Although Istanbul is a major business centre, it is also an important tourist destination.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or The Blue Mosque
One of the most prominent sights is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sutanahmet Camii), which is famous for its six minarets and its immense dome. The Mosque is also known as The Blue Mosque. The colour does not refer to the exterior but to the interior design on the Mosque where over 20.000 blue and white tiles decorate the dome and upper walls.
Even today the Mosque serves as one of the main mosques in Istanbul and worshippers visit it regularly to pray.
The Hagia Sophia
Close by is the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya). Originally, this was a Greek Orthodox basilica and the name meant ‘Holy Wisdom’. Later it became an Imperial mosque and then in 1935 it became a museum. Today it is open to all visitors. However, in recent years there have been discussions to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. Many Turks are divided as to whether they support such plans.
The Topkapı Palace
Not far from the Hagia Sophia is the Topkapı palace (Topkapı Sarayı), formerly the official court of the Ottoman Empire. Today it is a museum and well worth a visit as its opulent rooms, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem provide a fascinating glimpse into a era. The stories from 1001 Nights come to life in the corridors and chambers of the Palace. Here you can imagine the exotic lives of the Sultans, the intrigues of the courtiers, the Harem full of concubines. Although fantasies of the Harem still abound, in reality the Harem represented the imperial family quarters, and every detail of Harem life was governed by tradition and ceremony.
The Pera Palace Hotel
The hotel was built in 1892 as a railway hotel to offer accommodation to passengers of the Orient Express. It is located in a part of Istanbul that was once known as “Little Europe”. In fact, the hotel is often referred to as “the oldest European hotel of Turkey”.
The hotel is in walking distance of several of Istanbul’s most famous places of interest, such as Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square. It also overlooks the Golden Horn.
The Golden Horn and the old walled city
The Golden Horn is a narrow inlet or bay at the point where the Bosphorus meets the Marmara Sea. It is about 8 km long and about 200 to 700 metres wide.
To the south of this inlet you can find the Historical Peninsula with the old walled city, which was the site of ancient Byzantium and later Constantinople. Although the name Istanbul had been used for a long time, it only became the official name of the city in 1930.