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Basilica of Hagia Sophia 

Basilica of Hagia Sophia The Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), now called the Ayasofya Museum, is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its immense dome rises 55 meters above the ground and its diameter spans 31 meters. Linger here to admire the building’s majestic serenity as well as the fine Byzantine mosaics.

The Archeological Museums are found just inside the first court of the Topkapı Palace. Included among its treasures of antiquity are the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus and the facade of the Temple to Athena from Assos. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays artefacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assynan, Hatti and Hittite civilizations.

Rumeli Hisari Rumeli Hisari, or European Fortress, was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 prior to his capture of Constantinople (Istanbul). Completed in only four months, it is one of the most beautiful works of military architecture in the world. In the castle is the Open-Air Museum amphitheater that is the site for some events of the Istanbul Music Festival.

Originally built in the 15th century as a kiosk, or pavilion, by Mehmet the Conqueror, the Çinili Köşk, which houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains beautiful l6th-century specimens from Iznik and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman pottery and tiles.

Like the Ayasofya Museum, the St. Irene Museum was originally a church. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Istanbul. Constantine commissioned it in the fourth century and Justinian later had the church restored. The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple.

The dark stone building that houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art was built in 1524 by the Grand Vizier to Süleyman the Magnificent, Ibrahim Paşa, as his residence. It was the grandest private residence ever built in the Ottoman Empire. Today it holds a superb collection of ceramics, metalwork, miniatures, calligraphy, textiles, and woodwork as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world.

Across the street from the Ibrahim Paşa residence is the Museum of Turkish Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey.

Near Hagia Sophia is the sixth-century Byzantine cistern known as the Yerebatan Sarnıcı. Three hundred and thirty-six massive Corinthian columns support the immense chambers fine brick vaulting.

The Mosaic Museum preserves in situ exceptionally fine fifth and sixth-century mosaic pavements from the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors. (Open every day except Tuesday).

Jesus ( Chora ) The Kariye Museum, the 11th-century church of ‘St. Savior” in the Chora complex, is, after Hagia Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Constantınople. Unremarkable in its architecture, inside, the walls are decorated with superb 14th-century mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigour of Byzantine art. In restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church you can enjoy tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from the city’s hectic pace.

The Aviation Museum in Yeşilköy traces the development of flight in Turkey.

In the Military Museum the great field tents used by the Ottoman armies on campaigns are on display. Other exhibits include Ottoman weapons and the accoutrements of war. The Mehter Takımı (Ottoman military band) can be heard performing Ottoman martial music between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.

Atatürk’s former residence in Şişli now serves as the Atatürk Museum and displays his personal effects.

The grand imperial caiques used by the sultans to cross the Bosphorus are among the many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history that can be seen at the Naval Museum located in the Beşiktaş district.

Also in Beşiktaş is the Museum of Fine Arts that houses Turkish paintings and sculptures from the end of the 19th century to the present. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday).

The City Museum, located within the gardens of the Yıldız Palace, preserves and documents the history of Istanbul since the Ottoman conquest. Also within the gardens are the Yıldız Palace Theatre and the Museum of Historical Stage Costumes, with its richly decorated scenery and stage, and its exquisite costumes.

The Rahmi KOC Industry Museum, in the suburb of Hasköy on the coast of the Golden Horn, was an Ottoman-period building, formerly called Lengerhane, for iron and steel works. Today it houses exhibits on industrial development.

Up the Bosphorus in the picturesque suburb of Büyükdere, the collections of the Sadberk Hanım Museum fill two charming 19th century wooden villas. A private museum which originally displayed only Turkish decorative arts, it has recently been expanded for a new collection of archaeological finds.

For something different try the Caricature and Cartoon Museum in Fatih on Atatürk Boulevard under the Bozdoğan Aqueduct in the 16th century Gazanfer Ağa Medrese.

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Last modified: JUNE 20,  2013