The Magnificent Century and Beyond: A Tour of Istanbul
Where movies were filmed in Istanbul

The Magnificent Century and Beyond: A Tour of Istanbul's Film Locations

Istanbul has been a movie set many times, with films based on novels by Agatha Christie and Dan Brown and the popular series «The Magnificent Century» even outside Turkey. Let’s follow the movie heroes through Istanbul’s most popular filming locations and experience the magic of movies on the streets of Istanbul.

Some places charge entrance fees. Turkey’s currency is Turkish Lira, TL — approximately 0.15 € or 11 rubles.

Movie filming locations in Istanbul

Inferno (Inferno, 2016)

Protagonist Robert Langdon and his assistant Sienna Brooks travel to Istanbul to solve the last piece of the puzzle and destroy the deadly Inferno virus.

The denouement of the movie takes place in the Basilica Cistern, also known as Yerebatan. This underground drinking water reservoir was built at the beginning of our era to store drinking water in case of a sudden drought or a siege of the city. It is always dark, cool and humming inside — the dungeon has a great echo.

The ceiling of the cistern is supported by 336 columns 8 meters high, the columns were taken from different temples, so they differ slightly in treatment and type of marble. At the bases of two of the columns are the heads of Medusa Gorgon, one turned sideways, the other inverted: it is believed that this way they will be safe for others. According to legends, a direct look at this monster with snakes instead of hair turns a person into stone.

The columns are illuminated with colored lights. The Hen’s Eye column is said to grant wishes: it can be easily distinguished from others by its scuffs and patterns — the surface is covered with curls. You have to make a wish and twist your finger in one of these holes.

At the end of the tourist route is a wishing pool — here travelers throw coins, making wishes.

  • Open daily from 09:00 to 17:30.
  • Entrance is 20 TL. There is a staircase of 50 steps leading down, there is no elevator to go down, it works only to go up.
  • For December 2019, interior renovations are ongoing, so part of the reservoir is closed to the public and the water level has been lowered to 30 cm.

In addition to the cistern, the movie passes through the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, the spice market, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome and the Grand Bazaar.

The Medusa images here are inverted so as not to harm anyone
The Medusa images here are inverted so as not to harm anyone
Legend has it that Medusa Gorgon
Legend has it that Medusa Gorgon’s gaze turns to stone.
In these channels, the professor destroys a malignant virus
In these channels, the professor destroys a malignant virus

Murder on the Orient Express (Murder on the Orient Express, 2017)

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The train, in which the famous detective Hercule Poirot investigated the murder, sets off from Istanbul. Such a station and train really existed — since the end of the XIX century route «Orient Express» connected Paris and Istanbul. The trains had luxurious compartment cars decorated in the Art Deco style.

The station, formerly the terminus of the Orient Express, is now called Sirkeci Railway Station. The station was built in 1890 in the Orientalist style and has not been rebuilt since. The station now serves mainly suburban routes, with trains departing from the new platform.

Near the station you can see a steam locomotive that was one of the first in the Eastern Express locomotive lineup.

The historic waiting room is quiet and not crowded. The Orient Express restaurant is located here — the walls are decorated with photos from the filming of the 1974 movie Murder on the Orient Express. Stop by, have a cup of Turkish tea and mentally transport yourself back to the early 20th century, when a luxury train to Paris departed from the platform, and the station itself was buzzing with crowds of travelers and greeters, merchants and petty thieves.

On the territory of the station there is also a railway museum — in one room there are collected details of trains and devices used in the work of railroaders, warning signs, documents.

  • Open from 09:00 to 17:00, Tuesday to Saturday, admission is free.
The station is built in the Orientalist style
The station is built in the Orientalist style
Entrance to the restaurant of the same name
Entrance to the restaurant of the same name
Order Turkish tea in a traditional tulip glass and observe the life of the train station
Order Turkish tea in a traditional tulip glass and observe the life of the train station
The station platforms are not very crowded right now
The station platforms are not very crowded right now

In Istanbul, the Pera Palace Hotel was built especially for the express travelers. This is where Agatha Christie wrote this novel. Among the guests of the hotel were Kemal Ataturk, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onnasis, Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway, Lev Trotsky and Joseph Brodsky. In the halls of the hotel there are displays on the history of Istanbul and the famous train.

  • Rooms start from 100 €. For 200 € you can stay in a room of Greta Garbo or Jacqueline Kennedy, for 300 € — in a suite of Ernest Hemingway or Agatha Christie. For 500 € you can rent a suite where Alfred Hitchcock stayed.

Charlie’s Angels (Charlie’s Angels, 2019)

The new feminist action film is partly set in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood. The angels first appear against the backdrop of Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya).

An Orthodox cathedral during the Byzantine Empire, a mosque during the Ottoman Empire, a museum since 1935, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The building is surrounded by four minarets. A row of windows under the huge central dome with a diameter of 31 m gives the impression that the dome is floating in the air. The walls are lined with marble, and the columns are made of silver and decorated with gold fragments at the top. On the walls, mosaics made of smalt and gold particles depict the Virgin Mary and Christ. The sign of a Muslim mosque is the carved marble pulpit of the mullah and a chandelier of lamps, medallions with Arabic script — on them are the names of Allah, Mohammed and the first caliphs.

  • Open to the public from 09:00 to 17:00.
  • Closed on Mondays.
  • The entrance fee is 25 TL and there is no strict dress code.

In pursuit of the enemy, the girls move to the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı), the perfect place in Istanbul to get lost in the crowd.

The Grand Bazaar consists of 61 streets and more than three thousand stores, tents and stores, mosques, hamams and cafes, which are intertwined into labyrinths — just under half a million tourists come here every day.

There is everything here — sweets, teas, ceramics, gold jewelry, costume jewelry, cosmetics, carpets, scarves — to suit every taste. The main thing is not to forget to bargain.

  • The market is open from 08:30, except Sundays and religious holidays.
The Grand Bazaar has everything you could ever wish for
The Grand Bazaar has everything you could ever wish for


Bond has been to Istanbul several times. Today, local guides lead tours and conduct quests in these places.

«From Russia with love» (From Russia with love, 1963)

The first Bond film to be shot in Istanbul was 1963’s From Russia with love. In the movie there is a glimpse of the Aya Sofia Mosque: Bond takes the documents left for him near the columns. Although in the movie the mosque is practically empty, in reality there are almost always tourists crowding there.

Also in the movie «From Russia with Love» James Bond visited the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) and the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica is shown here as a secret canal that Bond uses to reach the embassy by boat. James Bond and his companion leave Istanbul from Sirkeci Station on the famous Orient Express.

007: Skyfall (Skyfall, 2012).

The movie starts in the center of Istanbul. A British spy is chasing a criminal in the Eminonu neighborhood. Real and purpose-built stalls and stores in a huge indoor spice market are seen in the frame.

The Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market (Spice Bazaar, Mısır Çarşısı) is slightly smaller than the Grand Bazaar. The Egyptians originally traded spices here. Now about 80 stores in the market offer a huge selection of spices, dried fruits and sweets, herbal and fruit teas, jams and honey, sausages and cheeses, cosmetics and perfumes.

  • The market opens at 08:00, on Sunday from 09:30. Closed during Muslim religious holidays.
A loose tea for every taste
A loose tea for every taste
You can drink freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juice at the market
You can drink freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juice at the market

«And the world is not enough» (The world is not enough, 1999)

Here James Bond rescues his partner from the Maiden Tower (Kız Kulesi). The tower was built about 2000 years ago. At different times it was used as a tax collection center, a defensive structure and as the main lighthouse for ships on the Bosphorus.

The tower is located in Üsküdar district, about 200 meters from the shore. Inside, there is now a museum and a restaurant. There is a ticket office at the pier, where you can pay to visit the tower and organize a ferry transfer.

  • The museum is open to the public from 09:00 to 19:00 daily.
Seagulls accompany any ferry ride
Seagulls accompany any ferry ride

The Magnificent Century (Muhteşem Yüzyıl, 2011—2014)

The spectacular historical series about the reign of Sultan Suleiman and palace intrigue in the harem during the Ottoman Empire has conquered the world, and fans (mostly groupies) are now storming the streets of Istanbul in search of traces of the magnificent Sultan and his concubines.

Most of the filming took place in specially built pavilions in the suburbs of Istanbul. For the film, the sets of rooms and offices were built with a total area of 5,000 square meters, plus 3,000 square meters of street sets — courtyards, streets and gardens. The interiors of the rooms were decorated in accordance with historical sources and tried to maintain authenticity.

Some of the outdoor filming took place near Topkapi Palace, its massive gates glimpsed in almost every episode.

Topkapi Palace was the main palace of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century. It was during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent that the harem was moved to the sultan’s palace. It’s a huge palace complex of 700,000 square meters. — It housed the Turkish government, harem, treasury, mosque, armory, bakery and stables.

Now there is a museum in the palace, and about 2 million tourists visit it every year. Here you can take a tour of the sultans' offices, armory, courtyards with pavilions, see the room of the sultan’s mother Valide, the harem of concubines and minions, the hamams — and compare the interiors with those shown in the TV series. Among other exhibits of the museum complex, the sword and cloak of Prophet Muhammad are kept here.

The souvenir store has a large selection of souvenirs with symbols of the series and images of the main characters and heroines. Most of the souvenirs are dedicated to Alexandra, or Hürrem — mugs, stationery, bags, jewelry.

  • Open to the public from 09:00 to 18:45 from April to September, until 16:45 in October-March.
  • Closed on Tuesdays.
  • Ticket is 72 TL, entrance to the harem is extra 42 TL.
  • As of December 2019, part of the palace is under restoration.

Breaking bad.

The TV series Breaking Bad wasn’t filmed in Istanbul, but there’s a place here that was inspired by the series' aesthetic. Walter’s coffee roastery on the Asian side of the city is decorated in the style of a chemistry lab. The interior of the cafe is in the yellow and black colors of the show’s splash page. The menu is decorated in the form of a table of chemical elements, drinks and desserts are served in laboratory flasks and test tubes, on the walls you can find quotes from the characters of the series. And to fully feel yourself a chemist and plunge into the atmosphere of the underground drug lab, you can be photographed in overalls, chemical protection goggles and gas mask.

  • Coffee costs from 8 TL.
Two shots of espresso, large shot of ice cream.
Two shots of espresso, large shot of ice cream.
The cafe is named after the main character in the series
The cafe is named after the main character in the series
We can try on a suit and a gas mask
We can try on a suit and a gas mask
Messages for fans of the series
Messages for fans of the series

Now you know where in Istanbul you can become a spectator and maybe, with a bit of luck, a participant in a movie shooting.

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