Without doubt Istanbul is especially important for Greece and Turkey. The city was known as Constantine for the Greeks, and Istanbul during Ottoman administration, the city was called the ‘door of happiness’ or the ‘door of greatness’.
The city is home to many historical sites from different periods. Perhaps the most important of these is the Hagia Sophia (St.Sophia), it is an important symbol for Christians because when it was built to be a church. Later, it was turned into a mosque and is now a museum of the Turkish Republic. The church was rebuilt three times on the same location. Megale Ekklesia meaning big church was its initial name, but then it was renamed the Hagia Sophia meaning ‘Holy Wisdom’. UNESCO recognizes Hagia Sophia as a world heritage site because of its architectural beauty.
Standing opposite to the Hagia Sophia is another important monument, the Sultanahmet Mosque. This mosque also known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles on the walls of its interior design. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616.
Another beautiful heritage building in İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located southwest of the Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is known as the “Yerebatan Cistern” because of the underground marble columns where there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern. The most important thing about this place are the Medusa heads. There is a myth about her decapitated head, people believe that it wards off bad luck.
There are countless historical monuments in Istanbul, but two important towers in the city stand out from the rest. The first one is the Maiden's Tower (Kız Kulesi), it dates back 2500 years ago. B.C. In 411, the Maiden's Tower construction begins with a customs building on the land by the Athenians who want to control the Bosphorus during the Peloponnesian Wars.
But there is a myth about this tower: “A Byzantine emperor had a daughter. The Emperor is very happy with this and her birthday declares a holiday in her country. Every year, the celebration of the princess's birthday is magnificently celebrated. The emperor wants his scholars to be trained to prepare his daughter for the throne. But the oldest of the scholars, the emperor predicts that his daughter will die by being snared by a serpent at the age of eighteen.The emperor then restored the tower on a small islet in the middle of the sea and places her here.But years later his daughter comes to 18 and she killed by the snake from the basket which is sent for her birthday.” There are also different myths about this tower of course.
The second famous tower is Galata Tower, built in 528 by Byzantine Emperor Anastasius Oilosuz, the tower is an important symbol of the city. The Bosphorus and the Golden Horn can be seen panoramicly from the hill. The Galata Tower is one of the oldest towers in the World, even UNESCO has included it in the World Heritage Temporary List in 2013. There are legendary love stories between these two towers, there is a saying: ‘with whom you first go to top of Galata Tower you will marry with him/her.’
There are lots of other place to see in the city and here is the list of what should you do in Istanbul:
• visit the Grand Bazaar
• visit the Spice Bazaar
• eat fish on the historical boats in Eminönü district
• eat baked potatos in Ortaköy, visit Ortaköy mosque, so you can see the amazing view of Bosphorus
• drink beer on the terrace of Bomonti bar
• get on the ferry, feed seagulls with bagels
• visit to the islands, ride the bike in the spring
• you should visit the beautiful palaces of Istanbul
• visit Istiklal street.
Note: Prinkipo/Büyükada is one of the biggest Island from Princes' Islands. There is a church which is called Aya Yorgi Church. It's on the highest hill of the Island and according to the belief, while climbing this slope you shouldn't talk. This is a superstition about church. For Christians there are two specific dates for the visit to Aya Yorgi, 23rd April and 24th September.
If you want to feel the different vibes of Europe and Anatolia at the same time you should visit Istanbul.