Historical Tour Of Turkey Part 1

Turkey is a country steeped in history. It has been subject to settlement by many different eras and empires, including the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, and there is no shortage of historical monuments and ruins to visit. This is part one of a three part series of articles that will give readers a guide of where to go, what to see and how to get there. For convenience, this guide will map a course which is recommended, for those who do not wish to be limited by the standard guided tours. Readers can choose to take the outlined routes or may wish to vary it to their personal needs. The amount of time which you may to wish to take to explore each location can vary, so it is important to arrange accommodation to suit your needs.

Part 1 – Istanbul, And The North Western Region

This tour will start in perhaps what is one of the most historic cities in the world, Istanbul, or what was previously know as Constantinople. This city has been ruled by many different empires over thousands of years, and is now a part of Turkey. Istanbul is known as the gateway to the west, with half the city located on the Asian side of Turkey and the other half on the European side. Istanbul's history is rich and long, with the first settlement thought to have been over 5,000 years ago by the King Byzans, and he named the city Byzantium. The city was later conquered by Constantine, who named the city after himself, Constantinople. After being briefly occupied by the Latin empire, Istanbul became the hub of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years. Shortly after being conquered by the Ottomans, they changed its name to Istanbul, which remains unchanged to this day 1).

To see all of the sites in Istanbul, it is recommended to allow a minimum of 4-5 days. Due to Istanbul having heavy traffic at times, it is advised to use public transport or taxis which frequent these historic site regularly.

Yedikule Zindanlari

The tour starts of on the south wester side of Istanbul at Yedikule Zindanlari. This is also known by the name The Castle of Seven Towers, and was built by the Byzantines in approximately 450a.d. It is located near the banks of the Marmara Sea, and you can obtain great panoramic views over Istanbul and the Marmara. This building was used as a fortress and holding cells for prisoners, but was also known as the Golden Gate due to having large gates which were coated in pure gold 2). This attraction is only open on certain days depending on the season, so please check upon arrival to Istanbul.


Yedikule Zindanlari3)

Rumeli Fortress

Rumeli Fortress was constructed by Sultan Mehmet the conqueror from the Ottoman Empire during his preparation for the invasion of Constantinople in the mid 1450's. The construction was completed in a staggering four months, with over 3,000 men used to build it. It is located on the shores of the Bosphorus Sea, and was used for the fortification and training of troops before the big attack was launched. In the later days the fortress was also used as a prison, and most recently an open air theatre after the successful reconstruction work was completed 4). You can visit this location all year round, however it is best to avoid it during the winter as there are many steps and stairways which may form ice and become slippery.


Rumeli Fortress5)

Galata Tower

The Galata Tower was constructed in the mid 1300's by the Geonese empire who occupied Constantinople briefly during this period. It is a large cylindrical structure and was used as a lookout post for invading armies and boats in the Bosphorus Sea. The building has had several episodes of damage from war and weather, but has since been restored 6). You can climb the tower and take in the breathtaking views around Istanbul and the Bosphorus and it is open for tourists the year round.


Galata Tower7)

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace s not quite as old as some of the other historical sites, however it is a must see for it's sheer size and beauty. It was used as the administration centre towards the end of the Ottoman Empire and built by Abdulcemid the first. It is located on the banks of the Bosphorus Sea and no expense was spared when constructing this grand palace, with opulence at every turn and is fitted out with ornaments made of precious metals such as gold and silver 8). The palace is open for tourists all year round and is one not to be missed. For more information on opening times, costs and other related information, please see this site http://www.dolmabahcepalace.com/.


Dolmabahce Palace9)

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace was built in 1465 and served as the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years. It is possibly the most famous historical site in Turkey, and is visited by tens of thousands of people each year. The main palace has several large courtyards and sections along with other smaller surrounding buildings. There are also treasure chambers displaying some of the most valuable items known to man, many of which are priceless 10). The palace is extremely large and you will need to allow to spend a whole day exploring it, and is definitely one place that you should not miss, as this is one of the most culturally and historically important sites on the planet. For information about opening hours, tours, costs and other things you should know about Topkapi Palace, please visit this site http://topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en.


Topkapi Palace11)

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, or The Church of Holy Wisdom, was built in around 532ad by the Byzantine Empire. It was originally used as a church and place of worship for Christians, and is known as the biggest and most important Byzantine structure remaining in the world today. It had a 32 metre dome set on top which are supported by vast marble pillars, built in a way to give it the impression it is floating on air. After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, Sultan Mehmet II ordered it to be reconfigured as a mosque, and large minarets were built which connected to the original structure. After World War I it was converted into a museum and it remains that way today, with it being open for tourists all year round 12). This attraction is one of iconic locations in Istanbul and is recommended as a must visit location. For more information on tours, opening times and other information, please visit this site http://www.hagiasophia.com/.


Hagia Sophia13)

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, or 'The Sunken Palace' is located beneath Sultanahmet Square and was build around the year 530ad by the Byzantines. It was used as a water supply channel for the Byzantine Palace, and has vast underground corridors which contain water and other artefacts, such as great statues and medusa heads. The cistern is surrounded by a four metre thick waterproofed wall, and it was constructed to be able to hole more that 100,000 tonnes of water. Today there is only a few feet of water in the bottom, but there is no mistaking the sense of history and the vastness of this grand construction 14). This location is open for tourists to visit all year round and has been used in many feature films. For more information on visiting, opening times, tours and costs please visit this site http://www.yerebatan.com/.


Basilica Cistern15)

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is a vast structure that was built in the early 1600's during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Since then it has been used as an active mosque, and is a must see tourist destination. It gets it's name from the blue tiles which were used on the walls during construction. Inside the mosque you will see an incredible feat of architecture, with many fine carvings on the multi coloured marble with unbelievable attention to detail 16). The mosque is open for tourists all year round, with the exception of daily prayer times, which is no longer than 45 minutes total in the day. Before entry you need to remove your shoes and females need to cover their hair with a scarf, and these are available for free at the entrance. For more visitor information and other things you should know, please see this website http://www.bluemosque.co/.


Blue Mosque


The next leg of our journey leaves Istanbul, and is the ancient city of Troy. Troy is located 530 kilometres south west of Istanbul, and is on the Aegean Sea. The best way to get to this location would either by via car hire, with many operators available in Istanbul, or via coach, with many services running daily. The city of Troy is most famous for being the home of the Trojans, and the famous Trojan War. Troy was first occupied over 4,000 years ago during the bronze age, and was the scene of the great war in 1250bc. It was also used extensively as a trading port during the rule of the Roman Empire. It is believed that city suffered a major earthquake in the sixth century when occupied by the Byzantines however the city has gone through long periods of abandonment. It was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late 1800's and remains a UNESCO protected historical site to this day 17). The site is available for tourist all year round but please follow all signs and advice so that some sensitive areas are not disturbed. For more information about this and also information about opening hours, tours and costs please visit this site http://www.goturkey.com/en/pages/content/639.




Assos is located 67 kilometres directly south of Troy. It is located on the banks of the Aegean Sea, and is home to ruins left from the Greek Empire. The town was once home to an academy of philosophy, which was run by Aristotle, and is thought to have been constructed in approximately 1000bc. The Persians briefly lay claim to the city but were later ousted by Alexander The Great around 200bc 19). Today most of the buildings are in ruin, but you can still see many great structures including an impressive amphitheatre.




Pergamum is located 170 kilometres south east of Assos, and around 25 kilometres inland from the Aegean Sea. It is an ancient Greek city which was one known as Aeolis, and is thought to have been built in approximately 200bc by the Hellenic Empire. It has a vast array of ancient building and ruins, including an Acropolis, with many of it's pillars still standing today. The town has been occupied by several different empires, including the Byzantines, Romans, Seljuk Turks and the Ottomans 21). The ruins ancient city is spread out over four kilometres, with many interesting sites to visit.




Aizannoi is located approximately 300 kilometres east of Pergamum. It is an ancient city which is thought to have been founded during the bronze age, approximately 3,000bc. During it's history is has been an important trading and governing location, with the Byzantines and the Romans using it as a centre of command. During the Roman occupation they built several structures, including a Temple of Zeus and theatres, stadiums and Roman baths 23).




The last location in this guide is Gordion, which is located approximately 330 kilometres north east of Aizanoi. Gordion was the capital city of Phrygia, which was under Thracian rule and thought to have been founded approximately 1200bc. Much of the site was underground, and was discovered by archaeologists in the mid 1950's. The city is perhaps best known at the home of King Midas, who ruled the area around the year 700bc, whose tomb is thought to still be in the city. It is thought that the city underwent mass destruction during a war not long after the rule of Midas and had simply disappeared until uncovered recently 25). For more information on visiting this amazing historical site please see this web page http://sites.museum.upenn.edu/gordion/.




Whilst all care has been taken, please check with local authorities and operators prior to visiting any of these sites. Certain events can affect access to historical sites, such as safety issues, weather or new discoveries that require areas to be demarcated. It is recommended to visit these sites between the months of March and November. The winter months can bring snow and ice to some venues, along with cold winds which may make it unpleasant for visitors. For visas and other information about Turkey, please visit this site http://www.goturkey.com/.

Travel | Turkey

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Galata Tower by Roweromaniak licence CC 2.5, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bosfor_B18-44.jpg
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The Basilica Cistern by Moise Nicu, licence CC 3.0, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basilica_Cistern_Istanbul.JPG
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Gordion by Stipich Bela licence 3.0, Available: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ruins_of_Gordion_3.JPG

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