Once the heart of the Ottoman Empire and residing at the convergence of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is rich with history and pristine architecture. No visit to the city is complete without browsing these landmarks.
Get an authentic taste for Istanbul on a guided Old City tour as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated, small-group Turkey adventure, led by our Local Insider.
This palace was the gubernatorial heart of the entire Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s; as a result, it’s, unsurprisingly, the most opulent building in Istanbul, occupying an area of 45,000sqm (484,375sqft) with 285 rooms. Today, it houses two museums, meaning it should be your first port of call if you’re interested in the history of Istanbul.
Exterior design doesn’t get more flooring than with the Fatih Mosque, which pierces the Istanbul skyline with towering spires and that imposing dome. Step inside and you’ll find the tomb of Sultan Muhammad, who conquered the city in 1453, at the age of 22.
Another beautiful but largely unknown landmark, Kalendarhane stands out thanks to the red brick interior and was originally an Eastern Orthodox church. Later, it was converted into a mosque.
One of the many beautiful palaces around Istanbul that served the leisure of the Ottoman sultans, Beylerbeyi is often overlooked because of its location on the Asian side. However, the embellished architecture, lavish décor and beautiful garden make it very much worth a visit.
If you’ve ever crossed the Bosphorus Bridge and taken a long gaze at the city, then you’ve probably seen the beautiful Ortaköy Cami. It stands right next to the edge of the water and was built in 1721.
The best way to see the Bosphorus mansions of Istanbul is by taking a boat tour that goes up and down the strait. On your way past the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, make sure to take a good look at this beautiful mansion that was built by French architect Alexandre Vallaury.
One of the last churches in the world to be made entirely of prefabricated cast iron, the Bulgarian St Stephen Church was recently renovated and revealed to the faithful in all its ornately beautiful glory.
No visit to Istanbul is complete without experiencing the Turkish Bath and the historic Çağaloğlu Hamam is the perfect place to do so.
Many people who wander the historic quarter often walk past this building without a second look, but this gorgeous structure, built by architect Vedat Tek in the style of the First Turkis National architectural movement, is a gem from 1905.
Boza is a traditional Turkish drink made from fermented wheat or millet that is topped with chickpeas and the best place to try it is at Vefa Bozacısı, which has remained largely unchanged since opening in 1876.
A former armoury built during the reign of Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, Tophane-i Amire is where cannons and cannonballs were manufactured; it’s also why the neighbourhood is called Tophane (dwelling of the cannons). The structure now serves as an art centre, run by the Minar Sinan Fine Arts School, where exhibitions and events are held frequently.
Even though the Yanaros Mansion on Büyükada has largely surrendered to the forces of nature, it’s a very important sight due to the fact that it served as the home of Leon Trotsky between the years of 1929 to 1933.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.