Istanbul's many attractions include towering minarets, underground Byzantine cisterns and steamy bathhouses are all in 5 minutes of walking distance from Arena Hotel. Here is the 10 of the best sights in Istanbul selected by Pat Yale in Istanbul City Guide.
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This 6th century underground cistern is the largest of hundreds under Istanbul, once its reservoir of drinking water. Now it is a tourist attraction with lights and music – and fish! Don’t miss carvings of Medusa’s head at the base of two columns.
• Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet, +90 212 522 1259, yerebatan.com. Open Tue-Sun 9am-7.30pm (Apr-Sep), 9am-5pm (Oct-Mar)
Known as Saint Sophia in English, this famous Byzantine church-turned mosque-turned museum is emblematic of Istanbul.
• Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Square, +90 212 522 0989, hagiasophia.com, Open Tue-Sun 9am-7.30pm (May-Oct), 9am-5pm (Nov-Apr)
The sultans made their home in this opulent palace complete with its own harem. It contains treasures of the Ottoman Empire, including important Muslim relics like Mohammed’s cloak and sword.
• Sultanahmet, +90 212 512 0480, topkapisarayi.gov.tr, Open Tue-Sun 9am-6pm (harem 9am-5pm)
Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam
This sublime 16th century Turkish bathhouse was reopened for use in 2011. Its domed marble halls once again echo to the sound of running water. A fabulous place for a massage.
• Cankurtaran Mahallesi Bab-i-Hümayaun Caddesi l, Sultanahmet Square, , ayasofyasultanhamami.com, treatments from €70. Open daily 7am to 11pm, separate sections for men and women
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque visually balances the domes of Aya Sofya, which it faces across a small park. It gets its name from the blue tiles that decorate its interior, and is one of only a handful of mosques in the world with six minarets.
• Sultanahmet Square, bluemosque.org. Open outside prayer times
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
At Istanbul’s three archaeology museums in Gulhane Park you can see Alexander the Great’s sarcophagus, a model Trojan Horse and beautiful Ottoman ceramics in the Tiled Pavilion, as well as many other fascinating exhibits.
• Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu, Gulhane Park, +90 212 520 7740. Open Tue-Sun 9am-6pm (May-Sep), 9am-4pm (Oct-Apr)
Watery Istanbul is a city that cries out to be viewed from on high, and you can get a bird's-eye view of everything from the balcony at the top of the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu.
• Beyoğlu, +90 212 293 8180, galatatower.net.. Open 9am-8pm
Turkish and Islamic Art Museum
This building was originally the palace of one of Suleiman the Magnificent’s favourite grand viziers. It houses a vast collection of carpets and features reconstructions of housing, from a nomad tent to a 19th-century Bursa mansion.
• The Hippodrome, Sultanahmet, +90 212 518 1805, kultur.gov.tr. Open Tue-Sun 9am-4.30pm
This renowned mosque dominates the Istanbul skyline, overlooking the city from one of its three hills. It was designed by the Ottoman architect Sinan for Suleiman the Magnificent, and has been recently restored to its original splendour.
• Professor Siddik Sami Onar Caddesi. Open outside prayer times
This former church in the old city walls is a stunning example of late Byzantine splendour, with walls and ceilings adorned with glittering mosaics and beautiful frescoes. It became a mosque in Ottoman times and is now a museum.
• Kariye Camii Sokak 26, Sultanahmet, +90 212 631 9241. Open Thu-Tue 9am-6pm (Apr-Sep), 9am-4.30pm (Oct-Mar)