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10 Istanbul Sights Every Traveller Must See

Istanbul has many attractions including towering minarets, underground Byzantine cisterns and steamy bathhouses, but which one's should be top of your travel list?

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10. Galata Tower

Wikipedia - / Via

If there is ever a city that cries out to be viewed from an elevated vantage point it'd be Istanbul, and where better to get a bird's-eye view of everything from the balcony at the top of the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu, a modern part of old Istanbul.

It may seem strange but the tower is a key monument in aviation history as it was from the Galata Tower that the first ever intercontinental flight, by crossing the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia, took place in 1638.

9. Chora Church

Exterior of the Chora Church - / Via

Okay so this one is a bit of a walk to get to but the restored Chora Church in the old city walls it worth the effort. Offering a stunning glimpse of late Byzantine splendour, its walls and ceilings adorned with glittering mosaics and beautiful frescoes. Like Hagia Sophia, it's had an interesting past changing from Byzantine church to Ottoman mosque to modern museum, and now stands in a neighbourhood of restored pastel coloured Ottoman wooden houses.

8. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

Housed in what was originally the palace of Ibrahim Pasha, a favourite grand vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, and overlooking the Hippodrome where chariot racing gave Byzantine residents their regular passionate sport.

7. Süleymaniye Mosque

Newly restored to its original splendour, the mosque designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan for Suleiman the Magnificent is generally regarded as the finest of the 42 surviving mosques he designed for Istanbul. Unusual is the news that it retains much of the original complex of social buildings that came attached to it such as a hospital, a library and a hamam.

6. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam / Via

The spectacular 16th-century Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam right in Sultanahmet Square is one of several magnificent steamy Ottoman bathhouses to choose from in the city. Designed for Suleiman the Magnificent's wife Roxelana the stupendous domes, the bathhouse offers massages fit for a sultan. Even the most uptight traveller will come out as relaxed as humanly possible.

5. Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Istanbul's three-in-one equivalent of the British Museum, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum is a great family friendly attraction. A must see is the glorious pentelic marble sarcophagus of Alexander the Great along with the accompanying cinema which depicts scenes from the life of Alexander the Great in vivid 3D.

4. Blue Mosque

Though not technically blue, the early 17th-century Blue Mosque is one of only a handful of mosques in the world to boast six minarets. To view it at it's finest (at least in my opinion), enter via what looks like the side entrance from the Hippodrome.

3. Topkapi Palace / Via

If there is one absolute must-see in Istanbul, it has to be the Topkapi Palace, home to generations of sultans and their wives, who were closeted in the famous harem. To avoid the worst of the crowds, try to visit on a day when there are no cruise ships in town.

2. Hagia Sophia / Via

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum. Experiencing the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous piece of architecture is hard to overstate. Arguably one of the most spectacular sights in Europe, it is certainly a must see for those travelling to Istanbul.

1. Basilica Cistern / Via

A strangely romantic attraction, the Basilica Cistern, shows travellers the complicated system that once brought Istanbul's source of drinking water into the city. Now fitted with lights and music, the sixth century cistern was largely forgotten for centuries. A must see!

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