A peninsula that has lived its most splendiferous periods during Byzantium and Ottoman Empire eras…
Here is a small guide for you to take a look at so that you can stroll easily on this land that has nestled many civilizations, religions and communities throughout the years Before Christ until present time, before you enjoy the adventure offered by the Historical Peninsula of such beauty that is reportedly can be missed only by those who are blind.
Sirkeci Railway Station (300 meter)
Gulhane Park (300 meter)
Hagia Sophia Museum (300 meter)
Underground Cistern (300 meter)
Blue Mosque (350 meter)
Topkapı Palace (400 meter)
Spice Bazaar (400 meter)
Grand Bazaar (800 meter)
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Sirkeci Railway Station:
The railway station, which is considered as the starting point for all railway links of Turkey heading west, was built by a German engineer, Mr. Tachmund in 1890. "Gar Restaurant" inside the railway station was considered as one of the luxurious restaurants of its times. There is also a Tourist Information Bureau inside the station.
When you start to climb uphill turning your back to the sea, the road will lead you to Bab-I Ali. The street you are walking on is Ankara Street. Bab-I Ali was the headquarters of government in the days of Ottomans and became the center of intellectual life in later periods. Publishers of periodicals and papers moved in here. Headquarters of national papers were mostly located here before they moved to big plazas.
Bab-ı Ali Ascent is the best known ascent of Istanbul, which is located on seven hills, as the governments of Ottoman Empire resided here. When you continue to climb, at the point, where Ankara Street ends and Bab-ı Ali Street starts, you will see the Iranian Consulate to your right. Turning right from the Consulate we enter Türkocağı Street and come face to face with two important buildings of our political and economical history. Düyun-u-Umumiye (today it is being used as Istanbul Erkek High School), which was founded by western countries to collect their receivables from Ottomans and headquarters building of Party of İttihat ve Terakki (Union and Progress), which is not a well restored mansion in the garden of the daily newspaper of Cumhuriyet. You may also see Rüstem Pasha Theological School made by Mimar Sinan on the same route.
Cağaloğlu Public Bath:
When you turn back and walk on Kazım İsmail Gürkan Street heading towards Sultanahmet Square, you will see it on the left. Cağaloğlu Public Bath, which was built in 1741, is a "special" public bath, where foreign tourists, men and women may bath together. In fact the bath had two separate chambers for gentlemen and ladies. Their entrances are in the same street. As it is true for all historical public baths, Cağaloğlu Public Bath consists of three chambers: the first chamber is called "Coldness"; second one is called "Show window" and the third one, where basins and central massage platform lie, is called "Heat".
Its original name is Hagia Sofia and Turks called it Ayasofya and it is wrongly known as Saint Sofia. Ayasofya, which was converted into a museum on the orders of Atatürk, has been at the service of two different religions, which believed in the same god, as a cathedral for 916 years and as a mosque for 477 years. It is one of the most often visited museums of Turkey with its magnificent architectural structure reflecting the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
Haseki Hürrem Public Bath:
The public bath between Ayasofya and Sultanahmet Mosque, constructed by Mimar Sinan, is also known as Roxelena Public Bath. Its building was commissioned by Hürrem Sultan, known to be the Russian wife of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman. Nowadays it is being used as a public bath.
The mosque, which was originally built with 6 minarets, is considered as one of the most important examples of Classical Turkish Arts. The entrance to the mosque is on the racecourse, a heritage of Roman period and it was built between the years of 1609 to 1616. Inside the complex structure known as "Blue Mosque" there were a Closed Bazaar, a Turkish Bath, a soup kitchen, a hospital, schools, a caravanserai and the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmet.
In the Byzantine period while Ayasofya was a religious center, Racecourse was a civilian center for people living in the city. Races of horse carriages, which sometimes ended with death of racers, were held in the racecourse. Racecourse, which had witnessed many uprisings in Ottomans, was a place for fun such as feasts for circumcision of sultan's sons and plays of horse-riding javelin. The first structure seen when you walk around is the German Fountain. The fountain was built as a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm when Baghdad railway line was started to be built.
It is rumored to be three times as big as the obelisk is now when it was brought from Egypt in the times of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius (390 AD). It is thought to be shattered while being hauled to be placed on the specially designed pedestal as it is seen on today. Relief on the pedestal depicts emperor while watching races. The hieroglyphs on the obelisk on the other hand describe the sacrifices presented to God by Egyptian Pharaoh Turmosis.
It was erected after being brought from Apollo Temple in Delhi.
It is a 32 meters pillar with insignificant architectural value and made of stones. People climbed this pillar to show their skills in the days of Ottomans.
Turkish-Islam Arts Museum:
The structure adjacent to the road encircling the square is the İbrahim Pasha Palace, which is known to be the only palace built by individuals not related to the Ottoman Dynasty. Today it is used as the Turkish-Islam Arts Museum.
If you want to take a break after a long walk, cafes restored from ruined mansions in Sultanahmet area will provide a wonderful chance for you to breathe the air of synthesis of history with modern world.
Its entrance is in the small building to the west of Ayasofya square. It was built in the I. Justinian period (527-565) to provide water to the palaces in the vicinity. As Ottomans did not consider stationary water pure, they did not protect the cisterns and hence used them for irrigation of the fields.
Million Stone between Cistern and Racecourse, which does not attract much attention as it is adjacent to water tank ruins of Ottoman period, is one of the most important ruins inherited from Byzantine period. The place of the stone was accepted as the "Start of the world-zero point" in the capital of Byzantine Empire.
Firuz Ağa Mosque:
There are many relics in the park between the Racecourse and Divanyolu Street. These are thought to be palaces of Lausus and Antiochus, Byzantine aristocrats, who had lived in the fifth century. The mosque adjacent to the park on the other hand is Firuz Ağa Mosque. The mosque built by Firuz Ağa, who was the treasurer of II. Beyazıd, in 1491 is one of the oldest mosques of Istanbul.
When you take the Klodfarer Street while walking around in Divanyolu Street, you will reach a small area heading towards Courthouse. The entrance of Binbirdirek Cistern is here. The cistern of Magnificent Constantine has a height of 20 meters and has 224 pillars. Yerebatan cistern being the largest it is the second largest cistern of Istanbul. Small shops, cafeterias, exhibition areas and the central hollow part, in which you can see the original dimensions of pillars, were all built during restoration.
Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque:
When you head for Kadırga from Sultanahmet, you will reach ﬁehit Mehmet Pasha Ascent. A mosque, again the architecture of Mimar Sinan, will be noticed here. The mosque, which was a theological school once, is now a secular school. Niche of the mosque is covered with İznik tiles.
Small Hagia Sophia Mosque:
Sergius & Bacchus Church, which was built in 527 AD, is referred as "Small Ayasofya" as it is a miniature of Ayasofya. It was converted to a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul by Turks. Mosaic wall relief is destroyed yet friezes of pillars that support the structure are worth seeing.
Walls that are ruins of palace just behind the city walls may be visited on the Sarayburnu Coastal Road. Bukaleon Palace is considered one of the rare sections of the Byzantine Palace complex that could reach our times. As the palace was near sea side, it is thought that a small and private port is accessible with the use of stairs. You have to go down to the coastal road through the front side of Small Ayasofya Mosque and to walk around 400 meters towards Sirkeci to reach the ruins of palace.
Aya İrini Church, which hosts many artistic shows and concerts during Istanbul Festival as it has a very good acoustic structure, is the first structure to the left of the garden. The church, which was allowed to remain as a church and not converted to a mosque as it was inside the palace, was built in the sixth century and used as the arsenal of Ottoman armies called janissary in the later stages of Ottomans. The ancient military museum located here was later moved to Harbiye.
Complex of structures to the right of Aya İrini was built in 1727 as the mint of Ottoman Empire. It was extended in the times of II. Mahmut and took its modern appearance then. Authorities of History Foundation allowed it to be used as a place of exhibition for certain issues. The road passing by and going down from left will take you to Gülhane Park, which forms a significant part of Topkapı Palace's garden. This road is also the route to entrance of Archeology Museum, the richest museum of Istanbul.
When you exit Darphane-i Amire, you enter the second courtyard of the palace from Babüsselam, which is the main entrance to the palace. It was built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet between the years 1460 and 1478 following the conquest of Istanbul. It was used as the ruling headquarters and home of sultans for the empire for almost 380 years. Following the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace, it was abandoned and it is being used as a museum since 1924 on the orders of Atatürk.
The museum, which was awarded as the "Museum of the Year" in 1992 by the European Council in the contest participated by 45 museums in Europe, was built by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as the first Arts Academy of the country. Ancient East Arts Museum in the building was built initially as a summer mansion in 1472 by Fatih Sultan Mehmet.
We will recommend you to enter Soğukçeşme Street, which connects the main entrance of Topkapı Palace and will certainly attract your attention once you exit Archeology Museum. The street, which was restored in 1980's, is an attractive sight with houses adjacent to each other and leaning on the walls of Topkapı Palace. Library of Istanbul is in this street.
The Park, located in the slightly sloped area in the Topkapı Palace, Sarayburnu and Boot Gate, has the traces of all civilizations having lived in Istanbul. It is one of the places, which had hosted important incidents for Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey.
Gülhane Park is important, not only as a touristic spot being the palace park, but also as a green and peaceful recreational area. You can take long walks away from urban noise and even go for jogging on the grounds in the fresh morning air. Gülhane Park and its gate is only two minutes of walking distance to Sirkeci Group Hotels.
From historical bazaar area to the shores of Haliç and from there to Sirkeci-Eminönü-Unkapanı and from Unkapanı bridge to Yenikapı and from Yenikapı to Pierre Loti Street and back to Sirkeci.
From Sultanahmet to Beyazıt starting from Million Stone following Divanyolu
Sultan II. Mahmut Mausoleum:
To the right of the point, where Klodfarer Street intercepts Bab-I Ali Street, there is a garden encircled by a high wall. Graves of Ottoman Sultans II. Mahmut and II. Abdülhamit are here. Yet as it is not allowed to enter the garden, you may only look from outside.
Köprülü Mehmet Pasha Library:
It is located to the left and a bit further on the road from Sultan II. Mahmut Mausoleum. Further to the library, which contains valuable hand written books, there are mausoleum and mosque of Köprülü Mehmet Pasha.
The pillar, which was erected in the large oval square on the second highest hill of the city in the honor of Constantine due to the moving of capital from Rome to Istanbul in 330 AD, is also known as "Burnt Pillar". Its modern structure is shorter than its original one.
Koca Sinan Pasha Mosque Complex:
When you head toward Beyazıt, you will see it to your right beside the shops, where various spices with well known and very interesting names. There is a nice cafÈ inside the mosque complex. There is an old cafÈ, which people with the habit of smoking tobacco with water pipes frequent in the Çorlulu Ali Pasha Mosque Complex in the other corner. The Bazaar is also the location of carpet and rug shops.
Second Hand Book Bazaar:
When you walk towards Beyazıt, the road to the right leads to one of many entrances of Closed Bazaar and to the well known Second Hand Book Bazaar. It is possible find all kinds of books, new or old in the bazaar, which allows for a pass from Closed Bazaar to Beyazıt Square. There are also antique books in the bazaar. The bust of İbrahim Müteferrika, who brought printing machine to the Ottomans, is also in Second Hand Books Bazaar.
Beyazıt Square was named as the Forum Tauri (Bull Square) in the Byzantine period. The square, which has changed its shape many times during the course of the history, has an importance for our political history as well. The square has witnessed incident of 27th of May, incidents of 68' and is continuing to witness demonstrations following prayers in mosques recently due to the fact that University of Istanbul is located here.
University building was built as the Ministry of Defense in the nineteenth century.
The tower, constructed in the garden of University of Istanbul in 1828, had been used as a "fire watchtower" since then. The original fire watchtower was made of wood and had scorched, the recent 50-meters high tower is made of stone. The first palace built after conquest of Istanbul was built here; nevertheless, even its ruins could not survive.
It is considered one of the cornerstones of Ottoman architecture. A part of the complex of the mosque, of which architecture is designed with influences of Ayasofya, is used as Foundation of Turkish Writing Arts Museum. The museum, in which tools and materials used in writing arts and many samples of writing arts are exhibited, is truly worth seeing. The cafÈ underneath the well known ancient chestnut tree has maintained its reputation for ages. A very lively bazaar is organized around it attracting visitors especially on Sundays.
Beyazıt Public Bath:
When you continue walking towards Aksaray from Beyazıt, you will see an abandoned public bath, which had played a significant role in the Turkish Political History, to your right. Patrona Halil, the leader of the uprising (1730) that ended the era in which attempts were made to westernize Ottomans called as the "Period of Tulips", was a bath attendant in this public bath.
Hasan Pasha Theological School:
It is in the street next to the public bath. This theological school, now used as Turkish Institute, and stones and pillar ruins to the left of the main street, are all the heritage of Rome Emperor Theodosius's forum. The first mint of Turks was built here following the conquest of Istanbul. Arslan Restaurant, located on the upper floors and in the entrance of Closed Bazaar to the left when heading for Çemberlitaş, and ‹mit Restaurant, in the north part of Vezir Han, are the restaurants of the locals cooking various Turkish dishes.
When you turn right from Cağaloğlu Square, you will reach Nur'u Osmaniye Street that is closed to traffic and then you may head for Nur'u Osmaniye Mosque. The garden of the mosque leads to the Closed Bazaar. Closed Bazaar is a bazaar consisting of over 4000 shops, many business inns, workshops, restaurants, cafes, mosques inside that will cost you hours to wander around. It has survived many fires since its construction in the days of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The last one was in 1954. It is a very complex and 'difficult to tour' bazaar if you are a first timer. It is highly probable that you may get lost and pass from the same places again and again. An exit of Closed Bazaar will take you to Mahmutpaşa Bazaar. Mahmutpaşa Bazaar, in which you may find ordinary and inexpensive goods, is a permanent bazaar in this ascent.
It is also called Valide Mosque as well. It is the last mosque built in the classical style. It is located in the central area of the city with a dense vehicle and sea traffic. Egyptian Bazaar inside the mosque complex, mausoleums and its wonderful fountain are the work of arts that have survived till today. The mosque side of the bazaar with an L plan hosts well known flower shops and cafÈ shops and other side hosts well known fish, food and fresh vegetable and fruit shops.
Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar:
It is located to the back of New Mosque and to the side of Flower Bazaar in Eminönü. Spice (Egyptian] Bazaar, which is one of the oldest of closed bazaars in Istanbul, was built in 1660 by Turhan Sultan. In the Bazaar traditional products such as natural medications, spices, seeds of flowers, rare herbs and various food products such as dried fruits and delicatessen are sold. The bazaar is closed on Sundays.
The mosque, which was completed in 1548, was ordered by Hürrem Sultan to Mimar Sinan for the memory of his son Mehmet, who had died at the age of 21. The mosque, which was considered as his "apprenticeship stage" by Mimar Sinan, is accepted as the first monumental work of art of Mimar Sinan. Courtyard of the mosque was also a theological school and there was a fountain ordered by IV Murat in the center. Besides the mosque there are many mausoleums decorated with attractive tiles.
When you visit Şehzade Mosque, you may drink boza, refreshment prepared with roasted chickpeas, visiting the historical Vefa Boza manufacturer, whose name is always mentioned along with boza in Turkey, in the street behind.
A little further on the road you may see Vefa Church Mosque in the Tirendaz Street. St. Theodore Church was built as a late stage Byzantine church in the twelfth-fourteenth centuries and was converted into a mosque after 1453, yet frescos on it survived as they were till recent times and they were closed with whitewash later on.
The longest reigning sultan of Ottomans is Kanuni Sultan Süleyman with 47 years on the throne. Architectural work of the mosque, which was built as a monument of his magnificence, corresponded to the "assistant master stage" of Mimar Sinan, who is a very important architect for Turkish arts. In the large complex surrounding the courtyard of the mosque, which was built between the years of 1550 to 1557; there were schools, a library, a public bath, a soap kitchen, a caravanserai, a hospital and shops.
When you visit these places, you should eat beans cooked here. Ali Baba located in the Tirkayi Bazaar of the mosque complex and the restaurant called Dar-ül Ziyafe that has a claim of continuing Ottoman dishes are all here. Sülaymaniye Library inside the complex attracts the attention of researchers for historical resources.
Mimar Sinan Mausoleum:
Beside mausoleum of Kanuni Süleyman and other sultans there is a modest mausoleum in the garden. In this modest triangle shaped mausoleum with a public fountain at its corner lays Mimar Sinan. The simplicity of mausoleum for his body demonstrates the modesty of Mimar Sinan, who had produced more than three hundred works of arts, and modesty grows the respect felt for him.
Istanbul Office of Mufti:
It is located in the Fetva Street just ahead of Mimar Sinan mausoleum. This name was given to the street since the building had hosted the office of Şeyh'ül-İslam beforehand.
This garden, which you may reach passing from the garden of office of mufti, belongs to University of Istanbul. You may see an ample variety of plants that you have never seen before. You may buy some of them.
You may walk down from the district with well protected historical characteristics between Namahrem and Ayrancı Streets just ahead of the office of mufti to reach Haliç.
Haliç was an important factor in development of Istanbul throughout history. In addition to the geographical advantages of the city it is a very natural and secure port. This port divides European side of Istanbul into two parts. There are many boat trips to the Asian side, Bosporus and Islands from these ports.
The surroundings of Istanbul peninsula, which resembles a triangle, are encircled with city walls. 22 km long city walls belong to the Roman Empire of the fifth century. As a result of restoration and protection attempts for city walls starting in 1980, the city walls were cleared from debris and in certain places they were restored and parks were placed around.
St John Studios-Studion Monastery:
When you head for Yedikule from Samatya, you can see the ruins of the monastery, which is one of the oldest churches of Istanbul, in the İmam Aşık Street. After the earthquake in 1894 only the outer walls of the church, which was built by Roman Patriarch Studios in 463, survived. The church was an important religious center and emperor would visit this church on 29th of August each year.
When you advance towards Topkapı from Samatya in the city walls, you will reach Yedikule Gate. The most magnificent gate in the city walls was "Golden Gate", which is the nearest one to the Marmara Sea. This was the ceremony gate of the Empire. It was placed like an arch of victory between two marble towers. Armies returning from victories, Emperor and his people entered the city from this gate.
It was converted into an independent castle with the additions made by Turks. Treasury was here and when it was transferred to the palace, Yedikule was converted into a prison. Today it hosts many social activities and concerts in the summer.
Belgrade Gate and Silivrikapı:
When you advance in the direction of Topkapı from Yedikule towards north, first you reach Belgrade Gate and then Silivrikapı. Balıklı Holy Springs and its complex, which were considered as an important religious center before conquest of Istanbul, are here. There are Turkish scripts written in Greek alphabet on the epitaphs in the garden of the church. A few yards away you will see İbrahim Pasha Mosque, one of the initial works of arts of Mimar Sinan.
Walking a bit further, you will pass Mevlanakapı and reach Topkapı. Continue walking from Topkapı and you will reach Edirnekapı, inside the city walls you will see Mihrimah Mosque of Mimar Sinan and Ayios Demetrius and Ayios Yeorgios churches further on.
Walking towards the inner parts of the city, Kariye Museum is reached. The indoor mosaics and fresco decorations are sights to behold in addition to its lively outdoor architecture, which makes it one of the magnificent quintessential works of the Renaissance of Byzantine arts. Another characteristic of Byzantine arts is that monograms and inscriptions are added to the figures.
When you continue in the direction of Haliç, you will reach Tekfur Palace (Constantinos Porphyrogenetus Palace), which is the only surviving structure of Blakherna Palace. Built on 3 floors it has no roof and dates back to the Twelfth Century. Colored front with a small courtyard in the facade is decorated with lines of stone and bricks. Ottomans had used the palace for various purposes such as a dispensary for elephants and tile manufacturing at later dates.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque:
Eyüp Mosque and its mausoleum, which are located outside the city walls and Haliç city walls, are considered one of the sacred places of Islam. A mystic atmosphere is seen around the place. Surroundings and hills around the mosque are covered with cemeteries and famous Pierre Loti cafÈ is also here.
When you start to climb the long stairs between the cemeteries beside Eyüp Sultan Mosque, you will be watching Haliç and breathing the mystical peaceful atmosphere of the medium. The cafÈ, known as Pierre Loti cafÈ because the French writer Pierre Loti was fond of the place, was also known as "Rabia Kadın CafÈ" till the end of nineteenth century, where lovers and those who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of he city to take refuge and breathe the spiritual atmosphere.
In the old days Beyoğlu was called Pera. Pera means "other side" in Hellenic language.
Galata is one of the controversial and different sections of this city, which is named as the capital of the world due to its mosaic of different religions and languages. Galata was encircled with a 3 km city wall from Tophane to Azapkapı and Galata Tower in the Byzantine period and internal city walls were divided into five different sections.
You may reach the tower if you take the road from Bankalar Street or Şişhane. The tower was built by Genoese in 1349 as the main tower of the city walls encircling Galata. There are many rumors about how it was built. The tower, which was initially named as the Tower of Jesus Christ, was used as observatory and prison in the Ottomans period. The upper two floors of the tower, which is climbed with the aid of an elevator, were organized as restaurants and night club. The view of Istanbul from restaurants, night club or panorama terrace is a sight to be seen.