Istanbul for a beginner: the best places

Table of contents:

Istanbul for a beginner: the best places
Istanbul for a beginner: the best places

Istanbul is an amazing city with many attractions. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that throughout its history it passed from one empire to another: from Roman to Byzantine, from Byzantine to Ottoman. Consequently, Istanbul received a huge legacy. If you are here for the first time, be sure to check out these places!


The first place you are likely to go is the airport. But there are two airports in Istanbul: one is in the European part, and the other is in the Asian part. Imagine, Istanbul is a city located in both Europe and Asia.

Now there will be a story about the airport of the European part - Sabiha Gokcen Airport. This is the new Istanbul Airport. Previously, the main air harbor was the airport. Ataturk. But, unfortunately, not so long ago it was closed, and in the European part of the city there was only one heavenly berth.

Now Sabiha Gokcen Airport is one of the largest airports in Europe. That is why his visitcan be considered successful.

And to see the rest of the sights from our list, you will need to get to the main historical district of Istanbul - the Sultanahmet district.

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, or the Sultanahmet Mosque, is one of the main attractions of Istanbul. It has six minarets. And immediately an interesting fact: the Sultan wanted the mosque to be golden, but very "attentive" subordinates heard not the word "golden", but "six". Therefore, it has just such a number of minarets.

View of the Blue Mosque
View of the Blue Mosque

One of the main differences between Islam and Christianity: Islam forbids icons. This is considered idolatry. Therefore, instead of icons, the names of God and the prophets are written in mosques.

The Blue Mosque looks great in pictures, but if we look at it in reality, we will be a little disappointed, because it will not work to see everything for two reasons. Firstly, for tourists, the zone is very small, because you will not be allowed to go where they pray. Secondly, the mosque is constantly being restored, and many elements are covered with scaffolding.

And now, not a big life hack: since you have to take off your shoes when entering a Muslim shrine (by the way, women also wear headscarves and skirts), put your shoes in a bag, otherwise you won’t find them later.

Hippodrome Square

Before you go to this square, take a little walk around the area with such houses.

Beautiful Istanbul houses
Beautiful Istanbul houses

Hippodrome Square. Before allthis area was a large hippodrome, that is, a place for horse and chariot competitions. It used to accommodate up to 40 thousand people. Now only three columns remain of it: the Serpent Obelisk, the Column of Constantine and the Egyptian Obelisk.

The most interesting thing is that this hippodrome accommodated more people than Turkey's largest stadium today.

Many valuable materials were stolen by the knights during the Crusades. They were such rascals! This can be seen if you look closely at the column of Constantine.

Also on this square is the monument "German Fountain" (or rather, the source).

A little beauty

If you go through Hippodrome Square towards the Hagia Sophia, you will see a wonderful place. Behind your back should be the Hagia Sophia, in front of you - the Blue Mosque, to your left - Hamam Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska Sultan.

Beautiful view of the Blue Mosque and Hürrem Sultan Hamam
Beautiful view of the Blue Mosque and Hürrem Sultan Hamam

Now you can take photos of extraordinary beauty.

Hagia Sophia

This temple is very ancient. For you to understand, it served for about 1000 years as a temple, about 500 years as a mosque and 84 years as a museum. This building burned down several times (and the remains of the oldest versions lie near the entrance).

Church of Hagia Sophia
Church of Hagia Sophia

To save resources during construction, many columns were brought from other places. For example, from ancient Greek temples.

This place combined two religions into one. After the capture of Byzantium by the Ottoman Empire, this Orthodox church becamemosque. Since icons are forbidden in Islam (idolatry), all Christian frescoes, mosaics and other images were hidden. And now, when Hagia Sophia has become a museum, Islamic shields and Orthodox frescoes are opening up in front of us right in one place.

Church of Hagia Sophia
Church of Hagia Sophia

Inside the cathedral is the Weeping Column, which grants wishes. But during the Ottoman Empire, it was closed, because making wishes in front of some column was considered, again, idolatry. But persistent people, with their fingers and time, made a hole in this skin. Therefore, to make a wish, you need to stick your finger into this hole and scroll it clockwise.

Tip: don't touch this hole. Every day, thousands of tourists stick their fingers in there, so the amount of bacteria there is unthinkable.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace - the place where the whole history of the Ottoman Empire until the 19th century was decided. It was the main residence of the Turkish sultans.

Cannon gate. Topkapi Palace
Cannon gate. Topkapi Palace

By the way, if you watched the series "The Magnificent Century", then you will definitely see the whole story in reality.

In front of the entrance to the first courtyard there is a small building, somewhat reminiscent of our gazebo. These are places for ambassadors. They came and asked to be received by the Sultan. Here they drank water and waited for an answer. If the Sultan accepted them, they went to him, if the Sultan refused them, then they returned back.

Ambassadors' waiting area
Ambassadors' waiting area

Topkapi Palace consists of four courtyards. Everyone was allowed into the first courtyard, and then permission was needed. It’s the same now: anyone can enter the first courtyard, and then you need a ticket.

Now Topkapi is a museum with many different small museums. Therefore, we will talk about some "museums" right away, and we will describe some in more detail.

Museum, which stores all the "relics" of Topkapi. For example, the sword and cloak of the Prophet Muhammad (Muslim shrines). Of course, everything looks incredibly beautiful, but the queue is always so huge that there is a feeling that you will lose several hours in it.

And now in detail about museums.

Museum of Weapons

This museum is also full of beauty. There is no longer a queue. But there is one catch: you can not take pictures. They don’t say this at the entrance, but they will say it at any time when you start taking pictures of something.


Harem is the main place of all intrigues and gossip. Concubines could be of different nationalities and profess different religions. The mother of the Sultan was in charge of the harem. The main happiness of the concubine is to get into the chambers of the Sultan, and then give birth to a boy from him and become his wife.


Entrance to the harem, unfortunately, is not included in the ticket price. Cost: 35 Turkish Lira. Attention! Only Turkish Lira. Neither dollars, nor euros, nor rubles, nor hryvnias are accepted. Lira and bank cards only. So don't forget to bring your card!

And inside you will see everything: the "golden path" to the chambers of the Sultan, and the rooms of the concubines, and their boors, and placesfor all kinds of events.

Reception of the Sultan

This place cannot be called a full-fledged museum, but its importance is very great. It was here that the most important issues of the empire were decided.

There is an inconspicuous crane near the entrance. Water flowed first into one bowl, and then into another, like a fountain. It was turned on during negotiations so that no one would eavesdrop or create gossip.

Beautiful view

On the territory of the fourth courtyard there is a platform overlooking modern Istanbul, the Bosporus and the Golden Horn. Of course, this place cannot be called a museum, but it is worth highlighting.

View of modern Istanbul from the Topkapi courtyard
View of modern Istanbul from the Topkapi courtyard

There are a lot of tourists here, so you will have to wait to take a good selfie.

At the exit from the Topkapi Palace, you should go to the souvenir shop (there is also a toilet). True, most souvenirs cost space money.

Egyptian Bazaar

Egyptian spices used to be sold in this bazaar. Now it's a big bazaar with a variety of choices, from Turkish delight to women's bags.

Worth buying natural Turkish Delight with honey here. It is very tasty. But you don't have to rush to the first store. Walk a few meters from the entrance. There it will cost half as much (no exaggeration).

Do not buy goods in the store right away. Look around, you might find a better option. Don't forget to bargain.

Bosphorus Strait

This strait divides Europe and Asia, as well as Istanbul into two parts: European and Asian. And it connects Black and Marblesea.

Three bridges connect Europe and Asia, each of them was built on the anniversary of an important event of the past.

Houses near the strait cost incredible money. In the Asian part of Istanbul, near the Bosphorus, many Turkish stars live. And from the middle of the Bosphorus, a beautiful view of St. Sophia Cathedral, Topkapi and the Golden Horn Bay opens up.

If you sail along the strait, you will see the Dolmabahce Palace (mid-19th century), many institutes and academies.

Interesting fact

Another interesting fact about Istanbul and all of Turkey in general: Presidential elections are held here every year. Therefore, on the streets of Istanbul you can see the election campaign. Here, during the campaign, the music turns on loudly and people dance.