The Historic Areas of Istanbul are on a peninsula in Turkey between Anatolia and the Balkans. The Bosphorus Sea is to the east and the Marmara Sea is to the south, while the city has a natural harbor to the north, known as the Golden Horn.
It has seen many significant events in the past 2,000 years, as it was the capital for the Eastern Roman Empire and then for the Ottoman Empire.
The historic areas were originally built by Theodosius in the 5th century. Churches, synagogues and mosques were built next to each other and the people going there have gotten along for centuries. Located on two continents, it is a unique city unlike any other in the world.
Hagia Sophia Museum
The Hagia Sophia Museum was constructed in the year 537. Built originally as a cathedral, it was an important building for Christianity for 1,000 years. Once the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, however, Hagia Sofia was turned into a mosque. A large, beautifully decorated dome covers Hagia Sophia, making it one of the top places to see in the historic area of Istanbul.
The Topkapi Palace, which was added onto until the 1800s, was used by the administrative powers of the Ottoman Empire for close to 400 years. Now, it contains the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, which is recognized worldwide for having 86 carats.
The Palace is a museum today, showing ancient artifacts from the Ottoman Empire inside of its chambers, pavilions, and the area where the harem used to be kept.
The Basilica Cistern, an underground reservoir, was built in the year 542 to bring water to the Great Palace. Medusa’s head is carved into the column of the cistern, which can be seen through the waters.
Mythology holds that anyone who looks at her directly will turn into stone. Visitors can see this underground cistern and walk on boards between the 336 columns that hold up the ceiling.
The Sultanahmet Mosque, close to Hagia Sophia, is one of the most-recognized mosques in Istanbul. Over 260 windows were built into the mosque, and over 20,000 tiles. Multiple domes and side domes, along with six minarets, make up the Sultanahmet Mosque. It was commissioned by one of the richest sultans of his time, Suleyman the Magnificent.
The Blue Mosque is also very famous and beautiful. Built by Sultan Ahmed I in the 1600s, this mosque is one of the highlights of historic Istanbul’s skyline. Intricate stained glass and beautiful marble make up the inside, along with thousands of blue tiles, which the name comes from.
4 sites in this World Heritage
- Sultanahmet Urban Archaeological Component Area of World Heritage Site
- Suleymaniye Mosque and its Associated Component Area of World Heritage Site
- Zeyrek Mosque (Pantocrator Church) and its Associated Component Area of World Heritage Site
- Istanbul Land Walls Component Area of World Heritage Site