Istanbul, the pearl of the Byzantine Empire once known as Constantinople, was the home of the Ottoman Sultans. Placed between Europe and Asia, with the magnificent Bosphorus Bridge connecting the two, it was the ancient city that prospered.
Currently, it is home to a number of architectural marvels, with dome and minarets dominating the skyline. Its narrow cobbled streets lined with quaint old wooden houses, the deep blue waters of the Sea of Marmara glittering, the graceful curve of the Golden Horn, flicker the bright lights.
Foundations of Istanbul’s Architecture
It is an ancient city, originally founded by the Greeks in the seventh century BC. In the fourth century AD, it became Constantinople, capital of a Byzantine Christian world which kept the warriors of Islam from Western Europe for several centuries, before finally falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The relics of these two great powers stud the old quarter, from the mighty Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya), through to the splendid pavilions of the fulcrum of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapı Palace.
Istanbul’s Architecture of Food and Drink
Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments, but İstanbul factors a lot more into the equation. This vibrant, inclusive and expanding community is full of people who work and party hard, treasure family and friendships, and have no problem melding tradition and modernity in their everyday lives. Joining them in their favourite haunts – çay bahçesis (tea gardens), kahvehans (coffeehouses), meyhanes (Turkish taverns) and kebapçıs (kebap restaurants).
Istanbul’s Architecture in Sultanahmet
The cluster of jaw-dropping buildings in Sultanahmet – Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapı Palace and the Basilica Cistern – makes the area somewhere architecture buffs could happily spend days.
For Istanbulites, the Süleymaniye Mosque is the true gem of the old city skyline. More so than Hagia Sophia, and the ‘Blue Mosque,’ it is Süleymaniye that truly represents Istanbul’s favourite architect, and the height of Ottoman greatness in the city. Sinan is the Michelangelo of the East, (he even helped design the Taj Mahal), and was the court’s resident architect and civil engineer for the span of three different Sultan’s reigning periods.
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Buildings to Visit in Istanbul