Historic Sites in Turkey

What are the best Historic Sites in Turkey?

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There's a host of top Historic Sites in Turkey to visit and among the very best are Hagia Sophia, Ephesus and Topkapı Palace. Other popular sites tend to include Troy, Cappadocia Underground Cities and The Basilica Cistern.

We’ve put together an experts guide to Top Turkish cultural locations, landmarks and monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Turkey, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

1. Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul, which now operates as a museum. The building was converted to a mosque in 1453 under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and thus it remained until 1935, when it became a museum.

Visitors can view remnants of the first two Hagias Sophias as well as touring the current building with its stunning mosaics and ornate Muslim altars and chapels. Outside, cannonballs used by Mehmet the Conqueror during his invasion of the city line the paths and there is an eighteenth century fountain for ritual ablutions.

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2. Ephesus

Ephesus was a vibrant classical city, now bordering modern day Selçuk in Turkey and representing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.

Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century.

A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day - some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus - but history enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day.

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3. Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace was the seat and residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Built in a traditional Ottoman style, Topkapi Palace measured a staggering 700,000 metres squared in volume upon its construction, made up of a series of courtyards, the main palace and several ancillary buildings. 

Today, it is a popular tourist destination, with visitors flocking to see its Ottoman architecture, courtyards and Muslim and Christian relics, even including the belongings of the Prophet Mohammed. The Harem is also quite popular, but costs extra. Audio tours are available.

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4. Troy

Troy is one of the most famous and historically significant sites in the world. Imbued with several millennia of history and the subject of legend, Troy’s fame mainly derives from being the fabled location of the Trojan War. 

The vast ruins now found at Troy lay witness to thousands of years of history, with the oldest section dating back to the late fourth millennium BC. Each part of the site is numbered, correlating to a specific period of time. The famous walls of Troy, which played such an important role on the Trojan War, some of which remain, can be seen in the VII section.

Regardless of whether Troy was the actual site of the Trojan War, the archaeological site of Troy is a fascinating place for history enthusiasts and tourists alike.

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5. Cappadocia Underground Cities

The Cappadocia Underground Cities are a series of magnificent subterranean cities built by the ‘cave goers’. Of the almost forty known Cappadocia underground cities, some in Nevshir are open to the public, including Kaymaklı, Derinkuyu, Özkonak, Mazi and Ürgüp.

The most incredible aspects of the underground cities are their sheer scale and complexity. Some of them delve eight levels underground, with comprehensive living quarters and facilities for making grape juice, cooking, drainage and plumbing and even stables for horses. Visiting the cities is an exciting, authentic and fascinating journey.

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6. The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is a subterranean wonder and one of the greatest - and certainly the biggest - of Istanbul’s surviving Byzantine sites. With its imposing columns, grand scale and mysterious ambience, this subterranean site seems like a flooded palace, but it is in fact a former water storage chamber. 

Today, visitors can explore the cistern, treading its raised platforms to view its 336 beautiful marble columns, enjoy its vaulted ceilings and experience its eerie nature complete with dripping water.

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7. Bodrum Castle

Bodrum Castle was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks. Today, the castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962.

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8. The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic sites. When it was completed in 1616, the Blue Mosque was a worthy neighbour of the Hagia Sofia. With its hierarchy of increasingly large domes, this vast complex helped define the city’s skyline. 

The interior of the Blue Mosque is just as grand and ornate. Furthermore, a journey into the interior of the Blue Mosque reveals the reason behind its alternate name - the swathes of blue tiles which adorn its walls.

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9. Aspendos Roman Theatre

Aspendos Roman Theatre is a beautifully preserved Roman site in Turkey. In fact, it seems to be almost completely intact. Still able to seat up to 15,000 people this Roman amphitheatre was once part of the city of Aspendos, which was founded by Ancient Greeks from Argos and was first written about by the Hittites in 800 BC.

Visitors can wander around the theatre and it even plays host to an annual summer festival. Nearby are also the remains of an Ancient Roman aqueduct.

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10. Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove in Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula was the site where Australian and New Zealander troops landed on 25 April 1915. Today, there are several memorials at Anzac Cove and it is the site where Anzac Day ceremonies are held.

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Full list of Historic Sites in Turkey

Beyond the most famous Top Turkish cultural locations, landmarks and monuments, there’s many similar places to visit, including Bodrum Castle, The Blue Mosque and Aspendos Roman Theatre to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of Historic Sites in Turkey and you can view the current selection below.

Aizanoi

Aizanoi houses ancient Roman ruins including a stadium, gymnasium, theatre and an impressive Temple of Zeus.

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Alanya Castle

With Hellenistic foundations, this magnificent Seljuk ruin sits atop a 250m high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea.

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Alanya Citadel

Part of Alanya Castle, the Citadel (or Ickale) dates back to the 6th century and offers magnificent views.

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Anadolu Hisari

Anadolu Hisari was built by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.

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Antalya Museum

The Antalya Museum contains thousands of ancient and prehistoric artifacts.

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Aphrodisias

The ancient city of Aphrodisias was named after the Goddess of Love; Aphrodite. Established in what is now modern day Turkey in the 6th century BC, it expanded into the thriving capital of the surrounding region.

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Ari Burnu Cemetery

Ari Burnu Cemetery is a World War I Commonwealth cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

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Assos

The city of Assos was founded by Ancient Greeks from the 7th century BC. The ancient ruined city is crowned by an impressive temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena.

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Bagras Fortress

Orignally a Byzantine castle, Bagras was later occupied by the powerful Crusader force the Kinghts Templar.

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Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace is a nineteenth century palace built to house important guests.

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Blaundus

Blaundus was an Ancient Roman city the remains of which are found in Anatolia, Turkey.

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Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology

The Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum exhibits treasures from underwater excavations including one of the earliest shipwrecks ever found.

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Carrhae Battlefield

Carrhae Battlefield was the setting for one of the most crushing Roman defeats, inflicted at the hands of the Parthians.

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Catalhoyuk

Catalhoyuk is the site of an important Neolithic town in Turkey.

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Church of Saint Nicholas, Myra

One of the oldest surviving churches in the world, this church and museum looks at the life of Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus.

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Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City is the most famous of the Cappadocia subterranean cities built by early Christians and protected by UNESCO.

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Didyma

Didyma in Turkey contains the ruins of the temple of Apollo, which was one of the most important oracles of the Hellenic world.

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Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace is an opulent nineteenth century palace which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.

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Galata Tower

Galata Tower is a medieval turreted tower first built by the Genoese in 1348.

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Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum

This astonishing museum features thousands of square feet of lovingly restored mosaics from the Roman town of Zeugma.

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Gemiler Island

A tiny island located just off the Turkish mainland, Gemiler Island is packed with Byzantine remains including a number of ancient churches.

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Gobekli Tepe

Translated literally as ‘Potbelly Hill’, Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey close to the city of Sanliurfa is a find of such phenomenal historical importance it has the opportunity to literally rewrite the history books.

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Gordion

Gordion is an ancient Phrygian city which today contains the astounding burial mound said to belong to King Midas.

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Goreme Open Air Museum

Located in the picturesque Goreme Valley, Goreme’s open air museum is one of the most accessible ways to explore the region's ancient rock-cut churches.

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Hadrian’s Gate

Hadrian’s Gate is an Ancient Roman monument in Antalya built in honour of the Emperor Hadrian.

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Hagia Sophia, Trabzon

A thirteenth century church, a fifteenth century mosque and a twentieth century museum, the Trabzon Hagia Sophia has a fascinating history and boasts a wealth of ancient art and frescoes.

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Haidar Pasha Cemetery

The Haidar Pasha Cemetery in Turkey is the final resting place of thousands of Crimean War soldiers.

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Hatay Museum

Hatay Museum in Antakya explores the history of the famous ancient city of Antioch. Among a host of other artefacts is a collection of exquisite Roman mosaics.

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Hattusha

Hattusha is one of Turkey’s great ruins of the capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Hierapolis

Hierapolis was once a thriving, multicultural ancient city and spa, the remains of which can now be seen in modern day Turkey.

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Hill 60 Cemetery

The Hill 60 Cemetery is a Commonwealth World War I military cemetery in Gallipoli.

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Ihlara Valley

The Ihlara Valley is famous for a number of rock-carved ancient churches known for their ornate frescoes depicting biblical events.

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Istanbul Archaeology Museum

The Istanbul Archaeology Museum houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods.

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Istanbul Maritime Museum

The Istanbul Maritime Museum exhibits a variety of ships, weapons, works of art and artifacts relating to Turkey’s naval history.

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Istanbul Mosaic Museum

The Istanbul Mosaic Museum contains the amazing remains of mosaics excavated at the Great Palace of Constantinople built during the Byzantine period.

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Kabatepe Museum

Kabatepe Museum in Turkey is dedicated to the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.

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Kaunos

Kaunos contains the remains of an ancient Carian city and includes a host of Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine remains – particularly its impressive theatre.

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Kayakoy

The abandoned town of Kayakoy bears witness to the 1920s population swap between Greece and Turkey. Today visitors can explore this deserted town, including its houses and churches.

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Kaymaklı Underground City

Kaymaklı Underground City is a large subterranean city in central Turkey built by early Christians and part of a UNESCO site.

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Kizilkule

Part of Alanya Castle, the Kizilkule or Red Tower was built in 1226 and stands 29 meters high.

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Knidos

The picturesque remains of the ancient city of Knidos are a popular tourist attraction, as much for the beautiful coastal views as for the archaic ruins.

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Laodikeia

Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ruins.

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Lone Pine Cemetery

Lone Pine Cemetery is a Commonwealth graveyard for soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I and also a battle site.

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Lone Pine Memorial

The Lone Pine Memorial commemorates Anzac soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.

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Mausoleum of Mausolus

The Mausoleum of Mausolus was one of the most impressive tombs of its time, but has since been entirely destroyed.

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Miletus

Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins.

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Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

With a collection spanning around 10,000 years housed in two magnificent Ottoman buildings, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is a must-see for any visitor to Ankara.

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Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a site through which visitors can explore both the cultural and political history of Turkey.

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Myra

Myra has one of the best-preserved collections of ancient ruins, and is a perfect place to experience an illustrious period of Greek and Roman history being brought back to life.

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Nemrut

Nemrut in Turkey is the site of the eminently impressive 1st century BC tomb of King Antiochus I Epiphanes.

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Olympos

Olympos is truly a stunning destination, a playground for pirates; these ancient ruins tell a story that blurs the line between myth and reality.

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Ozkonak Underground City

Ozkonak is one of many examples of an underground city in Cappadocia which was carved into the mountains in ancient times. It is smaller but far quieter than many of the other underground cities in the region.

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Patara

Patara not only has a rich and varied history, the former Lycian port town is situated in a beautiful corner of Turkey, alongside a 20km long white sand beach.

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Pergamum

Pergamum was a thriving ancient Greek then Roman city, home to famous sites such as its Asclepion, theatre and library.

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Perge

Perge is a Turkish archaeological site containing mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece.

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Phaselis

Phaselis is an exquisite ancient site, where the ruins lie scattered amongst pine trees and the beautiful Mediterranean coast.

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Priene

Priene is a quiet, picturesque ancient Greek city in Turkey which boasts some amazing historical remains without the crowds of the nearby sites.

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Quinn’s Post Cemetery

Quinn’s Post Cemetery is a World War I Commonwealth cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

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Rumeli Fortress

The Rumeli Fortress was built by Mehmet the Conqueror as part of his campaign to capture Constantinople.

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Sagalassos

Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman ruins, some of them very well preserved.

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Side Ruins and Museum

Impressive ruins and a fascinating museum, Side hosts a wealth of Graeco-Roman remains with the stunning theatre being a particular highlight.

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Simena

The ruins of Simena are spread along beautiful beaches and submerged under crystal clear waters. Enjoy spectacular views from the crusader castle or explore an authentic Lycian Necropolis.

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St Savior in Chora

St Savior in Chora is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi.

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Sumela Monastery

A 13th century monastery nestled into the cliff-face of the Zigana Mountains, this picturesque Byzantine monastery is located in a scenic, mountainous setting.

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Termessos

Nestled on the slopes of the Güllük Mountain the majestic ruins of the ancient city of Termessos are surrounded by outstanding natural beauty.

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The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial

The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial commemorates the Turkish soldiers who died in the Gallipoli Campaign.

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The Florence Nightingale Museum

The Florence Nightingale Museum in Turkey gives a glimpse into the work and hospital of the Lady of the Lamp.

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The Helles Memorial

The Helles Memorial commemorates Commonwealth and French casualties from the Gallipoli Campaign.

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The Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial

The Hill 60 New Zealand Memorial in Turkey commemorates the missing New Zealand soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hill 60 in 1915.

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Van Castle

Van Castle was built in the Iron Age as part of the Urartu Kingdom and now stands as a stunning ruin in modern Turkey.

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Yedikule Zindanlari

Yedikule Zindanlari is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.

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Yildiz Palace Museum

Built in the 1880s as a hilltop sultanate retreat, the vast 123 acre Yildiz Palace complex overlooks the mighty Bosphorus and is a stunning example of 19th century Ottoman architecture.

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Zelve Open Air Museum

Spread out over three monastic valleys, Zelve, around 10km from Göreme on the Avanos road is a visually stunning town of homes and churches carved into the rocks and it was continually inhabited from the ninth century until as recently as 1952.

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Zeugma

The remains of this important Roman city are under excavation in Turkey. Though not open to the public, many finds from the site can be seen in the Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum.

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Our database of Historic Sites in Turkey is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other Top Turkish cultural locations, landmarks and monuments, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.