This transcontinental city makes up Turkey’s economic, cultural, and historical heart. Founded around 660 BCE, this city is one of the most significant cities in history as it has been ruled by the Roman, the Byzantine, the Latin, and the Ottoman empires—with that kind of history, it should come as no surprise that Istanbul has some of the most beautiful and important historical attractions in the world.

Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya

The Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. This Greek-Orthodox-basilica-turned-mosque-turned-museum served as architectural inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques and is an important monument for both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Located in the European part of the city, the Sultanahmet area to be exact, it is just a short walk from most hotels and close to nearby Topkapi Palace. The beautiful mosaics on location are enchanting, while the great dome in the centre is unmistakably impressive. In fact, these mosaics are commonly used as fantastic insight and knowledge about mosaic art during the time of its creation. The walls above the galleries and base of the dome are styled with windows that give the effect of the dome floating on air. This beautiful mosque will surely be the highlight of your trip.

Topkapi Palace

This sprawling palace was the primary residence for Ottoman sultans for over 400 years of their 600 year reign. With a colourful history, learning about this palace will be more fun than your average museum tour. First you will pass through the gates and get an up-close view of the Palace’s beautiful exterior and then you’ll move through the four courts and the Harem. Once inside, the decorations and design of the palace will spark your imagination about the days when powerful rulers roamed the very corridors you are walking through.

Blue Mosque

Otherwise known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this romantic piece of history is most notable for the blue tiles adorning its exterior, hence the name. Located right in Old Istanbul, it is one of the top sights in the city. This is a working mosque and as such, it may be difficult for visitors to see the inside of the Mosque. It is closed to non-worshippers for 45 minutes before the call to prayer and 30 minutes afterwards. However, outside these times, they offer free admission to the mosque.

Istanbul Archaeology Museum

While visiting the grounds of Topkapi Palace, head over to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum which offers visitors a remarkable look into the city’s past, including structures from the Ottoman period, the peace treaty from 1269, and even a model of a Trojan horse that the kids will love. This group of three museums houses the main building, the museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. You can see the Alexander Sarcophagus, believed to once have been prepared for Alexander the Great. The sarcophagus is worth visiting though you may have to wait a little for the area to clear—it is one of the most famous pieces in the museum.

People often tag Istanbul as the most exciting city in all of Turkey, and after reading the list above, it isn’t hard to see why the city often catches the attention of world travellers looking for history, adventure, culture and more. Protect your time in Turkey with international travel insurance from Cover-More. Focus on the sights and attractions and not on potential problems and pitfalls.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Esther Lee