With a history as rich and elaborate as that found in Istanbul, you can easily spend months or even years exploring the city and still never see it all. It is the largest city in Turkey and, in fact, one of the largest in the world. Its history stretches back to artefacts that indicate that there were inhabitants going back as far as the seventh millennium B. C.
Today, the cultures of Eastern and Western ideals mix and meld in a city that straddles the two continents of Europe and Asia. One of the best ways to tackle a city that is as large and visually and culturally dense as this one is to take it in bits and pieces by focussing on one or two things. Arguably the most important attractions of the city is the array of mosques that played such an important role in the history are are still a vital part of the vibrancy of modern Istanbul. Staying in any one of the best Istanbul hotels will put you within easy walking distance, and certainly hearing distance, of some of the city’s most famous mosques.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Located close to the best Istanbul hotels near the “golden horn", and more popularly known as the “Blue Mosque”, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is at Sultanahmet Cami, 34122 Sultanahmet, Fatih, and is world famous for the blue tiles that that decorate its interior walls. Built between 1609 and 1616, by Sutlan Ahmed I, it combines some elements of Byzantine design with the traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The mosque itself is large, with one main dome, eight secondary domes and six minarets. There was some contention about the choice of six minarets for the mosque, since traditionally mosques only have four, and folklore says that the architect misheard “gold” (altin) for “six” (alti). Within easy walking distance of many of the best Istanbul hotels, venture inside the mosque to see the (more than) 20,000 ceremic tiles on the lower level and the blue painted ones that dominates the upper level. There are also over 200 stained glass windows that let in the natural light in a stunning display.
There are not many who come to the best Istanbul hotels who leave without visiting the Hagia Sophia – and neither should they. Just a short distance from the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia has a history that begins with its consecration as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in 360 A. D. , and until 1204 through 1261 A. D. it was a briefly a Roman Cathedral. It reverted back to Eastern Orthodoxy until 1453 A. D. when it was turned into a Mosque and the Christian mosaics and art were covered up, as Islam dictates. In latter times, the Hagia Sophia was an active mosque till 1931 when it was secularised and turned into a museum. Today, you can visit the Hagia Sophia and see the amazing melding of Eastern and Western religions in a single building. In a truly unique display, the golden mosaics of Biblical characters shine in the sunlight amid the large plaques scripted in the ancient Arabic language.
Looking for the best Istanbul hotels ? Roberta Stuart is the Travel Manager for Worldhotels, a company offering the best rooms in a selection of unique four and five star hotels around the world.