The fact that Istanbul straddles the East and the West, as well as its being a major historic spot, means that there are a number of interesting archeological sights in the city. What’s even better is that what you will see are not ruins but restored, even pristine, examples of Istanbul archeology. Some sights, like Constantine’s walls, admittedly only have remnants of its past glory, but most of the sights will surprise you with its splendor and majesty.
If you have an interest in archeology, the first place you should visit is the Sultanahmet Area, where most of the famous Istanbul sights are located. The area sits squarely on what is called the Golden Horn.
Here are some of the places of interest you will see there:
– Hagia Sofia
This marvelous specimen of the glory that was Constantinople is a fascinating shade of pink. This color is even more amazing when the setting sun casts the last fading rays of light upon it. The Hagia Sophia started out as a patriarchal basilica, turned into an Islamic mosque and later, to stop all arguments about whose church it was, it was converted into a museum. It wields a huge unsupported dome. It is home to a jaw-dropping collection of holy relics – among them a 15-meter high silver iconostasis. You will also find exquisite examples of stained glass windows, mosaics, paintings, chandeliers, a massive marble door and a number of minarets.
– The Blue Mosque
Near the Hagia Sophia, you will find the Sultanahmet Camii, or the Blue Mosque. It was built as an answer to the Hagia Sophia, with a massive dome, supported by smaller domes, along with six minarets. The main claims to fame are the Blue Iznik tiles that are highlighted by the stained glass windows. Before entering through the worshippers’ entrance, you will find several water fountains, where the men can perform their ablutions, cleansing themselves before they pray. Visitors are to enter through a separate entrance behind the mosque. Remember to wear a head scarf (for ladies), as well as remove your shoes prior to entering the mosque.
– The Istanbul Archaeological Museum
This museum houses an astonishing collection of Turkey’s treasures. Examples of the artifacts you will find there are the art works from the Roman and Greek civilizations, as well as other Anatolian societies. You will also find the sarcophagi of notable people – that of Alexander the Great, the Mourning Ladies and others. The collections include some 15,000 artifacts harking from the time of the Ancient Mesopotamians up until the Pre-Islamic Arabic peoples. The building was designed and built by the architect Vallaury, with the help of Osman Hamdi Bey, a famous Turkish painter.
Opening Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays to Sundays.
Address: Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu, Gulhan, Eminonu
– Anatolian Fortress (Anadoluhisari)
Located on the Asian side, this is a castle that harks back to the 14th century. It was a fortress built by the Sultan Yildirim Bayezit as part of his campaign to conquer Istanbul. It stands directly on the ruins of a temple built in Zeus’ name. The castle itself was built in 1395. It is now an open air museum with access to the outside walls only.
Opening Hours: Daily
Address: Anadoluhisari, Beykoz
– Rumeli Fortress
This fortress took only four months to build, upon the command of Sultan Mehmet in 1452. It figured in the conquest of Constantinople and played an important role in enabling the Ottomans to finally take the Byzantine capital for themselves. It sits on the Bosphorus Strait. It has suffered from several earthquakes but has since been restored. It is now an open-air museum, where you can find performances such as concerts and dramatic shows, especially during the summers.
Opening Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays to Tuesdays
Address: Yahya Kemal Caddesi No. 42, Rumelihisari – Sariyer
Other areas of interest include:
– The City Walls: The earliest foundations of the city walls hark back to the 5th century A.D. and were further enlarged by succeeding emperors. If only these walls could talk, it can tell us a lot about the sieges and wars it has witnessed. Sadly, some of these walls were destroyed and the materials used to build other structures. The walls had over 50 gates and 300 big towers.
– The Seven Towers dungeons (Yedikule Hisari): This was the home of, to put it lightly, unwilling guests (statesmen and ambassadors were held here as prisoners) and the lions of the Topkapi Palace. Today, it is an open-air museum, with the courtyard serving as the venue for performances and concerts.
– Churches: The churches you can find here include the Saint Anthony Church (the city’s largest), the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Bulgarian Church, the Anglican Church and a number of other churches.
– There are also quite a number of mosques aside from the more famous ones mentioned earlier. There is the Suleiman Mosque, the Eyup Mosque, the Yeni Mosque, the Dolmabahce Mosque, the Fatih Mosque and a whole lot more.
– Other locations of interest include the Beyazit Tower, the Column of Constantine, the Goths Column, the Camlica TV Tower, the Yildiz, Nurretiye, Etfal Hospital and Dolmabahce Clock Towers, the Serpent Column and the Goths Column.