If you’re looking to discover Ottoman sites and want to find the best places to view Ottoman Empire history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.
There’s a great selection of Ottoman Empire sites and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of Ottoman sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Ottoman Empire sites.
Our database of Ottoman historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Ottoman Empire sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
Acre is a UNESCO listed site of a city in Israel fortified by the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
Acre or “Akko” is an ancient city in Israel which has been almost continuously inhabited since at least 3000 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Today, the Old City of Acre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a myriad of ruins representing the many civilisations that ruled the area over the centuries.
Allocated to the tribe of Asher under the Israelites, Acre would come under the rule of the Assyrians (9th century BC) and the Phoenicians (6th-4th centuries BC) before being conquered by Alexander the Great. It would later be ruled by the Egyptian Ptolemid Dynasty, Syria’s Seleucids and form part of the Hasmonean Kingdom, then being taken by the Romans in 63 BC. From 638 AD, Acre became an Arab city, part of the Caliphate of Cairo.
All of these cultures and civilisations left their mark on the Old City of Acre. The ruins of various fortifications and structures can still be seen there today. However, the overwhelming character of Acre is defined by two later periods, denoting the city’s time under the Crusaders and the Ottomans.
The Crusaders took Acre in 1104 and proceeded to build an impressive set of fortifications, much of which remain. This was a time of great development and prosperity, with the erection of many public buildings such as bathhouses, markets, shops and churches. However, from 1187, Acre fell to the Muslims and proceeded to change hands many more times including falling to the Crusaders yet again under Richard the Lion Heart in 1191.
From 1517, Acre – then in a poor state due to damage from several conflicts - came under Ottoman rule, although it was not until the eighteenth century that reconstruction began taking place. The Ottoman redevelopment of Acre was sympathetic to the Crusader buildings, with their remaining structures being used as a basis for new construction. At this time, Acre experienced yet another period of prosperity, with many new public buildings, including mosques and homes.
Acre is also famous for being the site of a failed siege by Napoleon in 1799 and being the location of a prison for political dissidents under the British Mandate.
Visitors to Acre can see its impressive fortifications, sites related to the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers, such as the Knights’ Halls, sites of the Bahá'í Faith and the many remaining public buildings, most of which originate from the Ottoman and Crusader periods.
Acre features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Israel.
With Hellenistic foundations, this magnificent Seljuk ruin sits atop a 250m high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
Alanya Castle is a magnificent Seljuk ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea. With walls stretching over 6km, Alanya Castle – sometimes called Alanya Fortress – encloses a number of fascinating sites and structures which are well worth exploring today.
The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC. During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbour. However, during Pompey the Great’s famous campaign to rid the Mediterranean of pirates, Alanya was the site of an important battle in which the pirates were defeated. For the remainder of the Empire period, the city remained under Roman and subsequently Byzantine control but it was not one of the region’s more prominent settlements during this time.
It wasn’t until 1221 that the city really rose to prominence. After the city’s conquest by the Seljuk Turks, Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat I decided to make Alanya his winter home and the city entered its zenith.
The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy; defensive walls were restored and the Red Tower, perhaps the most striking of monuments that remain at the site, was constructed. From then until the 18th Century Alanya, incorporated into the Ottoman empire in 1471, became an important port for trading with other Mediterranean countries, particularly Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. Today Alanya is the best preserved dockyard of the Mediterranean basin.
The Red Tower (sometimes referred to as Kizilkule) ranks among the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle and stands 29 meters high. The Castle walls start here and pass through the middle battlements (Ehmedek), the Citadel or Inner Castle (Ickale), the Arab Saint bastion (Arap Evliyasi), the Esat bastion, the arsenal (Tophane) and the historic shipyard (Tersane) before finishing once again at the Red Tower.
Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.
Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.
That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Part of Alanya Castle, the Citadel (or Ickale) dates back to the 6th century and offers magnificent views.
The Alanya Citadel (or Ickale) dates back to the 6th century AD and is the oldest part of the Alanya Castle complex. Most of the fortifications you can see today date to the 13th century.
Inside the Citadel are the remains of Seljuk cisterns, the palace of Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat, the ruins of a Seljuk bath and an 11th Century Byzantine church.
Among the attractions of the Citadel is its high platform which offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula and the Taurus Mountains but also has a much darker history. According to legend, this platform was ominously referred to as the ‘Throwing Platform’ where prisoners condemned to death met their fate. Accordingly, prisoners were given the chance to reprieve themselves if they could throw a stone into the sea without it hitting the cliff. Unfortunately for the prisoners, this was an impossible feat and many met their end by being tied into a sack and thrown over the edge.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Anadolu Hisari was built by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.
Anadolu Hisari (Anadoluhisari), translated as the Anatolian Castle, was built by the great grandfather of Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.
Anadolu Hisari is not open to the public. However the fifteenth century Rumeli Fortress, which sits just across the Bosporus, is open to tourists.
Belogradchik Fortress is an impressive fortification in Bulgaria with a history dating back to Roman times and later occupied by the Ottomans.
Belogradchik Fortress, also known as Belogradchik Kale or as Kaleto, is an impressively well-preserved fortification in north-western Bulgaria.
It was the Romans who initially founded Belogradchik Fortress as a stronghold from the 1st to the 3rd centuries, building the highest part of the fortress, known as the Citadel.
Over the centuries, Belogradchik Fortress has been used by a succession of different forces including the Byzantines.
The 14th century saw the site fall under the remit of Tsar Ivan Sratsimir’s Vidin kingdom, during which time it was enlarged and strengthened. Nevertheless, at the end of this century, Belogradchik Fortress was captured by the Ottomans, a move which saw the site used to suppress local uprisings and protect this corner of the Ottoman Empire.
In the 19th century, Belogradchik Fortress continued to be used for military and defensive purposes. In 1850, Belogradchik Fortress played a sinister role in suppressing the Belogradchik uprising, it being the place where activists were decapitated. In 1885, it was also used in the Serb-Bulgarian War.
Today, Belogradchik Fortress is open to the public and it features as one of our Top Tourist Attractions of Bulgaria.
Berat is a popular historic town in Albania containing an impressive 13th century castle as well as interesting museums.
Berat is one of the most popular historic destinations in Albania. An ancient town that has continually been inhabited through the ages, it retains much of its historic charm.
Founded in antiquity, an early Macedonian city was built here in the third or fourth centuries BC named Antipatreia after the Macedonian general Antipater. Later forming part of the Roman Empire and subsequently the Byzantine Empire, it was at various times ruled by Bulgarians, Angevins, Serbs and Ottomans, who ruled Berat from the 15th century until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, visitors to Berat can admire a number of sights. One of the most striking is the multitude of pictureqsque houses that cover the slopes below the castle – leading to the Berat being known as the ‘town of a thousand windows’.
Among the most popular and obvious sites is Berat castle itself. Though it has been occupied since Roman times, the current structure dates back to the 13th century AD and beyond. Almost a mini-town in itself, the citadel – known as the Kala – gives great views of the area. Inside, you will find the remains of churches, mosques - including the ruins of the Xhamia e Kuqe / Red Mosque - and the Onufri Museum (located in the inner part of Saint Mary Church), housing works by the famous medieval artist. Be warned, the path up to Berat castle is steep.
Also worth visiting in Berat is the Ethnographic Museum which contains displays relating to the history and life of the local area.
Berat was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005.
Beylerbeyi Palace is a nineteenth century palace built by Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz to house important guests.
Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi) was built during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz in the 1860s.
Serving as the residence of visiting dignitaries, Beylerbeyi Palace has played host to kings, shahs and princesses. It was also at Beylerbeyi Palace that sultan Abdulhamid II was kept captive for six years before he died in 1918.
Guided tours are available.
Dolmabahce Palace is an opulent nineteenth century palace which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) is an opulent nineteenth century palace on the Bosphorus which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Begun in 1842 under Sultan Abdulmecit I, Dolmabahce Palace was completed in 1853 and first became the base of the Ottoman Empire as well as the home of Sultan Abdulmecit from 1856. It would remain as such until 1922, except for a twenty year period from 1889, when the seat was moved to Yildiz Palace.
Even after the beginning of the Turkish Republic, Dolmabahce Palace did not lose its stature. In fact, it became the residence of its first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who died there on 10 November 1938.
With its grand size and appearance both in it colourful interiors and ornate neoclassical exterior, Dolmabahce Palace is quite something to see. One of its most impressive rooms is the Throne Hall, with its elaborate chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria.
Today, Dolmabahce Palace is a museum. Entry by guided tour only and if you’re planning to visit all the sections, a tour can take up to two and a half hours.
Fil’akovo Castle is a medieval site on the current Slovak Hungarian border and the former frontier of the Ottoman Empire.
Built on volcanic rock, Fil’akovo Castle and the town beneath it are located near the border between Slovakia and Hungary.
When Fil’akovo Castle was built, which is said to have been sometime by the 12th century, the area belonged to Hungary, as did most of present-day Slovakia. It would later be expanded both in the 15th and 16th centuries, the latter improvements a futile attempt to defend it against the Ottomans.
The most interesting period of Fil’akovo’s history is from the 16th century, particularly from 1554 when it was taken by the Ottoman Empire. The town belonged to the Turks for forty years, and was made the seat of a sanjak or administrative district of the Empire--hence the palm tree on Fil’akovo’s coat of arms.
In the late 17th century, Fil’akovo Castle was burned and abandoned. The main tower, known as Bebek’s Tower, now houses a permanent exhibit on the castle’s history. It includes objects from the Ottoman and Hungarian periods. The top floor has temporary exhibits (in October 2010, the exhibit was on African dolls and masks). Tours of Bebek’s Tower are given in Slovak or Hungarian. After the tour, visitors are free to wander about the ruins.
Galata Tower is a medieval turreted tower first built by the Genoese in 1348 and later restored by the Ottomans.
Galata Tower is a medieval turreted tower built by the Genoese as a defensive structure in 1348 and since rebuilt several times. One such occasion was following an earthquake in 1509 which caused great damage to Galata Tower.
Known by the Genoese as the Tower of Christ (Christea Turris), over the centuries, Galata Tower has been used for several purposes. For example, in the sixteenth century it is said to have acted as a jail under Suleiman the Magnificent and an astrology observatory. There is also a story which says that an aviator by the name of Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi took off from the tower using artificial wings in 1638.
In 1794, Galata Tower was devastated by a fire. This was somewhat ironic given that it was serving as a fire watchtower at the time.
The latest main restoration of Galata Tower occurred in 1967. The main thing inside this tower is the restaurant, although people also go to the top for the views.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the base of the Knights Hospitaller of St John and was captured by the Ottomans.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Dating to the fourteenth century (circa 1309), the Grandmasters Palace would be the base of this famous Christian and military order until Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans in 1522.
Under this empire the Grandmasters Palace served as a fortress, but was devastated in 1856 by an ammunitions explosion. It was the Italians who restored the Grandmaster Palace in 1912.
Today, this medieval castle operates as a museum of works mostly from the early Christian period up to the Ottoman conquest. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Medieval City of Rhodes. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
One of the most famous Ottoman sites, the Hagia Sophia is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul.
The Hagia Sophia, or ‘Ayasofya’ in Turkish, is a world famous sixth century church turned mosque in Istanbul, which now operates as a museum.
Whilst the original Hagia Sofia was built in the fourth century AD by Constantine the Great, very little remains of this structure nor the one built after it in the fifth century. The current building dates back to between 532 and 537 AD, during which time it was constructed under the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
The architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles designed the Hagia Sophia in the Byzantine style, with typical features such as its impressive dome, and Hagia Sophia served as a central religious home for the Eastern Orthodox Church. 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.
However, it was during its time as a mosque that several dominant architectural features were added, such as the minarets at each of its four corners and the mihrab. Visitors to Hagia Sophia 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. Hagia Sophia is a beautiful mixture of Muslim and Christian influences and architecture, including the Byzantine mosaics, which can only really be seen in the higher galleries for a further fee. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods.
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum (İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri) houses around a million artefacts from an impressive range of cultures and periods, including some of the world’s most remarkable pieces. Split between three buildings - the main archaeology museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum - the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has much to offer the history enthusiast.
The Alexander Tomb and Other Funereal Pieces
The most impressive item at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is often cited to be the Alexander Tomb, which was found in Sidon in the nineteenth century. Indeed, this fourth century BC tomb with its friezes of Alexander the Great is incredible and, although it is no longer thought to be this great leader’s original resting place, it is still a fascinating find.
Yet, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum has so much more to offer. For example, it has much more in the way of funereal items, such as the celebrated Sarcophagus of Mourning Women with its depictions of eighteen grieving women. In fact, as soon as the visitor steps through the door they are met with another important piece, the statue of a lion from one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Another great collection at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is from the Ottoman period. From its vast exhibits of coins and medallions to decorations and a whole library of books, this really is a great place to see Ottoman pieces.
This is really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the works at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. There’s a good Troy exhibit, a collection of classical statues, a Thrace-Bithynia and Byzantium exhibition and plenty of art from a variety of ancient civilisations such as Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic and Anatolian.
Part of Alanya Castle, the Kizilkule or Red Tower was built in 1226 and stands 29 meters high.
One of the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle is the Kizilkule, or Red Tower. Commissioned in 1226 and standing 29 meters high, it served its purpose as a defensive measure to stop the harbour from sea-born attack.
Located in the tower is a museum displaying works of art from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Many Turkish and Islamic works of are also housed at the museum, including marble, terracotta, mosaic and glass artefacts as well as coin collections dating back to Antiquity.
The oldest artefact dates to 625BC and is a stone inscription in the Phoenician language. There is also a bronze statue of Heracles, produced in the 2nd century BC.
In addition the Ethnography section of the museum exhibits hundreds of items ranging from tableware, jewellery and embroidery to manuscripts and writing tools. The Red Tower has five storeys and is 85 steps.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Melnik is said to be Bulgaria’s smallest town yet has quite a few historic buildings, several from the medieval period.
Melnik is said to be Bulgaria’s smallest town yet has quite a few historic buildings, several from the medieval period. With a history dating back to ancient times, Melnik has been inhabited by a number of peoples, from the Bulgarians to the Byzantines and the Ottomans.
Today, Melnik’s history and architecture is a draw for tourists, who come to see sites such as the ruins of the 13th century St Nicholas Church and the Byzantine House, also from around the same period. Another interesting aspect of Melnik are its Melnishki pyramids, essentially large sand mounds which naturally occur in the area. The town is also not from the Rohzen Monastery.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a site through which visitors can explore both the cultural and political history of Turkey.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts hosts a rich collection of artistic artefacts that can cater for everyone from an interested amateur to a seasoned expert.
Wandering through the Ottoman Palace in which the museum is housed, visitors can see remarkable examples of Islamic calligraphy, tiles, rugs and one of the largest collections in the world of antique Turkish carpets and kilims in an array of styles. Various Turkish cultures, too, are brought to life through a number of displays recreating dwellings from a range of different time periods and regions – from a fully-furnished nomad's tent to a 19th-century Ottoman parlour.
The former palace also tells a story of its own. Only part of the original structure now remains, built by the Grand Vezir to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1524, but it is enough to provide a snapshot into a lavish Ottoman lifestyle. In fact, so lavish was the palace of the Grand Vezir, İbrahim Pasha, that it proved to be his undoing. Süleyman’s wife, Roxelana, worried that the splendour of İbrahim’s palace rivalled that of his sovereign. Also suspicious of the power that İbrahim held over her husband, Roxelana took drastic action. Denouncing İbrahim as a traitor, she plotted his demise and on 14th March 1536, after dining with the sultan in Topkapı Palace, İbrahim was strangled. The imperial government was then able to seize İbrahim’s palace and the wealth that had been so threatening.
Aside from its slightly murky past, the palace is an exquisite building, with stone walls bordering four internal courtyards. Perhaps Roxelana was right to be suspicious – a number of sources describe İbrahim Pasha’s palace as the largest of all of the Vizers’ palaces, and even more magnificent than the Sultan’s Topkapı palace.
Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran
Paphos Castle is a medieval fortification in Paphos Harbour. The current structure was built by the Ottomans.
Paphos Castle was originally a Frankish fortification constructed in the mid-thirteenth century.
At this time, the island needed a new form of defence, its previous fortification - Saranda Kolones – having been devastated by an earthquake. The remains of Saranda Kolones can be seen in nearby Nea Paphos.
However, the Paphos Castle which can be seen today actually dates back to the sixteenth century. Having been captured and altered by the Genoese in the fourteenth century, it later came under the control of the Venetians. Yet, not wanting it to fall into enemy hands, the Venetians actually destroyed Paphos Castle in anticipation of the invasion of the Ottomans, which occurred in 1570.
The Ottomans rebuilt Paphos Castle and this is the site which can be seen at Paphos Harbour today. Visitors can see the dungeons used by the Ottomans during their occupation of the area, the battlements of Paphos Castle, the place where Ottoman soldiers lived and what was once a mosque.
When the British took over Paphos Castle in 1878, they used it as a storage facility for salt until 1935, when it became a national monument.
The Rumeli Fortress was built by Mehmet the Conqueror as part of his campaign to capture Constantinople.
The Rumeli Fortress (Rumelihisari) was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1452. At the time, Mehmet was preparing to lay siege to Constantinople, trying to conquer it from the Byzantines. He built the Rumeli Fortress as a way of blocking the city’s supplies.
Over 3,000 people toiled to create the Rumeli Fortress and it was completed in the staggeringly short period of four months. It was located along the Bosporus, across from the Anadolu Hisari, a fort built by Mehmet’s great grandfather and on the site of a former Roman fortification.
Mehmet was finally successful in capturing Constantinople in May 1453 and is known as Mehmet the Conqueror.
Today, the historic Rumeli Fortress and museum is open to the public, who can enjoy great views from its towers.
St Savior in Chora is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi.
St Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) is an eleventh century church turned mosque and, more recently, a museum known as Kariye Muzesi (Chora Museum).
Originally built within a Christian complex outside the boundary of Constantinople’s walls, St Savior in Chora derived its name from its countryside setting, "in chora" meaning "rural". However, the building of St Savior in Chora we see today is a newer incarnation, having been built in the eleventh century and turned into a mosque in the sixteenth century.
Today, a highlight of visiting St Savior in Chora is its incredible set of Byzantine mosaics dating to the fourteenth century, when the church underwent redecoration. Hidden by plaster during its time as a mosque, these works now remain beautifully preserved.
One of the most picyuresque Ottoman sites, the Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks.
The Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic sites. Begun in 1606, the Blue Mosque is actually called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) after the ruler who commissioned it, Sultan Ahmet I.
Then not yet twenty years of age, Ahmet I was determined to build a mosque to rival the Hagia Sofia. He heavily involved himself in the construction of the Blue Mosque, to the extent that he actually executed the first architect on the job and is even said to have participated in the build itself.
When it was finally completed in 1616, the Blue Mosque was indeed a worthy neighbour of the Hagia Sofia. With its hierarchy of increasingly large domes, this vast complex helped define the city’s skyline and, with its six minarets, it caused an immediate stir - not least because the only other mosque with this number at the time was the Kaaba in Mecca.
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.
Ahmet I would live to see his grand design come to be, but only just. He died just a year after the Blue Mosque was opened and is now buried nearby with his family. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
The Skopje Aqueduct is a stone aqueduct in Macedonia, possibly built by the Romans.
The Skopje Aqueduct is a well preserved stone aqueduct located north of the Macedonian city of Skopje.
A large stone structure made up of fifty-five archways, the origins of Skopje Aqueduct are unclear. Whilst it is known to have existed as far back as Ottoman times, some say that it was built by the ancient Romans.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki, is a cylindrical stone tower monument and museum in the city of Thessaloniki, capital of the Macedonian region of northern Greece.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki (in greek Lefkos Pyrgos), is a cylindrical stone tower monument and museum in the city of Thessaloniki, capital of the Macedonian region of northern Greece.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
Constructed by the Ottomans in the 15th Century, it was originally built to help defend the city's harbour and replaced an older Byzantine structure. However, the White Tower of Thessaloniki later gained a far more sinister reputation when it became an infamous prison and the scene of executions during the Ottoman period.
Once Greece gained control of the city, the White Tower of Thessaloniki was substantially remodelled and its exterior whitewashed, hence the name ‘White Tower’. It has since been adopted as the symbol of the city.
The History of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki itself was founded around 316/315 BC by Cassander, the King of Macedonia. Cassander named the city after his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great. Built in a region rich in productive sources, Thessaloniki was protected by the mountain of Hortiatis, deep in Thermaikos Gulf, which provided ships with safety and open communication to the sea.
Cosmopolitan in antiquity, as shown by the worship of various gods both from Ancient Greece and from abroad, Thessaloniki was first acquainted with Christianity in 50 AD, when St. Paul the Apostle visited it for the first time and taught at a Jewish synagogue.
During the Byzantine era, there were periods when Thessaloniki was the second most important city after Constantinople, the ‘First after the First’, as Byzantine writers called it. During the Ottoman occupation, Thessaloniki retained its importance, being the largest urban centre in the European part of the Ottoman Empire, with a multiracial society.
In 1912 the city was incorporated into the Greek state. Due to its geopolitical location, Thessaloniki has always been a crossroads where people of different religious and cultural origins met and coexisted for long periods of time. However, the city steadily maintained its Greek character, which was enhanced with the settlement of Asian Minor refugees in 1922.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki Museum
The museum that is found within the White Tower presents exhibitions covering the city’s history through time. It is intended to help visitors and residents to get better acquainted with the city, its monuments and its museums.
Visitors can also get great views of the city from the top floor of the White Tower.
Topkapı Palace is a fifteenth century former residence of the Ottoman Sultans and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Topkapı Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) was the seat and residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Construction of Topkapı Palace began in 1459 under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. 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. The Palace was a focal point of Istanbul’s social and political life and once housed over four thousand people as well as a hospital, mosques and a mint.
Due to a series of fires and earthquakes, Topkapi Palace has undergone several reconstructions and renovations, but its historical origins are still visible throughout. It remained the court of Ottoman Sultans until 1853, when Sultan Abdül Mecid I moved it to Dolmabahçe Palace and it finally became a museum in 1924, which it has remained since.
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. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Van Castle was built in the Iron Age as part of the Urartu Kingdom and now stands as a stunning ruin in modern Turkey.
Van Castle (Van Kalesi) was an Iron Age castle which now stands as a stunning ruin on the rocks to the west of the modern city of Van. It was constructed as part of the Urartu Kingdom in the ninth century BC. Upon the fall of this kingdom in the seventh century BC, Van Castle was taken by the Assyrians.
The site of Van Castle bears the marks of these two civillisations as well as others, such as the Ottoman Empire. In particular, it is home to the remains of a mosque built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).
Yedikule Zindanlari is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.
Yedikule Zindanlari, also known as the Yedikule Fortress or the Castle of the Seven Towers, is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.
Originally part of the Theodosian Wall, built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, Yedikule Fortress was added to over the centuries, including by Mehmet the Conqueror during the Ottoman period. The Ottomans used Yedikule Zindanlari as a stronghold, a prison (zindanlari means dungeons) and a treasury. In 1622, Yedikule Zindanlari became the site of the execution of the seventeen year old Sultan Osman II.
Today, this imposing fort is open to the public, although it’s probably not ideal for children due to a lack of safety features. As implied in the name, visitors to Yedikule Zindanlari can see its dungeons as well as walking along its well-preserved walls and battlements.
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.
Yildiz (‘Star’) Palace in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul was built on a hilltop overlooking the Bosphorus river during the reign of the reclusive Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II and was used ostensibly as his residence, retreat and harem (which had steel doors!) There had been an imperial estate on the site since the reign of Sultan Ahmed I in the early 1600s but in the late 19th century with Abdülhamid II fearing an assault on the Dolmabahçe Palace, he expanded Yildiz Palace.
Turkish and Italian architects Sarkis Balyan and Raimondo D’Aronco built a series of magnificent pavilions, state apartments, a theatre and beautifully-manicured gardens and the sprawling complex represents some of Turkey’s most beautiful examples of 19th century Ottoman architecture.
The Şale Kiosk – built to resemble a Swiss chalet – is the biggest and most opulent of the pavilions and you will notice the contrasting yet complimentary Baroque, Rococo and Islamic styles throughout. In the Ceremonial Hall there’s a hand-woven 406 square metre, 7.5 tonne Hereke carpet as well as huge mirrors and an exquisitely gilded, coffered ceiling. Beautifully elegant porcelain vases, mural landscapes and painted designs permeate the rooms.
As you move around the complex you’ll discover the Malta Kiosk with two watching and resting pavilions; the Çadır Kiosk which was once a prison but is now the café and restaurant; the beautifully decorated Yildiz Theatre and Opera House and the Imperial Porcelain Factory.
When the Ottoman Empire ended, Yildiz Palace was used as a casino, a guest residence for visiting dignitaries (including Churchill and De Gaulle) and from the late 1970s, a 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.
Zelve Open Air Museum in the Cappadocia region is one of the most visually stunning historical sites in Turkey. Originally a Byzantine-era (9th century) monastery, it is reputed to be both one of the earliest settled and last-abandoned monasteries in the entire region. The ‘museum’ houses the oldest known examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.
The honeycomb-esque spaces include religious and secular chambers and pointed fairy chimneys and in the 400 years between the 9th and 13th centuries, four churches were built whose remains stand to this day despite nature’s best efforts at erosion.
The earliest built was the Direkli Church, famous for its standing columns and iconoclastic-doctrine high relief crosses and there followed the Balikli Church dedicated to fish, the Uzümlü Church (grapes) and the – now collapsed beyond recognition – Geyikli Church (deer). You can still see feint paintings on the remaining stone church walls as well as minaret that has survived the tests of time.
Over the centuries that followed, Christians and Muslims (during the Ottoman rule) lived perfectly happily side by side and after almost a millennium of continuous occupation, the government deemed the town too fragile to live in due to erosion. In 1952 the last inhabitants were relocated 2km away in the town of Aktepe which was affectionately renamed ‘Yeni Zelve’ or New Zelve.
Tours of the Zelve Open Air Museum take around two hours and thanks to the beauty of the location there are lots of open-air festivals and concerts as well as gift stalls and traditional Turkish restaurants serving famous local delicacies such as gözleme and ayran – stuffed flatbreads and a typically Turkish yoghurt drink.