Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Type / Historic Town

Istanbul - The Historic Town

Info Sections
Istanbul - The Historic Town

About the site


Corridor: Via Egnatia, Via Pontica, Diagonal Road, Via Anatolia
Country: Turkey, Istanbul
Type: Historic Town
Epoch: 20th Century, Middle Ages
Theme: Islamic Culture
World Heritage:
20th CenturyMiddle AgesIslamic CultureHistoric Town

City of Istanbul developed as a cultural, art and architecture centre through the centuries.
You can still feel the atmosphere of present and past times when you visit the palaces, bazaars and other public buildings.
One of the significant buildings in Istanbul is Dolmabahce Palace. The complex is constructed on an area of c. 250 000m2 infilled at the beginning of the 17th century, which houses kiosks and small houses. The 19th century construction was designed by the Balyan family and dated 1844-1855. It is the first Islamic palace in western style and housed the sultan and his family after Topkapi. The style reflects the historicist and eclecticist architectural tendencies of the period. Some of the auxiliary buildings including the palace theatre were demolished due to urban-scaled interventions. Another interesting palace is Beylerbeyi Palace. It's original structure constructed in timber in 1832 was destroyed in a fire in 1851, and it was rebuilt in 1861. The palace consists of a group of structures: the main building, two kiosks and a barn for the horses; various parts of the complex were demolished during renewals. Its style reflects the architectural historicist and eclecticist tendencies of the period. Today its close proximity to the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the main piers of which was constructed in the palace gardens in 1973, causes visual and structural problems. Atif Efendi library was constructed in 1741 as a part of the vaqf (foundation; a system which maintained various public functions making use of the income from commercial buildings) of Atif Efendi, a vizier (minister) of Mahmud I, who had special interest in literature, poetry and calligraphy. Although dated to the 18th century, the two-storey masonry structure reflects the architectural characteristics of the Middle Ages. It is still used with the same function today, under Suleymaniye Library of manuscripts and early prints. One of the most popular places is Kapalicarsi (covered bazaar). The first structures were the Cevahir and Sandal bedestens dated 1460-1461; other hans followed in time with streets formed of rows of shops in-between. The streets were covered later, hence the name. The bazaar survived several earthquakes and a number of major fires, and the timber buildings were replaced with masonry ones. Following the great earthquake of 1894, the complex was replanned, and some of the buildings were left outside. Today, it covers an area of 30.7ha and consists of 61 streets, 2 bedestens, 13 hans and c. 3 000 shops; its 18 gates open in the morning and close at night. One of the significant Catholic structures is St Antoine Cathedral. It was designed by Giulio Mongeri, a Levantine architect born in Istanbul, and constructed in 1906-1912. Its name derives from the Italian priests known as San Antonio. The Neo-Gothic building is one of the earliest reinforced concrete structures in the area and has a Latin-cross plan, measuring 20x50m. The pentagonal apse projects on the east, and the belfry is situated on the southern aisle next to it. The facades are clad with bricks and the interior walls with mosaic plaster. There are pilasters on the facades and load bearing pillars and ribbed vaults inside. The wide, pointed-arched, stained glass windows between the structural elements on the north, south and east fa?ades rise up to the building height Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener is one of the major orthodox churches in Istanbul. The Patriarchate was first located at the 4th century Havariyun Church, then moved to the 12th century Pammakaristos Monastery in 1455. In 1597 it was moved to the Vlah Palace Church in Fener and in 1602 to the Ayios Yergios Monastery also in Fener, where it is still located. This building was destroyed during a fire in 1941, and its restoration was completed in 1991. Other very interesting building St Stefan church. It was built at the end of 19th century by the Bulgarian community in Istanbul to commemorate their conflict of separation from the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. It is constructed completely of iron and considered to be unique in the world. The design by architect Hovsep Aznavor is eclecticist in style, and its parts were pre-fabricated in Vienna and transported to Istanbul by ship. The building was restored in 1991. Most important problems include the lack of social environment due to the decrease in the number of users and of physical environment due to the removal of the surrounding buildings.
Ahrida synagogue and Zulfaris synagogue are two of the most significant synagogues in Istanbul. Ahrida synagogue derives its name from Ohrid in Macedonia, the hometown of its founders who immigrated to Istanbul in 15th century. The present structure is not the original 15th century one and was formed by combining two adjacent buildings. This is the largest and most splendid synagogue in Balat, with a capacity of 350 people. It was restored in 1693 after a fire and was renewed again in 1709, 1823, 1926 and 1955. During the comprehensive restoration in 1992, original ceiling decorations were discovered and restored. Evidence suggests that Zulfaris synagogue existed in 1671. However, the present building was probably reconstructed in 19th century on the foundations of the original one. It was restored in 1890 with the financial assistance of the Camondo Family, and again in 1904 and 1968. A comprehensive restoration is dated to 1992 for the quincentennial celebration of the anniversary of the official welcome extended to the Jews by the Ottoman Empire in 1492, and the building was inaugurated on November 25, 2001, as the Jewish Museum of Turkey.

Expert Network