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Sights of IstanbulThe Dolmabahçe Mosque was commissioned by Queen mother Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan and finished after her death in 1853 when her son took over. The mosque was built by an architect named Garabet Balyan. The construction started in 1852 and finished in 1855. The Dolmabahçe Mosque is located in the south of the Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosporus coast. The inside was mixed in Baroque and Empire style which explains why it has big circular windows. The mosque has two relatively small minarets and a single balcony. A two-story Sultan Maksoorah was built on the front part where the Sultans could pray and where the public could meet and have conversations. The Dolmabahçe Mosque architecture is very different from the classical Ottoman mosque. It resembles a highly decorated palace hall more than a holy place since it was designed as a part of the Dolmabahçe Palace. This Mosque is one of the most famous examples of the 19th century Ottoman mosques. The mosque has a rectangular shaped two-story royalty section and the geometric structure sits on a 25 x 25 meter base. Dolmabahçe Mosque has two minarets just with a single balcony and a single dome resting on a square floor. The interior part has a decoration having a mixture of ampere and baroque styles. A precious chandelier hangs from the dome. The Mimbar (pulpit) and Mihrab (niche) are made of red porphyry and decorated with European patterns. The light from the large windows contributes to the beauty of the colorful marble interior decorations.

Sights of IstanbulThe Sultanahmet Mosque - The Blue Mosque - Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1923. The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction. After the Peace of Zsitvatorok in 1606 and the unfavourable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul as recompense. This would be the first imperial mosque to be built in more than forty years. Whereas his predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty Sultan Ahmed I had to withdraw the funds from the treasury because he had not won any notable victories. This provoked the anger of the ulema - the Muslim legal scholars. The mosque was to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors facing the Hagia Sophia and the hippodrome - a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace. Several palaces had already built there - most notably the palace of Sokollu Mehmet Paşa. These first had to be bought at a considerable cost and pulled down. Large parts of the Sphendone - the curved tribune with a U-shaped structure of the hippodrome were also removed to make room for the new mosque. Construction of the mosque started in August 1609 when the sultan himself came to break the first sod. It was his intention that this would become the first mosque of his empire. He appointed his royal architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, a pupil and senior assistant of the famous architect Mimar Sinan to be in charge of the construction. The organization of the work was described in meticulous detail in eight volumes which now can be found in the library of the Topkapı Palace. The opening ceremonies were held in 1617 even though the inscription on the gate of the mosque says 1616. The Sultan could now pray in the royal box (hünkâr mahfil). The building was not yet finished in the last year of his reign - as the last accounts were signed by his successor Mustafa I. Known as the Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Mosque is easily one of the most impressive monuments in the world.

Sights of IstanbulThe Süleymaniye Mosque - Turkish: Süleymaniye Camii is an Ottoman imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, Turkey. It is the second largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights to be seen in Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque was built on the order of Sultan Süleyman - Süleyman the Magnificent who was fortunate to be able to draw on the talents of the architectural genius of Sinan Pasha. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558. This vast religious complex called the Süleymaniye blended Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements. It combines tall, slender minarets with large domed buildings supported by half domes in the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sofia which the Ottomans converted into the mosque of Aya Sofya. The design of the Süleymaniye also plays on Suleyman's self-conscious representation of himself as a second Solomon. It references the Dome of the Rock which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon as well as Justinian's boast upon the completion of the Hagia Sophia: "Solomon, I have surpassed thee!". The Süleymaniye is similar in magnificence to preceding structures to assert Suleyman's historical importance. The structure is nevertheless smaller in size than its older archetype, the Hagia Sophia. The Süleymaniye was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored by Sultan Mehmed IV. Part of the dome collapsed again during the earthquake of 1766 and subsequent repairs damaged what was left of the original decoration of Sinan. Recent cleaning has shown that Sinan experimented first with blue, before finally making red the dominant color of the dome. During World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and some of the ammunition ignited so the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it fully restored again. In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums (türbe) including the tombs of sultan Süleyman I, his wife Haseki Hürrem, his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye. The sultans Süleyman II, Ahmed II and Safiye, the daughter of Mustafa II, are also buried here. Just outside the mosque walls to the north is the tomb of architect Sinan.

Sights of IstanbulThe Topkapı Palace -Turkish: Topkapı Sarayı is a palace in Istanbul, Turkey which was the official and primary residence in the city for the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years from 1465 to 1856 during their 624 year reign. The palace was the setting for state occasions and royal entertainment events and is a major tourist attraction today. It contains some of the most holy relics of the Muslim world such as the Prophet Muhammed's cloak and sword. Topkapı Palace is among those monuments belonging to the historic areas of Istanbul which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. It is described in Criterion IV as the best example of palaces from the Ottoman period. Initial construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II - the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. The palace is a complex made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At the height of its existence as a royal residence the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people. The Palace grounds formerly covered a larger area with a long shoreline. The complex has been expanded over the centuries with many renovations such as those done after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. It held mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. The name directly translates as "Cannon Gate Palace" - the palace being named after a nearby gate which has since been destroyed. After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by government decree on April 3, 1924 into a museum of the imperial era. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. The complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military. The palace is full of examples of Ottoman architecture and also contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals - as well as a display of Ottoman treasures and jewelry.

Sights of IstanbulThe Dolmabahçe Palace - Turkish: Dolmabahçe Sarayı in Istanbul, Turkey is located on the European side of the Bosporus. It served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922 except for a twenty-year interval between 1889 to 1909 in which the Yıldız Palace was used. The Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered to be built by the Empires 31st Sultan - Abdülmecid I between the years 1843 and 1856. Hacı Said Ağa was responsible for the construction while the project was designed by architects Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğayos Balyan, and Evanis Kalfa. The construction cost five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins - the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. Fourteen tons of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings of the 45,000 square meter monoblock palace, which stands on an area of 110,000 square meters. The Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six sultans from 1856, when it was first inhabited, up until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi. A law that went into effect on March 3, 1924 transferred the ownership of the palace to the national heritage of the new Turkish Republic. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers and enacted some of his most important works here. Atatürk spent the last days of his medical treatment in this palace, where he died on November 10, 1938.

Sights of IstanbulGalata Kulesi or Galata Tower is a 55 meter tall tower providing a panoramic view of the old quarter of Istanbul. Galata Kulesi was built by the Genoese as part of the defense wall surrounding their district of Galata directly opposite Byzantium (Constantinopolis). The Genoese used to trade with the Byzantines and the tower was used for the surveillance of the harbor in the Golden Horn. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II it served as a watchtower for fires in the city. The tower now houses a restaurant and a night club. There is an elevator but there are still three more floors to climb by stairs to get onto the panoramic terrace. It's open from early morning until late at night everyday. Galata is located at the north side of the Golden Horn towards Taksim Square. Galata was surrounded by walls built by the Genoese until the 19th century. These walls started at Azapkapı near the Golden Horn. The Galata Tower was the northernmost observation tower and the walls continued on down to Tophane from this point.

Sights of IstanbulThe Galata Bridge has not only been a means of getting from one side of the waterway to the other but has had a symbolic and spiritual significance in people's lives. From the end of the 19th century in particular, the bridge has featured in Turkish literature; in theater, poetry and novels. Above all in the latter medium there is hardly a novelist, including Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpinar and Ahmet Rasim, who has not mentioned this bridge. The oldest recorded bridge in Istanbul was built over the Golden Horn in 1453 during the Turkish siege of the city. In the years 1502-1503 plans to construct a permanent bridge here were discussed, and with this object a design sketch was made by Leonardo da Vinci showing a single span bridge with double pillars at either end, 350 meters long and 24 meters wide. However, technical drawbacks made it impossible to realize this project, and another Italian artist, Michelangelo was invited to design a bridge for Istanbul. Michelangelo rejected the proposal, and the idea of building a bridge here was shelved until the 19th century. In the early 19th century Mahmut II had a bridge built at some distance up the waterway between Azapkapı and Unkapanı and this bridge, known as the Hayratiye opened on 3 September 1836. The fourth Galata Bridge was built in 1912 by the German Man firm for 350,000 gold lira. This bridge was 466 meters long and 25 meters wide. It is the bridge still familiar to many people today that was badly damaged in a fire in 1992 and towed up the Golden Horn to make way for the modern bridge now in use. The Galata Bridge was always a symbolic link between the traditional city of Istanbul and the districts of Galata, Beyoğlu, Şişli and Harbiye. These were districts where a large proportion of the residents were non-Muslims and where foreign merchants and diplomats lived and worked. In this respect the bridge acted as a bond between these two diverse cultures.

Sights of IstanbulThe Princess Islands are a group of nine islands off the Asian coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Regular passenger ferries and fast passenger ferries (sea buses) depart to four of the islands from different piers of the city, from Sirkeci, from Kabataş, and from the Bostancı districts. Motor vehicles are not allowed on the islands except those of the local municipality for public works. Residents must walk, rent a bicycle, use a horse-drawn carriage or even a donkey. They are beautiful little islands where local people have their summer homes or go there for the beaches, for picnicking or just to wander around on during the weekends. These four islands are known as Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Kınalıada. There is also Sedefadasi which is not as popular as the other ones with a very small settlement on it. There are no settlements on Hayirsizada, Sivriada and Yassiada, and Kasikada is a private island. The name of the islands comes from the Byzantine period when princes and empresses were exiled there. But during the Ottoman period, especially around 19th century with the use of steamboats, these islands became a popular resorts for Istanbul's wealthy to build their wooden houses. Jewish, Greek and Armenian communities were a large part of the inhabitants of the islands. Today, the islands are popular tourist destinations for daily excursions. There are many monasteries and historic buildings on the islands aside from the Victorian style old wooden mansions.

Sights of IstanbulThis big city square of Taksim is considered as the heart of modern Istanbul. Many hotels and restaurants can be found here on Istiklal Street, and the big bus terminal for public transportation as well as the main subway station. The Square is also the gathering place for locals to celebrate New Year's Eve, parades and other military gatherings. The most important monument in Taksim Square is the Independence Monument - Turkish: Istiklal Aniti at the beginning of Istiklal street. This is also the turnaround point for the old red tram which is the only vehicle permitted on Istiklal Street beside police and government cars. The monument was made by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and opened in 1928. The Istiklal Aniti commemorates Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - the founder of the Republic in both of his roles as a military commander-in-chief and as a statesman. Since it's opening Istiklal Aniti Monument has become the prime location of choice for official ceremonies.

Sights of IstanbulBeyoğlu near Taksim Square is a part of the heart of the city of Istanbul. It is the place where locals get away from the old city and enjoy the more modern Istanbul. The two and a half kilometers long street has so many restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops that you could easily spend a whole day on into the late hours of the night. Istanbuls religions, languages and ethnic groups live in harmony in this center of art and culture and many national, international and local activities reach art lovers through events in the neighborhood. Beyoğlu is a residential area consisting of 45 districts and about 225,000 residents, but the daily population rises to a million being the center of commerce, entertainment and culture. It's one of the most important tourist points and one of the most famous avenues of the city. Many high-end boutiques, music and bookstores, libraries, art galleries, cinemas, theaters, cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs, coffee houses, patisseries, and even technological centers are lined along Istiklal Street. Beyoğlu has a large number of foreigners of all nationalities living in the neighborhood. The area is also home to significant numbers of Turkish Christians and Jewish with several churches and synagogues.

Sights of IstanbulTurkey's largest and most magnificent railway station - the Haydarpaşa was built in the early 20th century by the German architects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Cuno. It stands as a monument to the close Turkish - German relations of the time with the station having a neo-renaissance style and a U-shaped design plan. The inauguration ceremony took place on 19 August 1908 just after the proclamation of the Second Constitution. The facade is covered in textured sandstone, and the main facade overlooking Kadiköy Bay rests on a foundation of 1100 timber piles. The steep pitched roof is slated and the interior is decorated with trailing foliage cartouches and garlands with stained glass windows. The ceiling of the circular room at the base of the southeast tower has ribbed vaults and the upper landings have groin vaults. Flights of marble steps lead up from the quay to the monumental facade flanked by circular turrets with conical roofs. The clock tower rising in the form of a crest at the center of baroque decoration as are the balconies, molded cornices, and pilasters. This exquisite building welcomes those arriving in Istanbul from Anatolia by train and is the last sight of the city for those leaving. Since 1908 Haydarpaşa Station has witnessed many memorable events both tragic and joyous. During World War I troops had to board trains for the front from it with many never to return and in 1917 it was badly damaged during a bomb attack. Exuberant crowds welcomed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk here on many occasions when he arrived from Ankara. In the past passengers of the Orient Express arriving at Istanbul from Europe wanting to continue towards Baghdad had to take a boat across the Bosphorus and board a train from Haydarpaşa station. Haydarpaşa Station may have lost its former importance but this remarkable building is still a landmark on the Asian shore of the city together with the Selimiye Barracks - of Florence Nightingale fame - as well as the Haydarpaşa Medical School.

Sights of IstanbulThe Grand Bazaar - Turkish: Kapalıçarşı is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It was built of wood after the Conquest of Istanbul around an old Byzantine building which became the part of Old Bedesten (Old Bazaar) today. It got bigger and bigger throughout the centuries with the addition of new sections and inns. The Bazaar initially consisted of two warehouses which were known as Inner Bedesten and Sandal Bedesten. Later open streets were covered with doomed roofs and separate buildings were connected to each other. Today it covers an area of approximately thirty-one thousand square meters with over 3000 shops, seventeen inns (Han) and covering sixty-one streets with around twenty thousand people working in it. There are four fountains, ten wells, two mosques, numerous cafes and restaurants, money change offices, a police station, and twenty-two gates. The old wooden Grand Bazaar built by Mehmet II suffered several fires and earthquakes during the centuries but has always been renovated after each disaster. The last of these restorations were made after a large fire in the 1950's when it was finally rebuilt in stone. During the Ottoman era all variety of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants. Today it's a haven for shoppers with its traditional Turkish shops. The amount of tea (çay) consumed in a single day in the Grand Bazaar would likely boggle your mind as every merchant offers you a cup as you pass by. The Grand Bazaar is open daily between 9:00-19.00 except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays.

Sights of IstanbulThe Archaeological Museum complex was built at the end of nineteenth century by the architect Vallaury and great efforts by the famous Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey. It includes the exquisite Tiled Kiosk and the Museum of the Ancient Orient and houses a large collection of artifacts and works of art belonging to ancient Greek, Roman and other Anatolian civilizations dating back to the sixth century BC. The Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, Sarcophagus of the Mourning Ladies, and other ancient sarcophagi and various objects found at the Sidon excavation are among its most interesting exhibits. The Ancient Eastern Archeological Museum was opened to service in 1917 by Halil Eldem Bey. The collection on display are comprised of about 15,000 archeological relics of Ancient Mesopotamia, Pre-Greek Anatolia, Assyrian, Sumerian, Acadian, Babylonian, Ancient Egyptian and Pre-Islamic Arabic culture.

Open daily between 09:30-16:30 except Mondays.
Tel: 90 212 520 77 40 and 41

Sights of IstanbulThe Atatürk Museum is in a house where Atatürk lived and worked before the War of Independence during his stay in Istanbul between 1918 and 1919. It was originally built in 1908 and restored by the Municipality of Istanbul in 1943 and opening to the public in 1981. The top floor of the building was reserved for his mother Zubeyde Hanim and his sister Makbule while Atatürk used the middle floor for himself and the lower floor for his loyal officers. On display are photographs of Atatürk from his birth until his death, clothes, military uniforms, personal belongings and paintings including portraits done by some of the leading painters of the period. It's located at Halaskargazi Street in the Sisli district. This house was the residence of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1918-19 just before he departed for Anatolia to organize the struggle for National Liberation against the allied occupation following World War I.

Open daily between 09:30-16:00 except Thursdays and Sundays.
Tel: 90 212 240 63 19

Part of the information on this page is from www.allaboutturkey.com created by Burak Sansal who is a multi-lingual licensed professional tour guide in Turkey since 1990.



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