Culture & Travel9 July 2023
Istanbul, the magnificent city, stands as one of the globe's most sought-after tourist destinations, boasting a wealth of history, culture, and vibrant social life. Yet, there remains a treasure trove of untapped knowledge waiting to be discovered.
Oldest Tower: Galata Tower
Dating back to 507, when the illustrious Byzantine Emperor Justinian commissioned its construction, the Galata Tower has etched its name as one of the world's most ancient towers. Initially governed by the Genoese in the early 14th century, this architectural gem fell under the rule of the Ottomans following Fatih's conquest of Istanbul. Revered for its historical significance, it secured a spot on the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2013.Nestled in Galata, where the majestic Bosphorus gracefully merges with the Golden Horn, this tower stands proudly as a cherished emblem of Istanbul. It was from this very structure that the daring Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi took flight, defying gravity with his audacious wings. Serving as a vigilant fire watchtower for an extensive period, it also earned the moniker of Galata Fire Tower. Thanks to meticulous restoration efforts undertaken in 1967 and 2020, the tower stands today in all its resplendent glory, reminiscent of its original grandeur.
To truly experience Galata Tower's allure, ascend to its summit and behold the awe-inspiring vista that unfolds before you. From this elevated perch, Istanbul stretches out like a majestic tapestry, interweaving the legacies of countless civilizations that have called it home. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking panorama that lays at your feet.Within the tower's storied walls, delve into the treasure trove of historical ruins on display, offering tantalizing glimpses into Istanbul's illustrious past. Each artifact preserves a fragment of history, waiting to be explored and admired.For a more comprehensive understanding of Galata Tower's magnificence, I invite you to delve into the pages of "Istanbul Under My Wings: The Story of Galata Tower." This captivating book unveils the tower's legends, delves into its captivating lore, and illuminates the profound significance it holds in Istanbul's collective consciousness.
Largest Indoor Cistern: Basilica Cistern
Commissioned by Emperor Justinian in 532, the Basilica Cistern stands as an architectural marvel nestled beneath the Basilica Stoa. As you descend the ancient stone steps, a mesmerizing sight awaits—a forest of 336 columns majestically rising from the tranquil waters. The sheer magnitude of this spectacle evokes a sense of wonder, enveloping visitors in an ethereal ambiance.Originally constructed during the Byzantine era to fulfill the city's water requirements, the Basilica Cistern stands as an extraordinary testament to Istanbul's past. Today, it holds a place of prominence among the city's must-see destinations. Following a meticulous restoration effort by the Metropolitan Municipality, the cistern underwent a transformation, now boasting a captivating sculpture exhibition. The interplay of vibrant lighting and artistic creations within its depths grants visitors a truly unique and immersive experience.Step into the Basilica Cistern, and be transported to a realm where history and artistry unite, leaving an indelible impression on all who venture into its enchanting depths.
Biggest Palace: Topkapi Palace
Situated in Sarayburnu, Topkapi Palace reigns supreme as one of Istanbul's premier attractions. Constructed by the visionary Fatih Sultan Mehmet between 1460 and 1478, this resplendent palace-turned-museum holds an esteemed place on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.Spanning an expansive area of 80 thousand square meters, Topkapi Palace stands as a magnificent testament to the bygone eras that have shaped Istanbul's vibrant tapestry of history. With its hallowed halls and opulent chambers, the palace serves as a gateway, transporting visitors across centuries.As you pass through the grand Bab-ı Hümayun, the main entrance, a world of captivating wonders unfurls before you. Embark on a journey through time as you explore the various sections within the palace, each offering a glimpse into the authentic essence of Ottoman history. From the intriguing Harem to the prestigious Divan-ı Hümayun, the enlightening Enderun School to the esteemed Has Room, every step you take immerses you deeper into the annals of the past.Step into Topkapi Palace and allow its regal halls to guide your discovery, as you uncover the rich heritage of the Ottoman Empire, and forge an unbreakable connection with Istanbul's storied past.
Largest Mosque: Suleymaniye Mosque
The Suleymaniye Mosque, constructed between 1551-1558 by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan under the commission of Suleiman the Magnificent, is considered one of the most notable examples of Ottoman architecture. Often referred to as Sinan's masterpiece, this mosque is situated in the Eminönü neighborhood within the historical peninsula of Istanbul. The mosque covers an area of 6,000 square meters and its meticulous and captivating design attracts not only visitors but also families who come for picnics and sightseeing.The mosque features four minarets, symbolizing Suleiman's status as the fourth sultan following the conquest of Istanbul. Additionally, the ten balconies on the minarets represent his position as the tenth sultan in Ottoman history. The mosque's garden offers a magnificent view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, allowing visitors to admire Istanbul from a wide angle, spanning from the Galata Tower to the Bosphorus Bridge.While exploring the mosque, make sure to visit the tombs of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hürrem Sultan located within the garden.
Oldest Neighborhood: Saraçhane
Saraçhane holds the distinction of being the first neighborhood established in Ottoman Istanbul, and it served as the foundation for the present-day Fatih district. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror founded the neighborhood in 1475, making it significant as the inaugural Ottoman neighborhood established after the conquest of Istanbul. Saraçhane played a vital role in the Ottoman economy, housing inns, baths, schools, and bazaars, and serving as a prominent trade and industrial center for centuries. Notably, the neighborhood was home to architectural treasures such as the Bozdoğan Arch and Şehzade Mosque, exemplifying the richness of Ottoman architecture.
The Biggest Church: St. Anthony Catholic Church
Originally constructed in 1725 by the Italian community in Istanbul, St. Anthony Church holds the distinction of being the largest Catholic church in Turkey. It was later demolished and rebuilt on the same site. Situated on the renowned Istiklal Street in the Beyoglu district, the church continues to be a significant tourist attraction, drawing visitors from various backgrounds.The church features a facade made of red brick stones, adorned with mosaics up to a certain height, and spans 38 meters in width. It welcomes visitors on Sundays at 10:00 and remains open from 08:00 to 19:00 on Mondays and Saturdays. To reach the church, one can follow the road from Galatasaray Square towards the tunnel.
The Oldest Building in Istanbul: The Obelisk
The Obelisk, also known as the Theodosius Column, holds the title of being the oldest known structure in Istanbul, with an age of exactly 3568 years. Constructed in 357 BC in Egypt by Pharaoh Tutmosis III, the obelisk is made of granite stone. It is located in Sultanahmet Square, positioned between the Turkish Islamic Museum and the Blue Mosque.In 357, the Roman emperor Constantine II had the obelisk transported to Alexandria to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his reign. Subsequently, in 390, the obelisk was brought to Istanbul by ship and has since welcomed visitors in Sultanahmet Square, radiating its splendor throughout the ages.
Oldest Bath: Balat Bath
The bathhouse in Balat, Fatih is known as the oldest bathhouse in Istanbul. One of the most prominent buildings of Fatih, it is estimated to have been built during the reign of Bayezid II or Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The bath, which consists of two separate parts as women's and men's sections, has a rectangular plan. You can visit the Turkish bath, which is currently owned by the person, and choose it as a calm and relaxing stop to witness history.