The history of Istanbul can be traced back to the 7th century BC. Yet, the earliest settlements appeared in the Paleolithic age. Founded in the ancient Greek period, Istanbul served as capital city during the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires, and finally became the most significant city of the Republic of Turkey.
It is highly recommendable to start the excursion to Historical Peninsula from Aksaray district. You will encounter the first examples of Ottoman architecture in Aksaray and Laleli districts.
Next you can stopover by Beyazit district which is the site where the first university of Anatolia, namely Istanbul University was built. Used as a fire watch tower during the ottoman era, the Beyazit tower, with its magnificent entrance gate and square, is one of the popular attractions of the area.
After touring Beyazit you can move on to Süleymaniye district and eat at the local restaurants famous for their white bean stew before visiting Süleymaniye Mosque.
Known as the world’s first shopping center, the Grand Bazaar is another destination to stop by. The bazaar is comprised of many streets where you can buy jewelry and handiwork from the small artisan shops or take a look at gold, leather or local products.
The Nuruosmaniye Mosque nearby the exit from Grand Bazaar to Çemberlitaş, is the first mosque with baroque features. The additional areas of the structure are used as little shops. Having passed the mosque, you will get to the center of Çemberlitaş where you can visit the Historical Hamam.
You can stroll along the long street where you can find traditional products and sweets and stop by the historical Ali Pasha Madrasah for a cup of Turkish coffee brewed on coal-fire.
The Sultanahmet Square will be waiting for you in all its glory after you have left Çemberlitaş district. The square where Sultanahmet Mosque and Hagia Sophia are situated opposite each other is worth visiting by day as well as by night.
Covered with blue, green and white Iznik tiles, the Sultanahmet Mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque. Of great historic significance, the Hagia Sophia serves now as a museum bearing wonderful mosaics.
The Serpent Column and Obelisk, the Walled Obelisk and German Fountain located on the square, which was also called the Hippodrome during the Ottoman era, are some of the historical monuments of the region.
The Hagia Eirene Church, situated near to the Hagia Sophia is the largest Byzantine church. Turkey’s first museum church, Haia Eirene is also the venue of numerous organizations.
The Basilica Cistern, a little further away from Sultanahmet Square, has the distinction of being the largest covered cistern in Istanbul. The cistern was built to meet the water requirement during the Byzantine period and bears numerous columns, vaults and some pillars carved with the face of Medusa. The venue of many national and international organizations, the Basilica Cistern will impress you with its unique lighting.
Topkapi Palace, the administrative center and residence of the Ottoman dynasty, is another historical attraction standing in all its glory in Sarayburnu. The palace contains many sections including museums displaying invaluable artifacts and has a breathtaking view.
Having explored every corner of the magnificent Topkapı Palace you may want to take a walk along the cobblestoned Soğukçeşme Street and arrive at Gülhane Park. The lush green park, where one can take a break and relax, is an excellent getaway from the bustle of the city center.
Following the winding road behind the park, you will reach Sirkeci and Eminönü district located at sea level. After visiting Yeni Camii (New Mosque) you can move on to the Spice Bazaar, famous for its variety of spices.
You can have some fish sandwiches fresh from the sea on board of the traditional fishing boats docked at Eminönü harbor and enjoy the view of the Bosporus before heading to Kumkapı. Surrounded with historical monuments by the coastal strip, Kumkapi is the ideal location to dine on sea food and have some entertaining time.
The Historical Peninsula is also popular for its variety of museums. The Archaeological Museum, Mosaic Museum, Turkish Calligraphy Art Museum, Turkish - Islamic Works Museum, Kariye Museum and Topkapi Palace are of great importance for their large collections of invaluable artifacts.
Indeed, the historical Peninsula has numerous historical landmarks within short distances. Though it is difficult to sightsee all of these magnificent structures within a few hours, touring the Historical Peninsula will become one of your most memorable holiday experiences. Just take your camera and be ready to discover the incomparable history of Istanbul!