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Istanbul Highlights

Istanbul Guide

Istanbul is a truly unique city. It is the Asian city nearest Europe and the European city closest to Asia.

It was the Capital of one of the world's greatest empires for over 1500 hundred years. Yet today is a modern cosmopolitan city, where east meets west.

Civilisation in Istanbul has existed for 2000 years. Although, remains of humans dating back a million years have been discovered in a cave at Yarimburgaz about 30km from Istanbul.

Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Boğazı), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south.

Although most sights are concentrated in the old city, but many good guide books recommend staying in accommodation a short distance away across the Golden Horn in the heart of modern Istanbul in Beyoğlu, where the locals hang out, away from the hustle and bustle of tourist touts. Beyoğlu is the heart of the city’s entertainment industry. Many art galleries, theatres, cinemas, bars, restaurants and night clubs are located here.

Istiklal Caddesi (Street), a 2 km pedestrian fare is the spine of the shopping and entertainment of Beyoğlu and home to many of the city's foreign consulates.

For a memorable and a wonderful trip we recommend visiting the historic sights of Istanbul in the mornings, when it is less crowded. Then come back to your home at Firuze Apartment. Relax, unwind and enjoy the facilities of Firuze apartment. Refreshed after a steam sauna or a Jacuzzi bath and you are ready to do a spot of shopping on Istiklal Caddesi, or chill out in a wine bar or a restaurant or dance away the night in a night club. Alternatively just chill out in the apartment and watch life on the interesting Galipdede Street below .

For a most romantic or a peaceful family evening go to the beautiful roof terrace of the Firuze Apartment and enjoy a drink while gazing at the sunset. The views from the terrace are simply stunning.

If you want a break from touristy attractions of the old City, spend some time exploring the wonderful side streets of Istiklal. For a feeling of being back in time visit the interesting side streets of Tophane, where the traditional locals are having a gossip in the street, while eating sunflower seeds, and the children playing in the narrow streets.

For a relaxing day by the sea and some sunbathing take a boat trip to the beautiful Princes Islands.

Below is a list and a brief description of the most popular sights in Istanbul. It also gives direction on how to get there from Firuze Apartment. Please feel free to contact us for more information or simply ask our representative once you reach Istanbul and he will be happy to help you.

For a more comprehensive guide on Istanbul and up to date events guide visit:

Old City

The Hippodrome

Address: Sultanahmet Square

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Sultanahmet (4 stops, see map).

The Byzantine hippodrome, today named Sultanahmet Square, dates from the 3rd century AD. With crowd capacity of over a 100,000 people, it was used as an arena for chariot races and other entertainment and political events, and it was decorated with obelisks and monuments. Very few of the monuments have remained. The 3500-year old Obelisk, Istanbul's oldest monument, was brought from Egypt and installed by the Emperor Theodosius I in 390 AD.

Hagia Sofya (Aya Sofya)

Address: Aya Sofya Square, Sultanahmet

Phone: (0212) 522 0989 (info)

Open 09:00 - 19.00, June to October. Rest of the year 09.30 - 16.30

Closed on Mondays.

Entrance fee: (free for children under 7).

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Sultanahmet Sultanahmet (4 stops, see map).

Hagia Sofya

is one of the wonders of the world that has remained intact until the present day. It is the most spectacular sight in Istanbul and one the finest architectural creation in the world .

The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The first basilica built on the same site was burnt down in a riot in 404 and the second one built in 415, was torched during the Nika Riots of 532. The present structure was designed by Isidorus of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.

The 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The original achievement of Aya Sofya's architects who worked without the benefits of today's technology and materials, remains unequalled.

At the capture of Constantinople (Istanbul) during the Fourth Crusade the church was ransacked and desecrated with the altar being destroyed.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. At that time, the church was very dilapidated and several of its doors had fallen off. Soon after the conquest the building was restored and converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were plastered over. The Islamic features - such as the minbar, the mihrab and the four minarets outside - were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. The first minaret was added by Mehmet the Conqueror. Sinan, the great Ottoman architect and one of the world's first earthquake engineers designed the others. Sinan carried out extensive strengthening of the building by addition of structural supports to the exterior.

The large 19th-century medallions inscribed with gilt Arabic letters are the work of master calligrapher Mustafa İzzet Efendi, and give the names of God, Mohammed and the early caliphs Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman and Ali and grandsons of the Profit Hasan and Hussain.

Aya Sofya remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey. The plaster that was used to cover the walls when converted to a mosque actually preserved and saved the wonderful mosaics that we see today.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

Address: Sultanahmet Square

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Sultanahmet (4 stops, see map).

The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 under orders of Sultan Ahmet I who set out to build a monument that would rival and even surpass the nearby Aya Sofya in grandeur and beauty. Although its architectural and engineering achievements does not equal the Aya Sofya, but it has now become one of the greatest attractions of Istanbul.

Sedfhar Mehmet Ağa, a pupil and senior assistant of Sinan was appointed as the architect in charge of the design and construction. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, facing the Aya Sofya and the Hippodrome.

The architect managed to create a visual effect with the mosque's exterior that Aya Sofya achieved with its interior. It has voluptuous curves and has more minarets than any other Istanbul mosque and the courtyard is the biggest of all the Ottoman mosques. The interior is conceived on a similarly grand scale, the wall claddings are exquisite Iznik blue tiles that give the building its unofficial name, Blue Mosque. There are 260 windows ( original ones made in Venice have now been replaced) and has huge central prayer area. The most important element in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. The imperial kiosk, to the left of the mihrab is covered with marble latticework.

As with all the other mosques shoes must be taken off and women who haven’t brought their own scarf or are wearing revealing clothes will be loaned a headscarf and/or robe at no charge.

Clustered around the Blue Mosque were a medrese (theological college); a soup kitchen and shops (the Arasta Bazaar), The tomb of Sultan Ahmet I is on the north side facing Sultanahmet Park. Ahmet, who had ascended to the imperial throne aged 13, died one year after the mosque was constructed, aged 27 (although the mosque was opened in 1616, but construction was not complete until after the Sultan’s death). Buried with Ahmet are his wife, Kösem, who was strangled to death in the Harem, and his sons, Sultan Osman II, Sultan Murat IV and Prince Beyazıt (murdered by Murat).

Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı)

Address: Soğukçeşme Sokak, Gülhane

Phone (0212) 512 0480

Open 0900 - 1700

Closed on Tuesdays

Separate fees for the Harem.

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Gülhane (3 stops, see map).

Topkapi was the official residents of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853. It was home to Selim the Sot (who drowned in the bath after drinking too much champagne); Ibrahim the Mad, who lost his marbles after being locked up for four years in the infamous palace kafes (cages); and Roxelana, beautiful and malicious consort of Süleyman the Magnificent, Topkapi has been the subject of an award-winning feature film, an opera (Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio ) and a blockbuster social history (John Freely's Inside the Seraglio ). You will need at least half a day to explore this magnificent museum.

Mehmet the Conqueror built the first stage of the palace shortly after the Conquest in 1453, and lived here until his death in 1481. Every new Sultan elaborated on the building according to need. The complex is now smaller than the original Palace. It used to extend down to the Marmara sea including today’s Sirkeci railway station and Gülhane Park.

The Imperial Gate is the main entrance, which leads to the First Court, known as the Court of the Janissaries (the Praetorian Guards of the Ottomans) also known as the Parade Court. To the left is Aya İrini, also known as Hagia Eirene or the Church of the Divine Peace.

The Middle Gate (Ortakapı or Bab-üs Selâm) was constructed by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1524. It led to the palace's Second Court, used for the business of running the empire. It was renowned for its cypress trees and fountains.

To the right in a nearby building there are imperial carriages made in Paris, Turin and Vienna for the sultan and his family.

The great Palace Kitchens, on the right, hold a small portion of Topkapı's vast collection of glass, silver and rare Chinese porcelain. Some of the huge pots and pans that were used in the palace's heyday are exhibited in the last of the kitchens, the Helvahane, in which all the palace sweets were made.

On the left (west) side of the Second Court is the ornate Imperial Council Chamber, also called the Divan Salonu.

North of the Imperial Council Chamber is the Inner Treasury, which today exhibits Ottoman and European armour.

Gate of Felicity (Baba-Üs Saadet) was the entrance into the sultan's private domain. Behind this gate is the Audience Chamber, constructed in the 16th century but refurbished in the 18th century. Important officials and foreign ambassadors were brought to this little kiosk to conduct the high business of state.

Behind the Audience Chamber is the Library built in 1719 by Sultan Ahmet III. Which has stunning inlaid woodwork.

To the right of the Audience Chamber are the rooms of the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force, which now house collections of imperial robes, kaftans, talismanic shirts and uniforms worked in silver and gold thread.

Next to the Dormitory is the Imperial Treasury, which features an incredible collection of precious objects made from or decorated with gold, silver, rubies, emeralds, jade, pearls and diamonds including the jewel-encrusted sword of Süleyman the Magnificent and the Throne of Ahmed I and the Topkapi dagger. Also on exhibit is the Kaşıkçı (Spoon maker’s) Diamond, worlds 5th largest diamond. It's called the Spoon maker’s Diamond because it was originally found at a rubbish dump and purchased by a street peddler for three spoons.

On the other side of the Third Court is the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms. Here you will find Islamic holy relics including the carved door from the Kaaba in Mecca, a hair of Prophet Mohammed's beard, his footprint in clay, his sword, tooth and more. In a golden casket is the felicitous cloak.

At the north eastern corner of the palace you will find the Fourth Court which was more of a private sanctuary of the Sultan and his family. It consists of a number of pavilions, kiosks (köşk), gardens and terraces. Up the stairs from the Tulip Garden are the Revan Kiosk, built in 1636 by Murat IV, and Baghdad Kiosk, constructed in 1639. This kiosk has beautiful Iznik tiles, the mother of pearl and tortoiseshell inlay, and wonderful woodwork. The Iftar Kiosk has wonderful views of the city and the harbour. The Grand Kiosk, also known as the Grand Pavilion or Kiosk of Abdül Mecid I (Mecidiye Köşkü), built in 1840, was the last significant addition to the palace. It was built as a seaside palace because of its splendid location, giving a panoramic view on the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus.

Of all parts of the palace, the Harem probably most inflames the visitors imagination. Entrance to the Harem is through Gate of Carts (Arabalar Kapısı), located at the end of the Second Court. The Harem was home to the Sultan's mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the Sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. There are approximately 300 rooms of which only about twenty are open to the public.

The harem wing was added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by the master architect Sinan.

The great bedchamber of Murat III is the oldest and finest surviving room in the harem, having retained its original interior. It was designed by Sinan and dates from the 16th century. Its dome is only slightly smaller than that of the Throne Room. Its hall has one of the finest doors of the palace and leads past the wing of the crown princes (Kafes). The room is decorated with blue-and-white and coral-red
İznik tiles.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Address: Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu, Gülhane, inside the first court of the Topkapi Palace

Phone: (0212) 520 7740 (info)

Open Tue-Sun 0900 - 17:00

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Gülhane (3 stops, see map).

The Istanbul Archaeology Museum actually consists of three museums: the main Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), the Museum of the Ancient Orient (Eski Şark Eserleri Müzesi) and the Enamelled Kiosk Museum (Çinili Köşk). It houses over one million objects that represent almost all of the eras and civilizations in world history. One entrance fee covers all 3.

On display at the Museum of Ancient Orient is an exceptionally rich collection of Anatolian artefacts from Hittite empires and pre-Islamic items collected from the Ottoman Empire.

A Roman statue of the god Bes greets you as you enter the Archaeology Museum on the opposite side of the courtyard.

The annexe behind the main ground-floor gallery has the Children's Museum with a large-scale model of the Trojan Horse, which children can climb into. Beside the Children's Museum is the Neighbouring Cultures of Istanbul gallery, with a Byzantium collection including a stunning mosaic depicting Orpheus, and small mosaic of St Eudocia.

The last of the complex's museum buildings is the gorgeous Tiled Kiosk of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Thought to be the oldest surviving nonreligious Turkish building in Istanbul, it was built in 1472 as an outer pavilion of Topkapı Palace and was used for watching sporting events.

Amongst the most famous pieces at the museum are the extremely ornate Alexander Sarcophagus, the stunningly preserved Sarcophagus of the Crying Women and the Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BCE), signed between Ramesses II of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire, the oldest known peace treaty in the world.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

Address: Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet

Phone: (0212) 522 1259 (info)

Open 0900 - 1730

Entrance fees

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Sultanahmet (4 stops, see map).

Basilica Cistern, located diagonally across from Aya Sofya is an extraordinary subterranean structure started by Constantine, but expanded by Justinian in AD 532 for storing the imperial water supply. The cistern fell to disuse during the Ottoman times. It was rediscovered in 1545 by the scholar Petrus Gyllius. It was not until the 18th Century that any restoration took place. It was renovated, cleaned up and opened to the public in 1987.

The cistern's roof is 65m wide and 143m long, and its cathedral like ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows. It once held 80,000 cubic metres of water, delivered via 20km of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea. Today it still contains a few feet of water, over which wooden walkways have been built and lighting installed to give visitors the full effect.

The cistern was used as a film set in the James Bond film from Russia with Love.

Süleymaniye Mosque ( Süleymaniye Camii)

Address: Prof Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi, Bazaar District

Phone: (212) 514 0139 (info)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Beyazit(6 stops, see map).

The Süleymaniye crowns one of the seven hills, dominating the Golden Horn. It was commissioned by Süleyman I (Süleyman The Magnificent) It was designed and built between 1550 and 1557 by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan.

The Süleymaniye Mosque is considered by many as the grandest mosque in Istanbul.

The mosque is 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width. The main dome is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 26.5 meters.

The complex has four minarets. The minarets have a total of 10 galleries.

Apart from the main mosque with the praying hall and courtyard, the mosque complex also includes a caravanserai or seraglio, a public kitchen which served food to the poor, a hospital, theological schools (medrese), and a bath-house (hamam).

There is little interior decoration other than some very fine İznik tiles in the mihrab, beautiful stained-glass windows, and four massive columns.

Near the southeast wall of the mosque is the cemetery, with the tombs of Süleyman and his wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana), his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye.

The great Architect, Mimar Sinan died in 1588 and is buried in a tomb (türbe) of his own design, in the cemetery just outside the walls of the Süleymaniye Mosque to the north, across a street named Mimar Sinan Caddessi in his honour.

Süleymaniye Hamami (Turkish Bath)

Address: Mimar Sinan Av. 20, Süleymaniye-Fatih

Phone: 0212-520-3410

Open 07.30 - 24.00

Direction from Firuze Apartment
: 10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Beyazit(6 stops, see map).

It was designed by Sinan as part of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex.

In the bath there is a lodge built for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and nowadays the bath is running as a touristic establishment and is the only mixed (ie male & female) public hamam.

Çemberlitas Hamami (Bath)

Address: Vezirhan Caddesi 8, Çemberlitas

Phone: (212) 520 18 50

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Çemberlitas (5 stops, see map).

Sinan built the Çemberlitas Hamam in 1584 and was very popular among the Sultans. Here are separate sections for men and women. Tea, coffee and soft drinks service are available. Discounts are applied to students and groups.

Grand Bazaar (Kapalı çarşı)

Address: Grand Bazaar, Çemberlitas

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 08:30 - 19:00

Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Beyazıt (6 stops, see map).

Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. The confusing labyrinth of streets was originally named after the goods sold there (Mirror-makers St, Pearl Merchants St, Fez Makers St and so on). Here you can find anything, from carpets to leather clothing, jewellery, antiques, brass ware, ceramics, handicrafts, etc. Be prepared to haggle hard. Shop around before you commit to heavy bargaining. Many traders start at double the price of what they are willing to accept.

Egyptian Market (Mısır Çarşısı)


Opening hours: 08.30 - 19.00

Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the historic train from Tünel). From here you can take the Tramway or walk across the Galata Bridge to Eminönü.

The Egyptian spice market is one of Istanbul’s oldest covered markets, and a time-honoured symbol of the city. It dates back to the Seventeenth Century. Construction of the bazaar was commissioned in the year 1660 by Hatice Turhan Sultan, the mother of Sultan Mehmet IV. It was built by the architect, Kâzım Aga.

At the time of its establishment, thousands of spices from nations in the Far East, such as India and Arabia, as well as herbal remedies for every imaginable ailment, were sold here. Today you can find the popular grounded red Turkish chillies as well many other spices, dried fruit, traditional Turkish delight and other sweets. You can also find various delicious herbal and fruit teas. Try the love tea mixture. You can buy good Turkish coffee from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi (Mehmet Efendi Coffee Roasters). They are located just outside of the bazaar’s Tahtakale exit, just follow the wonderful coffee aroma and you will find it.

In the many interesting passages and narrow streets of Tahtakale, behind and around the Egyptian market you will find numerous shops selling household goods, watches and clothes at bargain prices. This is where the locals come to do their shopping.

Arasta Bazaar

Open every day.

Direction from Firuze Apartment
10 minutes walk down the hill from the apartment will take you to Karaköy port on the Golden Horn (or you can take the train from Tünel). From Karaköy take the Tramway to Sultanahmet (4 stops, see map).

Arasta Bazaar is located behind the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet. It was built in the 17th Century and used to be stables at Ottoman times. It now houses several small shops selling carpets, rugs, jewellery and other handicrafts.

New City

Beyoğlu, where heart of Istanbul beats.

Beyoğlu (pronounced, beyohlu) is a cosmopolitan and a lively district on the European side of Istanbul across the Golden Horn from the old city . Pera was the original Greek name for the area, meaning “beyond” or “across” (from the old city). Beyoğlu, has been host to different races, languages, religions and cultures for thousands of years.

The district encompasses other neighbourhoods located north of the Golden Horn, including Galata,Tünel, Karaköy, Cihangir, Şişhane, Tepebaşi, Tarlabaşi, Dolapdere and Kasımpaşa, and is connected to the old city centre across the Golden Horn through the Galata Bridge and Unkapanı Bridge. Beyoğlu is the most active art, entertainment and night life centre of Istanbul.

The north side of the Golden Horn was built up as a suburb of Byzantium as early as the 5th century. Pera became the base of European merchants, particularly from Genoa and Venice. Pera was given as a semi-independent colony to the Republic of Genoa by the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Paleologus for giving active support to drive out the Crusaders (Fourth Crusade); and Pera became a flourishing trade colony, ruled by a Podestà. In 1348 the Genoese built the famous Galata Tower, one of the most prominent landmarks of Istanbul. Pera (Galata) remained under Genoese control until 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottomans along with the rest of the city, after the Siege of Constantinople.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries western powers built their embassies here especially along the Grande Rue de Péra (today Istiklal Street). Most of these mansions are now used as consulates.

Today Beyoğlu is the centre of commerce, entertainment, art and culture of Istanbul. Many exquisite boutiques, music and bookstores, art galleries, cinemas, theatres, cafes, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, patisseries are lined on Istiklal and its side street. Here you will find churches,synagogues, historical buildings, picturesque arcades, old Ottoman hans and bazaars.

Beyoğlu has excellent public transport system connecting it to all parts of Istanbul.


A minute walk from Firuze Apartment

Tünel is one of the symbols of Istanbul . It is an underground funicular with only two stations. This 571 meter long railway station was inaugurated in 1875 as the world's third subway line and the shortest to carry the people of Pera up and down between Galata and the nearby business and banking district of Karaköy.

Tünel has given its name to the neighbourhood as well. This area is still one of the most Bohemian quarters in Istanbul. In the streets of Asmalimescit you will find plenty of alternatives for dining. Even in winter you see people sitting in the narrow, cosy streets of Asmali having their lunch. You can enter the Asmali area via a large gate opposite the Tünel building. It is an arty little street arcade in the impressive turn of the century style, which houses some fashionably trendy little coffeehouses, artist’s studios, galleries, bohemian cafes and restaurants set against a backdrop of wall paintings and leafy greenery sprouting from their pots. The popular Babylon nightclub and live music venue is also located in the Asmali area. This backstreet club hosts a varied program of live acts, including big names from the realms of jazz, house and world music.

Tünel is also home to music lovers. The street Galipdede (where Firuze Apartment is located) , going down from Tünel to Galata Tower is lined with shops selling musical instruments. This interesting street is named after Galipdede, the famous 17th-century Sufi poet Seyh Galip (1757-1799) who was one of the most important figures of Mevlevi order. His tomb is in the courtyard of the Galata Mevlevihane in the same street.

The nostalgic tram runs on İstiklal Avenue, between Taksim Square and Tünel.

Galata Mevlevihane (Mevlevi dervish lodge)

Address: Galipdede Caddesi 15, Tünel

Phone : (0212) 245 4141 (info)

Open 9.30 - 16.30

A few steps away from Firuze Apartment

The Mevlevi tarika (order), founded in Konya during the 13th century, flourished throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Whirling Dervishes took their name from the great Islamic philosopher and poet, Celaleddin Rumi (1207-73), called Mevlana (Our Leader) by his disciples. The Mevlevi mystic order was established by his son, Sultan Veled.

The Mevlevi order makes music a central part of religious practice. The ney, kudum and later instruments such as the tambur were used in Mevlevi ceremonies. It is said that at gatherings Mevlânâ Celâleddin-i Rum" recited poetry and engaged in the whirling dance known as the sema. The whirling induced a trancelike state that made it easier for the mystic to seek spiritual union with God.

The Galata Mevlevihane was the first Mevlevi dervish lodge established in Istanbul. The first Seyh (leader) of the dervish community here was Şemai Sultan Divani Mehmet Dede, a grandson of the great Mevlana. The first Seyh of Galata Mevlevihane during Selim's reign was Mehmed Es'ad Dede, better known as Seyh Galip Dede, who was also a famous poet.

This was the first Melevihane to allow women to participate in the dance ceremony.

The tombs of Seyh ismail Rusuhi Dede, Seyh Galip Dede, Ibrahim Muteferrika, who founded the first Ottoman printing press in the 18th century, Humbaracibasi Ahmed Pasa, and Leyla Saz the famous 19th century poetess and composer can also be seen at Galata Mevlevihane.

Today the building houses the Museum of Divan Literature and a collection of musical instruments, but the dervish ceremonies are still sometimes held here.

Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

Address: Off Yüksekkaldırım Cad, Galata.

Open 09.00 - 20.00

Entrance fee

Evening show at the restaurant at 20.00

Phone: (0212) 2938180

Direction from Firuze Apartment
2 minutes walk down the hill.

The tower was built in 1348 by the Genoese on the site of a former tower built by Justinian in 528. Over the centuries it has had a number of functions including a dungeon and a fire watchtower. Nowadays there is a restaurant at the top. A lift will take you up to the 7th floor, from where you can take the stairs up to the viewing gallery, which offers magnificent views of the Bosphorus, Marmara Sea, the Golden Horn, and the historical Peninsula. The viewing tower is narrow and gets very crowded with tourists, so best time to go would be in the morning. Alternatively enjoy the magnificent views of Istanbul from the huge roof terrace of Firuze apartment.

Neve Shalom Synagogue

Address: Büyük Hendek Caddesi 61, Galata

Phone: (0212) 293 7566 (info)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Behind Galata Tower

During the 19th century, Galata had a large Sephardic Jewish population and a number of synagogues. Most of this community has now moved to other residential areas in the city, but the synagogue remains.

Neve Shalom is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, open to service especially on Shabbats, high holidays, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals and weddings.

Taksim Square

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Walk 1 minute up the hill to Istiklal Street and Taksim Square is 20 minutes walk at the other end of Istiklal, or take the street tram from outside Tünel station.

Taksim is the symbolic heart of modern Istanbul. The Monument of Republic, situated at the centre of Taksim Square is an important work of art depicting the foundation story of Turkish Republic. The Monument of Republic, was built by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and the Turkish sculptors Hadi Bara and Sabiha Bengütaş in 1928. There are figures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his friends in arms, soldiers, students, citizens and women at the front, which describes the “Secular Republic of Turkey” in a symbolical way.

The square is hardly a triumph of urban design. There is busy bus terminus on one side and an uninspiring garden in the centre.

Atatürk Cultural Centre (Atatürk Kültür Merkezi) is on the east side of the square. It hosts many concerts and performances.

Taksim Square is a major public transport hub connecting Beyoğlu to all parts of Istanbul.

Istiklal Street (Istiklal Caddesi; pronounced jaddesi)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
1 minute walk up the hill on Galipdede Street.

The Istiklal, which used to be called the Grand Rue de Pera is the spine of Beyoğlu. It is a 2km pedestrian street leading from Taksim Square down to Tünel. It is packed with cafés, boutiques, bookshops, galleries, theatres, cinemas, banks, offices, shopping outlets and bazaars, consulates and embassies, churches, historical arcades and passageways tucked into 19th century European-built mansions. The nostalgic tram runs on İstiklal Street , between Taksim Square and Tünel.

The best way to explore Istiklal area is to put away your guide book and walk along Istiklal and just head into the many arcades, passages and the side street. Every arcade (pasaj), and side street have their own unique character.

In Atlas Pasaj you can find stores selling colourful plush boxes and lamps, picture frames, colourful pillow cases and bags. Halep Passage has a cinema café and has shops selling books, cds, paintings, posters, silver and Jewellery. In Aznavur pasaj you will find decorative candles, ceramics and china. Terkos Passage has second hand and retro clothing. In Avrupa Passage, situated inside Fish Market (Balik pazar) , you can find all kinds books written in foreign languages.

The beautiful 19th century Çiçek Pasaj is a very popular place filled with historic restaurants and bars (meyhane) frequented by locals and tourists.

Fish Market (Balık Pazarı) is lined on both side with fish stalls, fresh fruit and grocery stalls and shops selling spices and Turkish souvenirs. There is plenty of meyhanes and fresh fish restaurants. You can choose your fresh fish and they will cook it to your liking. But make sure you ask for the cooked price before ordering fish that is sold by weight, as it is not unusual for the tourists to be over charged at the end. Also make sure you check all the items on the bill.

Nevizade Street just off the Fish market and behind Çiçek Pasaj is one of the favourite places of night life in Istanbul with the bars, meyhanes and pubs, lined up side by side. The street’s popularity makes it very crowded and it is not a place for a romantic evening.

There are numerous beautiful 19th century buildings and mansions on Istiklal Caddesi. In Galatasaray (half way between Taksim and Tünel) behind a beautiful heavy wrought iron gate you will see Galatasaray Lisesi, a prestigious French school which was started in the mid 1800's. In Turnacıbaşi St., behind the school is the Galatasaray Hamami (Turkish bath) with separate section for men and women (Tel: (212) 252 42 42)

Heading down in Istiklal towards Tünel you will come to the striking St. Antoine Church . The building is the creation of Giulio Mongeri, built in Venetian neo-gothic style architecture and was completed in 1912.

There are many interesting areas reached through side streets of Istiklal. Cihangir (pronounced Jihangir) is a charming, trendy residential quarter with many wonderful cafes and restaurants. Çukurcuma (pronounced chu-kur-ju-ma) is an antiques quarter with shops overflowing with Ottoman-era knickknacks next to new galleries and designer boutiques.

The Fransiz Sokak (French Street) behind Galatasaray School is an adorable, picturesque place with charming cafés and restaurants which adds a French flavour to Beyoğlu.

Just below Cihangir and right near the seashore is the Tophane district. This place is adorned with historical fountains and mosques, and Istanbul Modern Art Museum.

Tepebaşi area, at the southwestern end of İstiklal overlooking the Golden Horn is currently undergoing restoration. The city’s oldest and one of the grandest hotels, The Pera Palas Oteli is located here. The hotel was built in 1892 to accommodate the disembarking passengers of the famed Orient Express train, linking Paris and Constantinople. The hotel is currently closed and is being renovated and will reopen in late 2009. Agatha Christie wrote her most famous novel, Murder on the Orient Express, in this hotel. Near by is the Pera Museum with a collection of ottoman era paintings, Prints and sculptures. Apart from its permanent collection, the museum also hosts visiting exhibitions, which has included the works of world-famous artists like Rembrandt.

Istanbul Modern

Address Meclis-I Mebusan Caddesi, Tophane

Phone: (0212) 334 7300 (info)

Transport tram: Tophane

Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00-18.00

Thursday: 10.00-20.00

Admission fee, Every Thursday: Free of Charge

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Either take tram from karaköy to Tophane or can be reached on foot. From Istiklal Street turn right (second road from Tünel, just before Richmond Hotel) into Kumaraçi Street. Down at the bottom this steep hill is Meclis-I Mebusan Caddesi where Istanbul Modern is located.

One of the city’s newest attractions is the Istanbul Modern with a good collection of modern local art.

Istanbul Modern, funded by the Eczcıbaşi family, opened in 2005, this huge converted shipping terminal has a stunning location right on the shores of the Bosphorus at Tophane. On the first floor there is a collection of Turkish 20th century and contemporary including works by Şekere Ahmet Ali Paşa (1841-1907), Orhan Peker (1927-1978), Omer Kaleşi (1932-), Cihat Burak (1915-1994), İsmet Doğan (1957-), , İhsan Cemal Karaburçak (1897-1970), Avni Arbaş (1919-2003), Sema Gürbüz (1960-) and Adnan Çoker (1927-) downstairs spaces host temporary exhibitions from local and international artists.

The museum also has a dedicated interactive exhibition space for children called Genç (young).

Bosphorus (Boğazı)

This romantic, strategically vital stretch of water divides Europe from Asia and joins the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. Shores of the Bosphorus started to flourish when Sultan Abdülmecid decided to move his palace from Topkapı and built the Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphorus. Aristocrats and wealthy citizen built their summer houses and mansions along these shores. Today there are a mixture of these historic buildings as well as modern ones. The best way to see them is on a Bosphorus cruise. Cheap way to explore the Bosporus is by the public ferries that traverse the Bosporus from Eminönü on the historic peninsula of Istanbul to Anadolu Kavağı near the Black Sea, zigzagging between the European (Rumelian) and Asian (Anatolian) sides of the city. A number of private companies also run Bosphorus cruises.

There are superb fish restaurants and bars on both side of the Bosphorus.

There are currently two bridges over the Bosphorus. The first Bosphorus Bridge (Boğaziçi Köprüsü) was built in 1973, and at 1560m (1074m mid span) is one of the worlds longest single-span suspension bridges. It is located between Ortaköy (European side) and Beylerbeyi (Asian side).

The second bridge, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge was complted in 1988. It is situated between Hisarüstü (European side) and Kavacık (Asian side). For a close view of the bridge walk up to the top of Rumelihisar.

Both bridges can be seen from a long way away and they are magnificent to watch, particularly at night. What makes these bridges so special is the fact that they are the only bridges in the word that link two continents - Asia and Europe.

Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı)

Address: Dolmabahçe Cad, Beşiktaş

Phone : (0212) 236 9000 (info)

Open Mch to Sep 0900-1600, Oct t Feb 0900-1500

Closed Monday and Thursdays.

Entrance fee.

Direction from Firuze Apartment
It is only 1 stop on the Funicular from Taksim metro to Kabitaş and is a short walk from here. Or take a bus from Taksim. A taxi from Tünel will cost around 10 YTL.

In 1843 Sultan Abdülmecid commissioned the construction of an Ottoman-European palace that would impress everyone who set eyes on it. Tons of gold was used on elaborate decorations and beautiful chandeliers were brought from Paris. Construction was completed in 1856. Sultan Abdülmecid died shortly after the Palace’s completion.

The Palace, is set in beautiful gardens on the European waterfront. The entry to the palace is via its ornate imperial gate. The Palace is divided into two sections, the Selamlık (Ceremonial Suites; ) and the Harem-Cariyeler (Harem and Concubines' Quarters).

Atatürk used the palace as his Istanbul base. He died here in 1938.

Çiragan Placace (Çiragan Sarayı)

Address: Çiragan Caddesi 84, Beşiktaş

Sultan Abdül Aziz built his own grand residence at Çiragan, on the European shores of Bosphorus, only 1.5km away from Dolmabahçe. The architect was Nikoğos Balyan, one of the designers of Dolmabahçe and here he created an interesting building melding European neoclassical with Ottoman and Moorish styles.

The palace was burnt to a shell in the 1920s, but was restored and is now part of the Kempinski Hotel chain.

Yildiz Park (Yıldız Parkı)

Address: Çiragan Caddesi, Yıldız

Phone : (0212) 261 8460 (info)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Bus from Taksim Square to Yıldız. The information kiosk at the bus station can give you information on which buses to take.

Yıldız Park was once part of the imperial garden of Yıldız Palace. It took its name from the first pavilion, namely Yıldız Kasrı, commissioned by Selim III in early 19th century.

In the late 19th century, Sultan Abdülhamid II left Dolmabahçe Palace and expanded the Yıldız Palace and ordered the renowned Italian architect Raimondo D'Aronco to build new buildings to the palace complex. A small artificial lake, pavilions and summer houses were established in this section.

Yıldız park is now one of the largest public parks in Istanbul. It is a beautiful garden complex with flowers, plants and trees, gathered from every part of the world dating from the Ottoman era. Park grounds offer panoramic views of the Bosphorus. The park is a very popular picnic place.

Çadir Köşkü. Built between 1865 and 1870, the ornate kiosk is nestled beside a small lake and now functions as a café.

At the top of the hill, enclosed by a lofty wall, is the Yıldız Şale. In the republican era, the Yıldız Şale has served as a guesthouse for visiting heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle, Pope Paul VI and the Empress Soraya of Iran.

Around 500m past the turn-off to Yıldız Şale is Malta Köşkü, now a restaurant and function centre. Built in 1870, this was where Abdül Hamit imprisoned the deposed Murat V and his family.


Direction from Firuze Apartment
Bus from Taksim Square.

Beneathe the first Bosphorus Bridge is the charming and trendy village of Ortaköy. It has many trendy boutiques, galleries and wonderful, atmospheric water side cafes and restaurant. There is an art craft market on Sundays.

Right on the water front is the beautiful Ortaköy Camii. It was built in 1854 by Nikogos Balyan, the architect of Dolmabahçe Palace. Within the mosque hang several masterful examples of Arabic calligraphy by Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861) himself, who was an accomplished calligrapher.

With the Bosphorus Bridge behind it, the mosque provide one of the most beautiful spots to take a few photos.


Direction from Firuze Apartment
Bus from Taksim Square.

Bebek, on the European shores of Bosphorus, is one of the wealthiest neighbourhood of Istanbul. It has a small bay where yachts are anchored, fancy restaurants, clubs and quaint cafeterias.


09:00-17:00, closed Wednesdays

Entrance fee

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Bus from Taksim Square. A taxi from Tünel will cost around 20 YTL.

The great fortress was built by Sultan Ahmet the Conquerer in 1452 in order to control commercial and military traffic and choke off all aid to Constantinople during the final siege of the city.

The fortress was used as a Bosphorus toll booth for awhile, then as a barracks, later as a prison, and finally as an open-air theatre. It is great fun climbing the stairs, where you can get wonderful views of the Bosphorus and the Asian side. At the top of the fortress you can get a close up look at the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

Asian (Anatolian) side

Beylerbeyi Palace

Address: Abdullahağa Caddesi, Beylerbeyi
Phone: +90 216 321 93 20

Open 09:30 - 16:00

Closed Mondays and Thursdays

Beylerbeyi is the largest and most elegant Ottoman Palace on the Asian Shore of the Bosphorus. It is one of the loveliest summer palaces in Istanbul. It was constructed for Sultan Abdulaziz in 1861-65 by Sarkis Balyan, a famous Armenian architect. It has a total of 26 elegantly designed chambers and 6 grand halls.

Büyük Çamlica (pronounced Chahmlija) Park

Address: Üsküdar

Phone : 216 443 2198 (info)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Ferry from karaköy port to Üsküdar or the Funicular from Taksim metro to Kabitaş port and take the ferry from here to Üsküdar, then take a taxi to top of the hill.

Büyük Çamlica is a hilltop park which is the highest point in the city. It is a great place for picnics. It has a nice café/restaurant with views of Old Istanbul, as well as the Bosphorus winding its way to the Black Sea.

Princes Islands (Adalar)

Direction from Firuze Apartment
Take the Tramway from Karaköy or the funicular from Taksim to the fast ferry port in Kabataş.

For ferry timetables visit

The Princes' Islands lie on the southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara, and consists of 9 islands. Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kınalıada, Sedef Adası, Yassıada, Sivriada, Kaşik Adası and Tavsan Adası.

During the Byzantine period, prince and other royalty were exiled on the islands, and later members of the Ottoman sultans family were exiled there too, lending the islands their present name. Leon Trotsky deported from the Soviet Union in 1929 stayed for 4 years on Büyük Ada.

During the summer months the Princes’ Islands are popular destinations for day trips from Istanbul. As there is no traffic on the Islands, the only transport being horse and carriage, they are incredibly peaceful and are just a short ferry ride away. Most ferries call in turn at the four largest of the nine islands: Kınalıada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and finally Büyükada.

Büyükada is the largest of the islands. It has two hills with a valley in between. As with the other islands motor vehicles are forbidden (except service vehicles).

You can rent a bicycle or take a tour in a horse carriage.

The islands are very picturesque and you will see many lovely old wooden villas and array of trees and flowers such as acacia, redbud, oleander, tulip, jasmine, honeysuckle and carnation.

There are many fish restaurants on the seaside. Büyükada and Heybeliada both have a limited range of hotels. Beaches are mostly gravely, but you will find some sandy beaches. On Kinaliada there are a few small sandy beaches on left of the harbour.

Islands and ferries get crowded on weekends during summer months. It is best to go on a week day.