Buildings in Istanbul have been outstanding for ages! Istanbul is a unique city that has hosted many civilizations such as the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul, located at the intersection of Asia and Europe, neither completely bears the traces of Western civilization, nor does it completely carry the traces of Eastern civilization. This unique city contains the cultural heritages of both Eastern and Western civilizations. This multiculturalism undoubtedly affects the city’s architecture.
In this article, we will talk about historical buildings in Istanbul and Istanbul famous buildings from various times in history. Before visiting here, you will have general information by reading our city guide.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous Istanbul buildings! It was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I as a basilica-planned patriarchal cathedral in Istanbul in a short period of 5 years, between the years 532 and 537. After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror converted it into a mosque. Today, it is open to worship as a mosque with its magnificent structure. Hagia Sofia’s length is 82 meters and width is 73 meters. There is no entrance fee!
2. Topkapi Palace
The construction of Topkapi Palace started in 1460 at the request of Fatih the Conqueror after the conquest of Istanbul. The construction was over in about 15 years. Topkapi Palace has multiple architectures. The palace provides living spaces for the sultans with a size of 300,000 m2. This palace is one of the iconic structures of Istanbul, and also the first museum of the Republic of Turkey. Besides, the 2021 entrance fee is 150 TL / 15 USD for foreign visitors and 60 TL / 6.20 USD for local visitors.
3. Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace was started to be built during the reign of Sultan Abdulmejid and opened for use in 1856. One of the most glorious among Ottoman buildings in Istanbul, the palace is located on an area of 110,000 m2, with a magnificent view overlooking the Bosphorus. Dolmabahce Palace, in terms of its architecture, represents one of the Ottoman Empire’s westernization steps. 2021 entrance fees for foreigners are 120 TL / 12 USD and 90 TL / 9.30 USD for Selam and Harem parts of the palace. Also, if you want to visit the museum, you need to pay 200 TL / 20 USD.
4. The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is one of the most important values among Istanbul’s most famous buildings is Sultanahmet Mosque with its splendor and elegance. The mosque, named after the Ottoman Sultan Ahmet, has 16 minaret balconies. The mosque is famous for its blue decorations and its other name is “Blue Mosque”. There are approximately 21 thousand eye-catching Iznik tiles on the walls of the mosque. The 43-meter-high central dome has a diameter of 23.5 meters. 2021 entrance is free of charge!
5. Neve Shalom Synagogue
Neve Shalom Synagogue (Peace Valley in Turkish) in Beyoglu was opened for worship on 25 March 1951. Unlike other synagogues in Istanbul, Jewish rites and weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs, Circumcision, and religious holidays are held in the synagogue which is very active. There is also a museum for the synagogue. By visiting the museum, visitors can see the documents, warrants, edicts on Turkish-Jewish history, special showcases, religious objects, and other historical works. 2021 entrance fee is 45 TL / 4.65 USD for foreigners and 30 TL / 3.10 USD for Turkish visitors.
6. Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square and its surroundings are among the most important points of Istanbul in terms of attracting local and foreign tourists. The historical Sultanahmet Square and its surroundings contain many must-sees. Notable historic buildings in Istanbul such as Hagia Sophia Mosque, Turkish-Islamic Arts Museum, Haseki Bath, Blue Mosque are located in this square. Theodosius Obelisk, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Hagia Irene Museum whose 2021 entrance fee is 80 TL / 8.26 USD for foreigners are also very close to the square.
7. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is one of the other special structures around the historical Sultanahmet Square. The cistern consists of 336 columns and 2 Medusa Statues. The cistern, visited by millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year, was actually a water storage area. The Basilica Cistern is one of the greatest works from the Byzantine period. Basilica Cistern is currently not available to visit by visitors due to restoration works.
8. Galata Tower
Galata Tower was built by the Genoese as a part of the Galata walls during the Byzantine Empire period, in the middle of the fourteenth century, when the Galata district was a Genoese colony. The top floor of the tower, which is one of the symbols of Istanbul, is a restaurant. The visitors can watch the beautiful view here. If you wish, you can sit on the stairs and benches just below and watch Galata instead of Istanbul. 2021 entrance fee is 100 TL / 10 USD.
9. Haydarpasa Railway Station
The construction of the Haydarpasa Railway Station, located on the quay in Kadikoy was initiated in 1906 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan II. Abdulhamid. The station building is actually a classic example of German architecture. Inside the building, there are rooms with large and high ceilings. The building, which has been exposed to many fires throughout its history, is now closed but retains all its splendor on the Asian Side of Istanbul.
10. Istanbul Sapphire
Istanbul Sapphire is the tallest building in Istanbul Turkey. It is the second tallest building in Europe following the Shard Long Bridge. The building has 66 floors in total. The building includes a parking lot, residence, and shopping center for individuals. The car park of the building is located in the 6-floor section under the ground. With the observation terrace on the top floor, the panoramic city view will be right in front of the visitors.
11. Maiden’s Tower
The history of the Maiden’s Tower, which has been the subject of various legends throughout history, dates back to 2,500 years ago. It has survived to the present day by passing through historical periods ranging from Greek to the Ottoman Empire. Following the major restoration in 1833, the Maiden’s Tower took its present form in the Ottoman-baroque architectural style. Maiden’s Tower was as a defense and watchtower. Now it serves as a museum, cafe, and restaurant during the day and as a private restaurant in the evening. Breakfast price is 100 TL / 10 USD per person including the tower entrance fee in 2021.
12. Beylerbeyi Palace
Uskudar Beylerbeyi Palace construction was started in 1861 by order of Sultan Abdulaziz and was inaugurated in 1865. The palace, as a state guest house and the most important Armenian buildings in Istanbul, has 23 rooms and 6 halls. There are two sections in the palace as the haremlik and the selamlik. The appearance of the Baroque style inside and outside of the palace is due to the influence of Western architecture during the construction. 2021 entrance fee 60 TL / 6.20 USD.
13. Erbilginler Yalisi
Erbilginler Mansion is right in front of the cool waters of the Bosphorus. Despite its modest appearance created by its wooden facade, it embodies all the splendid beauty of Istanbul. Erbilginler Mansion in Yenikoy, known as Turkey’s most expensive and the world’s 4th most expensive mansion, has 64 rooms. Among the glorious details that add splendor to the mansion; silk carpets, gold leaf decorations, crystal chandeliers, and Turkish Bath…
14. Chora Church
Chora Church was probably built in the 6th century by Emperor Justiniaus (527-565) on the site of a ruined chapel outside the city. The building, which was destroyed by the destruction of the monastic structures outside the church, draws attention in Eastern Roman art with its architecture, mosaics, and frescoes. It became a mosque in 2020 by the President’s Decision. Moreover, the 2021 entrance fee is free.
15. Grand Bazaar
The history of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul goes back to the period of Mehmet the Conqueror, in the middle of the 15th century. The Grand Bazaar, which is not only the oldest but also the largest shopping center in the world, is on an area of 45,000 square meters and includes approximately 3,600 shops. Here you can find everything from carpets to bags, from textiles to gold and silver jewelry, from antiques to tiles and souvenirs that will keep your memories alive forever. Additionally, the 2021 Entrance to the Grand Bazaar is free of charge.
How is the Architecture of Istanbul?
Istanbul has been a popular settlement since prehistoric times due to its special geographical location. The city has also served as the capital of great states such as Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire in the historical process. That is why there are several magnificent monumental structures in the city.
Over time, the natural and architectural environment has created a unique cultural landscape. The historical peninsula silhouette which is the proof of the image of today’s Istanbul is actually integrity that has survived many changes over time and carries the traces of different periods and different cultures in Istanbul’s history. You can learn more about the architecture of Istanbul here.
How Do Historical Buildings Affect Architecture of Istanbul?
Eastern Roman architecture is a combination of Ancient Greek and Eastern architectural styles. The most important architectural work in the city during this period is Hagia Sophia, which is much wider and higher than the previous churches. Many churches of the period such as Hagia Sophia, cisterns, aqueducts, Galata Tower and Tekfur Palace have survived to the present day.
After the conquest of Istanbul, the reconstruction works started quickly by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, and many churches turned into mosques. Topkapi Palace, Fatih Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and madrasas were built during this period and Istanbul became the capital of the state. With the migrations from Anatolia, the first Turkish neighborhoods and Turkish houses were formed in the city.
In the Ottoman Period, as in the Byzantine Period, there were stone and brick public buildings to make them permanent, while the houses were usually wooden. The houses, which have three types as single-story, two-story and wide and large are generally rectangular and built with oak wood.”
The European style, which is the result of the developing commercial and diplomatic relations with Europe in the 18th century, affected architecture as well as social life and clothing. As a result, more ornate and ostentatious structures in the European baroque style affected the architecture of Istanbul.
While aesthetic masonry buildings increased in Beyoglu at the beginning of the 20th century, such buildings began to rise in a few places such as Sirkeci and Gumussuyu. Now Istanbul was completing a mosaic with its magnificent mosques, palaces, buildings, first apartments, mansions, and modest houses bearing traces of different civilizations.
How Do Buildings Affect Everyday Life in Istanbul?
Urban and architectural structures that show continuity despite changes and transformations also have an important place in the historical identity of Istanbul, which should be preserved with great care. With its dynamic structure and ever-increasing population, Istanbul hosts new housing projects every day. Furthermore, districts such as Fener and Balat are being renovated or restored through urban transformation projects.
Villas with sea view, short-story buildings with a forest view, or skyscrapers with city view… Life is getting easier in Istanbul, with smart home systems added. Thus, everyday life in Istanbul becomes easier, renewed, and revitalized. Finally, you can read more about living in Turkey here.