10 sights not to miss in Istanbul

10 sights not to miss in Istanbul

As EAIE Istanbul 2013 is fast approaching, you can already start preparing for an exciting journey. In addition to networking, exchanging knowledge and discovering the latest trends in international higher education, exploring the city should be on your to-do list during your stay in Istanbul.  The only city in the world to span two continents, the largest city in Turkey and the second largest in the world by population within city limits, Istanbul is truly monumental.

It is a melting pot of cultures which mix harmoniously on both sides of the Bosphorus strait, buzzing with energy and offering surprises at every turn.  Having been the capital of four great empires, Istanbul abounds in historical wonders, at the same time embracing the new and avant-garde lifestyle that makes it ‘the world’s hippest city’. Through its unique blend of traditional and modern, Istanbul will offer you a once in a lifetime experience. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Haghia Sophia

Haghia Sophia was built in 537 A.D. and was first an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, then an Ottoman mosque and now it is a Turkish museum. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and said to have “changed the history of architecture”.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

The Blue Mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. It is famous for the blue tiles decorating its interior walls and its unique architecture combining Byzantine and Islamic characteristics.

Topkapi Palace

The palace was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for over three centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site hosting Muslim holy relics among which Muhammed’s cloak and sword. The museum overlooks the Bosphorus and offers a deep insight into the lavish lifestyle of the sultans.

The Bosphorus

Separating Asia and Europe, the Bosphorus offers some spectacular views and it’s one of the most vibrant areas of the city. Fishing is still one of the main activities in the area so you can enjoy fresh fish in one of the exquisite restaurants along the shores. Also, you can relax on the EAIE Cocktail Cruise  while networking with fellow conference participants.

Binbirdirek Cistern

Dating back to the fourth century, the Binbirdirek Cistern or Cistern of Philoxenos is the oldest cistern in Istanbul. The reservoir was built under a palace and has a surface area of 3640 m2, having a storing capacity of 40 000 m3 of water. While the name means ‘1001 columns’ the cistern features 224, all made from marble from nearby Marmara Island. It has seen many uses over the years and it now functions as a charming cultural attraction where we will hold our famous Dinner and Dance. We hope you will join us in this ancient, magnificent setting!

Grand Bazaar

Being the oldest and largest historical bazaar of the world, the Grand Bazaar was founded by Mehmet II, Istanbul’s first Ottoman ruler, in order to provide income for Hagia Sophia. It hosts over 3000 shops (antique dealers, jewelers, bag makers, leather shops, carpet sellers, etc) on 61 covered streets and attracts between 250 000 and 400 000 visitors each day.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace located on the European coastline of the Bosphorus strait, served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire and was also the residence of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Istanbul Modern

The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Turkey’s first private museum to organise modern and contemporary art exhibitions, was founded in 2004 and occupies an 8000 square meter site on the shores of the Bosphorus. It is located in a converted warehouse on the Bosphorus in the Tophane neighbourhood.


The vibrancy of Istanbul’s culture and entertainment centre, Beyoglu, is reflected in its architecture, daily life and cuisine. Istiklal Street is at the heart of this large district, packed with theatres, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs and almost every visitor to Istanbul is attracted by its bright lights. Flower Passage (Cicek Pasaji in Turkish), a famous historic passage on Istiklal Street is famous for its meyhanes and live music.

Turkish bath

A Turkish bath (Hamam) is the Turkish variant of a steam bath. Hamams have been popular in Turkey for thousands of years, many of them surviving from Hellenic and Roman times. The Çemberlitas Hamami, designed by architect Sinan, is one of the city’s most beautiful and classic Turkish baths.

To learn more about this fascinating city, download this article from the 2012 winter issue of the EAIE Forum magazine. And don’t forget, to enjoy Istanbul to the full, it’s also nice to just wander around the city and immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere.

Stay tuned for more tips for your trip to Istanbul!