UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Istanbul

By Viator, June 2015

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Located on perhaps the world’s most strategic peninsula, at the crossroads of the Balkans, Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been the capital of both the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire and has been a major player in world events for more than 2,000 years.

It should be no surprise then that this long legacy has produced some astounding architectural works, reflecting the creative genius of both Byzantine and Ottoman architects. In 1985, a number of these treasures were added the UNESCO World Heritage list and designated as the Historic Areas of Istanbul. They include sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Yeni Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Galata Bridge and Suleymaniye Mosque.

The Historic Areas of Istanbul is divided into four zones: the Archaeological Park at the tip of the Bosphorus Peninsula, the Suleymaniye Quarter, the Zeyrek Quarter and the zone of the ramparts. Each zone illustrates a major phase in Istanbul’s history.

Of these, visitors are usually most familiar with Archaeological Park, also know as the ‘Sultanahmet’ district. One could spend days exploring all the riches this area has to offer. Within the archeological park you’ll find the Hagia Sophia, whose vast dome reflects the architectural and decorative expertise of the 6th century Romans, the 17th-century Blue Mosque, the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the Basilica Cistern and the 15th-century Topkapi Palace, former residence of the Ottoman sultans.

A short walk to the west of Sultanahmet, the Suleymaniye Quarter features the 4th century aqueduct of Valens and the Suleymaniye and Sehzade Mosques, constructed under Süleyman the Magnificent in 1550-1557 and designed by the famous imperial architect Koça Sinan. The latter reflect the climax of Ottoman architecture in the 16th century and are some of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in the city.

Adjacent to the Suleymaniye Quarter is the Zeyrek Quarter, whose highlight is the the ancient Pantocrator Monastery, founded under John II Comnenus (1118-43) by the Empress Irene. It once was part of a Byzantine sanctuary consisting of two churches, a chapel and a monastery. Now known as the Zeyrek Mosque, it has fallen into an unfortunate state of disrepair. In addition, the housing around the quarter’s major religious monuments provide a great example of late-Ottoman urban architecture.

The zone of the ramparts covers the area along both sides of the Theodosian land walls, commissioned by Emperor Theodosius II in 413AD. The current layout of the walls is due to modifications made in the 7th and 12th centuries. If you walk uphill from Ayvansaray along Derviszade Sokak and Sishane Caddesi, you can see what remains of the walls. Also in this zone you’ll also find the old church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, now the Kariye Museum, with its magnificent mosaics and paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Tours & Tickets

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4 star rating: Recommended 44 Reviews

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Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 2 days (approx.)

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Troy Day Trip from Istanbul

4 star rating: Recommended 84 Reviews

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Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 16 hours (approx.)

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Istanbul City Tour

4 star rating: Recommended 25 Reviews

See top Istanbul attractions around every corner on a full-day tour of the incredible Sultanahmet neighborhood, where Turkey’s Ottoman and Byzantine empires ...  Read more

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

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Istanbul Super Saver: City Sightseeing Tour plus Turkish Dinner and Show

4.5 star rating: Recommended 63 Reviews

Experience the best of Istanbul on this unforgettable experience that combines two best-selling tours at a saving of 10%! Start with a full-day city ...  Read more

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Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

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Istanbul Small-Group Walking Tour: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar

4 star rating: Recommended 28 Reviews

See all the top Istanbul attractions in one day on this small-group walking tour, led by an expert local guide. Focusing on the Sultanahmet area of this ...  Read more

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

From USD $79.41

The Legends of History Tour: Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

Enjoy this 3.5 hour tour of the most historical and legendary places to visit during your stay in Istanbul.

Location: İstanbul, Turkey
Duration: 3 hours 18 minutes (approx.)

From USD $39.71

Skip the Line: Topkapi Palace Including Süleymaniye Mosque and Ceramics Workshop in Istanbul

4 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

Beat the crowds with skip-the-line entry to Topkapi Palace and visit the serene Süleymaniye Mosque mosque on this half-day Istanbul tour. With a ...  Read more

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $45.38

5-Day Tour of Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale

4 star rating: Recommended 1 Reviews

Enjoy this 5-Day Tour of Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale.

Location: İstanbul, Turkey
Duration: 5 days (approx.)

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Complete Istanbul Topkapi Palace Hagia Sophia Blue Mosque Grand Bazaar

This tour covers highlights of the city along with a traditional Turkish lunch.

Location: İstanbul, Turkey
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)

From USD $170.00

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