Today, explore even more of Istanbul, once the center of the world. The monuments of the sultans who ruled here since 1453 dominated the skyline and laid it underneath the golden memories of Byzantium.
This Bosphorus-shore imperial palace was built between 1843 and 1856 under the Ottoman Empire’s thirty-first sultan at a cost of 35 tons of gold. Opulent and official residence of the last six sultans, the architecture is Western blended with traditional Ottoman design. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding leader of this modern republic, used the palace as a presidential house in summers and enacted some of his most important works here. Exquisite artifacts such as carpets, porcelain vases, skillfully crafted furniture and priceless paintings ornament Dolmabahce Palace.
The Pera District is living proof that Istanbul is not resting on its golden past. Drawing together the wealthy and the artistic, it is a cosmopolitan shopping area by day and a glittering club scene at night. Across the Golden Horn from the Old City (Pera is Greek for “beyond”), the area was the City’s foreign quarter where Greeks, Russians, Italians and Jews lived together. Today that fascinating blend is still very much alive. We will stroll down Istiklal Street, a pedestrian street and the heart of the city’s cultural life with cafés, restaurants, shops, churches, mosques and consulates.
The original name of this building was Church of the Holy Savior outside the Walls. A church for a millennium, a mosque for four more centuries, today it is a museum and Istanbul’s 2nd most important Byzantine monument. The museum, which dates between the 11th and 14th centuries, is adorned with breathtaking Biblical mosaics and frescoes, masterpieces of the renaissance of Byzantine art. Many of the dramatic mosaics were plastered over when the church was converted into a mosque in the 16th century and not exposed again until after World War II. The church is relatively small, and the spaces intimate and well lit, making the experience very special.