Istanbul: Places to Explore

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Western Districts

The historical peninsula’s western districts are farther off the beaten path than the heavily tourist-trod Sultanahmet and bazaar areas, but the rewards of visiting are a number of interesting sights and a more authentic atmosphere. Just inside the ancient city walls, the former Chora Church, now Kariye Müzesi, contains a wealth of gorgeous Byzantine mosaics and frescoes whose splendor surpasses those in the Aya Sofya. The Great Walls themselves, sections of which have been restored, give an idea of the scale of the ancient city and of how Constantinople successfully resisted so many sieges before finally falling to the Ottomans in 1453. Along the water, Fener and Balat—once predominantly Greek and Jewish neighborhoods, respectively—are home to several historic churches, including the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, as well as the city’s oldest synagogue. Farther up the Golden Horn, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque complex is an important Muslim pilgrimage site.

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