Churches of Constantinople and Istanbul Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey

10 places

Ksenia Mardina

Istanbul was the capital of several Empires: Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman – their splendor and grandeur remained in beautiful palaces and churches and luscious antique buildings.

Sakirin Mosque

This new mosque made lots of fuss – it was opened three years ago in the conservative Uskudar district in the Asian part of the town. The large asymmetrical chandelier, a fountain and glass walls – an architecture like this breaks all Islamic rules but the major controversy is that it was designed by a woman, making it a new symbol of women's rights and a crossroads of East and West – actually what the entire Istanbul is about.

Dolmabahce Palace

This last residence of the Ottoman Emperors has the second name – luxury – gold, marble, columns, lush carpets and paintings and crystal – even staircase is made of it – everything is to glorify the Empire. Inside there is a harem and underground tunnels while outside stands a mosque with fluted minarets - their prototypes were so thin, that they collapsed at once. You can spend hours wandering around splendid galleries resembling St. Petersburg or Paris palaces.

Valide Khan

Abandoned khan in the mid of Grand Bazaar is totally untouristy – it's a big house with some old benches, arcades and a courtyard. The place once had warehouses where ships unloaded their cargo and merchants rested in hotels. Now it's the frozen 17th century – pass the second yard, take concrete stairs up to the roof – an unexpected breathtaking panorama of the Golden Horn.

Basilica Cistern

Underground palace resembling the sunken Acropolis is one of the forty ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. Compared to its counterparts it's rather well preserved – columns, supported by upside-down Medusa heads, vaulted ceiling and water everywhere – quite a post apocalypse. It was a filming location for James Bond and Konchalovsky's Odyssey but looks more awesome in reality – so a line under the heat is totally worth it.

Haydarpasa Terminal

Turkey's major transport hub is located in this fab railway station – you'll find yourself there if you go to Ankara. It is surrounded by water on three sides and looks nice from a ferry. It was built two centuries ago by two Germans who brought their workers with them so a German neighborhood still exists in the area.

Buyukada Island Observation Deck

This place is hard to reach – most tourists end their Princes' Island walk by riding a two-horse phaeton or a two-hour bravery – taking a rented bike high up. But to reach this deck you need to get off the phaeton, walk up to the Greek Church of Saint George on the very top and then take right. Here you are – a mind-blowing view of the endless sea and the neighboring islands. You're most likely to be alone, only seagulls, ships and leaves of a large tree on the ridge. The best place to dream or meditate far from the hustle and bustle of the noisiest city in the world. To get there take a ferry to Buyukada from Bostanci or Kadikoy pier, then a phaeton from the central square to terminus.

Büyük Hamam

Surprisingly untouristy despite its central location. Interiors are beautiful – tiles and marble of the 16th century, limelight and clouds of steam. The ritual is classic Turkish bath – strong women or hairy men give you a full body massage (girls and guys are separated) and then you get a scrub to get rid of all the dead skin cells. Some discrimination may come in the end – men will be offered tea and TV and women shown to the door. Prepare to fight for your rights – at least a cup of tea.

Cagaloglu Hamam

A great place to relax after Hagia Sophia tour. The baths were built in the 18th century under the reign of Mahmud I and have perfectly survived till now – splendid vaults, marble and grandeur. They are always crowded and in the last three centuries Edward III of England, Franz Liszt and Kate Moss were among those enjoying the massage. This affected the prices but not atmosphere. After spa you can smoke some hookah by the fountain or chill in an antique bar.

Çiragan Palace Kempinski Hammam

The most beautiful hammam in town in Çiragan Kempinsky Hotel – the former Ottoman palace. It's all about royal chic – white ornamented marble and large windows overlooking the Bosporus. Make it a treat for yourself. The hammam is not that traditional – you will be soaking in a bath not on hot stones. Then you'll enjoy about two hours of massage, will be scrubbed with oils and wrapped in a soft towel. They will even wash your hair. The price is high, but think of it as reward.

Hamam Cemberlitas

This 16th century Turkish bath is famous for its massage – with aroma oils for girls and water pouring for guys. Just warn if you don't want it too hot. And forget about modesty – all stuff is naked and towel-wrapped, which, actually doesn't hide that much. Think about your health – extra 15 minutes in a steam room will help remove all dead cells. Prices start from $25.


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