There is plenty to see in the fantastic city of Istanbul, Turkey. There are historical sites that every visitor needs to see at least once, like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Spice Market. What about those lesser known but just as majestic places in the City of the World’s Desire? Consider five unique attractions that you need to add to your itinerary.
1. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is an old underground chamber that served as an early water filtering system for Istanbul. This cistern, which can contain 80,000 cubic meters of water and is about the size of two football fields, is a one-of-a-kind historical place to see.
The cistern, which has survived centuries of battle and siege, was erected in 532 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to retain fresh water for the palace and neighboring structures. Take a tour to discover more about the history, especially about the famed Medusa heads at the base of one of the 336 marble columns that support the structure.
2. Ottoman Bird Palaces
People had been making birdhouses in Istanbul even before the Ottoman Empire, but they were not as extravagant. The Ottomans created sophisticated multi-level buildings with numerous ornamentation and embellishments rather than simple constructions. They resembled the type of stately home you’d expect to see royalty living in, with elaborate windows, balconies, roofs, and towers.
Today, there are only a few of these ornate bird houses left. They’ve aged and faded with time, yet some still have the amazing features that make them so appealing. You’ll find the oldest one on the side of the Büyükçekmece Bridge.
3. Tombs of the Sultans
Speaking of palaces, few are as beautiful as the tombs of the sultans of yore and their families. The tombs of Mehmed III, Selim II, Murad III, Brahim I, and Mustafa I resemble majestic palaces in honor of the memories of sultans’ past rather than what most people imagine when they think of permanent resting places for old, departed royals. You’ll find the tombs along the periphery of the Hagia Sophia.
4. Viking Runes
While at the Hagia Sophia, make sure to see the small etching written in a runic script by a Viking. They are the Viking version of Halfdan was here. Halfdan was most likely a soldier trying to pass some time back centuries before and one of many members of the Varangian Guard who came to Constantinople looking for fortune.
Get unique views of Istanbul from one of the world’s largest miniature parks. It offers 1/25 scale versions of some of the most popular sites in the city, including the Obelisk of Theodosius, The Mostar Bridge, and, of course, the Hagia Eirene Church. The park covers 15 acres and will likely be one of the most interesting things you see while visiting Istanbul.
There is plenty to see in Istanbul and lots to miss. Make sure you see some of its more unique attractions while in Turkey.