Historic sites and attractions in Turkey

Historic sites and attractions in Turkey

21st August, 2012

The happiest and most settled expats I speak to tend to be those who grab every opportunity with both hands and get to know their new country intimately. In their experience knowing about the history and culture of their new home brings many benefits, from social to emotional and everything in between.


I thought it’d be a good idea to write a series of articles about the top historic sites and attractions in various countries, to help our expat community get acquainted with the past and in turn feel more at home with the present. To start things off, I’m going to look at five thrilling historic attractions in Turkey.

The splendid ruined city of Ephesus

Ephesus is in the Izmir region near Selcuk. Once ruled by the Greeks, then the Romans, now it’s one of the Med’s best preserved ruined cities and one of the wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Artemis, the Basilica, the Church of St. John and the Church of the Virgin Mary, all built from delicate pale stone that gleams in the hot Turkish sun against fiery blue skies, give a vivid insight into the country’s chequered past.

Istanbul’s beautiful Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque was built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmet 1st to rival the Hagia Sophia. Instead of the usual four, it features six pretty minarets. Apparently the Sultan requested gold – ‘altin’ – minarets but the architect misunderstood, thinking he asked for ‘alti’, which means ‘six’. Why ‘Blue’? The mosque’s ceilings and walls are lined with more than 20,000 beautiful blue ceramic tiles. The décor inside is utterly magnificent, breathtakingly lovely and testament to the considerable creativity of the Turkish people.


The massive modern wooden horse outside the gates of the ancient city of Troy is a thrilling sight, built to match the description made by Homer between 700 and 800BC. You can even climb inside. There’s a scale model to enjoy, plus video footage explaining the history of the site and the various archaeological digs that have taken place there. While there’s not much of Troy’s famous nine layers left to see, simply being on-site brings the lovely Helen of Troy to mind, bringing ancient history to vivid life.

The magnificent Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi

Only accessible by boat, the Maiden Tower was built way back in 408BC by an Athenian general called Alcibiades, who wanted to control Persian sea traffic in the Bosphorus. 1500 years later, in 1110AD, it changed roles to become a fortress, on the orders of the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus. The Ottoman Turks maintained and restored the facade several times over the centuries. Used as a lighthouse for hundreds of years, today it’s a top venue for fine dining with an excellent café and restaurant.

The remarkable Dolmabahce Palace

The jewel in Sultan Abdulmecid 1’s crown, the Dolmabahce Palace is an exquisite blend of European and Ottoman art, designed to display the wealth and power of its owners. It has 285 rooms, 46 halls, six galleries and four grand salons, all decorated by Séchan, who designed the glorious interior of the Paris Opera House.

Remembering Gallipoli

Bringing you closer to modern times, there’s Gallipoli. It’s the site of the epic World War I battle that lasted eight months, with extreme hardship on both sides. Because the peninsula was a strategic stronghold which would give the allies access to the Black Sea and Istanbul, the Turks were just as determined to hang onto it as the allies were to breach it. The consequences were tragic and it’s a sobering destination, particularly popular with Australians and New Zealanders.

More attractions in Turkey

I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg. If you’re moving to Turkey you’ll discover a wealth of history and archaeology at your fingertips to help you immerse yourself in local colour, history and mystery. Here’s a comprehensive list:

  • Hagia Sophia
  • Selimiye Mosque
  • Suleymaniye
  • Fatih Cami
  • Eyup Sultan
  • New Mosque
  • Dolmabahce Palace
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Ishak Pasha Palace
  • Ciragan Palace
  • Beylerbeyi Palace
  • Miniaturk
  • Kizkalesi
  • Yerebatan Sarayi
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Pamukkale
  • Cappadocia
  • Didyma
  • Alacahoyuk
  • Aphrodisias
  • Catalhoyuk
  • Sumela Monestery
  • Church of Mary and Church of St Peter
  • Churches of Göreme
  • Kaymakli Monastry
  • Deyrulumur Monestery
  • Saint Nicholas Church
  • Seven sleepers Agri
  • Erciyes
  • Palandoken
  • Nemrut
  • Uludag
  • Kartalkaya

Our expat country guides

For more useful information on making the move abroad, remember to download our free eBook The New Expat, which covers medical considerations, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and much more. You might also enjoy our special country guides.

If you have any questions or thoughts on the points covered in this post, feel free to leave a comment or connect with us @now_health on Twitter.

Image source: by Zak Malik

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

Contact Alison Massey

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