Notwithstanding the political instabilities that plague the Middle East, Turkey has been able to sustain a relatively calm and stable environment amid all the chaos and raging wars. Turkey’s geographical location renders it as an interesting place to visit. It neither falls in the Middle East proper, nor it is completely European like it’s neighboring Balkans.
And what can be any other example of Turkey being a nation of cultural crossroads than its capital Istanbul? Located on the Strait of Bosporus, Istanbul is considered as a gateway to Europe and is a unique blend of Turkish, Christian Greek/Byzantine, Armenian, Balkan, Persian and Kurdish cultures.
If you are a lover of cultural richness and history, Istanbul has more than enough to offer you to quench your thirst. Fortunately, the city has enough places of cultural interest and historical significance that you can visit with your children. If you are planning a two-week trip to Istanbul, you can easily cover up these twenty places of interest in the city will satisfy your urge to experience the cultural richness Turkey has to offer.
When planning a trip to Istanbul, do not forget to add these twenty places in your itinerary. here are the 20 Best Places to Visit in Istanbul with Kids & Family:
20. Hagia Sophia Mosque
Currently known by its Turkified Islamic name ‘Aya Sufiya’ Mosque, it was originally built as a Byzantine Greek Orthodox church by Emperor Justinian I in 537 A.D. and converted into a mosque after the city of Constantinople, as it was known then fell to Ottoman Turkish invasion. The Mosque is 55 meters in height and still retains its late antiquity Greek architecture.
19. The Grand Bazaar
Began in the mid-fifteenth century by Sultan Mehmet II to facilitate textile trade in the capital, the Grand Bazaar is truly grand in its enormity and has become a tourist attraction due to its historical roots. Filled with shops selling exotic Turkish and Middle Eastern goods such as jewelry, carpets, leather goods, fabrics and even spices, Grand Bazaar was once one of the main trading hubs for goods being transported from Arabia and Persia to Europe and vice-versa.
18. Suleymaniye Mosque
Built by the popular Sultan Suleyman The Magnificent from 1550 to 1557, the mosque has withstood numerous events of destruction ranging from a fire in the 18th century to structural collapse. The Suleymaniye Mosque was modeled on the Hagia Sophia and served as an Islamic seminary and a Caravan Serai or a place of rest for traveling traders.
17. Beylerbey Palace
Built by Sultan Abdul Aziz between 1861 and 1865, it was built as a summer resort for the Turkish Royal Family and their guests. Many prominent personalities have visited and stayed in the palace over the decades. Sultan Abdelhamid II, the last Ottoman Sultan, spent his final days in the palace until his death in 1918.
16. Sakip Sabanci Museum
If you are a connoisseur of fine arts, you should not miss visiting here. This private museum is a repository for finest Turkish arts especially the well-known Islamic calligraphy art that is a characteristic of the early modern Turkish art. Besides, you will also find Turkish and Persian miniature paintings here.
15. Obelisk of Theodosius
The existence and location of this monument are extremely unbelievable. Originally built by the Pharaoh Thutmose III of the 18th dynasty in Egypt in 15th century BC, Emperor Constantius II transported it along the Nile, all the way to Constantinople to be put on display to celebrate and commemorate his 20-year rule in 357 AD. Made of red granite and standing 30 meters tall, and is known as the Dikilitas in Turkish.
This fort was built between 1393 and 1394, commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I during the siege of Constantinople. The fort was built on the narrowest strait of Istanbul which is only 660 meters wide. The fortress was built initially as a watch tower, it stands 25 meters tall and can be clearly seen during a ferry ride of the Strait.
13. Galata Bridge
The bridge was built towards the end of the 19th century and is considered as one of the symbols of Turkey ushering in the modern era coinciding the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The bridge spans across the Golden Horn in Istanbul and is the successor to many bridges that were built here over the ages.
12. Republic Monument
As the name suggests, the monument is dedicated to the founding of Republic of Turkey in 1915 and was built in the year 1928 and designed by architect Pietro Canonica. Standing 11 meters tall, the monument depicts Mustafa Kemal Pacha Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey standing with his comrades, facing northwards. It signifies the struggles in modernizing the Turkish Republic from the clutches traditionalism.
The Buyukada area is basically two hills, between which lies the church of Agios Nikolaos. The Buyukada area is home to various historical buildings such as Hagia Yordi Greek Orthodox Church, Agios Dimitrios Church, Hamidiye Mosque. Leon Trotsky, the popular Marxist intellectual in early Soviet Russia, spent some of his time here after being deported from his home country.
10. Ortakoy Mosque
Built in the year 1854 by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid, it was the successor to one built in 1721 by the son-in-law of the Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, which was destroyed in the Patrona Halil revolt. The mosque was designed by a father and son pair of Armenian architects. The mosque exemplifies the edifice lacking semi-circular dome architecture seen in many other mosques in Istanbul.
9. Gulhane Park
The Gulhane Park is considered as one of the main monuments that signify the reforms that were a part of the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1915. The first statue of Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk was erected in the park and was sculpted by German artist Heinrich Krippel. Interestingly, it has replicas of medieval scientific inventions related to fields such as astronomy, geography, mathematics, surveying, optics, and others.
8. Topkapi Palace
Constructed six years after the capturing of Constantinople in 1459, by Mehmet The Conqueror, it has been a place of residence for the Royal Family from 1478 to 1853. The Palace is divided into six parts, namely, four courtyards, the Harem, and the outer gardens. This is the most important monument to see during your Istanbul trip. You may have to reserve a whole day to see and appreciate it.
7. Walls of Constantinople
Built between the fourth and fifth centuries by various Byzantine emperors, starting with emperor Septimius Severus, the wall was built as a demarcation of the city limits of Constantinople and to protect it from invading armies. The city has gone through several restorations over the ages. The wall has a lot of history behind it, including the various wars and invasions that it has seen from various invading armies from Asia and Europe.
6. Pera Museum
The Pera Museum is not exactly a historical monument but is rather any symposium dedicated to oriental arts. The museum was built in the year 2005 and has many paintings and ceramic artifacts. Most importantly, it has paintings by renowned Turkish and European artists from the early to mid-twentieth centuries.
5. Beyazit Square
Also known as the freedom square of Hurriyet Meydani in Turkish, it is located in the place of the Forum of Theodosius built by Constantine The Great. The square is a place of many political protests, massacres, one terrorist attack and the hanging of fifteen Armenian freedom fighters who were executed publicly.
4. Turku Zoo
Opened in the year 2009, the zoo and aquarium are one of the modern wonders of Istanbul. It has several varieties of sea creatures, especially those found in the nearby Mediterranean waters. Considered as one of the largest aquariums in Europe, the Turkua Zoo is a must watch site if you have your kids with you on the trip.
3. Yildiz Palace
Rather than a palace, this place is a vast area consisting of Ottoman pavilions and villas constructed for the Ottoman aristocracy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The palace was also the residence of the Ottoman Sultan and his courtiers in the ending days of the Ottoman Empire. Designed by the architect Raimondo D-Aronco, the Palace is one of the prime examples of the European contribution to Ottoman buildings in the nineteenth century. The Palace also consists of a museum and a porcelain factory in its area of which the porcelain factory was built to serve the cutlery needs of the Royal Family.
2. Galata Tower
This medieval tower built of stone in the year 1348 AD, it stands tall with a height of 66.90 meters and is one of the important medieval buildings that were built in the ending years of the preceding Byzantine Empire. Built as the Christea Turris by the Genoese in the 14th century with their expansion into the Constantinople, it is located in the Galata quarters of the city.
1. Istanbul Archaeological Museums
It consists of three museums, namely, the Archaeological Museum, The Museum of Ancient Orient and Museum Islamic Art, which house the respective artifacts and exhibits according to their titles. The museums give you a detailed glimpse in the prehistoric, ancient/antiquity and Ottoman periods of the city.
We hope this exhaustive list of twenty locations to visit in Istanbul help you for your fifteen-day trip.