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9 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Istanbul


9 Must-See UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Istanbul

Istanbul, the former capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, boasts a fascinating history dating back thousands of years. From ancient ruins to 16th-century masterpieces, here are some of the must-see UNESCO World Heritage–listed sites and landmarks in Istanbul.


Sarayburnu

Sarayburnu is a strategically significant promontory between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Home to the famous Topkapi Palace and Gülhane Park, Sarayburnu attracts visitors keen to admire sweeping views over the coastal scenery.



Golden Horn and Bosphorus Boat Tour in Istanbul

Golden Horn and Bosphorus Boat Tour in Istanbul

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Cruise along the waters of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. This guided 2-hours boat tour. View the Asian and European sides of Istanbul and admire the palaces, wooden villas, bridges and all of the unique maritime landscapes.
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  • 2 hours
  • iconEnglish
  • Free Cancellation
From
$18.04
From
$18.04

Topkapi Palace

Fifteenth-century Topkapi Palace was once home to the Ottoman sultans, and today houses one of Turkey’s largest museums. Treasures within include 13th-century Japanese porcelain and weaponry used by the Ottoman army. Topkapi Palace is featured on most Istanbul walking tours.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The opulent Topkapi Palace is an Istanbul must. Photo: Ruslan Kalnitsky / Shutterstock

Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia)

The first Christian cathedral in the Roman Empire, Hagia Sophia dates back to the sixth century. This extraordinary building has played the role of basilica and imperial mosque during its lifetime and today houses a museum. Its interior showcases Byzantine mosaics and marble ornamentation, and shines a light on 10th-century Roman leaders including Emperor Alexander.


Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Widely known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has been a site of Islamic worship since 1616. With 13 domes and six minarets, the mosque is a standout on the Istanbul skyline. Visitors can explore the mosque on guided tours and admire treasures including the blue Iznik tiles that cover the ceiling.

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Hagia Irene

For generations Hagia Irene served as an Eastern Orthodox church, and today is a popular museum and concert hall. It sits within one of Topkapi Palace’s courtyards, behind Hagia Sophia, and hosts classical music concerts and art exhibitions.

Hagia Irene
The Hagia Irene is a must for fans of religious architecture. Photo: Yodgi / Shutterstock

Zeyrek Mosque

Built in the 12th century, the Zeyrek Mosque is a fine example of Byzantine architecture and one of the largest of its kind in Istanbul today. With recessed brickwork, colored marble, and ancient mosaics, the Zeyrek Mosque showcases the architectural styles of Constantinople from the 12th to the 15th centuries.

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Suleymaniye Mosque

Designed by acclaimed Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, the Süleymaniye Mosque takes pride of place on the Third Hill. One of the biggest mosques in the city, it was completed in 1558 and still welcomes visitors. Skip-the-line tours allow travelers to bypass the entry lines.



Istanbul's Mosques and Museums Private Tour

Istanbul's Mosques and Museums Private Tour

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Encounter the Islamic culture of Istanbul with this cultural tour where you can explore three of the city's must-see attractions: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, and Topkapi Palace. Meet-up in the historic Sultanahmet district, and let your personal guide lead you to these important sights. Enjoy the flexibility to customize your itinerary, make additional stops and sip an included drink, and get your guide's complete attention as you explore.
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  • 8 hours
  • iconEnglish
  • Free Cancellation
From
$140.09
Price varies by group size
From
$140.09
Price varies by group size

Walls of Constantinople

These defensive stone walls once encircled Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), helping protect the city from attack. Today, visitors can walk uphill from the Ayvansaray neighborhood to see what remains of the walls. Nearby attractions include the old church of the Holy Saviour in Chora—now the Kariye Museum—with its mosaics and paintings.

See the walls on an Istanbul walking tour

Little Hagia Sophia

Once a Greek Eastern Orthodox church, Little Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque under Ottoman rule. The exterior features architectural techniques attributed to the builders of Constantinople, while the inside of the building boasts a spectacular 2-story colonnade with dedications to past emperors and patron saints.

Little Hagia Sophia
The Little Hagia Sophia interior. Photo: MehmetO / Shutterstock

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See all Istanbul tours
2,325 tours & tickets
Things to do in Istanbul
See all things to do in Istanbul
The Odessa Passage arcade in Odessa, Ukraine.
10 of The Most Historic Shopping Arcades in Europe