The large square beside the Blue Mosque called Sultanahmet Square is the ancient Hippodrome, the social center during the time of Constantinople. Chariots racing were held here during those times.
Nothing much would remind the area during its glory days except for the obelisk of Theodosius which originally came from the temple of Karnak in Luxor (Egypt), the 10th century Walled Obelisk and the Sepent Column - the base of the Tripod of Plataea, originally from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi (Greece) as per the order of Constantine the Great.
Lots of benches around to rest for a while after a tiring long queue of the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia, and an excellent place for people watching too with groups of tourists converging with their guides telling stories about the place and the obelisks. Lots of fly-by-night tourist guides here, be careful though of the unlicensed or even the licensed as sometimes they can be bothersome.
Yildiz Palace is the 4th seat of the Ottoman empire after the Edirne Palace, Topkapi and Dolmabahce.
Built in 1880, the “Star Palace” was the residence of the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II.
Sultan Abdulhamid II expanded the palace and made this his residence out of fear of an attack to the bosphorous palace of Dolmabahçe.
I took the bus no. 129T from Taksim and got off at Yýldýz Teknik Ünv. Duraðý (bus stop), walk my way up the entrance of the palace. Not a single tourist was there during my March 2013 visit, so I was the only one roaming inside the palace escorted by the security guard.
It’s a nice museum palace with so much articles belonging to the sultan on display. No photo opportunity however. There’s a separate hall for ceramics and glass vases glass encased.
Entry fee is TL8.
Open every day except Tuesday.
This is a nice mosque located few meters from the entrance of the beautiful Yildiz Park in Besiktas, also very near the Ciragan Palace. I am on the way to Yildiz Park from the Yildiz Palace and passed by this mosque.
The mosque is built by the Armenian architect Nigogos Balyan under the order of Sultan Abdulmecid 1. The interior of the mosque is calmly painted in light green. The dome is also painted in light green and yellow that looks like a flower with 12 petals, with some Arabic inscriptions in the middle.
The mihrab is nicely carved on the wall and the minbar is an intricately carved wood.
Most tourists who were there just looked at the façade of the mosque missing the really impressive interior of the mosque.
The Yildiz Park is a historical park, the largest public park in Istanbul. It used to be part of the large imperial garden of the Yildiz Palace which isn’t far from the park and where I started my morning.
It is a forest park and there’s an amount of wildlife in the park, flora and fauna abound. Trees and plants are aged from the time of the Ottomans. You can run after the cute squirrels running around the park and different variety of birds flying from tree to tree.
The historical Çadýr and Malta pavilions are now classy restaurants inside the park. At the far end is the still functioning Porcelain factory. There’s also a large lake with a fountain where graceful swans swim and a lot of ducks or geese?
The park is a favorite picnic place for locals in the area as there are a lot of nice grassed lawns.
Entrance Fee is for buses or vehicles only.
This fortress is a bit out-of-the-beaten tourist path. When everyone else is eager to see the sights of Sultanahmet, few ventured to see this up close, as it is also visible the ferry doing the bosphorous cruise.
Rumelihisari is built opposite the Anadoluhisari on the narrowest point of the mighty bosphorous in order to control the sea traffic and to conquer Istanbul – by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II which was successfully accomplished in 1452.
Thought to be designed by Architect Muslihuddin Aga. The construction of the big tower right beside the bosphorus was done under the supervision of Vezir Zaruca Pasha, the tower in the south-west under Zaganos Pasha. Sultan Mehmed II supervised the construction of all the walls around and connecting all the towers.
The fortress has 5 main entrances and the walls are 5 – 15 meters high. The fortress covers an area of 30,000 sqm and there are several cannons displayed near the main entrance, and the balls lined up the sides near the entrance.
I took the bus from Taksim Square, I was looking for the bus no. 25T but in reality all buses that goes to Sariyer or Istinye and buses from both Taksim and Besiktas that has a Rumelihisari signs will go there.
The roads to the fortress are all along the bosphorus, sights are nice along the way. Get off at Rumelihisari Duragi (bu stop) which is right after the cemetery and before the long Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Ayios Fokas is located in Ortakoy before reaching the Rumeli Fortress along the bosphorus in Muallim Naci street. The church was built on 1719.
I came from Yildiz Park walking down to Ortakoy and I, again, saw this attractive bell tower. I said again as I saw it the day before when I went to Rumelihisari.
The Ayios Fokas Church is a Greek Orthodox church previously central to the area's once-large Greek community.
Ortakoy itself is a quaint district with a lot of restaurants and bars and of course the lovely Ortakoy Mosque.
The baroque-style mosque is under restoration during my last visit in 2013. This ottoman empire mosque whose name means “Light of Osman” was built by architects Mustafa Aga and Simon Kalfa under the order of Sultan Mahmut I and completed by his brother and successor Sultan Osman III.
The construction started in 1749 and like most imperial mosque, this is a complex that consist of a mosque, a madrasa, library, soup kitchen and mausoleum. The library houses some personal manuscripts collections of Mahmud I and Osman III. The single-domed mausoleum is home to the remains of Sehsuvar Valide Sultan, the mother of Osman III.
If you’re on the way to the Grand Bazaar from Cemberlitas on the eastern entrance, you’ll pass by this beautiful mosque.
If you’re on a ferry from the Asian side and approaching the Eminonu port, this is the picturesque mosque dominating the skyline, up on the hill just above the Rustem Pasha Mosque.
Suleymaniye Mosque started construction in 1550 and was finished in 1558. The architect was of course the greatest ottoman empire architect – Mimar Sinan.
The mosque was ordered to be built by Sultan Suleyman which embodies his magnificence and in (unsuccessful) response to the Hagia Sophia. The mosque is a huge complex that includes of course the magnificent mosque, hospital, soup kitchen, medical and Islamic school, and shops whose earnings usually sustain and maintain the mosque.
The mausoleum containing the tombs of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife is within the complex of the mosque. The tomb of Architect Mimar Sinan lies also within this complex.
This is another imperial ottoman mosque located near the Grand Bazaar at the Beyazid Square beside the Istanbul University.
As it is an ottoman imperial mosque, it’s a complex that includes the mosque, Islamic schools, soup kitchen, Quranic school, caravanserai, hamam, and mausoleum. Head architect is Mimar Hayrettin and commissioned by Sultan Bayezid II, and was the second large imperial mosque complex to be built after the Conquest of Istanbul.
The great architect Mimar Sinan made repairs on this mosque during 1573 – 1574.
There is a large plaza in front of the mosque with hundreds of pigeons flying around and a flea market at the side of the mosque.
When you take the public ferry to Uskudar, you will immediately notice this neo-classical building on the shore of the bosphorous.
Built under the order of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz in 1871, the terminal opened in 1872. The first passenger train was opened for service in 1890. But the building itself was built by two German architects - Otto Ritter and Helmut Conu – in 1906 and opened in 1909. Haydarpaºa was under strong military control by the British during the occupation when the Ottomans got defeated by the Allied forces.
The terminal is the main train station of Istanbul. At the moment though, the terminal is closed for long-distance lines probably for the next 3 years due to the construction of the new Istanbul-Ankara hi-speed railway and the Marmaray rail transport project connecting the Asian and European sides through an undersea commuter train line.
This is one of Istiklal churches that isn’t popular among tourists as it is hidden on a small alley back street of the main Istiklal Avenue. Like the more popular Church of St. Mary Draperis that is along the main avenue, this Armenian church is also named after the Virgin Mary.
I just happen to pass by it and the man walking around the church has the key and let me inside the church. The church has a very nice old mosaics on its ceilings and walls and many antique church décor. It isn’t allowed though to take a photo inside the church and the man gave me enough time to check the inside and padlocked the church after.
Before the entrance gate there are several business establishment sign such as the EFY Kitabevi, Victoria Kebap House, Jadore Chocolatier Café, and Zindan Restaurant. It’s at the end of an alley going up a small flight of stairs, facing the Olivya Gecidi Sokagi.
One of the most dramatic scene in Istanbul is watching the sunset standing at the Galata Bridge.
The silhoutte of the skyline with the imposing mosques, the bosphorous and the ferries merged together to form a melancholic atmosphere..
Many tourists are taking this beautiful opportunity to take pictures of the place with the sky getting hues of orange colours. Go to the end of the bridge near the fish market in Karakoy.
This cathedral in the Balat district is under restoration with the help of donations from schools and various organization from Bulgaria when I visited the place (Nov. 2012), still covered in scaffoldings around its exteriors.
The church belongs to the Bulgarian minority of Istanbul. The Bulgarians îf the Ottoman Empire used tî pray àt the churches îf the Phanar Orthodox Patriarchy, and with the mounting nationalistic movements, Bulgarians were allowed à national church, the Bulgarian Exarchate.
The original church was a wooden edifice donated by a high ranking ottoman statesman by the name of Stefan Bogoridim, which was gutted by a fire and in place the new church was built.
The huge church was inaugurated in 1898, it's design is both neo-baroque and neo baroque and made of cast iron
It's an impressive cathedral facing the golden horn with the red castle - Phanar Greek Orthodox College - up on its background.
I was looking for the Pammakaristos Church (Fethiiye Camii) in Balat, so I took the bus from Eminonu bus station that goes to Eyup. I get down at the Balat bus station and started wandering around the neighborhood from the back of the greek orthodox church in the mid of the garden infront of the bus stop.
I climbed the uphill street in search of the Fethiye Mosque. This is an authentic local neighborhood different from the more touristic district os Sultanahmet. You'll get to see neighborhood mothers hanging their clothes on the clotheslines attached at both sides of the streets, children playing football, nice wooden houses, historical buildings, mosques, churches, synagogues.
Fener is a greek neighborhood since the Byzantine era and during the 17th century this is an upper class and the bourgeouise neighborhood. Those greeks who held high government positions during the time. In the 18th century, new houses made of stone or woodbuilt by aristocratic Greek families started started to sprout around Fener.
Balat on the other hand is a jewish neighborhood during the Byzantine period, this is the jewish quarter before their exodus to Galata (present-day Beyoglu) after the 1894 earthquake and fires that razed the city.
If you really want to observe daily life right in the mid of a real Istanbul neighborhood (not the touristic side of the city that tourists normally see), Fener-Balat neighborhood is the place to see. The place is relatively religious with the presence of muslim women in black abaya pretty much worn in Saudi Arabia by the majority of female population, and men wearing shorter than usual long pants, long beards, head cap (taqiyah). With that being said, people in this neighborhood are more helpful and friendly. The religious-looking guys will stop greet you, say Hello, will converse briefly or even invite you for a tea.
The back side of the Pammakaristos Church (museum) is a functioning mosque which is a part of the old church architecture. Most interior of the old church was converted to a mosque by the then Sultan Murad III and named it Fethiye Molsque which means "mosque of the conquest" - in attribution to the victorious conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
There's an ablution area few steps down from the entrance of the mosque.
If you ever ask a local around the neighborhood for the Pammakaristos Church, never ask the church, ask where the Fethiye Camii is because it's more popular around the neighborhood or probably Istanbul as Fethiye Camii.
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