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Istanbul's Towers

Galata Tower

Although it is not completely certain as to when the Galata Tower was built, it is claimed that the it was built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Iustinianos in 507 CE.

It was called the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese and the Megalos Pyrgos (The Great Tower) by the Byzantine. It took its present shape during the Genesee period. The Tower was heavily damaged during an earthquake in 1509, and it was renewed by the architect, Hayrettin, who was very famous during that period. During the reign of Süleiman the Magnificent (1520-66), it was used as a jail for prisoners who were sentenced to work at the Kasimpasha Naval Dockyard. The head astrologer, Takiyeddin Efendi, established an observatory on the top of the tower at the end of the 16th century and functioned as an observatory for a particular period of time. Later, it was closed and again turned into a prison by Sultan Murat III (1546-1595).

In 1638, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early aviator using artificial wings from this tower across the Bosphorus to the slopes of Uskudar on the Anatolian side during the reign of Murad V. Towards the 17th century, it was used  by the Mehter Band, the janissary band of musicians. After 1717, it was used as a fire-observatory tower, but the tower itself was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1794.

After it was repaired, a cumba, a little room made of wood, was added to the tower during the reign of Sultan Selim III (1761-1808). After another fire in 1831, Sultan Mahmut added two more floors to the Tower and covered the top of the tower with a famous cloth in the shape of a conical hat.  An inscription written by Pertev Pasha concerning the tower’s repair works was affixed during that time. After a strong storm in 1875,  the framework of the roof was damaged and was late repaired in 1960. Today, the Galata Tower operates solely as a touristic attraction by a private company. The elevator only goes to the 7th floor, and the last two floors of the tower must be climbed by stairs.

After passing though the restaurant on the top floor, there is a balcony that encircles the tower. The restaurant’s view showcases a scene of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.

The height of the tower is 66.90 meters (62.59 meters non-including the ornament on top), the outer diameter is 16.45 meters, the inner diameter is 8.95 meters, and the thickness of the wall is 3.75 meters.

Beyazit Tower

During the Byzantine period, there was a tower called “Tetratsiyon” built for observing fires in remote areas where the current Beyazit Tower stands. In 1749, during the Ottoman period, the tower was built  by the architect, Kirkor Balyan, who finished his education in L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It holds the distinction of being the first fire observing tower. The tower was built by Huseyin Aga and has been called “Harik Kiosk” or “Harik Tower.” The word “harik” means fire. The performers in the tower are called “kösklü, köslü, or dideban.” During the march of insurgents, the wooden tower was set on fire by the Janissaries. The tower was rebuilt on the same site in 1828 out of stone by Senekerim Balyan, the brother of the architect Kirkor Balyan under the command of Sultan Mahmut II. Before the Beyazit Tower was constructed,  the minarets of the Suleymaniye Mosque were used to observe fires. The height of the tower measures 85 meters, And the tower has a wooden staircase of 256 steps.

The Maidens's Tower (The Leandros' Tower)

The Maiden’s Tower is located 150-200 meters off the shore of the Salacak district in Uskudar. Although it is not definite as to when the Maiden’s Tower was built, the tower’s architectural style is said by some sources to be from around 340 BCE.

Previous names of the Maiden’s Tower were Damalis and Leandros. Damalis is the name of the wife of the king of Athens,Kharis. When Damalis died, she was buried on the shore, and the name Damalis was given to the Tower. It was also known during Byzantine times as “arcla” which means “a little castle.”

After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks, the tower was pulled down and a wooden tower was constructed in its place. The wooden tower was destroyed by a fire in 1719. It was rebuilt from stone once again by the head architect of the city, Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha. The cone-capped part of the tower was taken away and a kiosk fitted with glass replaced it. A lead-covered dome was later added to the kiosk. Rakim Efendi, a famous calligrapher, added an inscription with Sultan Mahmut II’s  signature on marble and placed it above tower’s door. A lantern was added to the tower in 1857, and in 1920, the tower’s light was a converted into an automatic lighting system.

The Maiden’s Tower has been used for many different purposes over time, such as a tax collection area from merchantman, a defense tower, and a lighthouse. During the cholera epidemic in 1830, it was used as a quarantine hospital and  radio station. During the Republic Period, it was again used as a light house for a little while. The tower was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1964 and then to Maritime Enterprises in 1982. It has undergone renovations and presently functions as a restaurant open to the public owned by a private company.

The Legend of Leandros

According to this legend, a young man named Leandros falls in love with a nun named Hero who is faithful to Afrodit. However, as a nun, falling in love with someone is taboo for Hero. Hero lives in the Maiden’s Tower. Every night, Hero builds a fire in the tower so that Leandros may find his way to her by swimming to the tower. Thus, they meet every night. One night, however,the bonfire started by Hero is put out by a storm,  That very night, Leandros loses his own way in the cold waters of the Bosphorus and dies. When Hero hears of what happened to Leandros, she cannot endure the pain and commits suicide.

The Princess Legend

Once upon a time, a soothsayer makes the prediction to the King that his daughter will die as a result of a snakebite. Thereupon, the King has a castle built in the sea in order to protect his daughter. Time passes and the girl grows up in the castle. However, the prediction made by the soothsayer was inevitably comes true as a snake hiding a fruit basket carried to the princess bites and kills her.

The Battalgazi Legend
A man named Battalgazi falls in love with the daughter of the Tekfur, a Christian ruler of a town or a locality. However, he does not bestow his daughter to Battalgazi, and to protect her, places her in the tower. Battalgazi attacks the tower and abducts the girl. He mounts his horse with the Tekfur’s daughter and rides away very quickly. There is an expression, “he who takes the horse got by Uskudar” which comes from this legend.

Princes' Islands

Buyuk Ada (Big Island)

Buyukada (Turkish, meaning "Big Island") is the largest island among the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea. It covers an area of 5.4 km², and the distance of the island to the nearest Maltepe shore is 2.3 km. As of 2000, it has a population of approximately 7,335 including Sedef Island.

Buyukada was used as an exile destination and as a monastery region during the Byzantine Christian period. The island was also used to exile the close relatives of kings and statesmen who might have threatened their political power. Furthermore, the island was also used as a prison for those who opposed the ones in power. One of the oldest structures on the island was a convent used for the exile of the Byzantine empress and for clergymen who lived in seclusion; however, this structure has not made it to the present day.. Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting exiles to the convent, named Women Monastery  was the Byzantine empresses, Irene, who had the monastery built.

The Buyukada is divided into two districts: the Nizam district and the Maden district.  The island consists of two peaks with many steeps. The peak located on the southern section of the island is called “Yorgi Peak” and the other is called Peak,” which is located on the northern section of the island. Dil Burnu (the cape) extends for an a distance of 500 m across on the western part of the island. Nizam village is located on the northern part of Dil Burnu and Yorukali Plaj (beach) is located on the southern section.

There were 3,000 people living on the island in the 19th century. However, with the start of boat services in the second half of the 19th century, the population of the island, which has gradually increased over the course of time. This is especially the case for Ottoman intellectuals, authors, and for the Greek community, who made up the majority of the population on the island. During this time, it was an attractive living settlement.In addition, the Büyükada is a popular summer house vacation and hosts daily visitors  from Istanbul, especially during summer time.

The Büyükada was conquered by Admiral Baltaoglu Süleyman Beg. The island’s conquest did take a long time as compared to the conquest of the other Princes’ Island. After the conquest, the demographic structure of the island dramatically changed, and it has become over time a symbol of diversity in Istanbul. Undoubtedly, three different places of worship - a mosque, a church, and a synagogue - are the best examples of a diverse community living in peace and harmony on the the same land.

After the declaration of the constitutional monarchy in 1908, Sultan Abdulhamid II (1842-1918) had of his ministers and generals live on the island where they built villas and waterside residences which have left a rich and glossy view. In addition, Leon Trotsky - a prominent politician during the time of Lenin (1870-1924), was exiled from Russia during the Stalin period (1879-1953) and stayed four years on Buyukada. In the 1920s, a number of Belarussians coming to Istanbul in order to escape the Russian civil war settled on this island. This has added to the cultural diversity and harmony of the island, and one can experience a diverse taste of many different cultures.

One of the most important places of worship of the Buyukada is the Christos Monastery located at the top of the Jesus peak. Also found on the island are the Ayios Dimitrios Church, located in Kumsal district, where Orthodox Christian islanders hold their grand religious ceremony, a Jewish Synagogue, located in the Kumsal district, and the Hamidiye Mosque built by Sultan Abdulhamid II (1842-1918) in 1895. Moreover, there are many churches on the island. Two of the churches belong to the Armenians and Latins, and most of the others were built by Orthadox Christians. After Muslims began to settle on the island, mosques were built, adding to the number of places of worship worship drawing the attention of visitors. In adition to these places of prayer, there are several historical holy water springs called “ayazma.” Other eye-catching places on the island are Ayios Konstantinos, Ayia Fotini, Ayia Paraskevi, and Ayios Yeorios that

In 1930, the Treasure of Buyukada, which consisted of 207 coins belonging to King Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great was found around the Greek Cemetery of the island. It was added to the collection of the Istanbul Archeology Museum. This treasure has a special meaning in terms of revealing new historical facts of the island.

Heybeliada (Heybeli Island)

Heybeliada is the second largest of the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea near Istanbul. It has a length of 2.7 km from north to south and a width of 1.2 km from east to west. Heybeliada was known as “Demonisos” or “Chalki” in the past. It takes its present name of Heybeliada from the shape of a bag that it resembles when looked upon from a distance.

Heybeliada, located in the center of the Princes' Islands with three monasteries, was a traditionally fishing town until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The population of the island grew steadily from 800 to 2,000 with the introduction of steamboat services in 1846. A Greek Orthodox monastery, the main Greek Orthodox School in Turkey, the Elen Trade School, and the first private trade school in Turkey, and the Naval Cadet School (Bahriye Mektebi) have undoubtedly played an active role in stimulating the economic, social, and cultural development efforts on the island. Due to the wealthy Greek community which has built kiosks and mansions on the island as well as a high level of entertainment available, the island has reached a very high economical level. Papa Yuan, the first Mayor of Heybeliada, was appointed in 1887, and a successful telegraph cable was laid to the island in the same year.

With the initiation of steamboat services to Heybeliada, Turks have also developed an interested in visiting the island. Abbas Halim Pasha, the Governor of Egypt in the 19th century, had a kiosk, which carries his name, built on the island at that time. This caused the settlement’s kiosk circle to improve greatly over the course of time. Due to an earthquake in 1894, the island’s buildings were extremely damaged. Ambela, the name of the foremost entertainment venue of the time, was destroyed by a fire immediately after the earthquake. Like every other part of the world, during World War I, the islanders experienced a very difficult time. Moreover, the Elen Trade School was closed in 1915, and the school building was later put into service as a home for orphaned girl.  

After the declaration of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the most important advancement for the island was the opening of the Heybeliada Sanatorium,which was a glimmer of hope for those with tuberculosis. It was later closed and became a thing of the past in the memory of hundreds of people, including the famous Turkish poets, Ece Ayhan and Rifat Ilgaz in 2005. Because of security concerns, during World War II, the Naval Cadet School was moved to Mersin province located in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean coast between Antalya and Adana. After the civil servants employed at the Naval Cadet School and its students left the island, the island became desolated. After the end of World War II and when the Naval Cadet School returned to the island in 1946, the island became active again. Following the events of September 6 and 7 of 1955 in Istanbul, , a part of the Greek minority of the island immigrated to Greece and the island lost its vivacity. After the 1980s, the island, like other settlements in the city, experienced a population explosion due to immigration and a rapid non-planned urbanisation.

The highest peak of the Heybeliada is Degirmen Tepe (peak) (136 m). Tas Ocagi Tepe (128 m) is located on the eastern end of the Degirmen Tepe. The other mountains of the island are Umit Tepe (85m) on which Heybeliada Priest School is located, and Makarios Tepe (98m), Makarios Monastery, on which located on top of the island. The island hosts four harbours: Bahriye Harbour, Mendirek Harbour, Degirmenburnu Bay and Cam Harbour. Çam Harbour,  called “Port Saint Maria” in old times, is the greatest harbour of the island and is worthy of being shown as a natural wonder. The Terki Dünya Monastery (meaning “Leaving the World Behind Monastery”) was originally built in the woods by Cam Harbour in 1868, but it was rebuilt from wood after an earthquake occured in 1894. Apart from that monastery, the Aya Yorgi Uçurum Monastery (1758) and the Saint Mary Church, a place of pilgrimage built by V. Johannes Palaiologos in 1341, are also situated on the island of Heybeliada. Ayia Eufemiya Ayazma (holy spring of Orthodox Greeks) is seen as a historical site of the island located southeast of the Naval Cadet School.

During the summer, Heybeliada becomes lively with its summer home vacationists and touristic visitors. Tourist activities include horse-drawn carriages and donkeys on the island. Many famous individuals enjoy visiting the island. It was of particular importance to Huseyin Rahmi, who is a famous Turkish author who has spent most of his life time on the island. The islanders have looked after their author and have put up a statue of him in the park located in front of the island port. Additionally, the author’s house on Degirmen Tepe was turned into a museum and his name was given to the island’s high school.

Burgazada (Burgaz Island)

Burgazada is the third largest of the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea near Istanbul. It has a round shape and both the width and length of the island are approximately 2 kilometers. Its distance to the Istanbul port is approximately 9 miles, and the costal band of the Anatolian side of Istanbul is 3 miles.

While the population of the island mostly consisted of Turkish citizens of Greek origins, native Turks with a higher level of income began immigrating to the island during the 20th century. During the 1930s, the island’s population was approximately 1,000 in winter time and 2,000 in summer time. In 1990, its population was 2,311 in the winter time bur fell to 1,578 in 2000. The island’s population is approximately 15,000 during summer time.

In the 1950s, after a number of Jewish merchants settled in Burgazada. This caused a sharp increase in the price of housing. The very wealthy people who settled there built summer villas and houses along the hillsides above Heybeliada. In addition to these villas, waterside houses, kiosks and sanctuaries built at regular intervals add an important aspect the island’s architecture.

The Aya Yani Church, whose history begins well before the conquest of Istanbul, has a special importance in the history of Burgazada. The church, estimated to be built in 876 CE, was overhauled several times and has taken its present shape after restoration in 1896. There is a dungeon located under the church with 11 stairs leading to it. It is rumored that a priest named Methodius stayed in this dungeon and was later appointed as the church’s priest. Throughout history, it has been known by different names, the most known of which are Antigoni, Castrum, Panarmos. The Christos Monastery and the Saint Georges Hospital are also located on the island. In addition, the famous Ayazma (holy spring of Orthodox Greeks ) called Ayios Loanis, is a place that can be visited on the island. The Burgazda Sanatorium, one of the first sanatoriums of Istanbul, was established on the island in 1928. The only mosque of the island is called the Burgazada Mosque and was built in commemoration of the 500 year anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

The forest which covered the island fell into ruin after the conflagration of 2003. In active collaboration with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and other organizations, the island has begun replantation efforts in recent years which have gradually begun to work. Because of this, islanders have begun to understand the value of keeping the island green. There is a single mountain on the island called called Hristos peak with a height of 170 meters. “Hristos Peak” is the old name of the mountain, and it is now called “Bayrak Peak,”and it presents the best pictures of the seascape. Mezarlik Cope (Kumbaros Cope) and Kalpazankaya are located in front of the Hristos Monastery and are among the many beauties and natural wonders of the island to be seen by visitors.

Evliya Chelebi (1611-1684), the famous 17th centruy Ottoman traveler and writer, described the island’s castle in his famous book, “Seyahatname,” as being a small castle, foursquare, and located on an escarpment edge on the seaside. The width of the island was described to be 10 miles with very fertile land. He also noted that during this period, there were 300 houses on the island and all of them had gardens and fresh water wells. In addition, the  islanders were of Greek of Turkish nationalities. There were also churches and many goats and rabbits on the island. There were innumerable vineyards on the mountains and wealthy mariners inhabited the island.

Sait Faik Abasiyanik is one of the leading Turkish writers of short stories and the most important figures of the island. Today, his residence in the island is maintained as a museum and his name is also given to the island’s square located in front of the port.  Another importance of Burgazada for Istanbul is that the first private zoo was established on the island.

Kinaliada (Kinali Island)

Kinaliada (Greek: Proti and Akoni) is one of the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea near Istanbul and is the closest island to Istanbul’s port with the distance of 6.5 miles. Its distance to the Anatolian side of Istanbul is 3.5 miles. Its color comes from its reddish soil which is also where the island took its name as Kinaliada means "Henna Island."

Kinali Island is almost 1.5 km in length and the width of the island is 1.1 km. It is the fourth largest of the Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea. There are three large hills on the island. They are  Çinar Hill, located on the western part of the island,  Tesvikiye Hill (115 meters), located next to Çinar Hill, and Cristo Peak (93 m), on top of which is Cristo Monastery. During the Byzantine period, the island most used as a place of exile (the most notable exile being the former Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071). It is rumored that the grave of the  Romanos IV Diogenes is located next to the present orphanage. Monastery Bay is located on the western side of the Cristo Hill. There are both big and small mining holes on the northern section of Monastery Bay, which draw the attention of the visitors.

The climate of the Kinaliada is harsher than that of the other islands. It does not have a significant amount of woodland, but it does has a stone-rich environment. The Byzantine Walls were built with these stones, cut out from the quarry on the island during the Byzantine time and they were also used for building the Tophane Dock and Haydarpasha Port in the 19th century. Because the climate of the island is harsh and has a limited woodland, summer house vacationists of Istanbul have  not been interested in this island. After 1833, the first Armenian population settled on the island and with the initiation of ferry services in 1846, they become the dominant population on the island. After they settled on the island, they built the Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Armenian Church and the Nersesyan Armenian School in 1857 which played a key role in vitalizing the island. Ethnically, it is a cosmopolitan island with a population of 3,943 in 1990. In 1997, the population in the island decreased to 2,539 and in 2000, it rose to 3,318.

The major buildings built by the Greek minority on the island are the Orthodox Panayia Church and the Greek Elementary School built in 1869, and classes in the Turkish Elementary School on the island began in 1935. The other place of worship on the island is for Muslims is the Kinaliada Mosque which has a different architectural design and was built in 1963.

There was no water or electricity in the island’s houses until 1947, when electricity arrived to the island’s homes. Islanders were provided with clean water from cisterns. In 1981, the water shortage problem in the island was solved by building a water distribution network connected with the mainland.  


Fountains and Water Foundations

Fountains were made to provide water for both drinking and cleaning. Water was transported by pipes from water sources and tanks to the fountains. Besides the fountains in the streets, it is also very common to find fountains in gardens and yards. The architecture of the fountains was originally very plain, but it developed during the 18th century. After this period, the fountains were decorated with rich motifs and became elaborate and monumental constructions.

There were also public fountains providing only drinking water. They consisted of small rooms with domed ceilings and open fronts, whose windows were covered by gratings. They were usually built as part of an annex, or near a mosque.


Located in Sultanahmet Square, across from the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed I, the German Fountain was constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of visit to Istanbul by the German Emperor Wilhelm II. in 1898. It was transported in its present site in 1900. The octagonal dome which houses the fountain is buttressed by eight marble columns. The dome's interior is covered with mosaic. Its unique design makes the German Fountain a "must-see" in Sultanahmet Square.


Altough the exact date of its construction has been lost in history, the Valens Aqueduct, also known as the Hadrianus Aqueduct, is a legacy of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine era. Over the centuries, the structure fell into disrepair and eventually to ruins, until the conquest of the city, when it was restored in order to deploy its original function: namely, to distribute water in periods of regional shortage.

It is believed that when first constructed, the aqueduct was more than 1 kilometer in lenght. Over the years, additions have been made, although the point at which the structure was given its Turkish name "Bozdogan" is unknown.

Today, the preponderance of the once sprawling aqueduct has largely been destroyed, with the notable exception of the remains found on the Sarachane Ataturk Boulevard. In 1988, the Municipality of Istanbul decided to restore this piece of history, which also bears witness to Ottoman design. Being the oldest aqueduct in Istanbul, Valens has served the city for more than 15 centuries as its most important water source.


The Haghia Sophia Mosque has two fountains within its perimeters: one at the courtyard entrance; the other just beyond the courtyard wall. The latter is made of marble and has four windows. The fountain just adjacent to the entrance is also marble and is enclosed.


Located on the street side of the Sultan Mahmud II mausoleum on Divanyolu Street in Cemberlitas, the Public Fountain was built with the mausoleum in 1840. The fountain, covered by marble with a domed ceiling. was designed in a classical style and resembles a kind of round antique temple. The iron gratings and the sign on top of the dome are especially interesting.


Located at the intersection of Pashalimani Street and Hakimiyetimilliye Street in Iskele Square in Uskudar, this fountain was built next to the sea in 1729, but later on was moved to its present location.
The fountain looks like a monument. The walls and eaves of the roof were decorated with wooden engravings, and, inscribed on the walls, is some poetry from the famous Divan poets.


It is located to the right side of the Ayasofya Mosque and in front of the Padisah Gate of Topkapi Palace. The strikingly constructed fountain was built in 1729, and is a fine example of Turkish rococo architecture. It is square in shape with an overhanging roof made of lead. A fountain is found in each of the four corners. The lead dome is topped by five small domes and the entire structure is richly decorated with floral designs, ornate inscriptions and beautiful examples of calligraphy written in gold letters. The windows are enclosed with ornate marble grilles.


Located in Tophane, in the square next to the Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque, the Tophane Fountain was built in 1732 by the architect Mehmet Aga during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I.

It is the tallest fountain in Istanbul, and with its ornaments on the walls, the inscription which covers all four walls, and the engraved eaves it makes a rare monument.

Museums and Palaces

Topkapi Palace

     Babusselam (Gate of Salutations)

     This main gate to the Topkapi Palace leads to Kubbealti and to the second courtyard where the Treasury is located. Built in 1564 during the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, its distinctive features are it's two octagonal towers.


     Cinili Kosk (Tiled Pavilion)

     This Pavilion is in the third courtyard of the palace on the Sea of Marmara Side. Built in 1463, this pavilion has went through such extensive restoration that it has lost its original appearance. It was used as a treasury hall.

     Kasr-i Adl (Justice Tower)

     Adjacent to Harem, this watch tower is an important pal of the Topkapi Palace silhouette. Built during the reign of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, the tower was rebuilt continuously. The tower as it stands today was designed and built by the architect Sarkis Balyan.


     The harem is the section of the Palace where the Sultan, his mother, the princess and the ladies of the palace lived. It is located in the third courtyard. Only some parts of Harem are open to the public. Harem contains hundreds of rooms and corridors which are all embellished with traditional Ottoman ornamentation.
Pavilion of the Holy Mantle

     The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle was built on the orders of Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror. This pavilion is also known as Has Oda (Hall of the Priory Chamber) and is located in the palace's third courtyard. The importance of the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle is that it contains belongings of the Prophet Mohammed, some of the Caliphs and Companions. Some of these were brought from Egypt by Yavuz Sultan Selim and others, collected through various channels, are all placed in this Pavilion of the Topkapi Palace. Amongst the collection is the Mantle (or robe) of the Prophet Mohammed, two of the Prophet's swords, a seal and the Prophet's Holy Standard. There are also four pieces of stone and two of brick with the embedded footprint of the prophet and part of one of his teeth which was broken in the Battle of Uhud. There is a letter written by the Prophet Mohammed to the ruler of Egypt inviting him to convert to Islam and hairs from the Prophet's beard. There are swords which belong to Caliphs and Companions and some pages og the Quran verified to be written by the Caliph Osman and Caliph Ali.

     Bagdat Pavilion

     Located in the fourth courtyard of the palace. This pavilion is sited to allow uninterrupted views of the golden Horn, Galata and the Sea of Marmara. Built in 1639 on the orders of Sultan Murat IV, it is one of the best examples of Turkish art and architecture. Standing today in its original from the exterior is decorated with tiles and internally these are very rare decorations of arabesque painted on leather.
Mecidiye Pavilion

     This pavilion is located at the east end of the palace. Built by Sultan Abdulmecid it, has the distinction of being the last Sultan's pavilion constructed at the Topkapi Palace, as after this Sultan moved from this palace. Built on the 'Empire Style' this singular storied rectangular building was designed by the architect Sarkis Balyan. The external facade's ornamentation is particularly noteworthy.

     Arz Odasi (The Throne Room)

     In the Topkapi Palace the ThroneRoom was strictly reserved for the Sultan's use on official occasions. Foreign envoys and visitors, the Prime Minister, Ministers and Chief Justices were received in audience by the Sultan in the Throne Room. Located in the third courtyard of the palace it was originally built on the orders of Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror. Later the Throne Room was repeatedly modified and restored by other sultans. It comprises of a reception salon with the throne and two service rooms.

     The Palace Kitchens

     Located in the Divan Courtyard of the palace on the sea aspect of the site. These were built by Mimar Sinan to replace the earlier kitchens. Viewed from the sea side the kitchens 172 meters in length, form a distinctive line of the palace silhouette. Comprising of 10 sections each roofed by 10 domes, the chimneys over the domes give them a distinct and beautiful line. Providing meals for thousands of people daily, the kitchens' cooks cooked separately for the Sultan, his mother, and the ladies of the Harem as well as for other officials of the palace.


Y.K. Vedat Nedim Tor Museum

     The Museum houses the manuscripts, printed cloth, prayer beads, and Karagöz shadow theater puppets, as well as a number of other items of ethnographic significance.
The Yapi Kredi Vedat Nedim Tor Museum, which will be open to the public on a full-time basis, will exhibit these collections in rotations with emphasis on special subjects.


Yedikule Fortress Museum

     Towards the Marmara end of the land ramparts to the Yedikule Fortress- literally Seven Towers. Constructed in the middle of the Golden Gate by Sultan Mehmed, three new towers were added to the original Byzantine towers to form a five-sided structure. Never used for military purposes, it instead acted as an Ottoman Treasury until the reign of Sultan Murad III (1547- 1595). It is most famous, though as a prison of both foreign and native captives. Sultan Osman II met his death here, as did many unfortunate foreign ambassadors.

     Restored in 1959, the castle is now open as a museum and hosts festivals and concerts.

Yildiz Palace Museum

     Located in between Besiktas and Ortakoy , in the Yildiz Park, the Yildiz Palace is a complex which extends 500,000 square meters and consists of several pavilions (kosk), palace buildings (kasr), and other service and management buildings. The name of this complex comes from the pavilion built by Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) in the large gardens that make up the Yildiz Park. The yellow salon in the Yildiz pavilion is beautifully decorated with landscapes painted on the ceiling. Sultan Abdulmecid(1839-61) furnished this pavilion, and his mother Bezmialem had the Dilkusa Palace built in 1842.

     During the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-76) the Malta, Cadir and Cit Pavilions were constructed, further enlarging this complex, but this complex saw most of its growth during Sultan Abdulhamid II reign (1876-1909). Abdulhamid made the Yildiz palace his main residence, despite the other Sultans' preference of the newly constructed Dolmabahce Palace. Abdulhamid, who reigned as one of the most controversial Ottoman Sultans, preferred the secluded solitude of the Yildiz Palace over the exposed location of the Dolmabahce Palace. Abdulhamid, like all Ottoman Sultans, busied himself with a trade, his being cabinet-making and porcelain production on the palace grounds, and the production of porcelain continues there to this day in the Yildiz Porcelain Factory.

     After the fall of the Ottoman Empire this palace complex, which had once housed almost 10,000 people, was abandoned. The Yildiz Park is now open to the public and many of the pavilions have been restored by the Turkish Touring and Automobile club under the direction of Celik Gulersoy.

     Some of the buildings are used now for housing various non-profit organizations. The Arsenal is now an art gallery and shows are held in the restored theater. The Malta Pavilion, which was restored by Celik Gulersoy, is open to the public as a tourist attraction. Abdulhamid's former cabinet-making workshop now houses both the Istanbul City Museum and an art gallery.


Dolmabahce Palace

     Dolmabahce Palace built in 19 th century is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. It was the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire with the last of Ottoman Sultans was residing there. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic in Ankara, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transferred all government functions to the youthful capital but on his visits to Istanbul Ataturk occupied only a small room at Dolmabahce Palace as his own. He stayed, welcomed his foreign guests and made a practical center for national, historical and language congress and for international conferences.
Dolmabahce palace has a great meaning for Turkish people since the supreme leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had used the palace as a residence and spent the most serious period of his illness and he passed away in this palace on 10th of November 1938 at 9:05 AM, all the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time. Later on it was converted into a museum. It is wandered with a special sense of respect.


Beylerbeyi Palace

     During the second half of the 16th century, Rumeli Beylerbeyi Mehmet Pasa (a kind of General Governor of a larger region) of Sultan Murat III had a seaside mansion built. The name of Beylerbeyi stems from this. During later periods, the palace was adjoined to the Sultan’s lands. Sultan Mahmut II had a wooden palace constructed in its place during the first quarter of 19th century. This wooden palace was incinerated and another one built in its place for Abdulaziz by the famous architect of the period, Sarkis Balyan and his brother. It is this palace that we know now as Beylerbeyi Palace. Completed in 1865, the palace became the summer home of the Sultan’s family, and it was also used to host foreign guests.

     The palace’s garden is decorated with trees, statues, and pools. A hall with an indoor-pool, selamlik, harem, and admiral’s room catch the attention of visitors in the inner part of the palace. Furthermore, the valide sultan room (used for Mother of the Sultan in power), dinning room, reception room, and blue hall are also worth seeing. There are a total of 26 rooms and 6 sitting rooms. It is said that the Marble Mansion and the Yellow Mansion were built by Sultan Mahmut II. The Yellow Mansion was restored during Sultan Abulaziz’s period. The Ahir Mansion [Stable House], located on the side of the bridge, was built for the Sutan’s horses.

     Abdulhamit was kept in custody in this palace until his death in 1918, after he was dethroned. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk’s guests were hosted in this palace. It has since been transformed into a museum, and it is one of the important historical architectural buildings located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul.


Ciragan Palace

      Before the Ciragan Palace was constructed, there had previously stood a wooden sea-side mansion built by Selim III during the early 1800s. By demolishing this mansion, the famous Ciragan Palace was built on the order of Sultan Abdulaziz by Sarkis Balyan in its place. The Besiktas Mevlevi House was also demolished for the construction of Ciragan Palace. The palace is made of marble and spans an area of more than 80,000 square meters.

     Besides the main building of the palace, there are three partitions in total, including the harem and the sections for agas [similar to seigneur]. Abdulaziz and his family were imprisoned in this palace after being dethroned and were mysteriously found dead one morning. Furthermore, Sultan Murat V was also held in custody for 29 years with his family after he was dethroned. Having being used as the Assembly Hall after the Declaration of Second Mesrutiyet [Constitutional Monarchy] in 1908, the Palace was burnt down in a fire due to the ignition of an electric circuit in January of 1910. After its incineration, the empty field between the walls of Ciragan Palace was allocated to Besiktas Sports Club and was used as an honorary stadium for Besiktas. Towards the 1990s, the palace went through heavy restoration and is currently used as a luxury hotel.


Tekfur Palace

     It is not completely sure as to when the Tekfur Palace was built, but it is mentioned that the palace was built by the Byzantine Emperor, Primogenitors. Other sources write that it was built as an extension to the Blakhernai Palace during the 13th and 14th centuries.It is located between Edirnekapi and Egrikapi next to the city walls.

     The palace remained in a state of disarray after the Ottomans conquered Istanbul. Towards the end of the 17th century, a zoo was established. John Sanderson, who visited Istanbul during the 16th century, natares that Busbecq, who was appointed as ambassador 40 years before Sanderson’s arrival, visited the zoo to see a giraffe. After being told that the giraffe had died three days before, he had the grave of the giraffe excavated in order to satisfy his curiosity of an animal which he had never seen in Europe. During the 18th century, the palace was used as a ceramic workshop but was later transformed into a glass production atelier in the 19th century. Furthermore, the world renowned, Kasikci Diamond, was found in the garbage of the premise.

     Archeological excavations still continue today.



Mosques and Complex


      In Cemberlitas on the Yeniceriler Street, this Complex is one of the oldest Ottoman buildings in Istanbul. It was commissioned in 1496 by the Ottoman Prime Minister (Vezir-i Azam) Hadim Atik Ali Pasa. Today only the mosque, school and the tomb remain from the complex which also contained a soup kitchen, caravan-sarai and Dervish lodge.

      Over the centuries the mosque was known by many other names, like Sedefciler, Old Ali Pasa, Cemberlitas, Vezirhani and Sandikcilar.

      The mosque was built of cut-stone on a 'reverse T' plan. The great dome measures 12.5m in diameter and is 24 m high with 16 windows. The dome rests on four elephant leg shaped columns, with four smaller and a half dome supporting the main dome. The altar and pulpit are carved from white marble; the assembly area has five domes with a single balconied minaret on the right hand side.

      In the courtyard are marble gravestones dating do the 17th century and there is also a tomb, the history of which is unknown. The school is located in front of the mosque.


      Hagia Sophia Mosque & Complex is located in Sultanahmet across from Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Considered one of the finest architectural works in the world, it was originally built as a church. Construction began during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, but was completed in AD 360, during the reign of Constantine II. The first Hagia Sophia was partially burnt during an uprising. It was repaired by Theodosius II and opened to worship in 415, but was burned to the ground during another public uprising in 532. After the revolts, Emperor Justinian decided to build a great temple here, and apportioned the task to Isidoros and Anthemion, two western-Anatolian architects. Building materials were brought in from all the Mediterranean countries. In addition, the columns of a number of pagan temples in Anatolia, including the Temple of Artemis, were dismantled and used in the building. The construction lasted five years, and Hagia Sophia became open to worship once again. The structure standing today is that which was built as a church by Justinian.

      Hagia Sophia was occasionally damaged, but was repaired and additions to the structure were built. Despite the changes, its essence remains untouched. Hagia Sophia experienced its darkest days during the Latin occupation; it was looted, damaged and a number of its valuable furnishings were removed and taken to the churches of Europe. When the city once again got into the control of the Byzantines, the church was in terrible condition. Using limited resources, efforts were made to restore it. It was then badly damaged in the earthquake of 1344 in which parts of it, including a section of the dome, collapsed. The increasingly impoverished Byzantines were unable to repair it and it remained closed for a period. Through the levy of special taxes and collection of donations, the church was once again repaired in 1354.

      Despite these efforts, Hagia Sophia was not to return to its full glory after the Latin occupation until the conquest of Istanbul. Immediately following the conquest of the city, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror went directly to Hagia Sophia. However, it was in ruins. He decided on that day to convert the church to into a mosque, and thus a new period began for Hagia Sophia.

      From the first day it became a mosque, Hagia Mosque became a place of enormous significance of Muslims living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, as well as others. For hundreds of years it has symbolised and been a reminder of the conquest of Istanbul.

      The Conqueror created various pious foundations with the aim of ensuring revenue and constructed a midrib (mosque niche), minaret and medresse. Hagia Sophia was shown special attention after the conquest, and the additions built on its ground turned it into a great 'kulliye' or religious complex. One minaret was added by Sultan Bayezid II and a second by Sultan Selim II. Sultan Mahmud I added a reservoir for ablutions, a primary school, a soup kitchen, a library, a chamber for sultans and a mosque niche. The mosaics were completely plastered over; previously, only the faces had been covered. During this period a number of sultans and members of royalty were buried in the complex. They include: Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmet III, Sultan Mustafa I and Sultan Ibrahim.

      Hagia Sophia underwent minor repairs during the Republican period, but was left relatively alone during the war years. American scientists obtained permission from the Turkish government to uncover the mosaics in 1932. While these works were underway, without any legal decree, Hagia Sophia was changed into a museum in 1934 and opened to the public in 1935. This mosque presently functions as a museum.

      The dome of the mosque, believed to represent the infinity of the cosmos, is most impressive. To think that this dome was built in the 530's contributes even more to the importance of the mosque. Despite being damaged, the mosaics found within Hagia Sophia are among the most precious in the world. The additions of the Ottomans, far from spoiling its original beauty, have only reinforced its magnificence. The calligraphies, on plates 7.5 meters in diameter, the stone work, which gives it a lace-like appearance, and the glazed tiles are all priceless. The primary school, tombs, foundations and reservoir which make up the complex are also of major significance from an architectural standpoint.


      The complex, which is scattered throughout Bayezid Square, was built by Sultan Bayezid II and completed in the years 1500-1505. It was originally thought to have been designed by Architect Sinan Hayreddin or Architect Kemaleddin but later research suggests the architect may have been Yakubsah Bin Sultan. The complex is composed of a mosque, a kitchen, a primary school, a hospital, a medresse, a hamam, a soup kitchen for the poor and a caravanserai. It differs from the Faith centre before it, for the fact that it was not built symmetrically, but in a seemingly random style.

      Bayezid Mosque is at the centre of the complex. Its main dome is 16.78 meters in diameter and is supported by four pillars. The stone and wood craftsmanship and stained glass are artistic masterpieces. The courtyard paving materials and pillars used for the reservoir for ablutions were reclaimed from Byzantine ruins and re-used. These pillars in particular demonstrate the quality of Byzantine workmanship.

      The soup kitchen and Caravanserai are to the left of the mosque and are used today by the Bayezit State Library. The medresse far to the right of the mosque is used as a museum by the Turkish Foundation of Calligraphy. The hamam is far from the medresse, on Ordu Street next to the Department of Literature.

      Tombs are found on the Kiblah [Mecca] side of the mosque. Sultan Bayezid II, his daughter Selcuk Hatun and architect of Tanzimat Fermani, Mustafa Resit Pasa, are buried here.


      Beylerbeyi Mosque is located on the Anatolian shore of the Bosphorus next to the Beylerbeyi quay. It was built by Sultan Abdulhamid I in 1778 in memory of his mother, Rabia Sultan and designed by the architect Tahir Aga. The mosque is constructed in Baroque style, of cut stone. It is octagonal in shape with two minarets and 55 windows. There is just one dome with the area in front of the mosque niche covered with a half-dome. The interior is decorated with inscriptions and engravings. The mosque is covered with both Ottoman and European glazed tiles. It is a fine example of the merge of different cultures.


      The Dolmabahce Mosque is located on the Bosphorus in the southern part of Dolmabahce Palace. Construction of the mosque began at the behest of Sultan Abdulmecid's mother, Bezmialem Valide Sultan, but when she died, Sultan Abdulmecid took over. It is completed in 1855, and the architect was Karabet Balyan. It was one of the highly decorated Baroque-style mosques. Being part of the palace complex, the mosque contains a front section in which the sovereign and state officials could worship and a two-storey section for the sovereign suitable for the public procession of the Sultan to the mosque on Fridays.
   The circular arrangement of the windows which resembles a peacock's tail is an unusual sight relatively unknown among the architects of mosques.
      The two minarets both have a gallery. The inner door is decorated in a mixture of the Baroque and Empire styles. A valuable chandelier hangs from inside the dome. The niche (mihrap) and pulpit of the mosque are made of porphyry marble.


      The complex is located in Eyup on the shores of the Golden Horn. The mosque, mausoleum and hamam of the complex still stand today, but the medresse and soup kitchen for the poor no longer survive. The first structure built in the complex was the tomb of Ebu Eyyub El-Ensari a "sahabe", or companion of the Prophet Mohammed. He is said to have hosted Mohammed the first time he journeyed to Medina.

      Known as "Eyup Sultan", he is believed to have been martyred during the siege of Istanbul by the Umayyad people in 668-669. It is believed that after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans, the site was revealed to Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror's teacher, Aksemseddin, in a dream. The Conqueror had a mausoleum built on the site.

      In 1459 Sultan Mehmed, The Conqueror went on to build a mosque, a medresse, a soup kitchen and a hamam, so that the site became a full complex.
      The first mosque built on the site was so badly damaged in the earthquake of 1776 that Sultan Selim III had to tear it down and rebuild it. A ceremony was held to reopen the mosque to worship in 1800. The mosque we see today is this second mosque built by Sultan Selim III.

      The mosque has a main dome of 17.50 meters in diameter and two minarets, built rather high according to the standards of 1723. The interior of the mosque is very plainly decorated, differentiating it from other mosques of the period, although the gilding decorating the mosque niche is eye-catching.

      The most distinctive aspect of the complex is its mausoleum. It is octagonal in shape and has a single dome. The inner and outer walls of the mausoleum are covered with glazed tiles, and the lid of the sarcophagus is decorated with symbolic inscriptions. The protective shields in front of the sarcophagus are each a masterpiece, crafted out of pure silver.

      The hamam, which is also part of the complex, is one of the oldest Ottoman hamams still surviving today. The medresse and soup kitchen, however, are no longer standing. Another feature of the Eyup Sultan Complex is that for hundreds of years people wanted to be buried near the tomb of Eyub el-Ensari. As a result, the complex is now surrounded by graves and tombs.


      The complex extends along the Golden Horn side of Fevzi Pasa Street in Fatih. Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror had the complex constructed by the architect, Atik Sinani between the years 1463-1470. It was the largest example of Turkish-Islamic architecture to that date and represented an important stage in the development of classical Turkish architecture. The complex includes a set of well-planned buildings constructed around a mosque. They include: a medresse, a library, a hospital, a hospice, a caravanserai, a market, a hamam and various tombs which were added at a later date.

      The original mosque at the centre of the complex no longer stands today. Fatih Mosque you now see was built near the end of the 18th century. The first mosque was badly damaged in the 1509 earthquake, repaired, but was then damaged again by earthquakes in 1557 and 1754 and repaired yet again. In the earthquake of 1766, however, the main dome collapsed and the walls were irreparably damaged. Sultan Mustafa III had a new and completely different mosque was designed by the architect, Mimar Mehmed Tahir.

      Fatih Mosque was constructed in the classic mosque style, but the Baroque influence can be seen in the decorations. A large dome of 26 meters in diameter is supported by four half-domes and rests upon four large marble columns. There are two minarets each with twin galleries. The calligraphy within the mosque exhibits a Baroque influence. The other important features of the complex are the medresses. Situated on both sides of the mosque, they were the foundation of Istanbul's universities and ensured the city's place as a centre of education. The medresses underwent various repairs, but were partially destroyed as a result of road constructions; eight of them survive to this day. On the kiblah (Mecca) side of the mosque, connected to it, stands a library which was built in 1724. The library is presently undergoing repairs, and the books are under protection at the Suleymaniye Library. On the kiblah side of the complex are the tombs of Fatih Sultan Mehmed (the Conqueror), his wife, Gulbahar Hatun, and Sultan Mahmud II's mother, Naksidil Sultan. Other than the tombs, a large number of graves belonging to leading state officials can be found in the enclosed cemetery.

     The caravanserai in the complex was repaired in the 1980's and combined with new shops to begin functioning as a workplace.
    The hospital, market and hamam belonging to the complex no longer exist.


      Fethiye Mosque is located in the Fethiye neighbourhood of Fatih. It was originally a church, built in the 13th century by one of the notables of the Byzantine state, Mikhail Glabas Tarkaniotes. It was used as the Patriarchate in 1454 after the conquest of Constantinople. In 1590, to commemorate the conquest of Gerorgia and Azerbaijan in the Iranian wars, the church was converted to a mosque.
      During the conversion a part of the apse was removed and a niche (mihrap) built showing the direction of Mecca. A minaret and medresse were also added. With the beginning of the Republic era the mosque became a museum and the American Byzantine Institute uncovered the frescoes and mosaics inside in 1955. The arch built by the Turks was replaced by columns as originally found. In the 1960's the mosque was once again opened for worship. The walls of the mosque are a mix of stone and bricks. The Greek inscriptions on the exterior walls and interior mosaics are particularly eye-catching.


      The mosque, located in the Muhtesip Iskender neighbourhood of Fatih, was built by Sultan Abdulmecid in 1851 for the purpose of housing and protecting the Prophet Mohammed's mantle. For this reason, the mosque was named "Hirka-i Serif" -the Holy Mantle. The structure occupies a prominent place within Istanbul folklore. From the 15th day of the month of Ramadan to the 27th night- the Night of Power- the Holy Mantle is on display to visitors.
      Various annexes surround the mosque, such as housing for employees, barracks once used for guard residences (now converted into an elementary school).
      The courtyard has three palatial doors opening onto the mosque which is constructed of stone. The octagonal core of the structure, flanked by two minarets, is covered by a dome with eight windows. On the eastern-most courtyard door is an inscription etched by the famous calligrapher, Hattat Kazasker Izeddin, signifying the monogram of Sultan Abdulmecid. Eight framed inscriptions- also the Hattat's work- adorn the space just below the dome, detailing the monogram of Sultan Abdulmecid. The 'mihrab', the pulpit of the preacher and that of the imam are made of red porphyry, rock containing large, conspicuous crystals.


      Located next to the Bozdogan aqueduct at Vezneciler in Eminonu, the mosque was originally a church. Dating from the late Roman period, it was modified several times and used for different purposes. Used initially as a lavish palace bath, it then became a rich Kommen church, a mosque, a shanty house and finally a mosque again.

      Originally, during the Latin occupation of the 12th century, the mosque was a Catholic Italian church. It was later used as a religious establishment by the Kalenderi sect after the conquest of Istanbul by Sultan Mehmet, the Conqueror.

      Babussaade Agasi Maktul Besir Aga converted it into a mosque in the first half of the 18th century. A fire caused extensive damage in the 19th century, and it was renovated in 1854. Lightning struck the minaret in 1930, it was then abandoned.

      It was later researched and excavated by Harvard University and Istanbul Technical University between 1966 - 1975. It was restored in 1968 and re-opened for worship.
      The walls are a mixture of stone and brick. A large dome spans the ceiling. The inner walls are covered by collared marble and engraved ornamentation.


      Situated in the Tophane Square, it is a small complex consisting of a mosque, a religious school, a tomb, a public fountain and a hamam. It was built in 1581 by Architect Sinan on the orders of Admiral Kilic Ali Pasa. It is one of the last projects of Architect Sinan's later works. Sinan was the most famous of all Ottoman architects.

      According to the folklore Kilic Ali Pasa asked Sultan Murat III to give him land to build a mosque. The Sultan replied because Kilic Ali Pasa was such a great admiral he should build a mosque in the sea. That explains why the sea shore was filled up and the complex was built in that position. The mosque is surrounded by a large courtyard and the assembly area is covered by a sloping roof, with ornate carvings on the three doors of the inner garden. There are Quranic verses painted on the ceramic panels over the windows.

      In the garden is a fountain with eight marble columns and a covering dome. The mosque is based on a rectangular design and is an enlarged plan of the Hagia Sophia mosque. The top of the windows is adorned by the tiles and the largest dome is resting on four elephant leg shaped marble columns and is supported in the east and the west by two half domes. In each of the four corners a small dome is located and collared tiles with flower motifs decorate the mosque's interior. The largest dome has twenty four windows and including these the building has a total of 147 windows. In 1948, the 16th century ship's lantern which hung from the main dome was moved to the maritime Museum. On the right hand side a minaret rises with the balcony. The tomb of Kilic Ali Pasa is located in the garden facing east. By the garden wall facing the street is a fountain. The hamam on the right hand side of the mosque is still in use today. The school is located on the sea side of the hamam.


      The complex is located in the Laleli neighbourhood of Eminonu at the intersection of Ordu Street and Fethi Bey Street. It was built by Sultan Mustafa III, between 1760-1763, and the architect is thought to have been either Mehmed Tahir Aga or Haci Ahmed Aga. The complex is made up of a mosque, a soup kitchen, a public fountain, a fountain with a spout, a mausoleum, an inn and a medresse. The mosque forms the centre of the complex.

      The substructure of the mosque functions as both a basement and a courtyard. The courtyard is above ground level and accessible by steps. The Laleli mosque is located in the centre of this raised courtyard. It is one of the finest examples of 18th century Ottoman architect. The 24-window main dome is supported by three half domes located at the entrance and kiblah, or direction toward Mecca. There are two minarets each with a single gallery. The alem, or decorative metal device atop the minarets, are especially unusual. The mosque was designed in the Baroque style and is illuminated by 105 windows. The interior walls are covered with coloured porphyry marble.

      The fountain and mausoleum of the complex are located on the corner of Ordu Street on the Aksaray side. The front tombs contain the remains of Sultan Mustafa III and Sultan Selim III. Next to them are the tombs of the Haseki Sultans.

      The inn of the complex is located to the north of the mosque on Fethi Bey Street and is still used as a market. The basement of the mosque, which was not originally used for commercial purposes, also serves as a marketplace today. The medresse of the complex has not survived to the present day.

      In the borough of Eminonu this complex is located on the north east side of Nuruosmaniye Complex and comprised of a mosque, tomb, hamam, an inn (commercial building generating income for the complex), a higher education school, soup kitchen and a school for young boys.

      Today all that remains is the mosque, tomb, inn and hamam. This complex was the first ministrial complex and with the Fatih Complex is the most important group of buildings dating from 15th century. Construction was started in early 1460, the mosque being completed by 1462 and the other sections were completed by 1474. The complex was built by Arhitect Atik Sinan on the orders of the Prime Minister Mahmud Pasha.

      Roofed by two big domes with three smaller ones surrounding them, the interior tiles with white calligraphy on a blue background were added at a later date. The pulpit and altar were made of carved marble and there are six carved stone columns supporting the five domes and smaller domes cover the surrounding corridors. Over the mihrap is an inscription with the date 868 (hegira calendar) pertaining to the date of the buildings completion. The surrounds of the gate are carved marble.

      In 1766 the mosque was destroyed by an earthquake and was rebuilt in 1785. After the Great Fire of 1827 it was restored in 1829. Due to the repeated repairs much of the ornamentation is not original. The single balconied minaret built of cut-stone took it final shape after the 1936 restoration.

      Mahmut Pasha's tomb is in the mosque garden and there is a fountain built by Mustafa Aga in the courtyard. Mahmut Pasha Hamam and the Kurkcu Han (Furriers building) are Istanbul's oldest hamam and han, located to the north of the mosque.

      Of the school located to the east of the mosque there remains today only one classroom.


      Located in Uskudar Square across from the quay, the complex was built by Sultan Suleyman, the magnificent daughter, Mihrimah Sultan, in 1548. The architect was Mimar Sinan. The complex contains a mosque, medresse, tomb, primary school, caravanserai, soup kitchen, hospice and hospital. Only a part of the complex has survived.

      Architect Sinan opted for a design of the mosque more modern than that of Hagia Sophia Mosque. The half dome which is usually present above the entryway is absent; immediately upon entering the mosque one is under the main dome. The 'Sadirvan', or ablution fountain, is one of the finest of all the mosques in Istanbul . The repose ornamentation found on the window shutters, pulpits, and the marble mosque niche (mihrap) are products of expert workmanship. The medresse is found to the north of the mosque. The interior of the medresse no longer resembles its original form and is used as a health centre today. The tombs of Mihrimah Sultan's two sons and Prime Minister Ibrahim Ethem Pasha can be seen between the mosque and the medresse. The primary school is found on the kiblah (direction facing Mecca) side of the mosque.
      The hospice, soup kitchen and caravanserai have not survived.


      The complex is located on Fevzi Pasha Street at the entrance to Edirnekapi by the city walls. It is built by Sultan Suleyman, the Magnificent for his daughter Mihrimah and designed by Architect Sinan. Although the exact date is unknown, it is thought that construction of the complex was completed in the 1560's. It was composed of a mosque, medresse, double hamam, shrine, market and primary school, many of which no longer remain today.

      The mosque measures 37 metres high its foundations and has a single 20 metre-high dome. It differs from other mosques of the period in that it has a single minaret. Another distinction is the large number of windows: 101 in all. The marble pulpit is one of the finest of the period. The shutters of the window and door are made of wood inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl.

      A medresse is located in two corners of the inner courtyard. Interestingly though, there is no schoolroom section. It is not known whether there were no schools originally or if they were removed during renovation of repairs. Apart from this, the medresse has survived intact.

      The primary school and tomb of Guzel Ahmed Pasha are found in the right hand corner of the mosque's kiblah, a structure indicating the direction of Mecca. A double hamam is found in the same area, but is separate from the complex. Nothing remains of the market today.


      The complex is located in Eminonu, north-west of the Cemberlitas monument at the entrance to the Covered Bazaar. The construction of the complex was started by Sultan Mahmud I in 1749, but was not completed until a year after his death in 1755. The architect was Simeon Kalfa.

      The complex consists of a mosque, a medresse, a soup kitchen, a library, a mausoleum, a public fountain and fountain with a spout. It is in the Baroque style and includes the many shops that surround it.
      The Nuruosmaniye Mosque is very distinctive from the point of view of Ottoman mosque architecture. It’s three dimensional stone ornaments are unparalleled in world architecture and are a unique masterpiece of the Baroque style. It has a single dome encircled at its base with 32 windows. The mosque is illuminated by 174 windows. The most striking of the interior decorations are the lines of the walls and dome. There are two minarets each having two galleries. For the first time, a stone rather than lead crescent was used on top of the minarets.

      The medresse and soup kitchen are found to the north of the mosque, on the right as you enter the courtyard from the direction of the Covered Bazaar. They are placed in such a way as to give the courtyard the shape of a crescent. The fountain with spout is on the right as you enter from the direction of the Covered Bazaar to the left the public fountain. They are both in the Baroque style. The tomb and library are situated behind the sovereign's assembly place. Sultan Osman III's mother is buried in the mausoleum. The Nuruosmaniye Library is among the most elegant libraries of Istanbul and its many valuable manuscripts are available to readers today.


      Situated on Meclis-i Mebusan Street in the Tophane square of Beyoglu, the mosque was built between 1823-1826 by Sultan Mahmud II and designed by the architect, Kirkor Amira Balyan.

      The style of the mosque is Baroque. It is made of stone and marble and has two elegantly designed and decorated minarets, which each have twin galleries. There is also a public fountain and a clock room. Its private rooms for sultans and pashas were decorated with impressive architectural designs and features.

      The interior of the mosque was decorated with calligraphy and its dome has a striking appearance with a gold-leaf wooden engraving. The recess in the wall of the kiblah and the pulpit where the preacher stands are made of intricately carved marble. The calligraphy of the mosque is the work of the most famous calligraphists of the Ottoman Empire.


      The mosque is located on the shores of the Bosphorus in Ortakoy. It was built in 1853 by the architect, Nikogos Balyan, during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid. The mosque is designed in Baroque style and has a fine location. It is composed of intimate rooms and a private area for sultans. The wide and tall windows were designed to let in light from all around the Bosphorus. It has two minarets each with a single gallery that are be reached by a flight of stairs. The walls are made of white stone. The walls of the mosque's only dome were decorated with pink mosaics. It recess in the wall of the kiblah was made of marble and decorated with mosaics, and the pulpit where the preacher stands was made with porphyry-covered marble.


      The mosque is located in the Hasircilar market of Tahtakale in the district of Eminonu. It is one of the most important structures making up Istanbul’s skyline. Situated on a high platform with a commanding view of the city, the mosque was built on the former site of Haci Halil Mescid. The location of the mosque is one of the busiest in the city and has been since Roman times . Prime Minister Rustem Pasha, one of the leading state officials and proponents of construction, also had a role in the building of Suleymaniye Mosque. He was the husband of Suleiman, the Magnificent’s daughter, Hurrem Sultan and was known for the buildings he had constructed throughout the Empire. The mosque was designed by Architect Sinan and completed by Hurrem Sultan after the death of her husband, Prime Minister Rustem Pasha. The mosque was damaged in the Great Fire of 1666 and the earthquake of 1776.

      A portion of these valuable tiles have been stolen. The interior of the mosque, apart from the dome, is covered with coloured Iznik tiles which are the best examples from a technical and design perspective. All the classic motifs can be found on the tiles, including fruit and flower forms. Other than dazzling tiles, the coloured porphyry marble is worth seeing.

      The central main dome is supported by four half-domes. The base of the dome contains 74 windows, and its arches are supported by octagonal elephant feet. The mosque niche and pulpit are made of marble. The area designated for late-arriving worshippers has six pillars and five domes. The minaret, with its single gallery, replaces the original, which was torn down.


      The complex is located opposite Hagia Sophia Mosque in Sultanahmet Square. It was built by the architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga for Sultan Ahmed I. The construction of the complex began with a large ceremony in 1609. The ceremony was attended by the great religious leaders of the day, such as Seyhulislam Mehmed Efendi, and notable state figures like Aziz Mahmud Hudai, Sadrazam Davud Pasha and even the sultan himself were present at the laying of the foundations.

      The construction of the magnificent complex lasted for quite a time, with the mosque being completed in 1617 and the rest of the construction in 1619.
      One of the largest of Istanbul's structures, the complex includes a mosque, medresses, the sultan's chamber, shops of tradesmen, a hamam, a public fountain with a spout, a mausoleum, a hospital, a soup kitchen and a primary school. Some of these have survived to the present.

      The mosque is located in the centre of the complex and referred to by foreigners as "The Blue Mosque" on account of the roughly 20,000 blue glazed tiles which cover its exterior. The mosque consists of a wide courtyard and an interior of equal size. The courtyard is above ground level and accessible by steps. It is covered with a dome and contains a pool with a water jet. Another distinguishing feature of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is the minarets. Four of the six minarets form a part of the mosque and have three galleries, while the remaining two rises from the corners of the courtyard and have two galleries each.

      The main dome of the mosque is 34 meters in diameter, rises to a height of 43 meters above ground level and rests upon four massive pillars five metres in diameter. Four half domes also support the main dome. The mosque is five stories high from ground level to the top of the dome and is illuminated by 260 stained-glass windows. Other than the glazed tiles, the mosque is a showcase of other important structural ornamentations of the period.

      The marble 'mimber', or pulpit, features mother-of-pearl relief; striking chandeliers hang from the dome. These are just a few of the things worth seeing in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Another of the structures of the complex is the Hunkar chamber of the sovereign. It was designed as a place for the sultan to rest before or after performing his prayers and was the first structure of its type to be built in the environs of a mosque.

      In the North West corner of the complex is a mausoleum. Sultan Ahmed I, his wife Kosem Sultan, his sons Sultan Osman II and Sultan Murad IV, and some of his grandchildren are buried here. A medresse is located near the tomb and functions as an archive today.

      A primary school is attached to the wall of the inner courtyard of the mosque. There is a fountain and shops on the ground floor of the school and classrooms on the top floor. The last structure on the kiblah side is an 'arasta' - a row of shops of the same trade. A section of the 'arasta' was destroyed by fire in 1912, but the remaining part contains the mosaic museum and a souvenir shop.

      The hospital and kitchen were built some distance from the mosque. In their original state they would have been separated from the square by shops in front. The buildings, which were constructed after the 1894 earthquake and now house the dean of Marmara University, completely severed the ties between the hospital and soup kitchen and the other parts of the complex. The hospital and soup kitchen, which are found on Sokullu Mehmed Pasa Yokusu, are used today by the Sultanahmet Technical High School.

      Three of complex's four fountains are still standing today. One is in the 'arasta', another at the entrance to the outer courtyard and the third in the area of mausoleum


      The complex is located in the Sultan Selim neighbourhood of Fatih. This was one of the least accessible areas of the city with the Kirk Merdiven cliffs on one side and a deep cistern on the other. The complex is set on a hilltop and was built on the ruins of a Byzantine palace in 1519-1522 at the order of Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent in memory of his father Yavuz Sultan Selim. The architect is unknown.

      The complex is located in an outer courtyard which rings the complex. The area designated for late-arriving worshippers is encircled by 18 columns and 22 domes. The 20 windows around the courtyard are covered with glazed tile panels, which are among the finest examples of the period. The portico of the courtyard is decorated with floral designs. A reservoir for ablutions is found in the centre of the courtyard. It is domed with eight marble pillars. There are two minarets with a single gallery each, and rooms on both sides of the mosque for the imam and muezzin. The shutters of the door are fine examples of engraving and mother-of-pearl relief. The mosque is square in shape and extremely simple in design. The pulpit is made of ornamented marble.

      The enclosed cemetery on the kiblah, or Mecca, side of the mosque contains of the remains of Yavuz Sultan Selim, the heirs of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent who died at a young age, his daughters and three tombs belonging to Sultan Abdulmecid. Of these, the window shutters, door, and wooden banister of the mausoleum belonging to Yavuz Sultan Selim are masterpieces in mother-of-pearl relief. Other than the mosque and mausoleum, the only structure which has survived to the present is the primary school, located in the outer courtyard.


      The complex is located in Suleymaniye, the neighbourhood of Eminonu named after it. It was built by Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent in 1557 and designed by Architect Sinan. The Suleymaniye Complex represented the second and most important stage in an architectural tradition which began with the Fatih Complex, namely a symmetrical grouping and use of geometric shaping among the layout of the complex buildings. Of unprecedented size and architectural design, the Suleymaniye Complex includes a mosque, medresse, hospital, lunatic asylum, infirmary tombs, a hamam, a market and a primary school.

      The Suleymaniye Mosque is an awesome work of art, dating from a time when the Ottoman state was at its most splendid. Grandeur symbolised the period. The mosques, which were the most important feature of the silhouette of Istanbul, were not just places of worship. The complexes and neighbourhoods which surrounded them made them into focus of social and cultural life, an institution which characterised city life.

      The Suleymaniye Mosque and Complex incorporate the art and genius of Architect Sinan, the greatness and strength of the Ottomans and the beauty and elegance of Istanbul.
      During the construction of the mosques, one of the largest building supply sheds in the history of architecture was realised. The supplies were brought from all corners of the Empire. The columns found in some ancient ruins were detached, brought to Istanbul and used in the interior of the mosque.

      The mosque is surrounded by an outer courtyard with the kiblah, or direction to Mecca, being on one side along with an enclosed cemetery containing graves and a mausoleum; the opposite side of the kiblah contains an inner courtyard.

      The marble-covered inner courtyard is entered through a magnificent three-storey door the likes of which are seen in no other mosque in Istanbul. The courtyard contains a pool and water-jet fountain. Again unlike other mosques, the four minarets stand in the four corners of the courtyard. The proportion exhibited by the minarets and the domes is a product of genius.

      The domes rise from the ground to a height of 50 meters, and the minarets located where the courtyard meets the walls of the mosque have three galleries and are 76 meters high. The minarets located at the side of the courtyard with the entrance have two galleries and are 56 meters high. This proportion is the key to the perfection of the mosque's silhouette.

      The mosque has a main dome supported by two half-domes. Due to the design of the domes, the acoustics within the mosque are exceptionally clear. The air circulation within the mosque is also exceptional and the space above the entrance is illuminated by 4000 candles. Soot obtained from the candles is one of the raw materials in the making of ink used for calligraphy.

      The marble pulpit and mosque niche are works of art in the field of engraving and carving. The carved lectern of the preacher, window and doors of wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl, stained glass windows and other decorative features of mosques have a low profile; the emphasis in the interior of the mosque is on decorative through calligraphy.

     The medresse of Complex is found to the east and west of the mosque along the walls of the inner courtyard. To the west is the Evvel Medresse, Sani Medresse, Primary School, Medical West; the Rabi Medresse and Salis Medresse are located to the east. The Darulhadis Medresse intersects. It is a single hamam for men only and was restored in 1980 after being used as a store room for a period.

      The clinic, hospital, mental asylum and infirmary are located in the northwest of the complex parallel to the kiblah. The soup kitchen of the complex the Daruzziyafe, functions today as a restaurant serving classical Turkish cuisine.

      The kiblah side of the mosque has a covered cemetery with a great number of graves, the tombs of Suleiman, the Magnificent and his wife Hurrem Sultan and a room for the keeper of the tombs.
      In the tomb belonging to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent are the remains of Sultan Ahmed II, his wife Rabia Sultan, daughters Mihrimah Sultan and Asiye Sultan, and Sultan Suleiman II and his mother Saliha Dilusub Sultan.


      The complex is situated in the Sehzadebasi neighbourhood of Eminonu. The complex was designed by Architect Sinan and built between 1543-1548 at the command of Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent in honour of Sehzade Mehmed, his chosen successor who died at an early age. It was the first mosque Architect Sinan built for a Sultan.

      The Sehzade Complex is made up of a mosque, a soup kitchen, a hospice, a school and a mausoleum. The mosque is located in the centre of the complex. It is surrounded by a courtyard and contains an inner courtyard as well. In the middle of the interior courtyard is a domed reservoir used for ablutions. The minarets are found where the walls of the courtyard and mosque meet. The two minarets each have twin galleries and are unique in Istanbul due to their exterior ornamentation.

      The main dome of the mosque is 19 meters in diameter, 37 meters high and supported by four half-domes. It rests on four elephant legs. The most striking of the structures within the mosque are the pulpit, niche and muezzin gallery. There are six mausoleums within the complex, five in an enclosed cemetery and one in the walls of the other court. The tomb of Sehzade Mehmed is one of the finest of them.
      The medresse, primary school, soup kitchen and hospital are found to the north of the complex and were built in such a way as to constitute a courtyard wall.


      The Valide Mosque is located on the north-west side of Aksaray Square in Fatih. It was built at the behest of Sultan Abdul-Aziz’s mother, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan, between 1869-1871 and was designed by the architect, Sarkis Balyan. It is also known that Agop Balyan made a contribution to the project. The mosque is actually part of a complex made up of a school, tomb, clock room and public fountain. During the reorganization of Aksaray Square in 1956-1959 the other parts of the complex were either destroyed or, as in the case of the public fountain, moved elsewhere.
      The Neo-Gothic style of the Valide Mosque differentiates it architecturally from the more classic mosques. The single dome is quite high, but small. The mosque's main body and front are different from any other mosques built up to that period. The neo-gothic embellishments, in particular, reinforce the mosque's unique beauty. The interior of the mosque also boasts an array of rich and beautiful embellishments. The interior is fully decorated with-blue inscriptions and engravings shining with gold gilding. The mosque has two minarets and a single gallery.
      The door of the courtyard, which looks out onto Aksaray Square, is strikingly different from other mosques of Istanbul the door frame is one of the rare and unique examples of the art of stone engraving.


      The ancient Turkish art of wood carving makes use of a variety of different design techniques on traditional forms such as columns, doors, window covers, chests, stools, and Quran covers. By the seventeenth century, inlays of ivory, bone, mother-of-pearl and other semi-precious stones were applied as inlays for carved wood pieces.
      Perhaps the most ubiquitous use of mother-of-pearl inlays in Turkey are to be found in palace furniture and architecture. The most magnificent sites for such incomparable work are the Topkapi Palace, the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, the Tomb of Murad III, the Beylerbeyi Palace and the Blue Mosque.


      Frequently used on the walls of buildings, mosques, minarets, gates, columns, pools and tombstones as a decorative feature, stone carvings added strength and durability to structures in addition to its aesthetic function. Although almost all kinds of stones were used for carving and art work, marble and sandstone traditionally have been the most frequently used stone for this purpose.


      Yeni (New) Mosque is located in Eminonu Square next to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. It is at the centre of a complex and has a striking place in the skyline of Istanbul. Construction of the mosque was started in honour of Sultan Mehmed III's mother and Sultan Murad III's wife Safiye Sultan in 1597. The architect, Architect Davud Aga, began working on the design of the mosque until Dalgic Ahmed Aga took over after 1598. The mosque was only half-finished when Sultan Ahmed I came to the throne.

      It was abandoned for nearly fifty years, during which the houses of the Jewish community surrounding it become so numerous that it was referred to as "Zulmiyye" or "the wronged". Construction began again at the initiative of Sultan Mehmed IV's mother, Hatice Turhan Sultan, in 1661. It was completed in 1663, with Mustafa Aga as the architect.

      The complex contained a mosque, a primary school, fountains, the summer house of the sovereign and a mausoleum. All but the primary school are standing today. Due to the widening of roads around the mosque the outer courtyard was removed. On the side of the Egyptian Bazaar is an inner courtyard containing 18 pillars, 21 domes, three doors and a beautiful reservoir for ablutions. The area for late-arriving worshippers has eight pillars, nine domes and is covered with glazed tiles up to the base of the windows on the second floor. Above the windows can be seen the calligraphy of Hattat Tenekecizade Mustafa Celebi. To the left and right are two minarets each with three galleries. The mosque is entered by a flight of steps through three separate doors. It has a square plan. The main dome rests on four half-domes as well as four arches and four elephant feet decorated with glazed tiles. There are a total of 66 domes, including four in the corners and those on the side of the mausoleum and bridge, which are surrounded by columns. The mosque niche and pulpit are made of white marble, and the left of the niche is decorated with a mosaic of gems. The summer house is said to have been built for Turhan Sultan and is a striking structure exhibiting all the characteristic of a classic Turkish house. It was positioned in such a way as to ensure one of the finest panoramic views in the city. The structure has a living room, or salon; and three other rooms. The walls are covered with valuable Iznik glazed tiles. The woodwork is inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. It was used as a storeroom until 1948, restored between 1948-1966 and opened as a museum in 1967.

      The complex includes the mausoleum of Hatice Turhan Sultan, in which five sultans and a large number of royalties make up the largest burial site of the bloodline of the Ottomans. Besides Hatice Turhan Sultan, there are the graves of Sultan Mehmed IV, Sultan Osman III, Sultan Mustafa II, Sultan Ahmed III and Sultan Mahmud I. The dome which covers the mausoleum has a diameter of more than 15 meters.


      Yildiz Mosque is on the Yildiz Palace road leading off Barbaros Boulevard in Besiktas. It was built between 1885 and 1886 at the order of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
      The mosque is unrivalled example of late Ottoman mosque architecture. It is said that Sultan Abdul Hamid II designed the mosque himself. The interior ornamentation is very rich. There are rooms on the left and right which are reached by stairs. There is a Sufera room with its gilded ceiling on the right reserved for ambassadors. On the left, there is a lodge for sultans. The ceiling is artistically painted and decorated.

      The minaret has a single gallery and is decorated with stone carvings. The dome sits on four thick iron columns and has 16 windows. The eaves of the dome are decorated with engraved stars. The inside of the dome is also ornate.

      There are 17 windows in the mosque and verses from the Quran decorate four sides of the mosque. The panels on the walls are made of ebony with pearl engravings.


      In Fatih district at Zeyrek on Ibadethane Street overlooking the Golden Horn, this building, used as a mosque today, was originally the Church of the Pantokrator Monastery built by Eirene, the wife of loannes II Kommenos and was one of the largest monasteries of Istanbul. Construction was completed in 1136. During the Latin invasion it was seized by Roman Catholic priests.

      After the Ottoman conquest of 1453 Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror had the monastery changed to a Islamic school and the church to a mosque. The first teacher was Molla Zeyrek Mehmed Efendi, the school and mosque taking his name.

      It underwent serious repairs at the end of the 18th century. Having been in disrepair for many years, restoration work was started in 1966. There are three buildings all adjacent to each other. The roof is made up of five domes with a single gallery minaret. During restoration work the original floor was discovered and represents one of the best and rarest examples of the craftsmanship of the 12th century.

Church and Synagogue

    Paganism flourished in Istanbul before Christianity was established in the 4th century, when churches began to appear. The first churches in Istanbul were the Havariyun Church, Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irini. Many churches were built up to the time of the Ottoman Conquest and many sects were represented. i.e. Nestorians, Monophysites, Catholics, Orthodox, Assyrian, Gregorian, Dominican and Franciscans. Also the Greek , Armenian, Latin and Genoese built their own churches.

After the conquest Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror left the churches free to worship, but in the Ottoman Era many church buildings were sold and those which were derelict or abandoned were purchased and converted to mosques. The construction of churches nevertheless continued during the Ottoman Period but most were built outside the city walls in places such as Beyoglu and summer resorts as well as along the shores of the Bosphorus. After the 19th century most new churches were located close to the embassies. The prominent ones are Saint Maria Draperis, St. Antoine de Padoue, Latin Italian Church, Armenian-Catholic Surp Yerrontutyan Church, Terre-Sainte Spanish and the British Embassy Church.

Similarly synagogues in Istanbul are as old as the churches. The first known synagogue was built in 318 A.D.. Synagogues managed to survive in spite of the fact that some were converted to churches from time to time or were pillaged during the Latin Occupation in the thirteenth century. The number of synagogues in Istanbul of Jews from Spain and other parts of Europe as the result of the Inquisition in the 15th century A.D., the number of synagogues increased even further.

Synagogues built during the Ottoman period did not have a distinctive architectural style. They all share a very non-decorative, simple appearance and were built in courtyards in a plain rectangular shape. Many synagogues constructed during the Ottoman period are still active and serving the Jewish community in Istanbul today.


Located in Istiklal Street in Beyoglu, the Saint Antoine Church is on the left side of the street if you are facing from Galatasaray towards Tunel.

Construction began in 1906 and the church was completed in 1912. Its architect, Giulo Mongeri, who was born in Istanbul, gave it an Italian Neo-Gothic style. Today it is Istanbul's largest church with the busiest congregation and is run by Italian priests. The Church was built in a courtyard. The entrance of the church in on the main street between two apartments which were built to earn money for the church.


This church belongs to the Bulgarian minority and is the most interesting church in Istanbul. The Bulgarian minority of the Ottoman Empire used to pray at the churches of the Fener Orthodox Patriarchy. Due to the nationalistic movements, Bulgarians were allowed to build their own church in the 19th century. First, a small wooden church was built on the shore of the Golden Horn between Balat and Fener squares where the current church is located, but later this was developed into a larger building. An iron frame was preferred to concrete reinforcement due to the weak ground conditions.The construction plans were prepared by Hovsep Aznavur, an Armenian of Istanbul origin. An international competition was conducted to produce the prefabricated parts of the church. An Austrian firm, R. Ph. Wagner, won the competition.

The prefabricated parts were produced in Vienna and transported to Istanbul by ship through the Danube and the Black Sea. After one and a half years work, it was completed in 1898. The main skeleton of the church was made of steel and covered by metal boards. All the metal pieces were attached together with nuts, bolts, rivets or welding. The architectural styles come from the Neo-Gothic and Neo-Baroque periods.


Located in the Fener region, between Sadrazam Ali Pasha Street and Incebel Street, the Roman Orthodox Patriarchate is located in the yard of this church. In 1602, the Patriarch moved to Aya Yorgi, when the site of used as monastery. Since that time, a good many renovations have occurred, the most recent of which ended in 1991, owing to damage sustained by fire in 1941.

Although not so significant architecturally. Aya Yorgi possesses valuable historical artifacts. Among the most significant are: a patriarch's throne, dating circa the 5th century; three samples of rare mosaic icons; a column which is believed to have been used for the binding an flogging of Jesus in Jerusalem; and cascades belonging to three women saints.


Built in 1960 after its predecessor was demolished to widen Kemeralti Street (between the Galata Tower and Bridge), Surp Krikor Lusarovich, an Armenian Orthodox Church, borrows its name and its striking white form from an original Seventh century church in Armenia. On view of the crypt are some elaborate tiles saved from the previous church on the site, which was otherwise a rather unremarkable structure.

The Church is on Karaburun Street in Tarlabasi, Beyoglu and is the only church in Istanbul to be built by Assyrian. The Assyrian generally use churches that they either rent or borrow from the other denominations. The Virgin Mary Church was built in 1960 and its stones were brought from the Assyrian center in Mardin. There are also other sections in the church like a school and an administration office.


Located in Beyoglu at 83 Serdar-i Ekrem Street This church also known as the Crimean Church was designed by the British architect G.E. Street.

The church land was donated by Sultan Abdulmecid and the church was dedicated to the memory of the British Soldiers who died in the Crimean War. Started in 1858 it was ten years before it was completed. Closed in 1978 due to the lack of congregation, it was reopened in 1991. The church was built of Maltese stone is of neo-gothic style.

The synagogue is on the Buyuk Hendek Street in the Kuledibi district of Beyoglu square. The Neve Salom ("Peace Oasis") Synagogue was built by renovating the gymnasium was converted to a synagogue in 1938, but it couldn't be used because of a lack of permission. Permission was granted in 1949, and the project was prepared by Elio Ventuos and Bernard Motola, two graduates from Istanbul Technical University. It was opened for prayer and worship in 1951.

Its most striking attractions are the dome which holds an eight ton chandelier, the stained glass windows which were imported from England, and the marble sections.


Turkish Baths


Baths are very special buildings of Istanbul dating back to Roman and Byzantine periods. Apart from its natural aim, baths have played an important role in social life of the Ottoman period. At weddings and Bayrams baths were places of attraction for ceremonies and traditional entertainment.

Women with neighbors and friends spent all the day at baths and turned the day to a festivity; singing and dancing.

Although baths have lost these social attractions, they still have succeeded to become points of interest especially for visitors of Istanbul.


Located in Cagaloglu on the right side of the Yerebatan Street, these baths were built by Sultan Mahmut I in 1741 to provide revenue for Ayasofya Mosque. The architect is unknown. Cagaloglu Hamam is a double hamam with section for both men and women. It was unique in its employment of Baroque and Classic Ottoman architectural motifs and was the last of the great hamams to be built before their construction was forbidden by Sultan Mustafa III in 1768, owing to the increasing needs for water and wood in Istanbul.

The Cemberlitas Hamam is located on the Divanyolu near the Cemberlitas Banded Column. It was built by Sultan Murat III's mother, Nurbanu Sultan in 1584 to provide a source of revenue for the Atik Valide Mosque Complex in Uskudar. Its architect was Sinan.

It was originally built as a double hamam accommodating both men and women in separate sections. But during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz (1841-1824) part of the women's section was destroyed to allow for the widening of a nearby road. As a result, only the men's section is in use today.

Located in the entrance to Dari Street, where Dogancilar Street and Uncular Street intersect in Uskudar, is the Eski Hamam. While the architect and the year in which was built are unknown, certain evidence points to it having been built in the 15th Century.

Also known as the Sifa (Cure) Hamam, it has separate sections for men and women. Both sections are in use today. Although the oldest hamam in Uskudar, it has still managed to retain its original appearance.


The Galatasaray Hamam is located in Galatasaray at the junction of Turnacibasi and Capanoglu streets. It was built in 1715 as a public bath in line with classical Turkish hamam architectural design.

It underwent renovation in 1965 and while its main structure remained intact, its architectural details and interior portions were redesigned, and as such it has lost some of its historical attraction.

Functionally, though, a women's section was added during the renovations in 1965 and the hamam is still operating. Well-maintained up to the present day, it caters for both locals and foreign tourists.


Shopping Guilde


The world famous Covered bazaar (Kapali Carsi) is, owing to its architecture, history, location, and sheer variety of merchandise, one of Istanbul's most significant tourist sites. The Bazaar has eight different entrances, each of them facing one of the city's most important historic monuments. These include Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Cemberlitas, the Beyazit Complex, Istanbul University and the Second Hand Book Bazaar. Built at the command of Sultan Mehmed the, Conqueror in 1461, the Bazaar initially consisted of just two warehouses (bedesten). In time, merchants began to set up their own stalls and workshops in the surrounding area. Dignitaries furthered the expansion with the addition of numerous caravanserai, so that the soon place had become a focus for trading goods from all over the empire. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the Bazaar suffered repeated damage from the fires that ravaged that part of the city, and in 1894 was destroyed altogether by an earthquake. After being rebuilt in 1898, the Bazaar underwent further renovation following the fires of 1943 and 1954.

In terms of structure, the visitor is confronted by what may at first seem a bewildering a maze of 61 streets. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that there is, in fact, a reasonable semblance of order. The streets themselves are arranged on a grid-like system, are traditionally shopkeepers have tended to group themselves according to the type of goods they sell, whether it be jewelery, antiques, carpets, copper, or leather goods. Clues as to which area you might be in are often given by the names of streets, even if in some cases - the Street of the Turban Makers, for instance - the traders recalled are now mere vestiges of a colorful past.

The Bazaar also functions as an unofficial financial centre, with a particular emphasis on gold and foreign exchange trading. Most shopkeepers will exchange different currencies.

The Bazaar is open daily, except Sundays and public holidays, between 07:00 and 19:00.


Located just behind the New Mosque in Eminonu, the Spice Bazaar was built in 1660 by the architect Kazim Aga at the behest of Sultan Turhan. It gains its Turkish name, Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar), from the fact that it once received income from taxes levied on Egypt. The English name hails from the days when the Bazaar specialized in the sale of herbs and spices, medicinal plants, and drugs. While the color and aroma pervading the covered hallway may since have faded to some extent, a small number of shops do still stock the traditional products. In addition, you will find sacks and shelves groaning with dried fruits and nuts, teas and infusions, oils and essences, sweetmeats, honeycombs and aphrodisiacs.

The Spice Bazaar is open everyday


Given its vast expanse of coastline, it is not surprising that the fishing tradition in Istanbul goes back a long way. For centuries, surrounding villages earned their livelihood from the sea, displaying their catch at colorful local markets. With the decline of the trade many have not survived to this day, although the larger ones are still flourishing. The oldest fish markets are in Eminonu and Beyoglu/Galatasaray. Others can be found in Besiktas, Kumkapi and Sariyer.


Sahaflar Carsisi, the Second-hand Book Bazaar, nestles in an ancient, courtyard between the Bayezid Mosque and Fesciler entrance to the Covered Bazaar. One of Istanbul's oldest markets, the Bazaar is built on the same site as the Chartoprateia, which used to be the book and paper market of Byzantine. However, it was only at the end of the 18th century that booksellers began to migrate across from the Covered Bazaar and set up shop in the courtyard. Printing and publishing legislation introduced soon after enabled the trade to expand in a major way and take over the entire market, which from then on became known as the Sahaflar Carsisi. Well into this century the market remained a focal point for the sale and distribution of books within the Ottoman Empire, as well as a gathering spot for Istanbul's intellectual and literary circles. However, over the last half century or so, the market has lost much of its significance with the inevitable proliferation of modern bookstores across the city. All the same, tattered ancient volumes are still to be found beside the gleaming new editions.

The Bazaar is open daily except Sundays and public holidays, when the main stores are closed. The smaller stores, however, tend to open every day.


Almost every neighborhood of Istanbul has its own open market on a set day of the week. An integral part of Istanbul culture, market day is both a social and commercial event and one that brims with color and life. Stalls are piled high with seasonal fruits and vegetables, hardware, household gadgets, knickknacks, clothing, and textiles. Stall holders advertise their wares garrulously to the passing crowds, customers bargain mercilessly for a good price.

The markets themselves are generally known either by the name of the neighborhood, or by the day of the week on which they are held. Hence, Carsamba Bazaar (Wednesday Market), is the name of the market held in the Carsamba quarter of Fatih on a Wednesday. This is one of Istanbul's oldest and most well-known markets and vies for size with the Sali Pazari (Tuesday Market) in Kadikoy, over on the Asian shore. Others of not include the Saturday market in Besiktas, and Ulus Pazari, one of the newest markets, which happens on a Thursday.

As well as the weekly markets, Istanbul has a number of permanent and seasonal markets. The Cicek Pazari (Flower Market), for instance, is located beside the Spice Bazaar in Eminonu and sells everything from seeds, pot plants, and shrubs to pets, leeches, and ducklings. The market trades seven days a week throughout the year. Further away from the centre at Topkapi is the Koc Pazari (Ram Market), where sacrificial animals are sold, but only in the weeks leading up to Kurban Bayrami (the Feast of the Sacrifice). Another seasonal market is the Gul Pazari (Rose Market) in Eyup Square, Yavedud. Held exclusively during the rose season, the market is a good place to buy other flower varieties, besides just roses.


As Turkey's national drink, tea is consumed on a grand scale in Istanbul. Throughout the day, tea-men do the round of commercial centres, public institutions and offices, swinging their tea trays. Although newly-opened cafes and patisseries have begun to use cups, tea is traditionally, and still more often than not, drink from delicate, tulip-shaped glasses. It is also common to find tea served from samovars in many family tea gardens.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Turkish coffee has never been as widely consumed by the Turks as tea. All the same, and despite now competition from instant coffee brands, it remains an institution in itself and is offered as a matter of course to visitors both at home and at work. Prepared from finely ground beans and heated rapidly in a special pot, the coffee is served in tiny cups either without sugar, medium-sweet or very sweet. The dregs left at the bottom are a customary source for fortune-telling.


Until only recently, the nargile (hookah) was frequently encountered in the cafes and tea houses of Istanbul, where smokers huddled over their pipes to pass the time of day. Although a rarity today, the diehard are still to be found at historic meeting places within the city walls. A typical example is the nargile cafe within the Corlulu Ali Pasha Kulliyesi on Divanyolu.


They come with empty bags and plenty of cash. Arriving in planes, bus', cars and boats from east, west, south and north. They leave draped in gold and jewels, luggage bulging with assorted trinkets, delicacies and fine garments. Some are traveling merchants, many are tourists, others are businessmen or diplomats, but they all shop, shop, shop - for bargains.

The Americans and western Europeans come in search of oriental carpets and brass ware. The Eastern Europeans and Central Asians buy fashionable clothes and accessories with chic western brands and labels. The Israelis prefer artistically designed gold jewelry studded with gems. Turkish leather goods are popular with all. The Russian "bag traders" leave with baggage trains that fill whole bus', packed full with merchant's cargo of everything from ladies nylons to automotive spare parts!

Considering that Istanbul has been a major trading center of the Eastern Hemisphere for far more than two thousand years, it should come as no surprise that the vast variety of merchandise available should continue to attract traders and shoppers alike. You may wonder why anyone would seek to find Chinese, Indian. European and American products here. And those of us who have found what we are looking for, may sometimes pause momentarily to wonder how it is that we managed to pay such cheap prices -usually far cheaper than in our own country- until our attention is diverted to yet another bargain. Perhaps a Lacoste sports shirt, a Louis Vuitton purse, and Akai Sound system, an Anatolian Kilim Carpet, brass and copper ware or even a Russian electron microscope. Yes there is certainly a lot of choice, everything from fashionable western brands sold in the swank shops of Nisantasi, to Russian black market goods sold in the Sunday markets in Bayezit. And of course, the un-imaginable variety of curios, paraphernalia, and commercial goods sold in Eminonu's labyrinth of black streets, which by no coincidence comprised the heart of the Byzantine commercial district of old Constantinople.


As you might expect in a city with a reputation as a fashion center, Istanbul has the chic and fashionable shopping precincts, rich with the sought after status symbols of the glamorous society elite. In Nisantasi, Tesvikiye, and Kadikoy; on Rumeli Street, Osmanbey, and Bagdat Street; in the modern shopping malls at Akmerkez and the Atakoy Galeria; every cherished and coveted designer label and brand of distinction can be found. Congruent with an affluent, refined and elegant social scene, Istanbul offers at least as much as, if not more, in the way of fashionable and stylish shopping choices than any other major European fashion center. And the prices are often better, which is because so much of the designer merchandise sold elsewhere in Europe is actually manufactured in Turkey! Istanbul is a well known destination for Europeans, coming simply to buy famous brands at bargain prices.


The goldsmiths of Istanbul inherited centuries of artisan skills of knowledge, which is clearly evident in their work. European jewelers would charge a high premium for the artistic content of rings, necklaces, and brooches similar to those found in Istanbul, but the simple truth is they are rapidly loosing the skills and craftsmen to produce comparatively fine and creative detail. When shopping for jewels don't be over-awed by the abundance of designs, or lured into thinking that they are commonplace, for you are truly is one of the finest gold working centers of the world, Remember Istanbul has been a prime center of the trade for thousands of years.


The Turkish kilim is a type of hand-made carpet famous for it's geometric design and contrasting colors. The patterns are symbolic of traditional images important in typical Anatolian life, while the colors represent prosperity, happiness, fertility, and other traditional values. Whether you're interested in a kilim or oriented carpet, you will enjoy the hospitality of the vendor while negotiating your purchase. The Kapalicarsi, or covered bazaar offers many different shops to choose from, and while there you will also have a chance to buy many other handicrafts which Anatolia is famous for; brass and pewter trays and kitchen utensils; pottery, hand painted tiles, & decorative porcelain; jewellery; traditional clothing and colourful, hand printed fabrics; traditional hats; and leather accessories.


Traditional Cusine


As a synthesis of east and west, the culture of Istanbul is reflected very much in its culinary tradition. A rich and diverse blend of cultural influences accumulated over the years, the cuisine of Istanbul offers visitors a sumptuous spread of the very best traditional Turkish dishes.

The range of ingredients used is similarly vast, with recipes incorporating every kind of meat, fish, vegetable, and fruit, besides a myriad of spices. Dishes based on seafood, beef, lamb, goat, chicken, goose, duck, rabbit, and various fowl; casseroles combining meat and vegetables; cold vegetable dishes cooked in olive oil; stuffed vegetables; salads; fruit compotes and drinks; milk puddings and pastries: these are just a few examples of what Istanbul cuisine has to offer.

Whether a confirmed meat eater, a seafood fan, or a vegetarian, diet-conscious or a stickler for spicy food, you are certain to find a host of dishes to your liking in Istanbul.


Ottoman desserts and sweets are concocted from an unusual and surprising range of ingredients, unlike anything you've tasted elsewhere in the world. Puddings made from chicken breast, puddings made with pulses and dried fruits, compotes, marzipan "pillows" filled with rose water scented raisins, baked pastry mixtures or hazelnuts and angel hair pasta in butter and sugar syrups, deep ruby red candied quince, candied butternut squash (a denser pumpkin), rose petals in cream, sherbet, and of course the elastic and pliable ice creams, which street vendors still render in acrobatic feats of juggling. Many deserts are served with a cream so thick it can be cut with a knife.

Halva has several flavors, is mixed with walnuts, peanuts and pistachios, and also comes in different varieties. Irmik Halvasi, for example, is a delicious semolina and pine nut puddlings. Turkish delight, or locum, comes in dozens of varieties and color combinations, and may be flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, pistachio nuts, sesame needs - in fact such a variety that you need to see it to believe it, so go to the Misir Carsisi, the old Egyptian Spice Market and see for yourself. The Turkish Delight of Haci Bekir has become legendary over the 200 years since he opened his confectionery in 1777, which is still open to this day. He also produced akide sweets, a multi-colored candy which the janissary soldiers presented in the Grand Vizier if satisfied with their pay.


The restaurant first opened for service in 1992 and offers specialties such as kavun dolmasi (stuffed melon), saray usulu pirinç (rice, palace style) and kivde. All credit cards are accepted.


Opening first in 1927, the restaurant now operates through three different branches. Specialties include Hunkarbegendili kebab (pureed aubergine with lamb), kuzu tandir (lamb cooked tandoori-style) and sebzeli kebab ( vegetable kebab). Credit cards are accepted


The building that houses the restaurant was used in Ottoman times as a kitchen for the poor within the Suleymaniye Mosque Complex. In 1992 the building was restored and began functioning once more as a restaurant. Specialties include Suleymaniye Çorbasi (Suleymaniye soup), Daruzziyafe Koftesi (Daruzziyafe meat balls) and Fukara Keskulu (milk pudding with almonds). Credit cards are accepted.


Haci Abdullah is one of the few surviving restaurants in Istanbul which serves traditional Ottoman cuisine. Deserving particular mention are Hunkarbegendi (pureed aubergines with lamb); Elbasan tava; Manisa kebabi; kuzu incikli patlican (aborigines with lamb); kuzu tandir (lamb cooked tandoori-style); kuzu dolmasi (stuffed lamb); and kuzu incik baglama (lamb 'olives' stuffed with aborigine and tomatoes). Haci Abdullah is famous for its fruit compotes, but also makes an excellent baked quince and dessert of bananas, cream and honey. Credit cards are accepted.


A good selection of traditional Turkish foods are to be found at this family-run restaurant, which was established in 1942. Credit cards are not accepted.


The menu at Kanaat, which opened in 1880's, features 80 different dishes. Notable among these are the Ozbek pilaf (Uzbek pilaf) and assortment of guvec (claypot casseroles). Credit cards are not accepted.


Established in 1897, the restaurant has five branches in Istanbul. Most traditional Turkish dishes are on offer, while specialties include Borek (savoury pastries), Avci kebabi (lamb and vegetable kebab), Portakalli (orange) baklava and Etli ekmek (meat-topped Anatolian pizza). Credit cards are accepted.


Established in 1901, the restaurant is located above the main south-facing entrance to the Spice Bazaar. Main sources to be recommended include Levrek kagitta (baked sea bass) and Begendili kebab (mixed vegetable and lamb kebab), while on the dessert menu the following are particularly worth trying: Sariburma; Visne ekmegi (chery bread soaked in syrup); Kazandibi (baked milk pudding ); Gullac (milk pudding with rose water and walnuts); Tulumba (deep fried pastry in thick syrup); and Kurabiye (sweet biscuits).


As its name suggests, the restaurants' chief specialty is Sultanahmet koftesi (Sultanahmet meat balls), a dish highly prized but rarely found in Istanbul. Credit cards are accepted.


Cemeteries and Turbes


The mausoleum of Sultan Mehmed, built by Sultan Bayezid II in 1482, is found within the Fatih Mosque Complex.

This grand marble mausoleum is crowned with a ten-sided dome, and its interior is elaborately decorated with gold and silver.


A part of the Yeni Mosque Complex found in Eminönü square, the mausoleum of Hatice Sultan Turhan is located on the Spice Bazaar side of the complex across from the Hunkar Kasri.

The mausoleum contains the remains of five Padisahs and a large number of the nobility of the Ottoman cemeteries. Besides containing the graves of Sultan Mehmed 4 and his mother Hatice Turhan Sultan, the remains of Sultan Osman III, Sultan Mustafa II, Sultan Ahmed III and sultan Mahmud I are also a part of the structure.

The mausoleum is covered with a dome 15 meters in diameter and illuminated by 47 windows. The interior is covered with glazed tiles and the ceiling is ornamented. To the right of the entrance can be seen a library built by Sultan Ahmed III.


Located in the Suleymaniye Mosque Complex, the mausoleum of Sultan Suleyman, the Magnificent was designed by the Architect Sinan in 1566.

The octagonal mausoleum has an impressive dome and its exterior is ornamented with marble and mirrors, while the interior walls are covered with glazed tiles.


It is found in Cemberlitas on the corner where Divanyolu Street and Babiali Street intersect. It was built in 1840 by the architects Mimar Ohannes Balyan and Bogos Dagyan. Sultan Abdulaziz and Sultan Abdulmecid II were later buried in the tomb of Sultan Mahmud II.

The tomb is plain octagonal structure in the Empire style, reflecting the influence of western architecture. A public foundation and cemetery are part of the tomb. The dome, intricate grillwork over the windows and metal devices are all noteworthy features.

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