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Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Istanbul

By Viator, January 2018

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Istanbul, the former capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, boasts a fascinating history dating back thousands of years. From ancient ruins to 16th-century masterpieces, here are some of the must-see UNESCO World Heritage–listed sites and landmarks in Istanbul.

Sarayburnu
Sarayburnu is a strategically significant promontory between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Home to the famous Topkapi Palace and Gulhane Park, Sarayburnu attracts visitors keen to admire sweeping views over the coastal scenery.

Topkapi Palace
Fifteenth-century Topkapi Palace was once home to the Ottoman sultans, and today houses one of Turkey’s largest museums. Treasures within include 13th-century Japanese porcelain and weaponry used by the Ottoman army. Topkapi Palace is featured on most Istanbul walking tours.

Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia)
The first Christian cathedral in the Roman Empire, Hagia Sophia dates back to the sixth century. This extraordinary building has played the role of basilica and imperial mosque during its lifetime and today houses a museum. Its interior showcases Byzantine mosaics and marble ornamentation, and shines a light on 10th-century Roman leaders including Emperor Alexander.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Widely known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has been a site of Islamic worship since 1616. With 13 domes and six minarets, the mosque is a standout on the Istanbul skyline. Visitors can explore the mosque on guided tours and admire treasures including the blue Iznik tiles that cover the ceiling.

Hagia Irene
For generations Hagia Irene served as an Eastern Orthodox church, and today is a popular museum and concert hall. It sits within one of Topkapi Palace’s courtyards, behind Hagia Sophia, and hosts to classical music concerts and art exhibitions.

Zeyrek Mosque
Built in the 12th century, the Zeyrek Mosque is a fine example of Byzantine architecture and one of the largest of its kind in Istanbul today. With recessed brickwork, colored marble, and ancient mosaics, the Zeyrek Mosque showcases the architectural styles of Constantinople from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

Suleymaniye Mosque
Designed by acclaimed Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, the Suleymaniye Mosque takes pride of place on the Third Hill. One of the biggest mosques in the city, it was completed in 1558 and still welcomes visitors. Skip-the-line tours allow travelers to bypass the entry lines.

Little Hagia Sophia
Once a Greek Eastern Orthodox church, Little Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque under Ottoman rule. The exterior features architectural techniques attributed to the builders of Constantinople, while the inside of the building boasts a spectacular two-story colonnade with dedications to past emperors and patron-saints.

Walls of Constantinople
These defensive stone walls once encircled Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), helping protect the city from attack. Today, visitors can walk uphill from the Ayvansaray neighborhood to see what remains of the walls. Nearby attractions include the old church of the Holy Saviour in Chora—now the Kariye Museum—with its mosaics and paintings.

Tours & Tickets

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2-Day Cappadocia Tour with Optional Hot Air Balloon Ride, Istanbul, null
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2-Day Cappadocia Tour with Optional Hot Air Balloon Ride

4.5 star rating: Recommended 52 Reviews

Get to know Cappadocia on an action-packed overnight tour! With a one-way flight from Istanbul included, plus hotel accommodation and excursions, the tour ...  Read more

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

From USD $295.00
Troy Day Trip from Istanbul, Istanbul, Multi-day Tours
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Troy Day Trip from Istanbul

4 star rating: Recommended 93 Reviews

Visit the ancient city of Troy and learn about its significance in Greek mythology as the main battlefield in the Trojan War. On the journey from Istanbul, ...  Read more

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

From USD $124.49
5-Day Tour of Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale, Istanbul, Day Trips
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5-Day Tour of Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale

4 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

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

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

From USD $729.00
Istanbul Small-Group Walking Tour: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar, ... 
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Istanbul Small-Group Walking Tour: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar

4 star rating: Recommended 31 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 $88.02
Istanbul City Tour, Istanbul, Walking Tours
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Istanbul City Tour

4.5 star rating: Recommended 28 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.)

From USD $88.02
Istanbul Super Saver: City Sightseeing Tour plus Turkish Dinner and Show, Istanbul, City Tours
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Istanbul Super Saver: City Sightseeing Tour plus Turkish Dinner and Show

4.5 star rating: Recommended 64 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

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)

From USD $155.70
$173.00 Save $17.30
Skip the Line: Topkapi Palace Including Süleymaniye Mosque and Ceramics Workshop in Istanbul, ... 
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Skip the Line: Topkapi Palace Including Süleymaniye Mosque and Ceramics Workshop in Istanbul

4.5 star rating: Recommended 3 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 $50.30
The Legends of History Tour: Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Istanbul, Skip-the-Line ... 
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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 $72.93
Complete Istanbul Topkapi Palace Hagia Sophia Blue Mosque Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, City Tours
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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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