present day, Balat Hammam showcases a blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural elements. With its restoration work, Balat Hammam is still in use today, providing visitors with a delightful experience while taking them on a historical journey.
Balat Hammam can also be an excellent choice to explore Istanbul’s bathhouse tradition.
Old World sycamore
The 600-year-old Old World sycamore, standing near the shores of the Bosporus, is a significant witness to Istanbul’s past, holding many of the city’s secrets. This tree, which has managed to stand tall from the Ottoman Empire to the present day, is visited today as a natural monument. Sit under the shade of this grand plane tree, which casts a shadow with its size and lush green leaves, and let yourself be embraced by the arms of history and nature.