Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul
Guide Type: Self-guided city tour
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.8 km
Image Courtesy of Kara Sabahat
What Istanbul is today and what it was in medieval times is due to the geographical location of the city and the fact that it lies on the Bosphorus shore. This tour will take you along the coast so that you can enjoy the beautiful view and admire the city's architecture.
Tour Stops and Attractions
1) Bosphorus BridgeThe Bosphorus Bridge is the famous bridge in Istanbul that connects the Asian and European banks of the Bosphorus Strait. This is the first of the two bridges that connect the banks, the other being the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, also called the Second Bridge.
The Bosphorus Bridge links the chic Istanbul destination Ortakoy on the European side with the Beylerbeyi on the Asian side. This is a suspension bridge, and has the sixteenth longest span in the world over one thousand meters. The bridge was completed in 1973, constructed of inclined hangers and steel pylons, and cost more than 200 million US dollars to build.
The bridge offers a spectacular view of the Bosphorus Strait, both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, which can be seen when you are crossing it. Centuries old architecture line the banks of the strait on either side and churches and mosques dot the landscape. When it was first built, a sidewalk was there for pedestrians, but now it has long been closed. The bridge can be best viewed from the Bosphorus cruise or tours that allow ample opportunities to view and photograph this spectacular architectural masterpiece.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Kara Sabahat
2) Hatice Sultan PalaceThe Hatice Sultan Palace is one of the many palaces and residences situated alongside the Bosphorus. During medieval times it was used by Hatice Sultan as a summer palace. Nowadays, it is used as a water sports club. The Hatice Sultan Palace hugs the coastline and has always been a traditional element of a walk along the Bosphorus.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Antoine Ignace Melling
3) Esma Sultana MansionThe Esma Sultana Mansion was built for Esma Sultan the daughter of Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz. The mansion is located in the Ortaköy district of Istanbul, and it was built by the Imperial Architect Sarkis Balyan. Today the traditional yali (water side mansion) has been reinforced with steel and glass and is used as a cultural center and an event space. The building includes a restaurant, a bar and a large event hall and is built on several levels.
Originally the mansion was built as a three storey brick structure, and presented to Esma Sultana as a wedding gift by her father Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz. Until the year 1915, the mansion was in possession by the Ottomans, and used for many purposes including being used as tobacco warehouse and a coal depot until 1975 when it was completely destroyed by a fire.
During the early 1990’s the Marmara hotel chain purchased the ruined structure and renovated it with additional designs and additions done by the celebrated architect Gökhan Avcıoğlu. Today a modern steel and glass structure incorporating the original brick exterior serves as an event hall for cultural events and concerts and houses a restaurant and a bar.
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4) Ortaköy MosqueThe Ortaköy Mosque, also called the Buyuk Mecidiye Camii (Grand Imperial Mosque) in Turkish, is located in the bustling district of Ortaköy in Istanbul. Ortaköy is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city of Istanbul, and the mosque can also be viewed from the Bosphorus Cruise.
The Ortaköy Mosque has been built in Baroque style, and lies on a pier at the edge of the Bosphorus Strait. Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid ordered the construction of the mosque in 1854. For this purpose he hired the accomplished team of architects who had designed the Dolmabahce Palace and many other buildings in and around Istanbul.
The Ortaköy Mosque was built by the celebrated designer of the Dolmabahce Palace, Nigoğayos Balyan. The Armenian architect, along with his father Garabet Amira Balyan designed the mosque in a neo-Baroque style. It is a single domed mosque and consists of two minarets. The dome is decorated with exquisitely painted pink mosaics, and mosaics also decorate the Mirhab (Niche present in the mosque that depicts the direction of prayer) along with white marble. Sultan Abdülmecid executed the Islamic calligraphy present in the mosque himself, as he was an accomplished hattat (master calligrapher).
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5) Çırağan PalaceThe Çırağan Palace called the Çırağan Sarayı in Turkish was an Ottoman imperial palace located between Ortaköy and Beşiktaş, on the European shore of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. The palace is now a five star hotel owned by the Kempinski Hotels chain.
The palace was built for the Ottoman Sultan Abdülâziz, designed by the celebrated Imperial Architect Nigoğayos Balyan, and completed in 1867. The Çırağan Palace is the last architectural example of the period when Ottoman Sultans used to construct their own palaces instead of using pre existing ones. The outer walls are made of colorful marble and the inner walls are constructed from wood. A beautiful bridge also connects the Çırağan Palace to the Yıldız Palace, and a very high garden wall surrounds the structure.
Sultan Abdülâziz, for whom the palace was built, was not able to enjoy it for very long, as he died shortly after moving into the place. After the Sultan’s death the palace was occupied by three more sultans and, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1910, was used for many businesses of the state. It was restored in 2007 in the soft colors of the baroque style by the Kempinski Hotels chain, and today, it is enjoyed by guests visiting Istanbul.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Josep Renalias
6) Yildiz Palace (Star Palace)The Yildiz palace also called the “Star Palace” is the second largest palace in Istanbul. It represents the vast complex of pavilions and villas and was built in 1880. It was also used as a residence by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II.
Overlooking the Bosphorus and surrounded by high hills, the palace was built in an area that consisted of natural woodlands. Many Sultans including Sultan Ahmet, Sultan Abdulmecid and Sultan Abdulaziz built mansions here and enjoyed vacationing in the vast estate.
After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the palace was used as a casino and eventually converted into a guest house for visiting royalty and heads of state.
Today, many parts of the palace including the old pavilions, porcelain workshops and the largest parts of the palace gardens are open to the public. The Sale Pavilion is the best known complex in the palace; it can be reached through the Yildiz Park (the palace gardens). The pavilion has been converted into a museum and has spectacular architecture, luxurious decorations and furnishings. The Yildic Palace Museum and famous Municipal Museum of Istanbul are both present in the vast estate. The palace is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 or 5:00 pm depending upon particular months of the year.
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7) Dolmabahce PalaceThe Dolmabahce Palace was built during the 19 century and is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. It boasts stunning architecture and is located on the European side of the Bosphorus. It was used as the main administrative building of the Ottoman Empire from 1956 to 1922. The last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire also resided in the Dolmabahce Palace.
Mustafa Kamal Ataturk repeatedly stayed in the palace on his visits to Istanbul. He passed away here on the 10th of November 1938, so the Dolmabahce is also famed for being the last resting place of the great leader.
The palace consists of three parts the Muayede Salonu (the ceremonial hall), the Mabeyn-i Hümâyûn (or Selamlık, the men’s quarters), and the Harem-i Hümâyûn (the residential apartments of the Sultan’s family). One of the most famous monuments present here is the Crystal Staircase, with the shape of a double horse shoe, and is built of brass, mahogany and Baccarat crystal. The palace also boats a large number of Hereke Carpets.
Today the palace, built on an area of over 45,000 m2 has been converted into a museum. It contains 46 halls, 6 baths, 68 toilets and 285 rooms. It is open to the public on week days except Mondays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Robert.raderschatt
8) Molla Çelebi MosqueThe Molla Çelebi Mosque is also known as the Fındıklı Mosque. It is an Ottoman Imperial Mosque located in the district of Beyoğlu in the Fındıklı neighborhood. It was constructed by the famous Imperial Ottoman Architect Mimar Sinan in 1561 for the Chief Judge of Istanbul Kazasker Mehmet Vusuli Efendi. It is located close to the Dolmabahçe Mosque, near the Kabataş ferry port, on the Bosphorus waterfront.
The building is hexagonal in shape, and consists of four small semi domes in the north and the south ends of the mosque. The pillars of the mosque are actually engaged within the walls. The mosque also consisted of a hammam (Turkish bath) but this was demolished when the streets were widened. The Chief Justice Mehmet Efendi was a poet and a savant, and he had picked the picturesque location of the mosque because of its beauty. Located near the mosque are three fountains and the marble çeşme of Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa.
The Molla Çelebi Mosque has remained intact with little modifications done to it ever since it was built. The mosque is open for visitors 24 hours a day, except during the five designated prayer times, when it is closed for tourists unless they are there to pray.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Darwinek
9) Istanbul Modern MuseumThe Istanbul modern museum of art is a museum of contemporary art located in the Beyoglu district. Istanbul has always been a rich centre of culture and history, and the modern museum of art gives visitors a taste of the “new city”.
This museum features the contemporary works of Turkish and also international artists. This was once a warehouse in the Tophane neighborhood on the Bosphorus and it is unique throughout Turkey, being the first of its kind found in the country. The museum is also a break from the centuries old mosques, churches and architecture found throughout the city of Istanbul. The building was inaugurated on the 11th of December 2004.
The Istanbul modern museum exhibits art collections on 2 floors. It has a permanent collection on the top floor, with works by Orhan Peker, Ismet Dogan, Seker Ahmet Ali Pasa, Omer Kalesi , Cihat Burak, Avni Arbas, Ihsan Cemal Karaburçak and Sema Gürbüz amongst others. A shop and a restaurant are also present on the top floor while temporary exhibits are held on the ground floor. This floor also consists of a library and a cinema hall along with a new media art area and a video art area.
The museum is accessible by the tram system and also has parking for those visitors who have their own cars. It is open from 10:00 am-6:00 pm from Tuesdays to Sunday, and from 10:00am-8:00pm on Thursday. It is closed on Mondays.
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10) Kılıç Ali Pasha ComplexThe Kılıç Ali Pasha Complex is a group of buildings designed and built by the Ottoman Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan between 1580 and 1587. The celebrated architect was in his nineties when he built the complex. Located in the Beyoğlu district in the Tophane neighborhood in Istanbul, the vast complex is named after Kapudan-i Derya (Grand Admiral) Kılıç Ali Pasha.
The complex consists of a mosque, a madrassah (Islamic school), a hammam (Turkish bath) a türbe (tomb) and a fountain. During the time it was built, the complex was actually near the coastline, but today the seafront area is largely developed, and thus the complex finds itself surrounded by other buildings.
The mosque present on the complex is fashioned after the Hagia Sophia, with a central large dome and two half domes. The central position of the dome resembles that of a Byzantine Basilica. The courtyard consists of heavily ornamented doors and a marble ablution fountain that consists of eight pillars and a dome. The tomb of Kılıç Ali Pasha is octagonal in shape and is present in the outer courtyard, in a graveyard. The tomb is inlaid with mother of pearl.
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