Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia © Brian Suda - Flickr

6 of the best Istanbul landmarks

This must-see city has attractions and wonders aplenty, but where do you go when you're short on time and don't want to miss a thing?



World-renowned mosques, unmatchable cuisine credentials, steamy hamams and a bazaar like no other, you may have your checklist ready for a weekend in Istanbul, but don't go anywhere before you've seen our list of unmissable attractions the city has to offer.

Blue Mosque

bluemosqueBlue Mosque © Tim Moffatt - Flickr

The Blue Mosque sits across from Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome. Also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the structure is famous for housing over 20,000 blue İznik-style tiles as well as intricately-designed stained glass windows. Built from 1609 to 1616 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I, the Blue Mosque remains a popular mosque to this day. www.bluemosque.co

Related: Top alternative tours in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace

topkapiTopkapi Palace © Fred Bigio - Flickr

The primary residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, Topkapı Palace is a royal complex featuring four courtyards and numerous buildings. Construction for the palace began in 1459 and continued with additions over the centuries. Today, the Palace serves as a museum, with collections of porcelain, weaponry, Ottoman and Islamic art, as well as treasures and jewellery. www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr

Related: Nişantaşı, Istanbul: a guide

Hagia Sophia

hagiasophiaHagia Sophia © MiGowa - Flickr

One of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks, Hagia Sophia is best known for its massive dome, considered the crowning achievement of Byzantine architecture. Constructed in 537 as a Christian patriarchal basilica during the reign of Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia briefly served as a Roman Catholic cathedral and was later converted into a mosque following the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453. A museum since 1935, Hagia Sophia welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world each year. www.hagiasophia.com

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Tiled Kiosk

tiled-kioskTiled Kiosk © David Haskiya - Flickr

Located along the outer walls of Topkapı Palace, the Tiled Kiosk was built in 1472 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. The Kiosk served as the Ottoman Imperial Museum from 1875 to 1891 before being converted into a museum displaying Anatolian tiles and pottery works. The Tiled Kiosk is currently open for visits as part of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. www.istanbul.com/thetiledkiosk

Related: Istanbul's best restaurants for Turkish cuisine

Dolmabahçe Palace

dolmabahcepalaceDolmabahçe Palace © Dennis Jarvis - Flickr

Dolmabahçe Palace was constructed in the mid-19th century during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I and served as the Empire’s administrative centre for 44 years. The structure reflects a combination of Ottoman architecture with Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical influences. Dolmabahçe Palace is best known amongst Turkish people as the place where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk passed away in 1938. www.dolmabahcepalace.com

Related: Where to go running in Istanbul

Galata Tower

galatatowerGalata Tower © Diego Albero Román - Flickr

An iconic element of the Istanbul skyline, the Galata Tower was originally constructed by the Genoese as a watchtower in 1348. Following the Conquest of Constantinople, it was later used as a dungeon, an observatory, a fire lookout tower and famously the site of an aviation experiment by Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi. Today, the Galata Tower is a popular observation deck. www.galatakulesi.org

1 Hagia Sophia
2 Blue Mosque
3 Topkapi Palace
4 Tiled Kiosk
5 Dolmabahçe Palace
6 Galata Tower