1. Sacred Destinations
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  3. Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

Sunset over Istanbul. Photo Creative Commons License David Bjorgen.

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, with a population of almost 14 million people. The overused phrase "East meets West" really applies in Istanbul, where the continents of Europe and Asia come together and miniskirts coexist with head scarves.

Istanbul has a myriad of attractions for visitors, particularly those interested in history and religion. Previously known as Byzantium and then Constantinople, the ancient city is a layering of civilization on civilization, empire on empire. As a major religious center for both the Greek Orthodox Church and the Islamic faith, Istanbul is the custodian of one of the world's most important cultural heritages and home to some of the world's most opulent displays of art and wealth, most of which were built in the name of faith.

  • Istanbul Map Our detailed, interactive city map of Istanbul, showing the location of sacred sites and religious attractions.
  • Istanbul Photos Our galleries of hand-selected photos of religious sites in Istanbul.
  • Istanbul Books Selected travel guides and other books on Istanbul.
  • Istanbul Sightseeing Tours Save money and time by booking sightseeing tours and excursions in Istanbul before you leave home.
  • Istanbul Hotels Search availability, read reviews, browse photos, view a map and book a room in Istanbul at the guaranteed lowest price.

Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Istanbul

  • Beyazit Camii
    Located near Istanbul University, this is one of the oldest mosques in the city. It was built in 1506 using materials from Theodosius' forum, over which it was constructed.
  • Blue Mosque
    The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Blue Mosque dominate the skyline of Istanbul. The 17th-century mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I to rival the Hagia Sophia.
  • Church of the Holy Apostles
    This great church was built by Constantine as the resting place of Byzantine emperors, several apostles, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. Destroyed in the Crusades, its materials were used to build the Fatih Mosque.
  • Sts Sergius and Bacchus
    Commissioned by Justinian in the first year of his reign (527), this was an important stage in the development of Byzantine architecture. It is now a mosque known as the "Little Hagia Sophia."
  • Zeyrek Camii (Church of the Pantocrator)
    The Church of the Pantocrator, now a mosque named Zeyrek Camii, is one of the most important landmarks of the Byzantine period. Today it is in a state of neglect.
  • Eyup Mosque and Mausoleum
    This is the holiest site in Istanbul and one of the most sacred places in the Islamic world. Erected by Mehmet the Conqueror, it honors the tomb of Eyüp Sultan, the standard-bearer for the Prophet.
  • Fatih Camii
    Originally built in 1470, this mosque was entirely rebuilt in 1766 after an earthquake. It shelters the tomb of Fatih Mehmet the Conqueror.
  • Fethiye Camii (Pammakaristos Church)
    The Theotokos Pammakaristos Church was built in 1292 and served as the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarchate from 1456 to 1528. It is now a mosque.
  • Hagia Eirene
    The "Basilica of Holy Peace" dates from the 6th century and was transformed into the arsenal of the Topkapi Palace in the 1460s. Today, its excellent acoustics make it a popular venue for concerts.
  • Hagia Sophia
    This world-famous structure is a Byzantine church built by Justinian. It was later converted to a mosque and is now a museum.
  • Orthodox Patriarchate and Cathedral
    A rather humble exterior in Istanbul shelters the worldwide headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George (Aya Yorgi).
  • Kariye Camii (St Savior in Chora)
    This 11th-century church (later a mosque and now a museum) contains one of the finest preserved galleries of Byzantine mosaics anywhere.
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
    Commissioned by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan, this beautiful mosque patterned after the Hagia Sophia was finished in 1557.
  • Yeni Camii
    The "New Mosque" is not so new - it was built in the 1600s. Designed by Da'ud Aga, a pupil of Sinan, Yeni Camii has become a defining feature of Istanbul's skyline.