The successive capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has been at the centre of major political events for more than 2,000 years. The historic peninsula, surrounded by the waters of the Bosphorus, is home to an array of impressive monuments which bestow glory to the city. Nearly every visit starts with a walk through the historic quarter, recognised by Unesco for the unique architectural masterpieces. From Fatih neighbourhood and beyond, here are the historical sites you can’t afford to miss.
Rumelihisarı, also known as Rumeli Castle, is a fortress occupying roughly 6.5ha (16 acres) of high walls, towers and green surroundings. Situated on the European side of Istanbul, at the narrowest section of the Bosphorus Strait, it was built over the course of four months in 1452 by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in preparation for a final assault on Constantinople and the eventual downfall of the Byzantine Empire. Much of the interior structures have suffered considerable damage after a string of devastating earthquakes hit the city. Today, the site is open to the public as an open-air museum and frequently hosts concerts and performances in its amphitheatre.
The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora is a former Byzantine church and, in more ways than one, can be thought of as the Hagia Sophia’s little sister. Like the Hagia Sophia, it was converted into an Ottoman mosque in the 16th century and later secularized as a museum. Despite the smaller dimensions, it’s no less beautiful. Situated in Erdinekapi district, just outside of the original city walls, the interiors are covered in gorgeous medieval mosaics and frescoes dating back to 1312.