A student of architectural genius Sinan, Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, has designed Blue Mosque with the demands of Ahmed I. It was built with six minarets (in general, all mosques have four), one with a large dome and eight smaller domes around it; and its size is gigantic. Yet, the most striking feature of it cannot be seen from outside; since it is the blue interior decoration, which will leave you speechless.
The color of peace, blue is dominant inside, on the 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, brought from İznik. Also, there is the architectural style consists of classical Islamic and Byzantine; and also, something that resembles Sinan’s technique. This mixture makes Hagia Sophia a real piece of art which is still be used actively by prayers 5 times in a day. With a proper clothing, you can also pray; or please your eyes and soul only by viewing the ceilings, chandeliers or mosaics.
At Sultan Ahmet Center, there is an ancient and huge building which has been used for chariot races for centuries, by different civilizations and empires.
Firstly, at A.C. 203, Hippodrome has been built by Byzantines, and used as a platform for a daily activity: Chariot races. Byzantines -from all walks of life- used to go there to bet, watch, win and have fun. After 100 years, Istanbul has become the center of New Roman Empire, and the Hippodrome has been decorated and upgraded; since it had to be magnificent. With its upgraded version, it still was the place for horse and chariot races.
When Ottoman Empire has captured Istanbul, Hippodrome has remained the same both as a building and duty; it has been even used for ceremonies of sultans.
Thus, as a building which has hosted three different time periods and empires, it deserves to be seen and touched by new generations.
Obelisk is a gorgeous piece of Hippodrome; so gorgeous that Byzantine Empire was very proud about it; since it was symbolizing the strength of them. Brought from Egypt, there are hieroglyphs and texts in Latin and ancient Greek; and it simply honors the emperor.
It has divided into different sections as a design, which is a unique feature of it comparing to others; since it has an irregular perspective and combination of different materials. All of its four sides have a different message; yet, the meaning is always the same: The emperor of Byzantine is powerful, wise and strong.
Because of its height, it used to be seen from anywhere in Hippodrome, and still is very striking with its 20-metre-height and hieroglyphs, ornaments and stateliness; and you can see it in Sultan Ahmet and honor the soul of emperors of Byzantine.
For nearly 400 years after the conquest of Istanbul (in 1453), Topkapı Palace has been the center of education, management and art; also, the residence of sultans with its 4 harems. After the establishment of Republic of Turkey, it has been turned into a museum; and since then, it welcomes the travelers from all around the world.
What is special about Topkapı Palace is the fact that it is one of the biggest palace-museums of the world: It consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings in these boundaries.
There are many things to see in there, of course, but mainly The Gate of Salutation, Byzantine Church Hagia Eirene and its interior design, The Imperial Mint of the Ottoman Empire, Gate of Felicity, Audience Chamber, Miniature and Portrait Gallery and Harems can be count as must-be-seen points of Topkapı Palace.
The places have related information about the importance of these sections; especially if you are interested in Ottoman Empire era; and specifically, you will gather deep knowledge about the lives of sultans and their families.
One of the most historical neighborhoods of Istanbul, along the Golden Horn, Fener waits for you to visit it. As a special feature, it is one of the most significant symbols of the hybrid culture of Ottoman Empire.
To specify, The Patriarchate of Istanbul which is the center of the Orthodox sect was in Ayios Yeoryios Church, in Fener; considering that all of the Ottomans Empire sultans were Muslim, it shows the policy of tolerance of Ottomans.
Indeed, in time, Fener has become the central neighborhood of Greeks and wealthy Jews. Ottomans used to benefit from these Greeks as translators; thus, some of them had high positions in government.
What we can see in Fener now, old houses which have hosted different cultures years ago, and of course, important buildings such as Red School. The high school for Greek boys, Red School is one of the most gorgeous buildings of Istanbul with a very nice view of Golden Horn. To sup up, Fener is one of the most interesting places of Istanbul worth seeing, even for visiting Red School.
Let the colors of old, wooden houses paint your soul in Balat! Balat, the neighborhood between Ayvansaray and Fener, also has a hybrid cultural background and important buildings which carry the marks of it and additionally, you will be able to take such a colorful, vintage photographs while exploring the streets of Balat.
In old times, Jews who have escaped from Spain, from the inquisition, have come here with the invitation of Bayezid II, and after that, the population of Jews in Balat has grown persistently.
That is why, their building style can be seen around, distinguished from others with their three-floored, narrow front faced and bay window on the second and third floors.
Besides from usual buildings, there are significant buildings such as Orthodox Church of Ayios Strati, Ferruh Kethuda Mosque with famous architect Sinan’s design and Surp-Hresdagabet Church.
Thus, you have too many things in Balat to see, which cannot be expected from such a small district like that; yet, it is guaranteed that the nostalgic and bohemian vibe it has will make you love it.
One of the oldest and biggest covered bazaars of the world, Grand Bazaar in Sultan Ahmet district will be the ending point of your dynamic tour and it will let you to enjoy both the cultural/historical side of it and of course, shopping.
You can buy any kind of thing from there: Clothes, hats, bags, hookahs, various kinds of spices, jewelry, antiques, Turkish carpets… Whatever you can imagine, you can find it at the 60 streets and 4,000 shops of Grand Bazaar.
At your free time, you can wander around to buy or only to take a photograph, or view. Yet, if you are willing to buy something as a remembrance from your lovely Istanbul tour, you should immediately learn how to bargain; it is a traditional style of shopping of Grand Bazaar. You can try it in any shop and upgrade your skills of convincing people.
To crown your half-day Istanbul excursion, you can buy gifts to yourself or the ones that you love from Grand Bazaar.
There are not many famous cuisines in the world; yet, luckily, Turkish cuisine is one of the most favorable ones of this precious branch; and you will be enjoying a nice, traditional meal by having your lunch in the extent of this tour.
While resting your body and filling your stomach with the tastiest foods of Turkey, you may already consider of coming back here; this time, only to try new flavors. With its various options of meals as vegetables, meats, pastries, desserts and drinks, you can have anything you want to spoil yourself.
In brief, you will be satisfied at the end of your daily Istanbul excursion. Because Istanbul is such a wealthy city as historical and cultural, you will learn a lot of things.