12 Historical Places In Istanbul, Turkey - Updated 2024

Anaanya
Anaanya 
Updated
| 7 min read

Istanbul–a city with two worlds. It is almost like Istanbul is separated into two different cities–almost two different worlds–just by a bridge. Istanbul is divided into the Asian side, known as Anadolu Yakası, where the city was first founded, and the European side, Avrupa Yakası, which hosts the Old City and some of its most famous attractions. Should you be inclined toward the appeal of “New Istanbul”, head to the Asian side and explore its quaint cafes and shops in Kadikoy, its cultural center. If you’re seeking a more historical route on your visit, don’t miss sites like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and more. Check out these historical places in Istanbul, Turkey, you must visit.

1. Yedikule Castle - contributed by Tour Guide, Dilek Orubegarcia


You can delve deep into the local history by paying a visit to Yedikule Castle, which dates back to 413 and is famous for its dungeons. The castle was built by the Eastern Roman Emperor II, Theodosius, and completed in 439.

Throughout the centuries, Yedikule Castle has housed numerous captured notable figures, including Çandarlı Halil Pasha and his sons, Trabzon Greek Emperor David Komnenos and his sons, the last Abbasid Caliph IV, Mutevekkil, Crimean Khan Mehmet Giray, and Russian Ambassador Count Tolstoy. Russian Ambassador Aleksi Oberskov, Mihály Szilágyi, and Gergely Bornemissza are among other historical individuals associated with the attraction. Notably, the Golden Gate, also known as the Gilded Gate, served as the entrance to welcome victorious emperors returning from war for centuries. Moreover, the castle was erected by the Ottoman Sultan II and was the site of Osman’s death.

Yedikule Castle

Address: Yedikule, Yedikule Meydanı Sk. No:9, 34107 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Website: Yedikule Castle

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 5pm (closed on Mon)

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2. Topkapi Palace - contributed by Tour Guide, Dilek Orubegarcia

Topkapı Palace

The historic Topkapı Palace offers a delightful opportunity to witness a charming tulip garden. The intriguing journey of tulips to Europe began in the 16th century when Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, an ambassador of Emperor Ferdinand I to Suleyman the Magnificent, imported tulips into Holland. Clusius later took charge of the botanical gardens in Leiden, ensuring the widespread distribution of tulips across Europe.

Originally wildflowers from Central Asia, particularly from the Hindu Mountains in Kazakhstan, tulips were first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1,000 AD. The presence of tulips in the artwork of the Seljuks in the 12th century, especially in the city of Konya, the capital of the Anatolian Seldjuks, indicates their early association with Turkish culture.

Following the Ottoman conquest and the redesign of Constantinople into Istanbul, Sultan Mehmet II ordered the planting of tulips in the new parks and gardens. The Sultan, an avid gardener himself, spent his free time working in the gardens of the Topkapi Palace.

Sultan Suleiman elevated the love for tulips to a new level, professionalizing their planting and use in Istanbul, and it became more popular than the rose. As a distinguished poet with the poet name “Muhibbi,” Suleiman mentioned tulips several times in his poems, further cementing their cultural significance.

Topkapı Palace

Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Website: Topkapı Palace

Opening hours: Hours vary per season

Price: 1,500 TRY (50.17 USD)

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3. Blue Mosque (from USD 27.11)

historical places in istanbul | blue mosque

The Blue Mosque is without a doubt one of the most famous mosques in the world. This mosque was constructed in the 1600s under the rule of Ahmad I. This mosque is actually different from any other mosque in Istanbul because it is the only mosque which has six minarets! This five-hour guided tour in English is a tour of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, two of the most historical places in Istanbul. Your tour guide will first take you to the Hagia Sophia where you will learn all about the history of the Ottoman sultans followed by the Blue Mosque where you will learn about the Byzantine Empire. You can also go pray at the Blue Mosque if you wish to.

Tip from Content Creator

Blue Mosque Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque or Turkish Sultan Ahmet Mosque, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Handpainted with more than 50 different tulip designs, it has decorations that include verses from the Qur’an and intricate window designs in which natural lights shine through. The beautiful and historic mosque has 5 main domes and 8 secondary domes. It is considered to be the last great Mosque of the Classical Period of Ottoman Architecture.

Here are some tips for your visit:

Bring a shawl to cover your head and shoulders. One will be provided on the main entrance door of the mosque. No shoes are allowed, although you can carry them in a plastic bag or like.

It is free to enter the mosque, and it is open to the public. Make sure though to check the hours since certain times are closed for Prayer hours.

Photos and videos are allowed here, but tripods are not allowed. Please be mindful of your surroundings.

Tip from tour guide

Rose

Rose
Istanbul

Video of the historic Blue Mosque in Istanbul shared by Turkey tour guide, Rose.

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Istanbul: City Highlights Tour w/Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque

Duration: 4.0 hour

310 reviews

4. Topkapi Palace (from USD 65.06)

historical places in istanbul | topkapi palace

Topkapi Palace is a huge museum in Istanbul. Originally, in the 15th century, the Topkapi Palace was home to the Ottoman sultans. Now, this palace has been converted into a museum which is filled with the history of Istanbul, the making of the Topkapi Palace, and the glory that was a part of the Ottoman era. Since this museum cannot be visited without a guide, you have to take a guided tour to learn all about the history of this palace and the Ottoman sultans. This is a 75-minute guided tour in English which starts at the Carpet Museum, takes you to the four courtyard museums, the historical kitchen of the palace, as well as the treasury.

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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

Duration: 1.5 hour

907 reviews

Istanbul Tour Guide

Rose TheGuide

Rose The Guide

Professional Tour / Travel Guide and Photographer Certified by Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I am a knowledgeable and motivated individual with years of experience in organizing group tours in several areas; have the ability to motivate different sets of audience; have the ability to communicate effectively and possess high degree of energy and enthusiasm.

Istanbul Tour Guide

Dilek Orubegarcia

Dilek Orubegarcia

My name is Dilek, a national-licensed tour guide. I am 40 years old and have been guiding for 12 years. My husband is from Mexico as a Mexican Turkish family and with our two young kids we live in Istanbul. When I don't work I spend most of my time outdoor with my family, enjoying Istanbul as much as we can. We go out, try to discover new restaurants, new museums, art galleries, children's acti... Read more

Istanbul Tour Guide

Safiye Kaban

Safiye Kaban

Hi there, this is Safiye from istanbul. I am a professional licensed tour guide and travel expert over 12 years. I have guided thousands of travellers from all around the world. I love meeting with new people, making new friends and building bridges. I orgnize cultural, historical, shopping and food tours to small groups, I mostly guide to private tours. I am also a foodie, I love discovering n... Read more

5. Hagia Sophia (from USD 27.11)

historical places in istanbul | hagia sophia

Hagia Sophia was built in AD 537 and is known for its huge white dome. The Hagia Sophia was originally a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral which was then taken over by the Ottoman sultans and converted into an imperial mosque, and it is now a museum. The Hagia Sophia is probably one of the most famous museums in the world and one of the most visited historical places in Istanbul. This is a one-hour guided tour in English, where the guide tells you a little about the history of the Old City, followed by the history of Hagia Sophia. Afterward, you get free time to admire and take in the beautiful architecture of the Hagia Sophia.

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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia Exterior Tour with Optional Tickets

1662 reviews

6. Galata Tower (from USD 108.44)

Galata Tower (AP4M2642 1PS)
Source: Photo by Flickr user Alexandru Panoiu used under CC BY 2.0

The Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower which is commonly known as the Christea Turris or the Tower of Christ. Galata Tower is a Romanesque-style tower that was originally built in 1348. This tour of the Galata Tower and the ancient streets of Istanbul is a three-hour guided tour in English. You get to walk through the ancient streets of Istanbul that are now filled with churches, ancient walls, and vibrant streets. Stroll through the hillside of Galata, enjoy a beautiful view of the Bosphorus, and visit the Galata Tower from outside. This is a walking tour so don’t forget to have your walking shoes on and carry a bottle of water with you.

Tip from tour guide

Dilek

Dilek
Istanbul

If you don't want to wait in line to get to the top of Galata Tower, go to Galata Konak Cafe & Restaurant. It boasts nearly the same view as Galata Tower, and you can enjoy the sights while sipping your coffee or tea. Moreover, the popular Turkish TV series "Masumlar Apartmanı" is filmed in this cafe.

Here's a view of the cafe: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/2gonf9I8vEQ 

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Istanbul: Galata – Genoese Walking Tour

Duration: 4.0 hour

7. Grand Bazaar (from USD 118.0)

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest, most famous, and most visited markets in all of Istanbul. This is without a doubt one of the most historical places in Istanbul that every tourist wants to visit. Spread over 61 streets and 4000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is indeed unique. This three-and-a-half hour guided tour is a small walking tour around the Grand Bazaar where your tour guide helps you haggle like a pro, ensures you don’t get lost in this huge market, and helps you shop for authentic Turkish items. While you’re at it, your English-speaking tour guide will also give you a little history of the Grand Bazaar.

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Shopping in Grand Bazaar

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

28 reviews

8. Hippodrome of Constantinople

Turkey-03241 - Serpent Column
Source: Photo by Flickr user Dennis Jarvis used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Hippodrome of Constantinople was originally built by the Roman Emperor Severus and was kept as is during the Ottoman Era. The Hippodrome of Constantinople was basically a public arena where many chariot races were held. Now, this arena has basically become an open-air park/area which has a few statues and objects from the Roman and Ottoman era. When you come here, you can only imagine how glorious it was!

Hippodrome of Constantinople

Address: Binbirdirek Mh., Sultan Ahmet Parkı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Price: Free admission

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9. Dolmabahçe Palace (from USD 82.0)

Dolmabahçe Palace is located on the European side of Istanbul. This palace originally served as the administrative centre of the Ottoman sultans. In fact, even Mustafa Atatürk (the first president of Turkey) lived in this Palace. This three-hour guided tour of the Dolmabahçe Palace is offered in English, German, Spanish and French. Your tour guide will tell you all about the history of the Ottoman Empire as well as Mustafa Atatürk. You will also get to see the glorious rooms of the palace, the famous crystal staircase and the Medhal Hall. Once you have explored the palace, you will cross over the Bosphorus Bridge to the Asian side to get some beautiful, picturesque views of the city.

Tip from tour guide

Rose

Rose
Istanbul

Dolmabahçe Palace
Photo of Dolmabahçe Palace shared by Turkey tour guide, Rose.
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Istanbul Dolmabahce Palace Half-Day Tour with Admission

Duration: 3 hours

50 reviews

10. Basilica Cistern (from USD 32.53)

Basilica Cistern Istanbul
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Moise Nicu used under CC BY 3.0

Basilica Cistern is an ancient cistern which was originally built in the 4th century. This is one of the many ancient cisterns that were built under the city of Istanbul, but it is the most famous one because it is the largest. For those of you who might not know, a cistern is basically an underground tank that is made for storing water and the Basilica Cistern was one of the largest cisterns that used to supply water to the Ottoman Palace. Go on this 30-minute guided tour in English. In this tour, your guide will tell you all about the Medusa heads from Greek mythology that watch over the waterway as well as how the water travels all the way from the Eğrikapı Water Distribution Center to the Basilica Cistern.

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Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

Duration: 30.0 minute

822 reviews

11. Chora Church (from USD 55.48)

chora church

The Chora Church is a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church which is located in Istanbul. This two-hour guided walking tour in English starts with a cup of Turkish tea and then takes you into the Chora Church where you will see mosaics that depict the lives of Mary and Christ, motifs that depict one scene from the Book of Revelation, and frescos that follow a theme of death and resurrection. This tour is a great way to learn about Byzantine art and Greek Orthodox mythology.

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Istanbul: 2-Hour Chora Church Guided Walking Tour

Duration: 2 hour

1 review

12. Istanbul Archaeology Museums (from USD 6.0)

istanbul archaeology museums
Source: www.viator.com

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are a group of three archaeological museums in Istanbul. In this day tour, you get to visit all three museums, namely the Archaeology Museum, the Old Eastern Works Museum, and the Enameled Kiosk Museum, all of which will teach you a little about the history of Istanbul and the Ottoman era. This is not a guided tour but an entrance ticket for the three museums, which means no waiting lines and ticket queues. You can spend a whole day at these three museums looking at artefacts, learning about history, and taking pictures.

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Istanbul Archaeology Museum Entrance Ticket

All set to learn about Istanbul and its history?

Clearly, Istanbul has a very cultural and rich history. From the Roman Empire to the Ottoman Era, Istanbul has seen a vast shift in culture, architecture, and religion, all of which are still prominent in modern-day Istanbul. There are so many historical places in Istanbul to see and so many things to learn so what are you waiting for?

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!

In light of the February 2023 earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria, Trip101 urges you to be apprised of the latest news if you have any plans to travel to Eastern Turkey. Other parts of the country remain open to travelers.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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A freelance content writer by profession, Anaanya is an avid traveller whose main goal in life is to visit as many new places as possible. Anaanya enjoys travelling, not just because of her love...Read more

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