The Sultanahmet area of Istanbul is a lively, albeit, touristy part of the city. This is the true "old section" of the city, with a history stretching back well over two millennia, a history buff's dream! :) Some of the most well known attractions in all of Istanbul are located in and around this area, including Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. There are also many restaurants and cafes here, and it is a great place to have a seat on one of the many benches along the sprawling central square and do some people watching. Any visitor to Istanbul must make a trip to Sultanahmet at least once!!!
If it's your first time in Istanbul, it would be advisable to do the ''obligatory'' sights first in Sultanahmet area - Aya Sofya. Blue Mosque, and surrounding areas. Nothing beats the excitement and the adrenaline rush as you drop your bags at the hotel, freshen up and hit the ground running (despite the sleepless evening flight!). It is at this point that your interest and excitement are at their peak and you simply have to rush to do the sights.
After that, you could go back to hotel, get some much-needed sleep, and experience Istanbul nightlife.
My definitly favorit Part of Istanbul !! I already knew it when i was looking on line for a hotel and i saw lots of stuff about this neighborhood, it immediately touched me. Once i arrived Istanbul and arrived my hotel i knew i made a right decision. I was really happy there.
The area is simply beautiful, its quiet, it has beautiful beautiful small houses and small
The buildings are painted with different colors, the roads are small and nerrow, made of small stones (not sure what is the English term for this roads, we call them dutch roads).
There are small bars, restaurants, shops, cafe's etc'... but its really quiet. When i opened my window in the morning i could feel the area waking up, here and there people walk around and there was just something there, im not sure i can put it into words, it was just that feeling there..
Another advantage in Sultan Ahmet area is the distance from most attractions. Its so close to everything, just 200 meters from Aya sofia, probably less then that to the blue mosque, the grand bazar, and a tram or taxi to Taxim and Istiklal.
One point that must be mentioned is the mosques, there are prayers few times a day which are heared all over the area. I think that was the main thing that kept me doubting whether to book a room at this area, growing up in Israel i knew how it sounds and as a none religiouse person i dont like hearing any kind of prayers, definitely not the muazin at 05:00am.
However very surprisingly i must admit that i hardly heard it, either i slept so strong or was out of that area during the day or i just got used to it so quickly.
So in a nutshell, i trully recommend staying at Sultan Ahmet. In some ways its to feel something of the real Istanbul. And thats part of a trip, trying to learn and feel the place you're going to.
The square in front of the Blue Mosque covers the site of the ancient "Hippodrome", one of the most famous areas in Byzantine Constantinople.
The original Hippodrome was constructed in 200 AD. by Emperor Septimus Severus, when he rebuilt the town of Byzantium. After Severus, Constantine the Great made Constantinople new capital and gave much more importance to this area. The Hippodrome was the heart of the civil activities. Propaganda activities, rebellions, fightings and eventually chariot races took place in this area. The Hippodrome continued to serve as primarily a sports center as well as a gathering place of the people for centuries during the Byzantium Era. After the Ottomans took over, it was also used for the same purpose.
This is the heart of Istanbul. I strongly advise you to stay in this area, as there is plenty of nice hotels and accomodation for all budgets.
This is an old and lovely area, full of charm and character. Most sights are located here, the mosques, the Grand Bazaar and there are many small restaurants and cafes, all very clean and nice. You won't need any transportation here. It's very easy and fun to walk the narrow streets and you can always discover something new is this colourful neighboorhood. There are always many tourists, it's true, but Istanbul is like that.
Just walk around Sultanahmet and get the essence of Istanbul, its sights, colours and smells. Enjoy it!
The Yilanli Column is found in Sultanahmet Square. After the victory of the Greeks against the Persians, the Temple of Apollo was erected in 479 B.C. It was built of metal obtained from weapons confiscated during the war and melted down. Later, in the reign of Constantine I (324-327 A.D.), it was brought to Istanbul. It has the shape of entwined serpents, whose heads look out in three different directions. The names of the 31 Greek city-states that participated in the war are etched upon the snakes.The column was originally 8 meters high, but is only 5.30 meters high today and the heads of the serpents are missing. The three intertwined bronze serpents form the column.
The third monument in this area is called as "Colossus" or "the column of Constantine Porphyrgenitus". This column looks much more eroded and the purpose is thought to have a parallelism with the Egyptian Obelisk.
In the 10th century the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus built another obelisk at the other end of the Hippodrome. It was originally covered with gilded bronze plaques, but they were sacked by Latin troops in the Fourth Crusade. The stone core of this monument also survives, known as the Walled Obelisk.
The German Fountain is a gazebo styled fountain in the northern end of old hippodrome (Sultanahmet Square). It was constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898.
It was built in Germany, then transported piece by piece and assembled in its current site in 1900. The neo-Byzantine style fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns, and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics.
You can watch my 4 min 32 sec HQ Video Istanbul Hippodrome and German Fountain out of my Youtube channel with Laibach - Volk Turkiye.
The construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I at the beginning of the 17th century. It is also known under the name Blue Mosque, due to the blue tiles in the interior.
With 6 minarets and a capacity of approximately 10.000 people it is one of the biggest mosques in Istanbul.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque overlooks the southern side of the Sultan Ahmed Square in the touristy Sultanahmet district.
These place is the first place to see in Ýstanbul and maybe you should give two or more days to see all the excitement.
Ayasofya (hadgia sofia), Topkapý Palace, Archeology Museum, Yerabatan Sarnýcý, Sultan Ahmet Mosquee,
All closed in Mondays except the mosquee of course,
All the area is fully covered with tourist traps, do not shop here !!!
Sultanahmet is the historical part of Istanbul so we had the opportunity to see many landmarks of the city like Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Palace Cistern, The Hipodrome Square, The Turkish And Islamic Arts Museum, the Topkapi palace etc.
Early in the morning the first site we visited at Sultanahmet was the Hipodrome. Although today it is just a square (Sultanahmet Meydani) it used to be a big race circus but you have to imagine about it because there are not many fragments survived from that era. It was first built when the city was called Byzantium although it became popular and much bigger (holiding 100,000 people!) during Constantine the Great days when the city was called Constantinople.
We visited the Serpent Column that was built to celebrate the victory of the Greeks against Persians in Persian Wars. Actually, it was called the Tripod of Plataea and was originally in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece. It was an impressive bronze column with a 8metre high serpent heads at the top that got stolen during the 4th crusade. Not much to see today except the base.
Then we visited the Walled Obelisk which was 32metres high and was originally decorated with gilded bronze plaques but again the crusaders needed some extra income so they stolen them.
Probably the most impressive monument on the area is the Obelisk of Theodosius(pic 1). Theodosius the Great brought from Egypt in 390AD. The obelisk was originally erected in Luxor back in 1490BC during Tuthmosis III kingdom (so I was impressed that I was in front of a piece of granite that was carved more than 3000 years before!!!). What see today is only the top of 3 different pieces that Thedosius brought to Constantinople.
Finally, at the northern end of Hipodrome we saw the German Fountain (pic 2). It was built in Germany in neo-byzantine style and transferred piece by piece in Istanbul in 1900 to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of german emperor Wilhelm II to Istanbul in 1898.
It was already 9.00am so we visited Museum of Islamic Arts(pic 3) which is located at the former palace of Ibrahim Pasha(1493-1536) that was the grand Vezir (and friend) of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. It houses a collection of 40,000 items covering a long period from the first period of Islam (7th century) till 20th century. We were impressed of some special carpets and some special carved woods. There are also glass, porcelain and stone items. Most of the art are religious themed of course but we also enjoyed some ethnographic exhibits like a full scale model of a nomad tent from 19th century. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.00-17.00 and the entrance fee is 10TL.
Another emperor to adorn the Hippodrome was Theodosius the Great, who in 390 brought an obelisk from Egypt and erected it inside the racing track. Carved from pink granite, it was originally erected at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor during the reign of Tuthmosis III in about 1490 BC.
Theodosius had the obelisk cut into three pieces and brought to Constantinople. Only the top section survives, and it stands today where Theodosius placed it, on a marble pedestal. The obelisk has survived nearly 3,500 years in astonishingly good condition.
The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople. Today it is a square with only a few fragments of the original structure surviving, such as the Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Walled Obelisk. It is sometimes also called Atmeydani (Horse Square) or Sultanahmet Meydani in Turkish.
You can watch my 3 min 24 sec HQ Video Istanbul Sultanahmet Area out of my Youtube channel with Turkish pop music by Kayahan - Karabiberim.
Serpent Column is also known as the Delphi Tripod or the Plataean Tripod is an ancient column at the Hippodrome. It is an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod, originally located in Delphi (where I’ve been and saw the place where it had been located that time). Later it was relocated to Constantinople by Constantine I in 324.
The serpent heads of the 8-meter high column remained until the end of the 17th century. One of the missing heads was later found and put on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.
Unfortunately there is nothing left from the giant stadium ( 117m wide and 480m long with a capacity of 100.000 spectators ) built by Emperor Septimus Sever in the IIIrd century having as model, Circus Maximus from Rome. The spine, the central line, was decorated with obelisks and columns brought from Greece and Egypt. What survived is the Egyptian Obelisk ( Dikilitas ) having 25m, erected in the name of the Pharaoh Thutmosis the Third in front of the temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak in 15th century BC and brought from Luxor by Theodosius the First in 390 AD. The obelisk is placed on a base showing Theodosius and his family in kathisma, the imperial grandstand. Nearby there is The Snake’s Column ( Yilanli Sutun ) brought from Apollo’s temple from Delphi ( it was a huge bronze incense burner ). A Polish nobleman destroyed the heads of the snakes in the XVIIIth century. One of the heads can be found at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. There, the column that had on the top four bronze horses does not exist anymore; it was robed during the 4th crusade and can be found now in Venice, in San Marco square. ( Wouldn’t it be nice if Italians would return them to the place where they have once belonged )