City Walls, Istanbul
These walls are ancient indeed, dating from 439AD and built by Cyrus, Prefect of the East. Emperor Theodosius later had them extended so that they met with the land-side walls he had had constructed. All the walls were rebuilt in the 9th century.
The sea-walls are in a sad way although on my 2015 visit I saw that large sections had been reconstructed. Rather too obviously reconstructed, if I'm honest, but at least the effort is being made.
Some parts of the sea walls were destroyed when the railway was built and many other parts are in disrepair and covered with invasive vegetation. But it is worth seeking them out, for they still give an indication of just what a proud and impressive city Istanbul once was.
If you make your way to Cankurtaran railway station (about 10 minutes downhill walk from Topkapi) you can walk the line of the walls along busy Kennedy Caddesi. Walk away from the station towards the airport...away from the city.
You'll see an arch here, a stretch of overgrown wall there, some sections restored with added crenellations (which is absolutely architecturally wrong), some indications of where watchtowers once stood...
Despite the noise and fumes of the traffic, walking this stretch of walls can give you an evocative glimpse of what ancient Constantinople once was.
The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople, Istanbul ... With numerous additions and modifications during their history, they were the last great fortification system of antiquity, and one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built.
You can admire them at many points in Istanbul (especially the several gates in the walls), but it's easiest to combine a view of the walls with a visit to the Kariye Museum (Chora Church) and the nearby Byzantine palace of Tekfur Saray (Palace of Constantine Porphyrogenetus) in the Edirnekapı (Edirne Gate) district.
Another good vantage point, relatively easy to reach, is Yedikule, the Fortress of the Seven Towers.
It's easy enough today to walk the entire six-and-a-half-kilometer-length of the land walls, starting from the Mermer Kule (Marble Tower) on the Sea of Marmara and ending up on the Golden Horn in Ayvansaray, though there are hazards. The first section, just across Kennedy Caddesi from the Mermer Kule, is home to a municipality dog pound, which seems to have more strays outside it than in it, so keep to the outside of the walls here. Then there is the constant roar from the traffic-choked ring-road running parallel to the outside of the walls and several busy streets cutting through the walls that are tricky to cross.
Great opportunity to see the majestic ancient walls of Istanbul .... :)
These, big, ancient Walls I saw several times as I toured around Istanbul. Some are still in ruins, and some have been restored. Evidently, the wall contained 8 main gates. The main public gates led across the moat on bridges, while the secondary gates, traditionally called "Military Gates", led to the outer sections of the walls.
They are located on the outskirts of Istanbul, built by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (408-450) who expanded the area of his imperial capital of Constantinople by building these great land walls farther out into the country. When finished, the Theodosian Walls were almost 7 kms in length. They were breached only twice: in 1204 by the armies of the Fourth Crusade, and in 1453, a thousand years after they were built! by the gigantic cannon of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, after which Constantinople became Istanbul.
Every time I write that, I want to sing the song!!!
In 1894 a disastrous earthquake toppled parts of the walls.
There is also the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus which is a large three-story building located between the inner and outer fortifications of the northern corner of the Theodosian Walls. On the east is the remnant of a balcony. The roof and all of the floors of the structure have disappeared. The remaining walls are elaborately decorated in geometric designs using red brick and white marble typical of the late Byzantine period.
You will have to look at your map to decide where you want to go and have a look at them.
Between 408 and 450 Theodosius II constructed a wall arching round the city of Constantinople and providing a land defence running 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Sea of Mamara to the Golden Horn. The walls served the city well protecting it from invading forces for nearly 1000 years until, in 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror breached the walls and entered the city.
The walls consisted of a main inner wall, 16 feet (5 m) think and 40 feet (12 m) high, a terrace, then an outer wall 7 feet (2m) thick) and about 30 feet (8.5 m) high, this outer wall overlooking a moat. The double walls also included a total of 192 towers plus 11 fortified gateways which gave access to the city. It was an amazing feat of engineering and must have been an incredible site to those approaching the city, especially if contemplating how to overcome this almost impenetrable barrier.
Now the ravages of time and neglect have meant that many areas of the wall have fallen into disrepair, though they are, as ruins so often can be, still very impressive their shapes making jagged shapes, like broken teeth, against the sky. Other sections have been restored and these give a good indication of how the walls used to look.
We decided to walk along the walls from Yedikule Fortress to Eridinekap and the Kariye Camii Museum – a distance of about 3 miles. Walking ‘along’ the walls is a bit of a misnomer as though some guide books say it is possible to climb onto the walls access is not easy and the walls themselves, often in a state of collapse, don’t always look safe enough to climb on. This did mean that for the first part of our journey following the route of the walls we were walking next to a busy main road and exhaust fumes are not the most pleasant accompaniment. However, next to the walls in, I assume, the old moat are a string of allotments and the exhaust fumes were mitigated by the smell of growing vegetables and plants drifting across from them.
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The old gates to the city are generally in quite good repair and close to one we were able to gain access onto the, reconstructed, outer wall and terrace, the latter also filled with allotments. Though a bit ramshackle and rather a rubbish dump in places this part of the walk was fantastic as hidden from view we walked in solitude between the inner and outer walls watching butterflies flit between vegetables and trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be hunkered down in one of the towers waiting for an incursion or attack.
Later we passed through some more traditional neighbourhoods and stopped for tea at an outside café near the Topkapi Gate where we had a wonderful part English, part Turkish, part sign language conversation with some of the other customers who were interested to know where we had been, where we were going and how we liked Istanbul.
All in all it took us about 2 hours to complete our walk, arriving at the Kariye Camii Museum with a sense of achievement and some good memories. I wouldn’t recommend this walk for everyone it was tiring, it wasn’t always attractive – meaning the main road really – and certain sections of the walls are rather deserted and I wouldn’t want to tackle them on my own, however, it provided some of my most abiding memories of Istanbul and I am really pleased we did it.
You can join the walls at various places – bus 80 goes from Eminonu to Yedikule and buses 37E and 38E go from Edirnekapi, near the Kariye Camii Museum
The Walls of Constantinople are also known as the Theodosian walls or Bizantian walls. You can see the ruins here and there. It is amazing that so much of them had left after all these centuries.
What I find interesting is that the local people do accept them like a natural part of the surrounding area and use them for various purposes like drying their clothes or parking their cars inside of the towers of the walls :)))
Here are some historical facts about the walls:
It was the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (408-450) who expanded the area of his imperial capital of Constantinople by building these great land walls farther out into the country. When finished, the Theodosian Walls were almost 7 km (over 4 miles) in length. With periodic repairs, they defended the city effectively until the late 19th century.
They were breached only twice: in 1204 by the armies of the Fourth Crusade, and in 1453--a thousand years after they were built!--by the gigantic cannon of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, after which Constantinople became Istanbul.
In 1894 a disastrous earthquake toppled parts of the walls, which had been mostly superceded by modern armaments in any case.
The walls that defended Istanbul, then known to the world as Constantinople. The walls were originally built in 447 A.D. by Emperor Theodosius II. They were reinforced many times over the next one thousand years. Over this millineum the 6km of walls held many besiegers at bay. The walls were finally breached by the Ottomans in 1453.
Today most of the walls are still standing however in various states of disrepair. As you can see here portions are being restored however you can walk throught the walls in some parts. If you want to walk around the walls, then it is not too difficult but I should suggest some care be taken. The walls extend around some rather depressed parts of Istanbul. Single women might not feel comfortable. The walls are also being encroached by a highway so your tour may not be all that peaceful.
Just walk around Istanbul. It is really old, and the urban renewal fortunately has never been extremely popular here. The old wall of the city mostly remains, its ancient brick often forming one of the walls of an adjoining home.
A part of the ancient Roman Wall of the old city of Istanbul. This photo was taken at the eastern side of the city, which is not toured like the western side with the more famous sites.