Sultanahmet - Old City, Istanbul
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.
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!
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 !!!
Located in the heart of one of the world's most beautiful cities, Sultanahmet Square is also known as the Horse Square and is the most telling venue in this Sultan of Cities that is Istanbul. A favorite with photographers, a stopping place for travelers and the quintessential experience for those with a passion for Istanbul, the square is like an open-air museum.
In the late 2nd century A.D., the city Byzantium, the name it bore before Constantinople, paid a heavy price for its betrayal of Emperor Septimius Severus and was razed to the ground yet the city owed its subsequent reconstruction and Istanbul's most famous square to the selfsame emperor. The square amazed visitors with the vast array of monuments belonging to various civilizations and was known as the Hippodrome (Greek for ‘race track’). The ancient square served as an arena for chariot races and for contests involving wild animals and gladiators. While maintaining its importance throughout the centuries, the square rose to even greater prominence after the city was declared the capital of the Byzantine Empire by Constantine I on May 11th 330. During this era, the Hippodrome was turned into a center for social affairs, measuring roughly 500 x 120 meters and boasting an estimated seating capacity of 100,000.
The surviving two obelisks and a bronze column that can be seen today in Sultanahmet Square ornament the centuries-old square with an air of pride and nobility. Also there is a beautiful Fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm II, a.k.a The German Fountain, which is a real eye catcher.
Modern day Sultan Ahmet Square, also known as Horse Square, is a grassy rectangle adjacent the Blue Mosque featuring one recent and three ancient relics of the Hippodrome (Gr - horse way). For centuries it was the social, political, and sporting center of life in the Byzantine capitol of Constantinople. Chariot and horse races, gladiator contests, and other sporting events were favored pastimes of the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines with the original track built in 203 AD by the emperor Septimius Severus. In 324, Constantine the Great moved the seat of the Roman Empire Government to the city that bore his name. One of his lasting structural legacies is the enlargement and redecoration of the racetrack. Most of the racetrack remains unexcavated below ground - note how far below ground level the enclosures for the relics extend. The southwestern wall, which lies far beyond the square, has been more fully uncovered and gives an impression of the massive size of this structure. Image 1 shows the square against a background of the Hagia Sophia. At 130 x 430 yds, its capacity has been estimated at anywhere between 50000 and 100000 spectators. Images 3 and 4 depict the walls of the original Hippodrome, located at some distance from what is called the Hippodrome today for tourists, and give an idea of how dominating and massive a structure the stadium must have been.
The featured relics are in a vertical array at the site of the spina or center of the track around which the races were conducted. The paved roadways filled with tour busses are at the approximate site of the track itself, which was then surrounded by a high set of spectator stands with storerooms, stables, chariot garages, and rooms for the contestants. The seats were accessed by many doorways leading to colonnaded galleries. Most of the statues and monuments have been removed to museums, including the quadriga at St Mark's in Venice looted by the Crusaders in 1204. Bronze statues of gods, politicians, emperors, famous horses and charioteers have all been lost to time.
After the sack of 1204, Constantinople never regained its importance as a world class city and the Hippodrome gradually deteriorated. The Ottomans had no use for chariot races. The square was used for occasional royal feasts such as weddings and circumcisions of the Sultan's sons but the original structures became lost over time through benign neglect. There are many objects from the Hippodrome in museums around the world, but all that remain at the original site are the three monuments from the spina and the excavated southwestern stadium.
We arrived Istanbul late afternoon the previous day and had not ventured far from our Sultanahment district hotel.
Refreshed we set out early to visit several of the major attractions before the tour buses arrived. After a few hours we decided to walk the back streets of Sultamahmet district. Ordinary narrow streets with very interesting old mansions, most close to demolition stage.
Eventually we became lost and then we came upon Sekerci Sweetshop, it stood out like an oasis in the desert as my wife was becoming very worried.
We entered the shop and to our delight we were the only customers. We enjoyed good service and the sweets were described to us. Naturally after tasting the Turkish Delight we purchased a bag.
Upon leaving the shop a tour bus pulled up and 30 people wandered into our Turkish Delight shop.
We do not know the address, but when in Istanbul someone will point you in the right direction - Sultanahmet District.
The Sultanahmet area is the heart of touristic Istanbul. It's likely that your hotel will be located here (and there are so many), and that you will spend your first moments here. There is a lot to see.
The most famous sights of course are the St Sophia church, which was converted into a mosque and is now a museum where everyone is welcome to visit. Beautiful mosaics and a wonderful building indeed. Then of course there is the Blue Mosque, worth going in there when the prayer time is not on.
Definitely worth taking a small trip to is the underground water cistern. Very atmospheric and interesting architecture down there.. I never get bored of it!
There are a lot of restaurants here and they can be reasonable but they're more expensive than many other parts of the city. Locals don't really eat here.
Sultanahmet, due to its religious sights and such is not really an area for nightlife, for that you should head to Taksim. There is a bus from Sultanahmet to Taksim, cost 1.000.000 TL
1- Kucuk Ayasofya the little Hagia Sophia
2- Arasta Carsisi, is at the right front of Sultan Ahmet Mosque
4- French Prison
5- Islamic Arts Museum
6-Streets of Kadirga
7-Hamam at Kadirga
8-Mosque of Sokullu Mehmet Pasha
9-Palace of Bukoleon
10-Tekke of Buchara dervisches
11-Light house at Ahirjkapi
12-Fish Restaurant of Balikci Selahattin
13-cafe of Erol Tasch, a movie actor
Sultan Ahmet is the old town of Istanbul accommodating the prime tourist sites like Blue Mosques, Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace. The entry into Blue mosque is free but you are expected to donate a small amount on the way out.. Volunteers help out giving you polibag to wrap your shoes and separate pair of shoes to put on to enter inside the mosque.
Visiting the Sultanahmet area, you'll have the happiness of enjoying the beauty of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophya, Topkapi Palace, the Palace Cistern and just the parks.
I liked this area most of all because it had the unique "flovor" of middle ages with its terrific architecture, cobblestone roads, green parks, flowers and fountains, cafes with whirling dervishes, solorful shops and even the sellers of food at every corner. This is the place where one can feel the romantism of middle ages, get away from the speed of the everyday lifestyle and have a real rest.
There are also many good hotels in Sultanahmet, like Kalyon where I stayed, Armada etc.
In addition to all this, the sea beside the area ensures fresh and mild air.
Not until Sultanahmet was built in the 17th century could any structure rival St Sophia on the First Hill. No tower of Topkapi Palace should even be considered in the same breath. Now the skyline of the First Hill is dominated by ten minarets, the four on St Sophia and the six on the Blue Mosque. These magnificent structures are divided today by a small park with benches, walks and fountains displaying various patterns.
The area called sultanahmet is in the middle of the old city and you will find there many attractions : the hippodrom with the 3 obelisks , the blue mosque , aya sofia , topkapi and many more.
A lot of old buildings and beautiful architecture , ancient history.
The "Medreses" was the religious school of the Ottoman empire, where young boys would learn how to read and write by studying the coran. This Medreses of Caferaga, built by Sinan in 1559, is very well preserved and has been turned into a center for the preservation of arts and crafts. Each room around the atrium is about one different art, where workshops take place regularly and visitors are welcome to watch. The products on display are for sale and there is also a cafeteria. We enjoyed a nice rejuvanating cup of turkish coffee and some breakfast in the spring sun after having visited the Agia Sofia, which is just aroung the corner. They are open every day from 8.30 to 19.00, Sundays until 19.30.