Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars


Known as the 'Iron Church', this distinctive Gothic Revival–style building on the Golden Horn has an extremely beautiful interior, with its gilded iron screens, balcony and columns glinting in the hazy light that filters in through stained-glass windows. It looks set to stay that way for years to come after an extensive restoration completed in early 2018.

While these days we're accustomed to kit homes and self-assembled furniture, back in 1871, when this church was constructed from cast-iron pieces shipped down the Danube and across the Black Sea from Vienna on 100 barges, the idea was extremely novel.

The congregation comprises members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Exarchate (Bulgarian Orthodox Church), which broke away from the Greek Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate in 1872.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Istanbul attractions

1. Patriarchal Church of St George

0.18 MILES

Dating from 1836, this church is part of the Greek Patriarchate compound. Inside the church are artefacts including Byzantine mosaics, religious relics…

2. Church of St Mary of the Mongols

0.18 MILES

Consecrated in the 13th century and saved from conversion into a mosque by the personal decree of Mehmet the Conqueror, this is the only church in…

4. Phanar Greek Orthodox College

0.19 MILES

Rising Hogwarts-like from the urban jumble, this Fener landmark, known locally as kırmızı kale (the red castle) for its castellated red-brick facade,…

5. Fethiye Museum

0.27 MILES

Not long after the Conquest, Mehmet the Conqueror visited this 13th-century church to discuss theological questions with the Patriarch of the Orthodox…

6. Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque

0.36 MILES

The sultan to whom this mosque was dedicated (Süleyman the Magnificent's father, Selim I, known as 'the Grim') is famous for having killed two of his…

7. Gül Mosque

0.49 MILES

This mosque started life as the 11th-century Church of St Theodosia. Legend has it that one day before the Conquest, worshippers filled the church with…

8. Tekfur Sarayı


Though only a shell these days, the remnants of this Byzantine palace give a good idea of how it would have looked in its heyday. Built in the late 13th…