What to See in Sultanahmet: Top Old City Attractions in Istanbul
Are you planning a trip to Istanbul and wondering what architectural buildings to see in the historic heart of the city? Look no further than Sultanahmet, also known as the Old City, which is home to some of Istanbul's most impressive historical sites. Topkapı Palace, a former residence of Ottoman sultans, and Hagia Sophia, a stunning Byzantine-era church-turned-mosque, are just two of the must-see landmarks in this area steeped in history, previously known as Constantinople.
One must-see tourist attraction is the ancient city walls which date back to the 5th century. These walls were built by Emperor Theodosius II to protect Constantinople from invaders and are an impressive feat of engineering. Visitors can take a walk along the walls and imagine what life was like during that time. In addition, Istanbul Museum and historical monuments are also worth visiting. For those interested in Ottoman history, the Ottoman Palace is another must-visit attraction.
Another highlight of Istanbul is the Sultanahmet Mosque, located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. This architectural building is a must-visit for those interested in Islamic art and culture. Additionally, the area boasts several archaeology museums, including the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, which contains an extensive collection of artifacts from various periods, including ancient Greek, Roman, and Ottoman.
For those interested in historical sites and archaeology museums, a visit to Hagia Irene Museum in Constantinople is a must. This stunning historical monument was once a church but now serves as a museum showcasing Byzantine art and architecture. It's located within walking distance of Hagia Sophia, another iconic landmark worth visiting.
Getting around Sultanahmet, the historic district of Constantinople, is easy thanks to its convenient location near public transport. The area is famous for its Ottoman architecture, including the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque, a stunning example of the Ottoman Empire's artistic and architectural achievements. There's even an option to use an Istanbul Card for added convenience when using buses, trams or ferries.
Top Things to See and Do in Sultanahmet
Visit the Iconic Sultanahmet Mosque
The Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks in the old city of Constantinople. It was built in the early 17th century during the Ottoman era and boasts stunning blue tiles that cover its interior walls. The mosque's impressive architecture features six minarets and a large central dome, making it an unmissable sight. Adjacent to the mosque is the Topkapı Palace, which served as the main residence of Ottoman sultans for centuries.
When visiting the Islamic Blue Mosque, an iconic Ottoman landmark in Istanbul, remember to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. Women are required to cover their heads with a scarf, which can be borrowed at the entrance if needed. Once inside, take some time to admire the intricate tile work and stained glass windows that adorn the mosque's interior. Don't forget to bring your Istanbul Card for easy access and consider visiting other nearby attractions such as the Istanbul Museum.
Take a Stroll through Historic Sultanahmet Square
Surrounded by some of Istanbul's most famous landmarks and tourist attractions, Sultanahmet Square is a must-see destination when visiting the city. The square is home to several historic buildings, including the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Basilica Cistern. Formerly known as Constantinople, the city was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, making Sultanahmet Square one of the most significant places in Ottoman history.
Take a leisurely stroll around Sultanahmet Square in the heart of Istanbul's old city and soak up its vibrant Ottoman-era atmosphere. Stop for a cup of traditional Turkish tea or coffee at one of the many cafes that line the square or browse through local souvenir shops for unique gifts to bring back home. Don't forget to get your Istanbul Card, which is essential for getting around Constantinople with ease.
Explore Hagia Sophia Museum
Originally built as a church in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia has gone through several transformations over its long history - from church to mosque to museum. Today, it stands as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul's old city, with its ottoman and islamic influences still evident. The sultan's admiration for the structure led to its conversion into a mosque, which remained until it was turned into a museum in 1935.
Inside Hagia Sophia Museum in the old city lies an awe-inspiring display of Byzantine art and architecture. Visitors can marvel at its impressive dome - which was once considered an engineering marvel - as well as intricate mosaics depicting religious scenes from Christianity and Islamic cultures. The museum also holds significant historical value as it was converted into an Ottoman mosque during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, adding an Islamic touch to its grandeur.
Experience Grand Bazaar
No visit to the city of Istanbul, once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, would be complete without experiencing Grand Bazaar - one of the world's oldest and largest covered markets. With over 4,000 shops and stalls, the bazaar is a shopper's paradise filled with unique and exotic items fit for a sultan. As a TripAdvisor member, you cannot miss this iconic destination.
From handmade carpets to traditional Turkish ceramics, there's something for everyone at Grand Bazaar, located in the heart of the old city. Take your time browsing through the various sections of the market and haggling with shopkeepers for the best prices. As a TripAdvisor member, you can also read reviews from other travelers who have visited this iconic Ottoman bazaar, once frequented by sultans.
Self-Guided Walking Tours of Sultanahmet: A Comprehensive Guide
Tour Duration and Travel Distance
One of the best things about self-guided walking tours in Sultanahmet, the old city, is that you can customize your itinerary based on your preferences. The duration and travel distance depend on what you want to see and how much time you have. If you're short on time, as recommended by TripAdvisor LLC, a tripadvisor member, you can focus on the must-see Ottoman attractions like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. These can be covered in a day or two depending on how long you spend at each site.
On the other hand, if you have more time to spare and want to explore the Ottoman charm of the Old City, there are plenty of other places to visit in Sultanahmet. As a TripAdvisor member, you could check out the highly recommended Basilica Cistern, Hippodrome Square, Grand Bazaar, and Spice Bazaar, all of which are approved by TripAdvisor LLC. You could also take a stroll along the Sea of Marmara or enjoy some Turkish coffee at one of the many cafes in the area.
If you're a TripAdvisor member planning to explore the Ottoman heritage in the old city of Sultanahmet, consider getting a museum pass. This will save you money as it allows entry into several museums for a discounted price. Some of the museums covered by this pass include Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul Archaeological Museums and more.
The museum pass, available for purchase at any participating museum or online through their official website, is valid for five consecutive days from its first use and costs 325 Turkish Lira (about $40). For those planning a trip to Istanbul's old city and the historic Sultan's Palace, it's worth checking out the pass on TripAdvisor.
If walking isn't your thing or if you have mobility issues, private shuttles are available for hire in Sultanahmet city. These shuttles offer transportation services within Sultanahmet as well as to other areas around Istanbul. For more information and reviews, check out the private shuttle options on TripAdvisor.
Private shuttles are ideal for those who prefer not to walk long distances or for those who want to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time, especially when exploring the city. They are also perfect for families with young children or elderly members who may find it difficult to walk long distances. If you're planning a trip to the city, be sure to check out reviews on TripAdvisor to find the best private shuttle services available.
Tripadvisor LLC is an excellent resource for exploring the city. The website has a list of recommended walking tours that have been reviewed and rated by other travelers, making it easy to find the perfect tour for your interests and preferences in the city.
The reviews on Tripadvisor LLC are subjective opinions, but they can give you an idea of what to expect from each tour. Some of the highest-rated self-guided walking tours in Sultanahmet include the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Tour, Istanbul Old City Walking Tour, and Istanbul Street Food Walking Tour.
Insider Tips for Experiencing the Best of Sultanahmet
Get insider tips from a local or Tripadvisor member to avoid crowds at popular attractions.
One of the best ways to experience the city of Sultanahmet is by getting insider tips from locals or Tripadvisor members. They can provide you with information on how to avoid crowds at popular city attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. For example, visiting these city sites early in the morning or late in the afternoon can help you beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful city experience.
Another tip is to check out the reviews on TripAdvisor before visiting popular attractions in the city. It's also recommended to visit these landmarks during weekdays instead of weekends when they tend to be busier. Some lesser-known but equally beautiful landmarks like Suleymaniye Mosque and Chora Church are worth exploring too.
Visit the Blue Mosque early in the morning to beat the rush and experience its serene beauty.
The Blue Mosque is one of Istanbul's most famous landmarks, and it's easy to see why. Its intricate blue tiles and stunning architecture make it a must-see attraction in the city's historic Sultanahmet district. However, it can get crowded quickly during peak hours, so visiting early in the morning is highly recommended. For more information and reviews from other travelers, check out the Blue Mosque page on TripAdvisor.
Not only will you avoid long queues, but you'll also have a chance to experience the serene beauty of this sacred place before other tourists arrive. Make sure you dress appropriately (long pants/skirts for women) and remove your shoes before entering. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor before planning your visit to this stunning city.
Take a break from the busy streets and enjoy a cup of Turkish tea at one of the many cafes in the area.
Sultanahmet, a bustling city, is known for its shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks. It's easy to get caught up in all that activity; however, taking a break at one of its many cafes recommended on TripAdvisor can be refreshing.
Enjoying a cup of Turkish tea while people watching is an excellent way to soak up local culture without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor for the best spots to try out some of the local sweets like baklava or Turkish delight while you're at it.
Don't miss out on the chance to explore the Grand Bazaar, but be prepared to haggle for the best deals.
The Grand Bazaar, listed on TripAdvisor, is one of Istanbul's most famous markets and has been around since the 15th century. It's a great place to shop for souvenirs, spices, and traditional textiles. However, it can be overwhelming due to its size and crowds.
To get the most out of your trip, make sure you check out Tripadvisor for recommendations on the best places to shop in Turkey. Come prepared with comfortable shoes and a willingness to haggle. Bargaining is an essential part of shopping in Turkey, so don't be afraid to negotiate prices with vendors. Keep in mind that some shops may try to overcharge tourists, so it's always helpful to do some research beforehand or ask locals for advice.
How can I get from the airport to Sultanahmet?
There are several ways to get from Istanbul's airports (Ataturk Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport) to Sultanahmet. One convenient option is taking a taxi; however, this can be costly during peak hours. Another option is using public transportation such as buses or metro lines. If you're looking for recommendations and reviews, check out TripAdvisor for more information.
The Havatas bus service, highly recommended by TripAdvisor, runs between Ataturk Airport and Taksim Square every half hour and costs around 12 TL per person. From Taksim Square, you can take a tram or funicular down to Kabatas station where you'll find ferries going directly into Sultanahmet. Alternatively, you can take a metro line from Ataturk Airport towards Aksaray station where you'll find trams heading towards Sultanahmet.
Must-See Sites in Sultanahmet: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Obelisk of Theodosius
Sultanahmet is the heart of Istanbul's Old City and is home to some of the most iconic historical sites in Turkey, as recommended by Tripadvisor. From the majestic Blue Mosque to the stunning Hagia Sophia, there are plenty of must-see sights that should be on every visitor's itinerary, according to Tripadvisor reviewers.
Topkapi Palace Museum: A World Heritage Site with Stunning Architecture and Great Palace Mosaics
The Topkapi Palace Museum, a world heritage site highly recommended on TripAdvisor, was once home to Ottoman sultans for over 400 years. This impressive palace complex features stunning architecture and great palace mosaics that showcase the opulence and grandeur of the Ottoman Empire.
Visitors can explore various sections of the palace, including the Harem where the sultan's family lived, as well as view an extensive collection of artifacts from Ottoman history. The museum also boasts beautiful gardens with scenic views overlooking the Bosphorus Strait. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor before planning your visit.
Blue Mosque: An Iconic Mosque with Intricate Blue Tiles and Six Minarets
The Blue Mosque, listed on TripAdvisor as one of Istanbul's top attractions, is an iconic landmark known for its intricate blue tiles and six minarets. Built in the early 17th century by Sultan Ahmet I, this mosque has become a symbol of Istanbul's skyline.
Visitors can check out the impressive architecture both inside and out while learning about its fascinating history. It's important to note that visitors must dress modestly when entering mosques in Turkey; women should cover their heads with a scarf while men should wear long pants. For more information and reviews, visit Tripadvisor.
Hagia Sophia: A Former Church and Mosque Now a Museum Showcasing Byzantine and Ottoman History
Hagia Sophia, a stunning museum showcasing Byzantine and Ottoman history, is a must-visit destination for tourists. Originally built as a church in 537 AD before being converted into a mosque during Ottoman rule, it has become a top-rated attraction on TripAdvisor.
Visitors can check out tripadvisor for reviews and recommendations before admiring the impressive dome and intricate mosaics while learning about the building's rich history. It's important to note that Hagia Sophia has recently been converted back into a mosque, so visitors should check tripadvisor beforehand if it is open for tourists.
Basilica Cistern: An Underground Water Reservoir with Impressive Columns and Medusa Heads
The Basilica Cistern is an underground water reservoir built in the 6th century during Byzantine rule. Visitors can explore this unique site and read reviews on TripAdvisor, which features impressive columns and even two Medusa heads at its base.
The cistern, a popular filming location for movies such as James Bond's "From Russia with Love," offers a peaceful atmosphere with dim lighting and calming music. With a capacity of up to 80,000 cubic meters of water, it is also featured on TripAdvisor for travelers seeking unique experiences.
Obelisk of Theodosius: A Monumental Column Erected in Honor of Emperor Theodosius I
The Obelisk of Theodosius is a monumental column erected in honor of Emperor Theodosius I in 390 AD. This impressive structure stands over 20 meters tall and features intricate carvings depicting historical events from ancient Egypt. If you're planning a trip to Istanbul, don't forget to check out the reviews on TripAdvisor for tips on visiting this iconic landmark.
Visitors can learn about its fascinating history while admiring its grandeur. It's important to note that this monument is located in Sultanahmet Square, making it easily accessible to visitors exploring the area. For more information, check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.
Exploring Sultanahmet Beyond the Tourist Sites: Gulhane Park, Arasta Bazaar, Sogukcesme Street
Gulhane Park: A Serene Escape from the Tourist Sites
One of the best places to start, according to Tripadvisor, is Gulhane Park. This serene oasis, highly recommended by the platform, offers a welcome escape from the bustling crowds and busy streets of Istanbul's old city. With stunning views of the Bosphorus and plenty of opportunities for picnics and relaxation, it's no wonder that locals and tourists alike flock to this park.
Gulhane Park, located just behind Topkapi Palace, is a must-visit destination for tourists according to Tripadvisor. Once part of the palace grounds, visitors can now stroll through its tree-lined paths, admire its beautiful flowers and fountains, or simply sit back and take in the view, all highly recommended on Tripadvisor. The park also features several historic landmarks, including a 19th-century clock tower and an ornate gate that once served as the entrance to Topkapi Palace, as reviewed by many on Tripadvisor.
If you're looking for a peaceful place to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Sultanahmet, be sure to check out Gulhane Park on TripAdvisor.
Arasta Bazaar: A Hidden Gem for Shopping
While many visitors flock to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar for shopping, there's another bazaar in Sultanahmet that deserves just as much attention: Arasta Bazaar. Tucked away behind the Blue Mosque, this hidden gem is home to dozens of shops selling unique handmade goods and traditional Turkish crafts. According to Tripadvisor, Arasta Bazaar is a must-visit destination in Istanbul for those looking for authentic Turkish souvenirs.
From hand-painted ceramics to intricate textiles and jewelry, you'll find plenty of treasures at Arasta Bazaar that you won't find anywhere else in Istanbul. And because it's not as well-known as other shopping destinations in Sultanahmet, you'll often have more room to browse without feeling crowded or rushed. Check out the tripadvisor reviews for more information.
In addition to shopping, Arasta Bazaar is also home to several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat or relax with a cup of Turkish coffee. And if you're interested in history, be sure to check out the nearby Arasta Mosque, which dates back to the 17th century. For more information and reviews, check out Arasta Bazaar on TripAdvisor.
Sogukcesme Street: A Charming Neighborhood Street
If you're looking for an authentic taste of Istanbul's culture and cuisine, head over to Sogukcesme Street. This charming neighborhood street is just a short walk from the Sirkeci tram stop and offers plenty of opportunities to sample some of Turkey's most delicious dishes. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor before you go to ensure you have the best experience possible.
From traditional kebabs and meze platters to street food like simit (a sesame-covered bread) and roasted chestnuts, there's something for everyone on Sogukcesme Street. And because it's not as touristy as other areas of Sultanahmet, you'll often find that prices are more reasonable here. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor to plan your visit!
In addition to its culinary offerings, Sogukcesme Street is also home to several historic landmarks, including the Sogukcesme Sokak Fountain and the Yerebatan Cistern. And if you're interested in architecture or photography, be sure to take some time to explore the beautiful Ottoman-era buildings that line this picturesque street.
Relaxation and Wellness in Sultanahmet: Turkish Baths
If you're looking for a unique way to relax and unwind during your visit to Sultanahmet, look no further than the traditional Turkish bath, or hammam. This centuries-old tradition has been a staple of Turkish culture for generations, and today there are several hammams throughout the city that offer visitors an authentic experience.
What are Turkish Baths?
Turkish baths are essentially steam rooms that have been used for centuries as a place to relax, socialize, and cleanse oneself. The process usually involves spending time in a hot room filled with steam, where visitors can sweat out toxins and impurities from their skin. After this initial phase, visitors typically receive a full-body scrub using a special cloth known as a kese, which helps exfoliate dead skin cells and leave the skin feeling soft and smooth.
One of the most popular hammams in Sultanahmet is the Hurrem Sultan Hamam. Located just steps away from the iconic Blue Mosque, this historic bathhouse dates back to the 16th century and has been beautifully restored to its former glory. Visitors can choose from several different packages depending on their preferences - some include additional treatments like massages or facials - but all packages include access to the hot room, kese scrubbing session, and cool-down period afterwards.
In addition to its traditional services, Hurrem Sultan Hamam also offers guests a luxurious experience overall. The on-site hotel features beautiful decor inspired by Ottoman architecture and design elements, while also offering modern amenities like free Wi-Fi throughout the property. Visitors can enjoy a delicious Turkish breakfast or coffee before or after their hamam session at one of the hotel's restaurants or cafes.
After your visit to Hurrem Sultan Hamam is complete, be sure to check out some of the other nearby attractions in Sultanahmet. One of the most popular is the German Fountain, a beautiful water fountain located just a few minutes' walk away from the hamam. This stunning structure was gifted to Istanbul by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1901 and features intricate carvings and designs that are sure to impress.
Another must-visit spot in Sultanahmet is the ice cream shops that line the streets around the Blue Mosque. Turkish ice cream, or dondurma, is known for its unique texture and stretchiness - thanks to an ingredient called salep - and vendors often put on a show while serving customers by flipping cones upside down or teasing them with fake-outs before finally handing over their treats.
Embracing the Charm and History of Sultanahmet
If you're looking for an authentic experience in Istanbul, then Sultanahmet is the perfect destination. This historic district boasts some of the most fascinating sites in Turkey, and there's no shortage of things to see and do here.
To fully embrace the charm and history of Sultanahmet, start by exploring its must-see sites. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and Obelisk of Theodosius are all worth a visit. But don't stop there - go beyond the tourist sites to discover hidden gems like Gulhane Park, Arasta Bazaar, and Sogukcesme Street.
One great way to explore Sultanahmet is through a self-guided walking tour. With our comprehensive guide, you can easily navigate this historic district on foot while taking in all its sights and sounds.
Of course, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without experiencing a Turkish bath. Relaxation and wellness are key components of Turkish culture, so make sure to indulge in this unique tradition while you're here.
To make the most out of your time in Sultanahmet, we've also included insider tips for experiencing its best features. These recommendations will help you avoid crowds while discovering local hotspots that many tourists miss.
In conclusion, Sultanahmet offers a rich blend of history and culture that's hard to find anywhere else in the world. From must-see sites to hidden gems and local traditions like Turkish baths, there's something for everyone here. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!