Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı)
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather, gold jewellery and the like. The bazaar has been an important trading centre since 1461 and its labyrinthine vaults feature two bedestens (domed buildings), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.
The complex houses two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, and several cafés and restaurants. In the centre is the high domed hall of the Cevahir Bedesten, where the most valuable items and antiques were to be found in the past, and still are today, including furniture, copperware, amber prayer beads, inlaid weapons, icons, mother-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes, watches and clocks, candlesticks, old coins, and silver and gold jewellery set with coral and turquoise. A leisurely afternoon spent exploring the bazaar, sitting in one of the cafés and watching the crowds pass by, and bargaining for purchases is one of the best ways to recapture the romantic atmosphere of old Istanbul.
Gates: The Grand Bazaar has four main gates situated at the ends of its two major streets which intersect near the southwestern corner of the bazaar.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 9:00 - 19:00. Closed Sundays and bank holidays.
Getting there: Take a tram to Beyazit, Üniversite or Sirkeci. The Grand Bazaar is around 15 minutes walk from the Aya Sofya/Blue Mosque area.
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet)
One of the most famous monuments of Turkish and Islamic art, the mosque is visited by all who come to Istanbul and gains their admiration.
This imperial mosque is an example of classical Turkish architecture, and it is the only mosque that was originally built with six minarets.
It is surrounded by other important edifices of Istanbul, built at earlier ages. Istanbul is viewed best from the sea and the mosque is part of this magnificent scenery.
Although it is popularly known as the Blue Mosque, its real name is Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Befitting his original profession, its architect Mehmet Aga decorated the interior fastidiously like a jeweler. Built between 1609-1616, the mosque used to be part of a large complex, including a covered bazaar, Turkish baths, public kitchens, a hospital, schools, a caravanserai, and the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmet. Some of these social and cultural buildings have not survived to our day.
The architect was a student of Sinan, the greatest architect of classical Turkish architecture. He applied a plan used previously by his master, but on a larger scale.
The main entrance to Sultan Ahmet Mosque is on the Hippodrome side. There is an outer courtyard, and the inner courtyard and the edifice itself are elevated.
From the gate opening to the inner courtyard one can view the domes, rising above one another in perfect harmony, over the symbolic ablution fountain in the middle and the surrounding porticoes.
There are three entrances to the mosque interior. The wealthy and colorful vista inside created by the paintings, tiles and stained glass complements the exterior view. The interior has a centralized plan; the main and side domes rise on four large columns that support broad and pointed arches. The walls of the galleries surrounding the three sides of the interior chamber are decorated by over 20,000 exquisite Iznik tiles. The areas above the tiles and the inside of the domes are decorated with paintwork.
The blue of the paintwork, which gives the mosque its name, was not the color of the decorations originally; they were painted blue during later restorations. During the last renovation, completed in 1990, the darker blue color of the interior decorations painted as its original light colors.
The floor is covered by carpets, as in all mosques. Next to the mihrab (niche aligned towards Mecca) opposite the main entrance, there is a marble minber (pulpit) with exquisite marble work. On the other side is the sultan's loge (box) in the form of a balcony. The 260 windows flood with light the interior space, which is covered by a dome 23.5 m in diameter and 43 m high.
The small market building, repaired and reconstructed in recent years, is situated to the east of the mosque, and the single-domed mausoleum of Sultan Ahmet and the medrese (religious school) building are to the north, on the Hagia Sophia side.
In summer months light and sound shows are organized in the park here. Sultan Ahmet Mosque occupies a focal point in city tours, together with the numerous monumental buildings and museums in the vicinity.
The minarets of the mosque are classical examples of Turkish architecture. The balconies are reached by spiral stairs. It is from these balconies that five times a day the believers are called to prayer - in our day using loudspeakers.
The domes and the minarets are covered by lead, and at the top of the minarets there are standards made of gold-plated copper. Master craftsmen repair these coverings very skillfully when needed.
Islam requires all Muslims to pray five times a day. When the believers hear the call to prayer from the minarets, they perform their ablutions (washing) and then pray. The noon prayer on Fridays and the prayers on other important holidays are performed in the mosques collectively, but other prayers can be performed anywhere.
In the communal prayers performed in the mosque, the imam takes the lead and he chants verses from the Koran. The areas of prayer for men and women are separate. In the central area only men are allowed to pray, while women take their places either behind them or in the galleries.
It is a characteristic of classical Turkish mosques that even in the most crowded day, the majority of the congregation can easily see the mihrab.
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya))
Hagia Sophia church was built during the reign of Emperor Theodosius and burned down in the fire of Nika Revolt in 532 A.D. during the reign of Justinian. The same year Justinian ordered to build a new basilica, the one we can see today, and only five years later, 537 AD, it was opened to the public. The architects of this new basilica were Isidorus from Miletus (Söke) and Anthemious from Tralles (Aydın). The basilica was covered with the magnificient dome 55.60 m high and 30.80 – 31.88 m in diameter, with 40 frame timbers and 107 pillars.
In 1453, with the conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror converted the church into a mosque. To strengthen the building architect Sinan did significant work in Hagia Sophia in the Turkish period. During the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839 – 1861) de Fossati brothers made various restorations in the building. Hagia Sophia Museum, the legacy of both Christian and Muslim culture, was opened for visits according to the order of Ataturk and decision of the Turkish Assembly of Ministers on the 1st of February, 1935.
The Hagia Sophia Museum was included in the list of UNESCO List of World Heritage.
The activities of the Museum are supervised and supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey