Sultanahmet Attractions : Istanbul

Sultanahmet Attractions : Istanbul

A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without a jaunt to the Old City, which was once the social and political centre of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The neighbourhood gives you a glimpse into the heart of Istanbul’s history and some of its most magnificent architecture – all located within walking distance of the Sultanahmet Square. The 6th-century majestic Hagia Sophia dominates the skyline of Sultanahmet, and is easily recognisable from its vast dome, colourful marble columns, Islamic art and glittering Christian mosaics. The layers of history in this former cathedral, turned mosque and now a museum, is hard to beat. Other must-sees include the Ottoman-era Topkapi Palace, a former residence of the Sultans in the 15th century that was transformed into a museum in 1924; the Blue Mosque, renowned for its blue tiles and six minarets; and the 6th-century Basilica Cistern, which is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul.

The political, religious and infrastructure buildings of the Sultanahmet district are all situated within close distance of each other, and although it is pleasant to see them all at a slow pace, anyone on a flying visit to Istanbul can see them in one day. Now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, a cluster of landmarks take tourists on a whirlwind tour through the historical timeline of Constantinople.
Major Sites of the Sultanahmet District of Istanbul

Undoubtedly the first place to see should be the Topkapi Palace. As former home to the Ottoman sultans, the palace itself was like a mini city housing more than 4000 people. Behind the high stone walls, lies a collection of romantic kiosks, pavilions, sleeping quarters, kitchens, treasury, armoury and much more but the highlight is the harem. At one point, housing more than 400 rooms, the harem, led by the Sultan mother was home to concubines and eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire.

Just around the corner, sits the majestic Hagia Sophia that at one point was the largest domed building in the world. Starting its long historical timeline as a church, the Ottomans upon invading Constantinople converted it into a mosque. Now holding the crown as the most famous museum in Turkey, visitors enter through a large stone arch doorway into the domed hall, from which ancient frescoes look down from the ceiling along with Islamic calligraphy plagues. A pleasant blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture styles form the two-story structure that is one of the most photographed landmarks of current day Istanbul.

Directly opposite the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, dating from 1616 dominates the skyline with its unique six minarets that at the time of construction caused much controversy in Mecca. 260 windows, as well as 20,000 blue tiles, adorn the interior, of which nonmuslims are welcome to see outside of prayer times. Also known as, the Sultanahmet Mosque, this building is an incredible insight for everyone into the religion of Islam.

Next to the Blue Mosque, the famous Hippodrome does not have a grand appearance or structure like its neighbouring landmarks. Yet, its historical importance as the scene of the famous Nika riots and social centre of Byzantine Constantinople warrants time to be spent in the small square. The obelisk of Theodosius dating from the 4th century AD outshines the walled obelisk, making it the must-see landmark of the old Hippodrome.

Crossing the road, a small house holds some of the finest antique carpets depicting a cultural tradition stemming back from the days of nomadic Turk tribes. The Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, based in a former house of Pargali Ibrahim Pasa, who was grand vizier to Ottoman sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, highlights the life of the nomad tribes through ethnographic displays and Islamic art pieces that demonstrate the talent of the Eastern art world in history perfectly. We design different Turkey tour packages for different types of tourists. You can visit few areas of Turkey for small trips or include many beautiful places if you wish to spend more time in Turkey.

Down a winding flight of stone steps, the 6th-century Basilica Cistern (yerebatan) remains hidden from public view, yet the simple and humble appearance is a calming and soothing sight in what is Turkey’s busiest city. Visited by Mark Twain and also featured in the James Bond film, from Russia with Love, carp fish, illuminated by gentle lighting swim their way around the ancient columns that lead to the most famous column of them all; the head of Medusa. Uniquely known because it is upside down, historians can only assume it sits this way so people can avoid the evil glare of the former goddess.

Walking back up as if to visit the Topkapi Palace, the Istanbul Archeological Museum greatly delights all those interested in not only the history of Istanbul but also the former lands of the Ottoman Empire that at one time, nearly stretched across half the world. Separating into three sections including the ancient Orient, and the tiled kiosk collection, one of the most valuable artefacts is the Alexander sarcophagus. Don’t be misled by the name because it did not belong to Alexander the Great, but instead, show his character carved into murals on the side. We design Istanbul package tours for the residence so they can take a small trip to Istanbul and enjoy the beauty of this historical city

Istanbul- Blue Mosque

Lastly, if time allows, one should spend time in the beautiful Gulhane Park. Really coming alive in April during the annual tulip festival, this historical urban green space once belonged to the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, and then opened to the public in 1912. Apart from being a great place to relax, on the western side of the park, visitors can also tour the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam.

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