Istanbul Travel Guide – Top 10 Vacation Highlights

The biggest metropolis in Turkey, Istanbul has previously been voted the Best European Destination to Visit. A city rich in history, Istanbul’s most popular attractions are buildings and monuments built by royalty of centuries past.
Istanbul Travel Guide
Table of Contents

The oldest palace in the world, the Topkapi Sarayi in the Sultan Ahmet Historical Peninsula is a magnificent oriental palace. From the 15th century to the mid-19th century, the Palace served as the residence of the Ottoman Sultans and their wives who were closeted in the famous Harem. The Palace is situated on a triangular promontory that dominates the Golden Horn & Bosphorus.

Go on a shopping adventure that you will never forget at Kapali Carsi, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, situated in Beyazit. The Bazaar comprises a series of covered streets with more than 4,000 merchants selling their wares and products. Here you will find anything from slippers and boots to silver and gold jewelry. The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest of its kind, with roots dating from the 15th century.

For close to a thousand years, the Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. A prime example of Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia is today a museum and one of the most iconic buildings in Istanbul.

Situated facing the Hagia Sophia is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or the “Blue Mosque” as it is commonly known. Because the Hagia Sophia has lost its primary function as a place of worship, the Blue Mosque has taken up its role as Turkey’s largest functioning mosque. Go on a tour of its dazzling interiors past hundreds of breathtaking stained glass windows and thousands of shimmering green-blue tiles.

Possibly the most famous street and entertainment area in Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi is a long and colorful pedestrian street full of cafés, restaurants, and shops and street shows. Situated by the Taksim Square, Istiklal Avenue is well worth a stroll for the interesting sights, sounds and smells it offers.

Situated close to the beautiful Bosphorus, Ortakoy is a nightlife hub for the young and trendy of Istanbul, while it’s Square is popular among sightseers. Even if you’re not up for a party, you can simply buy some baked potatoes from the food stands dotting the area and eat them while taking in the splendid views of the Bosphorus.

A medieval Genoese stone tower, the Galata Tower overlooks Istanbul offering panoramic views of the Turkish capital, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Close by and still within the modern center of Galata is the Mevlevi Monastery where you can watch a stunning performance by the world famous Whirling Dervishes.

Yerebatan Sarnici is Istanbul’s most unexpected romantic attraction, offering insights into a complicated system that once supplied drinking water to the city. Dating from the 6th century, the cistern is today fitted with music and lights. And look out for the stunning upside down statues of Medusa hidden in a corner here.

There’s no better place to soak up some culture than in Istanbul. Whether you are interested in art or history, you will find all this and more amid the steamy bathhouses, towering minarets and exotic monuments of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. It’s easy to enjoy a wonderful day in Istanbul. But, one day is simply not enough. It’s important to promise to return someday in the future.

1. Hagia Sophia

A magnificent cathedral constructed during the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia was built in Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which is present-day Istanbul. A remarkable piece of architectural engineering combined with marvelous aesthetics, the Hagia Sophia is generally regarded as the height of Byzantine architecture.

Listed among the greatest architectural achievements in the world, the Hagia Sophia sits on the site of an earlier church that was erected in the 4th century. After the first and subsequent churches burned down, Emperor Justinian I saw this as the perfect opportunity to have a much bigger and far more impressive cathedral built in their place.

The new Hagia Sophia was built within a shocking 6 years and completed in 537 AD. At the time of its construction, the Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in Christendom, and would remain as such until the Cathedral of Seville was finished almost 1,000 years later.

Its size and grandeur today remain a testament to the sophistication of 6th century Byzantine architects who influenced building for centuries after. Unlike many early Christian churches, the church was not named for a saint, but was called the Sancta Sophia in Latin, the Hagia Sophia in Greek or the Aya Sofya in Turkish, which translates to the “Church of the Divine Wisdom” in English.

The Hagia Sophia’s most notable feature is its fantastic dome, whose construction was quite an extraordinary feat for its time. The main dome is supported by 2 smaller domes, and curved, triangular vaults. There are many windows in the walls at the base of the dome that let in the light. In the bright glare of day, this light obscures the supports making the top of the dome seem like its floating on air.

While several adjustments were made to the dome following a series of collapses, the Hagia Sophia’s dome remained without equal in western architecture until the 15th century when the Duomo of the Cathedral in Florence was designed.

As you enter the Hagia Sophia, the vastness of the 105-foot dome towering 184-feet overhead is astounding. Because it was Christendom’s largest early church, the Hagia Sophia was decorated using the finest materials. The walls are covered in a variety of the finest marbles, and figurative mosaics make up the most impressive part of the interior.

The Hagia Sophia was also said to house an assortment of Christian relics including the True Cross, the swaddling clothes of Jesus Christ and the table used during the Last Supper.

For over 1,000 years, the Hagia Sophia was regarded as equally important to the Roman Vatican by Orthodox Christians, if not more so, seeing as the Patriarch of Constantinople, whom it served, was regarded as equal to the Pope.

The Hagia Sophia continued standing as a symbol of Orthodox Christianity until the spring of 1453 when Mehmed II broke through the walls of the city of Constantinople and drove out the remaining Byzantine residents. Although significant damage was done to the city buildings, the Hagia Sophia remained. However, Constantinople would no longer be a Christian city, nor would the Hagia Sophia be a Christian church.

Impressed by the architectural splendor of the Hagia Sophia, Mehmed II decided to convert it into a mosque. He therefore added 4 minarets to the exterior, a mihrab, a minbar and discs to display Islamic calligraphy on the interior. The Ottomans also plastered over some of the original Christian mosaics of the Holy Family as Islam forbids the placement of images inside mosques. For the next 4 and a half centuries, the Hagia Sophia would serve as one of the most important religious centers in Islam.

In 1934, with the aim of modernizing the educational and legal systems of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk the Reformer secularized the Hagia Sophia. The next year, it was converted to a museum, which it remains today.

Many of the Christian mosaics have today been uncovered and stand next to the Muslim modifications. Here you will find pictures of Mary and Jesus intermingled with the muezzin mahfili and the mihrab added by the Ottomans. It is this that gives the Hagia Sophia a very distinct look, unique from any other Istanbul mosque.

2. Topkapi Sarayi

Until 1922, Turkey was ruled by sultans of the Ottoman Empire, for whom the Topkapi Sarayi served as primary residence and the place where they held court. During its heydays between the years 1453 and 1856, the palace housed a population of approximately 4,000 people including the one Sultan, his harem, eunuchs, advisors and cooks.

The Topkapi Sarayi is a palace built in the 15th century on the orders of Sultan Mehmet the Ottoman Conqueror soon after he conquered the city. Expanded by successive sultans, Topkapi Sarayi was to remain the sultan’s residence for the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years. The palace has been a museum since 1924.

Topkapi Sarayi unfolds in a series of gates and courtyards, with museums and displays of opulent rooms, tranquil courtyards and fine art collections. The palace features multiple buildings throughout the complex, framed by ancient trees, flowers and fountains, as well as 4 courtyards, each of which is more private than the previous one.

In particular, the riches of the sultans in the Harem and Treasury will dazzle you. Priceless artworks, precious jewels, intricate textiles, swords, war spoils, gifts and commissioned items created by the Topkapi’s own craftsmen are on display for your admiration. Do not miss out on the jewel-encrusted Topkapi Dagger or the solid-gold candlesticks that stand to the height of a man.

There is an Imperial Gate leading to the first courtyard, while the twin towers of the Gate of Salutations serve as entry to the second courtyard. Each of the buildings inside the palace holds a different type of treasure. For instance, the Old Kitchen features a delightful collection of priceless Chinese porcelain with some large ancient kitchen utensils.

The Treasury holds exquisite jewels, many of which are embedded in chainmail, daggers and other weapons. The Treasury also features golden thrones that are encrusted with precious stones, as well as the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond, which is the 5th largest in the world, and which once adorned the turban of Mehmet IV.

There is also a cabinet that is said to contain the hands and skull of John the Baptist. The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle features some of Islam’s holiest relics, most of which were brought over by Selim the Grim who conquered both Egypt and Arabia.

The most sacred treasure here is a mantle said to have been worn by the Prophet Mohammed. Here you will encounter a holy man who chants passages from the Koran continuously day and night over a golden chest that contains the mantle.

And then there’s the Harem, a lush area that was once home to 1,000 wives and concubines living together, guarded by enslaved African eunuchs and frequented by the sultans and their sons. The floors and walls of the Harem are ornately decorated and worth a peek.

You don’t want to miss out on seeing the Harem with its breathtaking tiling and décor, so be sure to sign up for the harem tour as soon as you enter the Topkapi Sarayi grounds.

Visitors to the sprawling Topkapi Sarayi palace complex can enjoy a lingering tour among the lovely grounds and shade trees that will take you back to a time when the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful in the world. The palace buildings and grounds can be visited in a whole day. If you have less time, select a few exhibits to look at and hope to return someday for more.

Situated on the road leading up to the Topkapi Palace is the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The Museum was originally founded in 1891 with the aim of offering an exhibition space for artifacts from all the civilizations that once existed within the Ottoman Empire borders.

Today, the Museum is home to almost a million artifacts from civilizations such as Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula. Moreover, it was one of the first 10 buildings in the world to be built specifically as a museum.

The Museum holds the world’s oldest written love poem, as well as the oldest peace treaty. The Museum’s sarcophagus collection is also very impressive, and there are numerous Roman and Greek sculptures worth a peek inside the Museum.

The Museum is divided into 3 sections: the Archaeology Museum, the Tiled Pavilion Museum and the Ancient Oriental Artifacts Museum. The Museum of Ancient Oriental Artifacts will take you on a journey through the history of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, the Greeks and the Romans. At the Tiled Pavilion Museum, you can marvel at beautiful tiles from Iznik.

As you cross from one Museum courtyard to the next, you will notice many cats hanging about. The citizens of Istanbul love cats, but rather than keeping them in their homes, they are left to the streets but loved, fed and cared for. Cat-stantinople, anyone?

3. Sultan Ahmet Camii

One of the first things you will see when sailing into Istanbul from the Mediterranean Sea are 6 minarets towering over the Bosphorus. The minarets belong to the Sultan Ahmet Camii, which is popularly known as the “Blue Mosque”. Perched on a hill overlooking the Sea of Marmara, the Mosque’s magnificent exterior domes and minarets welcome incoming visitors to Istanbul, while adding to the city’s intrigue.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I during the early 1600s and features a classic Ottoman design. The sultan charged his imperial architect with the task of building a mosque to rival the Hagia Sophia. Ask any visitor to Istanbul today and they will agree that the architect succeeded.

The Mosque is situated in the Sultan Ahmet District of Istanbul and was built by some of the stone masons responsible for the construction of the Taj Mahal in India.

The imperial architect of the Mosque used the classical Ottoman design, characterized by many domes and semi-domes throughout the interior to continually draw the eyes of the visitor skyward toward heaven in an amazing view. Most of the domes and semi-domes are best viewed from the courtyard.

The interior of the Mosque is flooded with light from the more than 250 windows that were previously filled with 17th century Venetian stained glass. Although the stained glass is now gone, the effect remains quite airy and light.

The “Blue Mosque” nickname comes from the spectacular interior wall covering that features more than 20,000 blue tiles. The magnificent blue ceramic tiles cover much of the interior of the Mosque and are the first thing you will notice as you enter.

The tiles are quite splendid, made by workers in Iznik who used local deposits of fine clay to create pottery similar to porcelain. Because Sultan Ahmet banned others from ordering tiles from Iznik during the construction of the Blue Mosque, the industry declined in the 17th century.

Once inside the Mosque, you will find lots to absorb. The abstract and geometric artwork is quite impressive. Four large 16-foot diameter columns dominate the Mosque’s interior, providing support to the massive dome above. Flowering arabesque designs are painted onto the insides of the domes and semi-domes.

Its window shutters and doors were carved intricately with latticework, as was the imperial loge where the sultan and his entourage could pray behind screens, safe from potential assassins.

The mihrab features a piece of sacred Black Stone from the Ka’aba in Mecca. Next to the mihrab is the minbar, the high pulpit. The Mosque features separate prayer areas for men and women, and has a grandfather clock to set the time of prayer.

The Mosque serves as a classic example of Ottoman architecture, with its 6 slender minarets surrounding the dome, setting the Sultan Ahmet Mosque apart from the other mosques of Istanbul, and making it a distinctive landmark to the city skyline.

As you leave the courtyard of the Sultan Ahmet Camii, you will enter the Hippodrome that is adjacent to the Mosque, where you can have a peek at the German Fountain.

4. Kariye Muzesi

Also known as the “Chora Church,” Kariye Muzesi is a church museum that serves as one of the best examples of Byzantine mosaic art. Situated in the Kariye neighborhood close to the Edirnekapi city walls, Kariye Muzesi was originally a Christian church that was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople. After Turkey became a Republic, Kariye Muzesi became a museum.

The church was originally built during the early 5th century outside the first wall of Constantinople and given the name “St. Savior in Chora.” The church started out as a small monastery that was destroyed and abandoned for centuries, until the area it inhabited was added to Constantinople after the city walls were enlarged.

The church has been rebuilt severally over the centuries. Most of the frescoes and mosaics visitors can admire today are from the 14th century restoration that saw the addition of the Byzantine treasury and artworks.

Following the Conquest of Constantinople, the Ottomans converted the church into a mosque naming it the Kariye Camii. They then plastered over some of the original Christian frescoes and mosaics of the Holy Family as Islam prohibits the placement of images inside mosques. A minaret was built outside and a mihrab added.

After Turkey became a Republic, experts on Byzantine art came to Istanbul to restore the Chora and uncover the fantastic frescoes and mosaics. In 1958, the church was then opened to the public as the Kariye Muzesi museum.

The Kariye Muzesi today boasts the very best Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul, with many depicting the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, along with citations from the Old and New Testaments. In the side corridor you will see amazing frescoes of the Resurrection and the Final Judgment. The Dormition of the Virgin mosaic in the nave is also impressive.

Kariye Muzesi is situated within a typical Ottoman neighborhood with colorful wooden houses that are very pleasant to stroll around. Walk a bit farther away from the museum and you will spy the city wall, the Tekfur Palace and the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque.

5. Yerebatan Sarnici

The largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul, Yerebatan Sarnici or the “Basilica Cistern” was built in 532 AD from the labor 7,000 enslaved people, under the orders of Justinian. Justinian originally built Yerebatan Sarnici to correct shortages of water at his Great Palace that was located nearby. Also known as the “Sunken Palace” the Basilica Cistern later provided additional water to the city during long sieges.

The huge underground cistern measures 140 by 70 meters and once held more than 80,000 cubic meters of water. Its vaulted brick roof is supported by 336 columns; each more than 30 feet tall. Water to the cistern was pumped through more than 40 miles of aqueducts from a reservoir close to the Black Sea.

Visitors to the Basilica Cistern will have to descend underground using a stairway. They will then use walkways over the water that remains, while exploring the mysterious cavern.

You will notice that the columns of the structure vary in intricacy and designs with differing bases and capitals, due to the fact that the cistern was constructed out of repurposed Roman and Greek columns. In fact, the Cistern features 336 marble columns in the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles. It is speculated that the intriguing Medusa heads were deliberately placed upside down in order to ward off evil spirits.

Situated 453 feet underground, Yerebatan Sarnici has the capacity to hold 21 million gallons of water. Since its restoration in 1987, the Cistern is no longer used for its original purpose.

Mostly drained, the Cistern makes for an eerie atmosphere filled with echoes and the sound of classical music playing in the background. The cistern is today also a concert venue, so check their schedule to enjoy an aural treat.

6. Kapali Carsi

For centuries a hub of commerce, Istanbul remains strategically located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. The city was once famous for its heritage of skilled artisans with high standards who produced desirable goods at fair prices.

Kapali Carsi is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar which was opened in 1461. The first shopping mall in the world, Kapali Carsi remains one of the greatest places in the world to explore, which also has the most vendors of all Istanbul bazaars.

Situated in the Istanbul city center, Kapali Carsi houses about 4,000 shops in a labyrinthine complex that also contains mosques, hamams, restaurants and multiple portals going in and out. The majority of the stores in the Kapali Carsi sell high-karat gold jewelry in a dizzying array of styles. There are also scarves in all sorts of colors and styles to match every outfit in your wardrobe.

The hand blown glass mosaic lamps are another big draw here with their varied patterns and colors that will give you a tough time deciding which one you like best. Nonetheless, the most tempting item you could possibly purchase from the Grand Bazaar is a Turkish rug.

After a long albeit fun day shopping at the Grand Bazaar you deserve a treat. So head over to the Cemberlitas Hamam, one of Istanbul’s most famous public bathhouses where you can enjoy a nice relaxing bath.

Cemerlitas Hamam is popular for its pretty colored quartz tiles designed to remove static electricity from the air so as to help relax your body and mound. The light diffused through the glass in the hamam ceiling is also soft and relaxing.

Istanbul is famous for its hamams or Turkish baths. Upon entering the hamam, you will be provided with a cotton wrap, a pair of slippers, as well as a key to your cubicle. You will need to remove all your clothing and wrap the cotton cloth around you like a sarong. Although available at some baths, you may want to bring your own soap, towel and shampoo to avoid the additional expense.

You may bath yourself, receive a scrub or a massage. But first you will need to sit or lay on the heated platform to work up a sweat.

Once done, you will be led by the attendant to one of the basins where you will be scrubbed cleaner than you ever have been – and then some more. The attendant will use a coarse mitten to remove dead skin layers before soaping you, by blowing through a lacy cloth to create white frothy bubbles that cover you from head to toe.

She will then douse you in warm water before giving you time to clean your private areas yourself. While total nudity is fine, some women wear underwear at the hamam.

You may then return to the stone platform for your massage, after which you will be handed towels and taken to the cool room where you can cool down and have some tea.

After your rest, you may return to your cubicle to get dressed. Although the scrub and massage generally last an hour and a half, you may take as much time as you need. A scrub and a massage cost roughly $20, which is well worth it for the real Turkish bath experience.

7. Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

Situated in Eminonu opposite the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is home to the most extensive carpet collection in the world, comprising of 40,000 pieces.

Founded in 1914, the Museum’s rich carpet collection is today displayed in a central location in Istanbul at the Ibrahim Pasa Palace. The collection features a large number of stunning carpets from the Seljuk Empire, which was the most important Turkish state before the Ottoman Empire.

Feast your eyes on rugs created in Anatolia during the 15th to 17th centuries, which are typically ornamented with animals, Kufic designs and geometric figures. These constitute some of the most valuable pieces in this section, along with exquisite rugs from the Caucasus and Iran.

Visit the “Wooden Artifacts Section” where you can view artifacts from the 9th and the 10th century Anatolia, in addition to wooden artworks embellished with ivory and mother-of-pearl from the Ottoman period. There are also hand-written Korans and acquittals, decrees and monograms of the Ottoman Sultans to be seen here.

The Museum also features numerous stone artifacts here on display. Some of the more fascinating stone art works are the tombstones of the Seljuk era, that represent a branch of calligraphy that is quite distinct from that of the Ottoman period. Mythological creatures like dragons and hunting scenes are commonly featured on the tombstones.

8. Istiklal Caddesi

Istiklal Caddesi is the most popular street for strolling, snacking and shopping in Istanbul. Starting at Taksim Square, the hub of modern Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi is a pedestrian street stretching 1.4 kilometers long. Arguably Istanbul’s most famous and active street, Istiklal Caddesi is situated in the historic Beyoglu district on the European side.

When 19th century travelers spoke of Constantinople as the “Paris of the East”, they had the Grande Rue de Pera, with its half-Asian, half-European culture in mind. The Grande Rue de Pera is what Istiklal Caddesi was called back then.

The street is today reserved for pedestrians and lined with book stores, galleries, cinemas, cafés, restaurants, bars, boutiques and residential apartments above. Whatever you need, you are likely to find it here. The street bustles from morning until night, offering plenty of culture and modernity that’s on display. Istiklal never fails to surprise as there’s just so much to discover along its side streets.

Nostalgic tramway cars rattle and clank along the avenue from Taksim Square to Tunel Square, just as they did during the 19th century heyday of this Europeanized corner of the Ottoman sultan’s domain. Tunel Square sits at the far southwestern end of Istiklal Caddesi.

The best way to experience the Istiklal Caddesi is by walking until the end and then taking the tram on your way back. Visitors can ride the historic red tram down the entire street, with its subway system that is the second oldest in the world.

Halfway along the avenue toward the southwest is Galatasaray Square, which is easy to spot due to the grand gates of the Galatasaray Lisesi, the first European-style high school that was established by the Ottoman government.

The street is also surrounded by numerous buildings of historical and political significance including the fish market, the flower passage, the Aga Camii Mosque, the Greek Orthodox Hagia Triada, as well as a number of academic institutions. The venues surrounding the avenue often host international art festivals including the annual Istanbul Film Festival.

Visitors can tour the Istiklal Caddesi during the day for some shopping, in the evening for a pleasant stroll, and for dinner or a drink with some music at one of the nightspots. It’s impossible to leave Istanbul without visiting Istiklal Caddesi several times.

9. Ortakoy

One of the nicest neighborhoods of the Besiktas District in the European side of Istanbul, Ortakoy started out as a small fishing village. But later due to its attractive location, Ortakoy became a resort for the Ottoman dignitaries. Today, the district remains a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

Ortakoy has numerous cafés and teahouses around its square that’s located near the water. In its alleys, you will find several restaurants, bars, nightclubs, small shops and a market that gets lively during weekends. During the summer months, you can attend the small concerts and street shows held here.

Other points of interest within the Ortakoy area include the Ciragan Palace Hotel which used to be a palace; the Kabatas High School which dates from the late Ottoman period; and Feriye restaurant which was the sultans’ former hunting mansion. A small pier connects Ortakoy to other neighborhoods on the Asian side via passenger ferries.

10. Galata

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Galata is situated at the north of the Golden Horn, towards Taksim Square. Culturally and geographically situated on the European side of Istanbul, Galata was established as a western, Latin and Catholic colony right next to ancient Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire.

During the late 80s and 90s, Galata District became an important cultural center for the locals in Istanbul. Walking here today you will encounter beautiful old houses and buildings, cafes and restaurants, local markets and an all-round colorful atmosphere.

The Galata Tower is the most impressive monument in the old district which offers panoramic views of the historic city from the top. One of the oldest and highest towers of Istanbul, Galata Tower dates from the 14th century and until the 19th century served as the northernmost observation tower when Galata was surrounded by walls.

Not far from Galata in the Eminonu District is the Spice Bazaar, one of the oldest places in the world to buy spices. A must-experience for foodies visiting Istanbul, the Spice Bazaar goes by the name Misir Carsisi, which is Turkish for “Egyptian Market”. The market dates from 1664 and is Istanbul’s second-oldest covered shopping area, the oldest being the Grand Bazaar.

The Spice Bazaar is not only a great spot to buy spices, as you can also pick up some tea, candy, caviar, and dried fruit and nuts.

You don’t have to be a cook to enjoy Istanbul’s spice market. The sprawling bazaar features an indoor covered area, as well as open-air stalls. Go here and delight in the wide assortment of colored spices that are neatly arranged in pyramids. This is just the place to get the freshest baklava and world-famous Turkish Delight sweets.

Close to the Spice Bazaar you can sample a wide range of Turkish cuisine at a variety of food stands and restaurants. Traditional Turkish cuisine is really worth a taste, so go here and choose from a wide range of Turkish kebabs, starters and other sumptuous dishes.

If you’ve heard of Turkey’s world-famous Whirling Dervishes and are dying to find out what they are all about, head over to the Mevlevi Monastery while you’re still in the Galata District.

The ceremony is divided into 4 parts with hymns of praise and traditional music, a recitation, spinning selams and the concluding prayer. The mystery and magic of this Sufi ceremony offers an experience that’s truly mesmerizing.

The Mevlevi Sufi order was established by Rumi, the Persian poet during the 13th century. Today, its members perform the ancient whirling ceremony at the dervish lodge of the Mevlevi Monastery, which is situated close to the Galata Tower.