List of Top 10 Historical Attractions in Istanbul for First Time Visitors!

Well known worldwide for its touristic attractions, Istanbul caters for all types of tourists.

As a first timer though, there are some attractions that are not to be missed.

According to your touristic taste, you can choose to only pass by these attractions, and take a usual selfie or two. Or, you might decide to visit all the major attractions and know every historical detail.

Whatever you decide, I am providing you with a list of 10 Historical Attractions in Istanbul as a first timer.

Historical Visits

The capital city of three major empires, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul holds history in every corner.

Wandering through Istanbul’s squares, roads, and tiny back streets, one can smell history with every breath.

All you need to do is touch an old stone wall, take in the scene around you, and close your eyes to imagine a full historical scene, be it a battle, a ceremony, or a daily life activity.

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My List of 10 Historical Tourist attractions in Istanbul:

1.Sultan Ahmet Mosque:

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Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Spring

Also known as the Blue Mosque, due to the blue tiles that decorate its walls. The Mosque has 6 minarets. It is a major attraction in Istanbul old city area.

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Inside Walls Decorated with Blue Tiles

You can have your free visit at any time of the day except at prayer time where it is only open for Muslims who enter to pray.

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Sultan Ahmet Mosque at Night

Keep your clothes decent. For women, it is a good idea to wear long clothes and have a jacket and a scarf to cover your hair if you don’t want to use covers that are handed to you at the entrance.

2.Hagia Sofia Museum:

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Also known as Aya Sofia. Originally a Byzantine church, this attraction was turned into a mosque by the Ottomans, and the then into a museum in Modern Turkey.

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Sultan Ahmet Mosque as it appears from one of Hagia Sofia’s Windows

It is facing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul old city.

It holds great historical value, where Christian and Islamic history combines in one place. Christian mosaics and the Islamic world’s largest calligraphic panes stand side to side on the walls of this huge edifice.

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Christian Mosaics and Islamic Calligraphy Side to Side

You can expect a long queue at Hagia Sofia for purchasing the tickets, so better come here early. You can rent an audio guide so that you can wander through the building alone.

3.Topkapı Palace Museum:

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Topkapı Palace Entrance

The residence of the Ottoman Sultans for hundreds of years, this palace showcases their political and private life.

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The place where The Sultans had their Meetings

Present in Istanbul old city, near the Hagia Sofia.

Topkapı Palace Consists of 4 courtyards, the Harem, and the museum.

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Throne Covers Embroidered with Golden Wire and Silk

You can purchase tickets at the entrance and rent an audio guide too.

4.Grand Bazar:

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Crowds Wandering through the Grand Bazar

One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazar resembles a maze. Having 21 entrances, 4000 shops, and 60 covered streets, one can easily get lost.

But don’t worry, it will be fun getting lost in such a vibrant place, where people from all nationalities come together to choose from thousands of products on display.

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Multi-colored Lamps at the Grand Bazar

Be sure to bargain, because bargaining is an important factor in the shopping experience at the Grand Bazar.

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Tea Cups on Display in the Grand Bazar

When planning your itinerary, make sure to exclude the Grand Bazaar from your Sunday program since it closed to the public on this day.

5.Spice Bazar:

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Spices in display at the Spice Bazar

Also known as the Egyptian Bazar. One of this covered market’s entrances is in the Eminonu area. One can pass through the Spice Bazar and then reach the Grand Bazar.

It is specialized with food products especially spices and condiments, and here is where it got it’s name.

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Dried Pepper Pods in the Spice Bazar

When you enter this bazaar you will be welcomed by a combination of scents that will trigger your senses.

Here you can buy spices, nuts, lokum, and many other food products.

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Nuts and Dried Fruits in the Spice Bazar

Note that this bazaar has relatively narrow passages, so be prepared to be driven by huge crowds of people. Locals are plenty in this bazaar where they buy all their food supplies.

6.Süleymaniye Mosque:

This Ottoman Mosque was built on request of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan.

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You can find this mosque in the Old City area, near the Grand Bazar. It could be seen from the sea in the Golden Horn. Halic Metro station is one of the strategic points to have a nice view of this mosque.

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View from Haliç Metro Station

7.Taksim Square:

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Republic Monument in Taksim Square

Found in Beyoglu area, this square holds the Republic Monument. It leads directly to Istiklal Street.

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This area holds many hotels and attracts tourists where they can stay, shop, and eat all in one street.

A new mosque is being constructed in Taksim Square near the Catholic and Orthodox church already present.

8.Galata Tower:

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Galata Tower with the Surrounding Backstreets

Found in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul, this tower is a prominent feature of Istanbul’s skyline.

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This tower served many functions throughout history. Now it serves as a touristic attraction where you can take the lift up and enjoy 360 degrees view of Istanbul. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in its restaurant.

Tickets are available at the door, and you can expect a long queue of tourists waiting to enter.

9.Dolmabahçe Palace:

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Clock Tower at the entrance of Dolmabahçe Palace with a Long Queue of Visitors

This Palace is considered as the new palace for the Ottoman Sultans. It was built in the 1800s and served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire.

The palace is located directly on the Bosphorus. You can view it while on a Bosphorus tour.

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Sea View from Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace is the largest palace in Turkey, and it was built similar to Europian palaces of that era.

It contains the world’s largest chandelier and many valuable furniture. Like the Topkapı Palace, it is divided into several sections and a Harem.

10.Ortaköy Mosque:

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Ortakoy Mosque Viewed during Bosphorus Tour

Built in the 1700s, this mosque was designed in neo-baroque style. It is well noted during a tour in the Bosphorus, and most tourists visit this mosque‘s area since it is very near to the Bosphorus Bridge, and provides magnificent views of the Bosphourous strand.

Need to Know More??

This was my List of 10 Historical Tourist attractions in Istanbul for First Timers. Want to know more?

Check my List of 10 Walks and Strolls in Istanbul!

And why not learn some Turkish words here, so that your visit becomes more fun.

Planning a visit to Istanbul with kids? Check my List of 10 things to do in Istanbul with kids!

Be Interactive!

Would you like to add a historical site to my list? Feel free to leave your comments in the box below.

Follow me on Instagram for more inspiring Istanbul photos. You can find me on Facebook too.

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