15 Unmissable Attractions in Istanbul

A precious mosaic from the Theotokos Pammakaristos church
A precious mosaic from the Theotokos Pammakaristos church | © G.dallorto / WikiCommons
When talking about Istanbul’s most important attractions the first things that spring to mind are the popular sights of Sultanahmet such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, and Grand Bazaar. However, Istanbul has so many more sights that shouldn’t be missed after experiencing the usual tourist attractions.

Chora Church

Church, Museum
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The Anastasis fresco inside the Chora Church | The Anastasis fresco inside the Chora Church

Famous for its breathtaking Byzantine frescoes and mosaics that depict the life of Christ and are remarkably well kept, despite the fact that the church-turned-museum was constructed around the 4th century.

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Dolmabahçe Palace

Architecture Museum, History Museum
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The exterior of the very pomp Dolmabahçe Palace | The exterior of the very pomp Dolmabahçe Palace

After inhabiting the Topkapı Palace for more than 400 years, Sultan Adbulmejid I decided to move the court to the grand Dolmabahçe Palace due to its location by the Bosphorus and its more European style of décor and architecture, which was quite popular during that time.

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Atmosphere:

Touristy, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Tue - Wed:
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Fri - Sun:
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Fatih Mosque

Mosque

Known as the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Cami in Turkish, this stunning mosque was named after the Ottoman sultan Mehmed the Conqueror who captured Constantinople in 1453. Built between 1463 and 1470, and later rebuilt in 1771 after a major earthquake, the structure also had a school of traditional Islamic sciences, which was established by the Persian astronomer Ali Qushii.

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Theotokos Pammakaristos

Church
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The mosaics on the roof of the Theotokos Pammakaristos Church | The mosaics on the roof of the Theotokos Pammakaristos Church

Quite the unknown Byzantine church in Istanbul, Theotokos Pammakaristos is a real discovery especially because it has the third-largest amount of beautiful Byzantine frescoes and mosaics after the Chora Church and Hagia Sophia.

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Phanar Greek Orthodox College

School
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The main entrance of the beautiful Phanar Greek Orthodox College | The main entrance of the beautiful Phanar Greek Orthodox College

Rising like a red castle above the historic neighborhood of Balat and Fener, the Phanar Greek Orthodox College still has a few students and harks back to a time when the neighborhood was inhabited by the wealthy Greek Orthodox families of Istanbul.

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Kalendarhane Mosque

Church, Mosque
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The intricate dome of the Kalendarhane Mosque | The intricate dome of the Kalendarhane Mosque

Another beautiful but largely unknown mosque in Istanbul that stands out with its red brick interior, Kalendarhane was originally an Eastern Orthodox church, which was later converted into mosque.

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Beylerbeyi Palace

Museum
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View of the Beylerbeyi Palace's exterior | View of the Beylerbeyi Palace's exterior

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, but its embellished architecture, lavish décor and beautiful garden are very much worth a visit.

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Tue - Wed:
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri - Sun:
9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Ortaköy Cami

Mosque
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The Ortaköy Mosque with its lights on during a gray day | The Ortaköy Mosque with its lights on during a gray day

If you ever crossed the Bosphorus Bridge and took a long gaze at the city, then you probably saw the beautiful Ortaköy Cami, which stands right next to the water’s edge and was built in 1721.

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Zeki Paşa Yalısı

Building

Istanbul’s Bosphorus mansions are very famous and the best way to see them is by taking a boat tour that goes up and down the famous 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 the French architect Alexandre Vallaury and is currently on sale (for quite the price of course).

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Bulgarian St. Stephen Church

Church
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Istanbul's most famous iron church the St. Stephen Church | Istanbul's most famous iron church the St. Stephen Church

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.

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Çağaloğlu Hamam

Health Spa
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The marble main bath hall of the Çağaloğlu Hamam | © Çağaloğlu Hamam

No visit to Istanbul is complete without experiencing the Turkish Bath and the historic Çağaloğlu Hamam is the perfect place to do so because it’s like a journey back in time to the 18th century when the hamam was built.

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Grand Post Office

Building
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The exterior of Istanbul's Grand Post Office | The exterior of Istanbul's Grand Post Office

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.

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Tophane-i Amire

Building
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The domes of the formerly Ottoman Tophane-i Amire | The domes of the formerly Ottoman Tophane-i Amire

The former armory built during the reign of Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, Tophane-i Amire is where cannons and cannonballs were manufactured and also why the neighborhood is called Tophane (dwelling of the cannons). The beautiful structure now serves as an art center run by the Minar Sinan Fine Arts School where exhibitions and events are held frequently.

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Yanaros Mansion

Building
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The beautiful former home of Leon Trotsky overlooking the sea on Büyükada | The beautiful former home of Leon Trotsky overlooking the sea on Büyükada

Even though the Yanaros Mansion on Büyükada has largely surrendered to the forces of nature (but continues to be on sale), 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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