The Old City of Istanbul (Turkish: Eski İstanbul, also Tarihi Yarımada and Suriçi, “Historical Peninsula”, and “Walled City” respectively) is the oldest part of Istanbul, and the location of most of its historical sights.
Being a peninsula bounded by bodies of water to the north, east, and south (the Golden Horn, Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara, respectively) and by the old city walls to west, this part of the city is essentially what used to be called Constantinople. The rest, of what is today Istanbul, were independent cities, towns, villages, fields or even complete wilderness later absorbed by the city. This process is still going on as Istanbul grows with increasing speed.
Recent discoveries in the construction of Yenikapı train and subway station, on the southern coast of the peninsula, date the very first time of Istanbul's settlement back to about 8000 years ago, which makes the city one of the oldest still-inhabited spots of the world. However, tradition states that Byzantium was first settled by Greek colonists from Megara on the Greek mainland in 667 BC. According to this tradition, they and their leader Byzas consulted the Delphi oracle, who said they would create a great harbor city "across from the land of the blind". After much sailing, they arrived at the strategically superb peninsular site of Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu) and encountered some fishermen who told them they lived in Chalcedon, a very less privileged site across the Bosphorus. ("THEY are the blind!!!", said Byzas to himself). This spot that the Megarans chose to found their new colony is now occupied by Gülhane Park and the Topkapı Palace.
Once the starting point of the Hippie Trail, the Sultanahmet area has been the main tourist district of the city since the 1960s. As the Hippodrome of Constantinople, it was for long one of the main social centres in the city — a role it still temporarily plays for the evening feasts during the Ramadan — and hence is a part of the old city with an exceptionally disproportionate number of historic sights. The name of the district derives from the Turkish name of the imposing Blue Mosque on one side of its main square, which in turn is named after the Ottoman sultan Ahmet I (r. 1603–1617), who had the mosque built and is buried in a mausoleum in the yard of his mosque.
Parts of the peninsula was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Being one of the most central parts of the city, getting to the Old City by public transport is easy. The waterfront often hosts cruise ships, providing passengers (not on tours) with easy, self-arranged access to sights and shopping.
A modern tram line lies all along the old city, connecting it with Galata and other places north, and the suburbs in the west. Tram stations are located at Eminönü, Sirkeci, Gülhane, Sultanahmet, Beyazıt, and Aksaray among others.
With the cancellation of public bus line T4 between Taksim and Sultanahmet, easiest way to get to the old city from Taksim by public transport now is to take the funicular from inside the metro station at Taksim Square and then transfer on to tram at Kabataş station.
A metro/light rail line connects Atatürk International Airport and the main bus station (otogar) outside the city with Aksaray. From Aksaray, you can take the tram (follow the ‘tramvay’ signs) for places deeper into the Old City (such as Sultanahmet). If you are approaching from the airport, you can also change from metro to tram in Zeytinburnu. Changing at Zeytinburnu is better than changing at Aksaray, as the metro and tram stations in Zeytinburnu are much nearer to each other (making it highly unlikely to get lost!) and it’s the first station along the line, which means you can easily secure a seat after your long flight.
Public buses connect various spots in the old city with various other places. For the traveller, the most useful lines are as follows:
- 61B Taksim – Beyazıt (very near the Grand Bazaar; also about 10-15min walk or 3-4min tram ride away from Sultanahmet)
- 96T the bus from Atatürk Airport to Taksim also passes through some parts of old city. The stop nearest to Sultanahmet is Aksaray/Valide Sultan. From there, you can take the tram.
- You can get on any bus which goes to Eminönü or Beyazıt since both places are very close to Sultanahmet, if you would like to go there. You can either walk (about 10–15min) or take a tram from both places. However, there might be traffic at certain times.
Liners from Kadıköy and Üsküdar across the Bosphorus moor at Eminönü. There are also smaller private boats plying on the same routes. Another option is to take the boat from Üsküdar to Kabataş and take the tram.
If you are arriving in Istanbul by one of fast ferries from towns across on the southern and southeastern coast of Marmara, your likely point of entry to the city is Yenikapı on the southern shore of the peninsula.
Trains from Europe and European Turkey have their terminii at Sirkeci station, which is located in this district. It's also possible to take the suburban trains (banliyö treni), which have about 30min intervals and cost TRY1.50, from Bakırköy and other coastal suburbs in the west to Sirkeci.
In Istanbul there are plenty of yellow taxis and cab fares are not expensive. A ride from Atatürk Airport (IST) to Sultanahmet is about 18km and the cab fare is c. TRY30 (USD17, when USD1 = TRY1.85), while a ride from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) to Sultanahmet is about 45km and costs around c. TRY75 (USD40).
The tram line connects almost all of the sights frequented by travellers. The trams can be very crowded, but services are frequent and journey times are usually short.
Most of the sights in the old city are close enough to be negotiated on foot, as they are located in or around Sultanahmet Square. For many others, just follow the tram line. However, between Eminönü/Sirkeci and Sultanahmet, it is faster to take the shortcut through Ankara Caddesi (Street) and stray away from the tramline as the tramline follows an arch through that part of the city.
The sidewalk along Hüdavendigar Caddesi between Sirkeci, Gülhane, and Sultanahmet Square is not very wide and trams pass along fairly close to the sidewalk, so watch your steps especially when you hear tram's horn.
Many of Istanbul’s historical gems, mostly consisting of Byzantine and Ottoman-built monuments are within the Old City. Most are located a short walk away from, if not immediately on the edges of, Sultanahmet Square. Some other sights are dispersed throughout the peninsula.
There is a very handy museum pass allowing access to many of the key spots on Sultanahmet. A pass valid for 3 days can be purchased for 85 TL, while a five day pass that allows access to some additional sites is 115 TL (July 2014 prices). The pass allows free access to:
- Topkapi Palace and Harem
- Hagia Sophia
- Hagia Irene
- Istanbul Archaeological Museums
- Istanbul Mosaic Museum
- Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam
- Museum of Turkey and Islamic Arts
- Chora Museum (five day pass only)
- Galata Mevlevi House Museum (five day pass only)
- Yildiz Palace (five day pass only)
- Rumeli Hisar Museum (five day pass only)
- Fethiye Museum (five day pass only)
In addition to saving money when visiting multiple sites, the card allows you to skip the queue for tickets and go straight to the gates at all sites. The brochure provided with the card will also list tourist services such as shuttles, shops, and tours that offer discounts for cardholders.
It is worth noting that most museums in Istanbul are closed on Mondays, so checking the website first or ringing is a sensible option before setting off.
Around Sultanahmet Square
- Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Ayasofya Meydanı (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 522-1750. Tu-Su 09:00-19:00. Dating from the sixth century, it was originally a basilica constructed for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. A masterwork of Roman engineering, the huge 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The church was looted by the fourth Crusaders in 1204, and became a mosque in the 15th century when The Ottomans conquered the city. It was converted into a museum in 1935. Don't miss the excellent mosaics, including those in the gallery, reached by a stone ramp to the left of the entrance. You can hire a guide at the entrance of the museum. TRY30.
- Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı, Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi) (by tram: Gülhane/Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 512-0480. M,W-Su 09:00-18:00. The imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for four centuries. Contains exhibitions of fine craftmanship. Lavishly decorated, with four courts of increasing grandeur. In the second court of the entrance to the Harem (admission extra) and the State Treasury, housing a weaponry display. The third court has the Imperial Treasury. Both Islamic and Christian relics, rugs, china. The views from the Fourth Court over the Bosphorus are spectacular. You can also see Prophet Mohammed's belongings.
BEWARE Any bus or tram with a sign or indication that it heads for or calls at Topkapı will NOT take you anywhere near Topkapı Palace. Rather, it is going to a neighbourhood named after the city gate near which it’s situated ("cannon gate"), which may be worth a trip to take a look at the impressive city walls. Topkapı neighbourhood is located in the extreme western part of the old city, near the city walls, while Topkapı Palace is located in the extreme eastern part, which means the distance between them is at least 7–8 km. ‘Topkapı’ alone almost always refers to the neighbourhood, not the palace. Taking a bus heading for Topkapı to go to the palace is a common mistake made by travellers. For the palace, the stop/station you should look for is 'Sultanahmet' TRY30, Harem TRY15 extra (no concessions; only credit cards and Turkish currency accepted.).
- Hagia Irene (Aya İrini) (on the grounds of Topkapı Palace). Hagia Irene, which you will notice to your left after entering the outer yard of Topkapı Palace, is one of few Byzantine-era cathedrals which was never converted to a mosque (though not used for religious purposes either during the Ottoman period). The place is now accessible year-round which is a novelty, but requires a different entry fee from Topkapı palace.
- Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Meydan Sokak 17 (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 518-1319. May-Oct 09:00-21:00, Nov-Apr 09:00-19:00. With its six minarets and sweeping architecture the Sultanahmet or 'Blue' Mosque impresses from the outside. Unlike Haghia Sophia, this is still a working mosque, entry is through the courtyard on the SW side which is back side of mosque. No shorts or bare shoulders (shawls are provided) and you will need to remove your footwear (bags are provided that you can place your shoes in). The mosque is closed during ritual prayer but mosque volunteers provide you with a free presentation about the Mosque and also about Islam during that period. The venue for this event is the Mosque's conference hall. It is the building with "Free Event" sign that will be on your left while you are approaching the Mosque from Hagia Sophia. They do not charge you anything. Free, donations welcome upon exit.
- Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici), Yerebatan Cad 13 (By tram T1: Sultanahmet). 09:00-18:30. A giant underground cistern built by Justinian in 532 to provide water to the city in cases of siege. A wooden walkway winds between the 336 columns, most of which were re-used from other sites and are highly decorated. The massive underground space is worth a visit simply to marvel at the scale of building in ancient times. Lights and piped music add to the eerie atmosphere. Bring some type of fish food as you'll see enormous fish swimming below your feet. The statues of Medusa are impressive. TRY3 for Turkish citizens, otherwise 20 TL (no concessions; only Turkish currency and credit cards accepted)..
- Hippodrome (adjacent to the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia). This was the centre of Roman and Byzantine Constantinople, and is a great place to begin one's tour and to watch people. The building no longer stands, but the obelisks and sculptures that have been collected here since Theodosius' time in the fourth century remain. The four bronze horses in the facade of St. Marco in Venice used to be on top of the Emperor's box in the Hippodrome and they were looted by the crusaders in 1204. While you are on your way to the hippodrome, don’t forget to check out German Fountain (Alman Çeşmesi), a neo-Byzantine style fountain building at the square leading to Hippodrome. It was a gift sent by German Kaiser Wilhelm II to the Ottoman Sultan.
- Column of Constantine (Çemberlitaş sütunu/Burnt Stone), Yeniçeriler Caddesi. one of the most important examples of Roman art in Istanbul. The column is 35 meters tall
- The Museum of Archaeology (Arkeoloji Müzesi), Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu, Gülhane (Tram T1: Gülhane; take the first right after entering Gülhane Park), ☎ +90 212 520-7742. Tu-Su 09:00-19:00. Tickets sales stop at 18:00. A must see! One of the best, including a great collection of Sumerian tablets, pieces of the wall of Babylon and Roman marble statues. The Alexander Sarcophagus, once believed to be the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great himself (but later found out to be not the case), which is very well preserved and highly adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great is among the most famous pieces of ancient art displayed in the museum. TRY15.
- Great Palace Mosaics Museum (Büyük Saray Mozaikleri Müzesi), Arasta Çarşısı, Sultanahmet (just south of Blue Mosque), ☎ +90 212 518-1205, fax: +90 212 512-54-74. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. Located in Arasta Bazaar, this museum hosts the pavement mosaics of the Byzantine-era Great Palace of Constantinople, which once occupied all the way from Sultanahmet Square, then the Hippodrome, to the coast of the Sea of Marmara.
- Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (Sultanahmet). CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RENOVATION Carpets, rugs, calligraphy, pottery. With the same ticket, you can visit also the Ethnographic Museum downstairs where you can learn about the lifestyle of the Turks and their ancestors. TRY10.
- Milion (on the street with the tram line, close to the entrance of Basilica Cistern). While this partially intact marble pillar dating back to the 4th century AD may seem unremarkable, it was the starting point of any distance measured within the empire during the Byzantine era, so it may be nice to think that you are in the centre of where all the roads lead to (or, rather, start from).
- Gülhane Park (near Sultanahmet, and next door to Museum of Archaeology). This park was royal hunting grounds in the past. Today it’s a public park with lots of seasonal flowers, including huge patches of tulips in early April, and huge plane trees (platanus)—which means lots of shade as well. The high walls on one side of the park separates it from Topkapı Palace. At one end of the park are a group of nice outdoor cafés—all of which basically serve the same drinks and snacks—with a view of Bosphorus, a view that is as charming as the view from the Palace situated right above. Those cafés sell tea by teapot (which equals to well over 5 glasses of tea), and a teapot of tea costs TRY6, or TRY8 for two persons for which you will get a slightly bigger teapot (note that while tea in each teapot is enough for two persons, they only serve one glass if you order one-person-teapots which cost TRY6). On your way to the cafés, don't forget to check out the Column of the Goths (Gotlar Sütunu), a Corinthian-style marble pillar dating back to Roman times, located just behind the entrances of cafés. It was erected in honour of victory over Goths by either Claudius II Gothicus (reigned 268-270) or Constantine the Great (reigned 306-337), and it likely is the oldest artefact dating back to Roman era that is still intact in the city and possibly pre-dates the foundation of Constantinople, with some badly deformed Latin inscriptions on its pedestal. Also near the café is the ruins of a monastery dating back to Byzantine times. The park has two gates, one near Sultanahmet (on the street between Sultanahmet Sq and Sirkeci, the street on which trams run), and the other on the avenue lying on the coastline. To get to Sirkeci/Eminönü from the latter, turn left after exiting the park. Free.
- Soğukçeşme Street (Soğukçeşme Sokağı) (between Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, and the gate of Gülhane Park). A car-free downhill cobbled street just behind Hagia Sophia, with renovated (or totally re-built) traditional wooden houses two- or three-storeys tall typical of Ottoman era, leaning against the outer wall of Topkapı Palace grounds/Gülhane Park. Worth a look to see what typical streetscape of Istanbul was like before the concrete came over. While around there, don't forget to check out Fountain of Sultan Ahmed III, at the square in front of the outer gate of Topkapı Palace, a huge standalone fountain building built in typical Ottoman rococo style in 1728.
- History of Science and Technology in Islam Museum, Gülhane Park. Fascinating museum in recently restored building that was the stables for Topkapi Palace. Contains mainly reconstructions of historical instruments and tools including instruments for astronomy, clocks, and pumps. Advances the view that Islamic science and technology preceded that of Europe.
- Istanbul Railway Museum (TCDD Museum), Sirkeci Railway Station (Within station at ground level.), ☎ +90 212 520 65 75 / 7885, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-17:00. This ever popular gem of a museum combines in a single room many different and unusual artifacts covering both Ottoman and Modern Turkish railway history. Likely to appeal both to the dedicated rail fan and those with a more casual interest in the history of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. The Orient Express used to depart from just opposite the museum. The station itself dates from late Ottoman times and is full of attractive architectural detail. Closed on Mondays and certain national holidays. Free.
- Fatih Camii (Conqueror's Mosque), Ali Kuşcu Mh. 34083. The first monumental project in the Ottoman imperial architectural tradition, the Fatih Mosque complex was built in Istanbul between 1463-1470 by the Greek architect Atik Sinan, by the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmed II, on the site of the former Church of the Holy Apostles, which had served as Byzantine Imperial burial place for one thousand years and had been in poor condition since the Fourth Crusade. The original complex included a set of well-planned buildings constructed around the mosque. They include eight medrese, library, hospital, hospice, caravanserai, market, hamam, primary school and public kitchen (imaret) which served food to the poor. The original mosque was badly damaged in the 1509 earthquake, after that it was repaired, but was then damaged again by earthquakes in 1557 and 1754 and repaired yet again. It was then completely destroyed by an earthquake on 22 May 1766 when the main dome collapsed and the walls were irreparably damaged. The current mosque (designed on a completely different plan) was completed in 1771 under Sultan Mustafa III by the architect, Mimar Mehmet Tahir. In the graveyard, on the kiblah side behind the mosque, are the türbe of Sultan Mehmet II and his wife Gulbahar Hatun. Both were reconstructed after the earthquake. The türbe of the Conqueror is very baroque with a lavishly decorated interior.
- Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi), Edirnekapı (near the city walls; bus: #87 from Taksim), ☎ +90 212 631-9241, fax: +90 212 621-3435. Th-Tu 09:00-16:30. Also known as the Church of St Saviour in Chora (chora translates "countryside" in Byzantine Greek, which refers to what the site of the church exactly was when it was built), this is 1000 year old Byzantine church, an example of a church somewhat out of the traditional centre, but is an absolute must see with precious mosaic frescoes and a captivating mood inside. The early church frescoes had been covered with plaster for nearly 500 years, as the building had been converted into a mosque, but were uncovered in the mid-twentieth century and have been partially restored. Mind blowing frescoes and mosaics now cover the entire inside of this church but unfortunately access is presently limited to the outer areas due to restoration work. Nevertheless, there is still much to be seen. An impressive section of the Theodosian walls is a short walk from the church. TRY15.
- Patriarchate of Constantinople (Fener Rum Patrikhanesi), Sadrazam Ali Paşa Caddesi, Fener (between S. Ali Paşa Cd. and İncebel Sokağı; northwest of old city, close to Golden Horn shore), ☎ +90 212 531-9670, fax: +90 212 534-9037, e-mail: email@example.com. 08.30-16:00. Arguably the centre of World Orthodoxy, the Patriarchate is housed since 1586 in the Church of St George (Greek: Agíou Geōrgíou, Turkish: Aya Yorgi) in the Fener (Phanar) neighbourhood overlooking the Golden Horn, which was the traditional Greek quarter of the city during the Ottoman period, and its prominent inhabitants, called Phanariotes, exerted great influence on the European possessions of the empire. Despite its religious importance, the St George is an otherwise unremarkable and unimpressive building from the outside, though its lavishly decorated interior is worth a look. While you are around, don't forget to check out the Phanar Greek College (Fener Rum Lisesi) just next to the St George, which has an imposing tower made of red brick which seems to appear straight out of medieval times.
- St Stephen Church (Sveti Stefan Kilisesi), Fener (on the southern shore of the Horn; close to waterfront, on the main avenue). CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS. A Bulgarian Orthodox church better known as Demir Kilise, i.e. "Iron Church", St Stephen is totally made of cast iron, a product of 19th century experimentation with prefabricated iron churches. This building combining neo-Gothic and neo-Baroque influences, has a richly ornamented exterior.
- Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii), Süleymaniye Mh. (About 15-20min walk away from Beyazıt tram stop/Grand Bazaar, also same distance away from Eminönü, but you should walk uphill from there). On the top of a hill overlooking Golden Horn is a work of Mimar Sinan, an Ottoman architect of the 16th century. The mosque is a fine example of Ottoman architecture of the era, and inspired the architects of the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet) which was built later. Comparing these two mosques, Süleymaniye is noted for its gloomier and more atmospheric feeling. Next to the courtyard of the mosque are tombs of Sinan himself, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and his Ukrainian spouse, Roxelana (known as Hürrem Sultan in Turkish). Free admission (both the mosque building itself and tombs in the courtyard).
- Valens Aqueduct (over Atatürk Boulevard, north of Aksaray, south of Unkapanı). A double-storey Roman one built during the reign of Valens (r. 364-378) to provide the city with fresh water coming from the surrounding forests, this 921-metre long aqueduct spans the valley occupied by what is now Atatürk Boulevard (Atatürk Bulvarı), which lies in the very middle of the peninsula, connecting Aksaray with Unkapanı on the bank of Golden Horn and then Taksim Square, behind the opposite shore of Golden Horn. The aqueduct is one of the symbols of the city and it will likely welcome you to the city on your way from airport to hotel if you are going to stay around Taksim/Beyoğlu.
- Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hisarı) (suburban train: Yedikule). This fortress in the very southwest of old city, next to the city walls was Porta Aurea, i.e. "Golden Gate" of Roman times, when it was main ceremonial entrance into the capital, used especially for the occasions of a triumphal entry of an emperor into the capital on the occasion of military victories. During Ottoman era, a fortress was built next to it ("the Fortress of Seven Towers", direct translation of its current Turkish name) and during late Ottoman period, it served as a state prison for high-level detainees like ambassadors or pashas.
- Zeyrek Mosque (Turkish: Zeyrek Camii, also Molla Zeyrek Camii), Sinanağa Mah. İbadethane Sokak, Zeyrek (west of Atatürk Bulvarı/Unkapanı). Located in the neighbourhood of Zeyrek close to Fatih, Zeyrek Mosque is made by joining two former churches and a chapel all located next to each other. It represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period and is, after Hagia Sophia, the second largest religious edifice built by the Byzantines still extant in Istanbul. A really picturesque place, so prepare your camera! One word of caution, it is located in a somewhat rough neighbourhood, so better visited when there is still daylight. Free.
- Old City Walls. The old city walls, which were built during the reign (408–450) of Byzantine emperor Theodosius II and enclose the entire western boundary of the peninsula from the Golden Horn to the coast of the Sea of Marmara, are mostly intact although partially dilapidated, suffering from unsightly restorations of early 1990s, and occasionally pierced by wide avenues into the old city. For a complete and detailed walking route along the walls, see "Theodosian Walls Walk" section of main Istanbul article. Those too lazy to do the entire route may check out easily accessible sections around Chora Church, Pazartekke station of T1 tram line, or Yedikule Fortress.
- Little Hagia Sophia (Kücük Ayasofya Camii), Küçük Ayasofya Cd No:78, Fatih (10min walk from Tram T1 Sultanhamet stop, or 5 minutes from Hippodrome / Blue Mosque by going roughly south and downhill). Formerly known as the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, this building was constructed around 530CE (at about the same time as Hagia Sophia) and was transformed into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest. This building is beautifully decorated and offers a much more intimate experience than the large mosques scattered throughout Fatih. Adjoining is a small madrasa with truly original craft shops.
- Rüstem Pasha Mosque (Rüstem Paşa Cami), Hasırcılar Cd 74-88, Fatih (7 min. walk for Tramway T1 Eminönü stop, the mosque is on a terrace accessible from street level through staircases.). Built in 1564 by renowned architect Sinan for Rüstem Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, this small mosque is the archetype of Ottoman art. Of notice are the interior walls fully covered by beautiful Iznik pottery, then at its height of sophistication.
- Fethiye Museum (Pammakaristos Church), Balat Mh., 34087. It was originally built as the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos ("All-Blessed Mother of God"), between the eleventh and the twelfth centuries. After the fall of Constantinople, the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was moved from the Church of the Holy Apostles in 1456 to the Pammakaristos Church, which remained as the seat of the Patriarchate for twenty six years, until the Ottoman Sultan Murad III converted the church into a mosque and renamed it in honor of his Fetih (Conquest) of Georgia and Azerbaijan, hence the name Fethiye Camii. The parekklesion, besides being one of the most important examples of Constantinople's Palaiologan architecture, has the largest amount of Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul after the Hagia Sophia and Chora Church.
- Koca Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Sümbül Efendi Mh. 34107. Built originally as a monastery dedicated to Saint Andrew the Apostole, at the beginning of the 5th century, by order of Princess Arcadia, sister of Emperor Theodosius II. Later, Saint Andrew of Crete, a martyr of the fight against Byzantine Iconoclasm, was killed on 20 November 766 in the Forum Bovis because of his opposition to the iconoclastic policies of Emperor Constantine V (r. 741–775), and buried in this church. Due to his popularity after the final triumph of Orthodoxy, the dedication of the church changed from Saint Andrew the Apostle to him. During the second half of the ninth century, Emperor Basil I (r. 867–886) wholly rebuilt the church, which possibly had been damaged during the iconoclastic fights. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople the monastery, known by the Turks as Kızlar Kilisesi ("women's church"), continued to be inhabited for a while. Between 1486 and 1491, Grand Vizier Koca Mustafa Pasha, executed in 1512, converted the church into a mosque. A folkloric tradition related to a chain hung to a cypress tree in the courtyard. The cypress is since long dead but still stands - together with the chain - inside a small round building in the yard of the mosque. The chain was swung between two people who were affirming contradictory statements, and the chain was said to hit the one who was telling the truth
- Walk Along the Golden Horn Poke around forgotten corners just over this hauntingly beautiful inlet from the Bosphorus. You make some thrilling - and chilling - "finds" on cobbled streets as you trace its narrow alleyways and ancient squares. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate housing a column which is believed to have been used for the binding and flogging of criminals in Jerusalem is here. The magnificent Neo-Gothic, Neo Baroque -well literally hand made doll house -St.Stephens Church is located on the western shores. The cascading domes and four slender minarets of the Imperial Suleymaniye Mosque dominating the skyline. One of Istanbul’s surviving mediaeval synagogues...and trendiest houses in town that are now enjoying their second or even third type of use. Highlight is the famous Chora the Byzantine marvel of mosaics and frescoes.
Most of Istanbul's historical Turkish baths, known as hamam and quite an inevitable part of any Istanbul experience, are located in Old City around Sultanahmet.
- Hurrem Sultan Hamamı, ☎ +90 212 517-3535. Daily 07:00-23:59. The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul was designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. It was built at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557CE). It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200CE) used to stand, between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. The area is also particularly significant as the site where the Temple of Zeus once stood. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam consists of the baths, a restaurant and a café, all located in the gardens of the hamam. 35min: €70, 50min: €90, 75min: €100, 90min: €165.
- Çemberlitaş Hamamı, ☎ +90 212-5112535, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Cemberlitas Bath is on Cemberlitas Square in the midst of some of Istanbul's greatest monuments. It was also built by architect Sinan in 1584. It has 2 sections, female and male. Entry €18, TRY39 for self-service, TRY59 for Turkish massage, TRY99 for Turkish massage and oil massage).
- Cağaloğlu Hamamı, ☎ +90 212 522-2424, e-mail: email@example.com. The Cağaloğlu hamam was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. It is three blocks from the Hagia Sophia. It has separated sections. Popular and normally visited by tourists. You can get a "service" which mean one of the staff helps you get scrubbing, and the most expensive option contain scrubbing and massage. The payment is done before, but if choose not to take massage, don’t be surprise if one of the staff will secretly offer you one, letting you decide how much to add to his tip. It should be said that the atmosphere is very touristic, and everything has a price. Once you are done, they give you a souvenir; a pair of underwear and a comb. Self-service €20, scrubbing €23, massage €30, self-service, scrubbing, and massage €40, and luxury service €45. Credit cards not accepted.
- Süleymaniye Hamamı, Mimar Sinan Caddesi 20, ☎ +90 212 520-3410, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sultan Suleyman had this Hamam built by the famous Architect Sinan in 1550. Architect Sinan build this hamam for himself, and used this hamam for washing as did the Sultan himself once. It's a bit touristy, though it could be worse, and the Suleymaniye hamam is the only mixed hamam in Istanbul. There are no different sections for each sex, thus the families may comfortably enjoy this hamam together. Hamam also has two way free shuttle services for the hotel guests if the booking comes through their reception. Entry €31.50.
- Sultanahmet Hamamı, ☎ +90 212 513-7204, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 07:00-23:59, no entry after 22:30. A few steps from Sultanahmet tram station, the place is very much close to the main attractions at Sultanahmet. Of course many of the visitors are tourist, however it isn’t feeling too commercialize as the Cağaloğlu Bath one (e.g. No souvenirs are given, no tourist shop). There's a women's section and a mixed section. The place is nice, the hosting is kind, and the whole experience is fun. But, if you're looking for a strong, thorough and long massage – you might be disappointed. Tips can be given in one box by the doors, which reduce some of the "trading" filling. TRY40 for hamam only, TRY50 for hamam and massage (by staff in hamam room), and TRY60 for the.
- Tarihi Şifa Hamamı, Sifa Hamami Sokak No. 24, ☎ +90 212 638-3849. Established 1777, this is one of the cheaper options. It is entirely marble throughout and the fittings might well be the originals. It has a mixed or separate female sections. Enjoy a good scrub and clean, a massage and an apple tea which is all included in the general service. The staff's English is limited. TRY50 for a scrub and massage, TRY80 for scrub, massage, and an oil massage.
Istanbul's historical bazaars are located in Old City.
- Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). Mo-Sa 9:00-19:00. Istanbul's grand old bazaar with an estimated 4400 shops lined along covered walkways. It is said to be the world's oldest shopping mall, covers several blocks and features a labyrinth of side streets to keep you lost for the better part of a day. The shops are organized around their wares, e.g. the silver jewellers are clustered together, the carpet shops are clustered elsewhere and the shoe shops are bunched together somewhere else. Parts of it now are rather touristy (most locals don't shop there) and you are likely to pay a little more for your purchase than elsewhere but with the vast selection you will find what you're looking for and it is one of Istanbul's character pieces.
- Polisajci Brothers Antique Show, 37-39 Yaglikcilar Sokak, Ic Cebeci Han, +90 212 526-1831. You will find Ottoman and other antique metal ware - copper bowls, jugs, pots and the like - once used in hammams and kitchens.
- Derviş, ☎ +90 212 514-4525. 33-35 Keseciler Sokak. Turko-Californian spa shop with raw silk and cotton clothing made to last a long time.
- Chalabi, 6 Sandal Bedesten Sokak, +90 212 522-8171. Grand Bazaars’ oldest family-run antiques dealer offers Ottoman silver, furniture and jewellery from old Ottoman families, and other oriental treasures.
- Deli Kızın Yeri, ☎ +90 212 526-1251. 82 Halıcılar Çarşısı. Deli Kızın Yeri (The Crazy Lady's Place) was founded by The Crazy Lady herself, an American who has retired in Turkey, who specializes in creating flat, useful, packable items using traditional Turkish motifs, handicrafts and fabrics. Items produced by local artists suiting the flavour of the shop comprise the rest of their inventory. The selection of items changes constantly, but generally includes items such as placemats, tablecloths, purses, doorstops, plastic bag holders, napkin rings, tea cozies, Turkish Delight-flavoured teddy bears and dolls, luggage tags, aprons, pillows, and limited edition clothing.
- Deli Kızın Yeri Junior, 42 Halıcılar Çarşısı, +90 224 757-4229. The Grand Bazaar's first and only children's store, filled with Turkish inspired toys and games for kids of all ages. Your kids will love it!
- Can Antik (Art and Antiques), Cadircilar Caddesi Lutfullah Sokak no 34/36, Beyazit (in the Grand Bazaar), ☎ +90 212 512-5828. You will find Ottoman and other antique metalware here - copper bowls, jugs, pots Ottoman silver, furniture jewellery and big collection antique textile dating back to Ottoman era.
- Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı also known as Spice Bazaar). in Eminönü is also a covered bazaar, which is a lot smaller than Grand Bazaar, and as its name implies, houses herbalist and spice shops.
- Rugs and kilims
- Mevlana Rug Store, Torun sok. 1, Sultanahmet, +90 212 517-1260 (fax:+90 212 517-7476) . Mevlana Rug store is the only store which is recommended by The New York Times.
- Bazaar 55 Rug House, ☎ +90 212 6382289. Akbiyik Cad. 55, Sultanahmet. The carpet shop known to be most trust-worthy.
- Mehmet Cetinkaya Gallery, ☎ +90 212 517-6808. Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesi, 7 Tavukhane Sokak. Glorious museum-quality textiles, a feast for the eyes.
- Best Carpet Gallery, ☎ +90 535 722-0175. Binbirdirek Caddesi No. 3/36. Buy online Rugs and Kilims.
- Chalcedony. A semi-precious gemstone named after the nearby ancient town of Chalcedon (modern Kadıköy across the Bosphorus).
- You can buy tourist-kitsch souvenirs all around the city. A magnet with coloured picture of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia will cost TRY2 each.
- Haggling over the price is the norm when shopping. Shopkeepers usually let you offer a price lower than the retail price; once a price agreeable to both is met, then the sale can be finalized.
- Historia, Vatan Caddesi (Adnan Menderes Bulv.) 2, Fatih (roughly at the midway between 'Aksaray' and 'Emniyet-Fatih' stations of M1 metro line; public bus stop 'İskenderpaşa' is right in front of the place), ☎ +90 212 532-0202, fax: +90 212 531-1010, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Recently opened Historia is the only shopping mall in the Old City (and likely will be the only one, as large-scale new development is restricted in most of this part of the city), and is the place to go if you are looking into something more modern and less touristy than in the Covered Bazaar. Usual selections of garment, electronics, and furniture stores, a large supermarket, as well as a bowling alley, fast food joints, and movie theatre. While there, you may also want to check out Fenari İsa Mosque just next to Historia (across the narrow alley at the side of the mall), which is a small red-brick Byzantine church from early era, which was renovated in 1970s and now serves as a mosque after staying derelict since a fire damaged the building in 1918.
Restaurants in the eastern part of the Fatih area (Sultanahmet) are mainly targeted at tourists, and charge much higher prices than those in places such as Galata. A kebab can cost here TL8, TL10 or even higher (the real price is about TL4-5). The quality of most restaurants aimed at tourists varies, so it's well worth looking for online reviews or following the recommendations of a good guidebook when making your selection (this also reduces your exposure to the aggressive touts employed by many of the restaurants). If one wants not to spend much money, it is worth to spend 10 minutes and leave Sultanahmet neighbourhood to the North or West and have much cheaper - and probably nicer - meal.
For budget meals it is advisable to avoid the restaurants along the tram line and to the West and South from the Blue Mosque. For really budget places, where locals eat, one should go to the Gedik Paşa street and look in the side streets. But if you search some normal prices, it easy to find some place on Peykhane street.
- Beydagi Restaurant, Klod Farer Cad. No.27/B (Go to the Hippodrome, walk west past the museum of Islamic Art and the Oriental Cafe and take the street to the right. You will reach an older small mosque and the restaurant is across the street. (It does not have a Patio, ignore this restaurant as they have inflated prices), ☎ +90 212 638 34 44. Chicken Shish for 10TL or Chicken Crepe for 8TL. The staff is friendly and the food is great. 15 TL.
- Sait Balik, Çapari Sokak No: 55, Kumkapi, ☎ +90 212 638 34 44, e-mail: email@example.com. Raki and fish. Fresh fish varieties and special Turkish mezes. Try their special dessert "selale". 70-80 TRY with wine/person.
- Vivaldi Restaurant, Mustafa Kemalpasa Cad. No 52/A, Yenikapi (Take a tram to Laleli - buy some leather shoes/bags! - and then stroll down towards the water on Ataturk Blv/Mustafa Kemal Cad. Look for the Efes Beer umbrellas), ☎ +90 212 458 68 27. Definitely try the bitter wrap or mixed pide. Friendly staff who will insist on giving you free Turkish tea in this quiet little cafe situated in a non-tourist-trap area. meals under YTL 10.
- Doy-Doy Restaurant, Sifa Hamamı Sokak No: 13, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 517 15 88. An unassuming cafe spread out over three floors and a roof terrace with views over the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque. A bit of a hidden gem, and well worth the visit. Often recommended by locals and reviewed by Fodors. Serves a menu of simple kebabs, chicken and lamb stews, and pide (Turkish pizza) baked in a wood-burning oven. A variety of mezes are also available. Lunch specials include bean or lentil soup. Soups, meatless pizzas, veggie kebabs and salad are great options for vegetarians. Friendly service. Cheap. Open late. meals under YTL 10.
- Karadeniz Aile Pide ve Kebap Salonu, Divanyolu Cad. Hacı Tahsinbey Sok. Sultanahmet (about five meters down a side street just a bit west from the Sultanahmet tram stop), ☎ +90 212 528 62 90. Their specialty is pide, and at this they excel. The other dishes are also good though. Prices are ordinary for a quality pide place. Friendly staff. around 10-15 TL for mains, 4 TL soup/salad, complementary Turkish tea.
- Full-screen Galata Bridge Fish Sandwiches, Galata Bridge (Lower Level). "Balik ekmek"! That's what you listen out for when you're heading down to the lower level of the Bridge on the Eminonu side. Once a raucous tradition for the local fishermen to sell their 'fish in bread' straight of the side of the boat—occupational health and safety policy banned the popular trade, though you can still find the delicious morsels here! Wash it down with a fresh pickle juice..
- Tarihi Subaşı Lokantası, Çarşıkapı, Nuruosmaniye Cad. No:48-2 (close to 'Nuruosmaniye' gate of Grand Bazaar), ☎ +90 212 522-47-62, fax: +90 212 511-62-19. Traditional Ottoman/Turkish cuisine. A must go place.
- Rumeli Cafe (Mozaik Cafe), Ticarethane Sokak No:8 (near Divanyolu Caddesi, about one block from the Basilica Cistern), ☎ +90 212 512 00 08. On a relatively quiet street but close to all the attractions of Sultanamet. Serves mostly traditional Ottoman and Turkish dishes, with lots of lamb on the menu. Staff are friendly and there are tables both indoors and on the sidewalk. 35-55 YTL per person (main, appetizer + one drink)..
- Green Corner (just down the road from the Basilica Cistern). Nice, lovely little open-air café. Eat a gözleme whilst lying down and smoking a Turkish pipe.
- Palatium Cafe & Restaurant, Kutlugün Sok. 33 (Opposite the Four Seasons Hotel), ☎ +90 212 516 5132. While no exception no Sultanahmets general trait of so-so food and high prices, the food is not bad, and beers comes in ice cold glasses. They have some comfy bean chair arrangements available to lounge in, and backgammon games and Nargileh available. Behind the restaurant the owners are funding the excavation of a Roman era palace at their own expense, which is both free and worth a short look.
- Amedros Cafe & Restaurant, Hoca Rüstem Sok 7, ☎ +90 212 522 83 56. The area around this restaurant is full of restaurants with very aggressive touts trying to lure you into having a seat, this one seems to be one of best of the options in the area immediately north of the park and the Sultanahment tramway stop. The food is quite good, if not great, with mostly Ottoman cuisine and a small international section on the menu. Good attentive waiters and the restaurant should be commended for employing some of the least aggressive touts around. The street is quite cozy once you sit down and the touts leave you alone.
- The Four Seasons Hotel, Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü, ☎ +90 212 638-8200. The Four Seasons does a spectacular, but pricey, Sunday brunch featuring a range of Turkish and international dishes (January 2005 price TRY70, 11.30-15:00).
- Asitane. At Edirnekapi. Asitane specializes in traditional Ottoman cuisine, based on meticulously researched recipes used in the royal palaces of the Ottoman empire. The main theme of these recipes are unique blends of meats and fruits. In spite of the traditional nature of the menu, the restaurant décor would not be out of place in London or New York. Pay special attention to the lamb dishes.
- Akyar Balik, Karakoy Iskelesi, Balikci carsisi, Eminonu Istanbul, 90 212 455 55 62 . Akyar Balik is a turkish traditional fish restaurant where you can enjoy hot and cold mezes, fresh fish and Turkish deserts. 50 USD/per person including wine or raki.
- Cheers, Akbiyik Caddesi 20, in Sultanahmet, +90 5324096359. Daily, 10AM-2AM. Offers the cheapest beers in town to a crowd of travellers.
- The restaurants located on the lower level of the Galata Bridge which connects Old City with Galata also double as beerhouses even if you have no intention of having something to eat. Open-air parts of these restaurants beside the bridge railings offer a beautiful view of the mosque domes and towers and the Topkapı Palace dominating the Old City's skyline.
For something more typical, check out these cafés:
- Cagaloglu Hamami Café, Prof. K.I. Gurkan Caddesi, Cagaloglu. A café located in a former hammam, dating 1741, where you can listen to live traditional Turkish music.
- Sark Kahvesi, Yaglikcilar Caddesi 134 (in the Grand Bazaar). The most famous cafe in the market and a time warp into days gone by, full of traders playing backgammon. Turkish coffee NTL 1.5..
Accommodation in the peninsula is mostly around Sultanahmet. Cankurtaran, a neighbourhood just south of Sultanahmet Square towards the coast of the Sea of Marmara, is one of the places where hotels/hostels cluster most.
- Istanbul has a large community of CouchSurfing.com users who will allow you to stay at their home free. It is customary to take your host out for a meal, and spend time sharing your culture with them.
- Serenity Hotel Istanbul, Kucukayasofya Mahallesi Kasaposman Sokak No:27 Sultanahmet (Just next to Blue Mosque), ☎ +90 212 638 2802, fax: +90 212 638 2804, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast and all the taxes included in price. Rooms include air-con, TV, laundry, free wireless connection and internet. Starts at €40/60 for singles/doubles.
- Sarnic Premier Hotel, Somewhere in Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 518-10-61, fax: +90 212 518-10-62, e-mail: email@example.com. Breakfast included, linen included; luggage storrage, wi-fi in the lobby, free internet in the rooms, air-con. No curfew, 24 hour check in, airport pick up available.Very new and good Starts at €30 for a single room; credit cards accepted.
- Big Orange Hotel, Akbıyık Değirmen Street No: 3 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 518-10-61, fax: +90 212 518-10-62, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast included, linen included; luggage storrage, wi-fi in the lobby, free internet in the rooms, air-con. No curfew, 24 hour check in, airport pick up available. Starts at €30 for a single room; credit cards accepted.
- Olimpiyat Hotel, Ebusuud Caddesi Erdogan Sokak no: 6 (Just next to Topkapi Palace), ☎ +90 212 511 96 59, fax: +90 511 99 16, e-mail: email@example.com. Breakfast and all the taxes included in price and free airport transfer offered. Rooms include air-con, TV and minibar, laundry, free wireless connection and internet. Starts at €40/50 for singles/doubles in high season.
- Star Holiday Hotel, Divanyolu Street No:10 Sultanahmet (right in front of the Blue Mosque), ☎ +90 212 512 29 61, fax: +90 212 512 31 54, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast on a nice terrace (right in front of the Blue Mosque) is included in the price at this standard hotel. Rooms include air-con, TV and minibar. Starts at €40/50 for singles/doubles in high season.
- Deniz Konak Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi No:14 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 518 95 95, e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with own bathroom, wireless internet access, cable TV, possibly sea view with balcony, minibar, free breakfast, 24 h reception, air-conditioning, terrace, laundry service. Double room 50 USD in high season (other rooms available as well) as of 09/2009.
- Istanbul Holiday Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi No:28 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 512 29 61, fax: +90 212 512 31 54, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. From € 30/40 for a single/double room.
- Dongyang Hotel/Hostel Istanbul, Alemdar Cad. Tramway Yolu Üzeri No: 7 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 511 24 14, fax: +90 212 528 95 33, e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. From € 10 for dorm rooms, from €40 for double rooms.
- Stone Hotel Istanbul, Binbirdirek Mah.Sehit Mehmet pasa yokusu Sk.No 34 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 638 1554, fax: +90 212 517 6330, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. From € 45/55 for a single/double room.
- Hotel Alp Guesthouse, Akbiyik street, adliye small street, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 517 7067, e-mail: email@example.com. All the rooms have ensuite bathroom, TV, wired/wireless free internet connection, mini-bar, safe box. There is open buffet breakfast service on the terrace which has marmara sea and Asian continent view. breakfast is included to room rates. Single €35-55, double €55-70, triple €65-80, Family room €80-100.
- Grand Anka Hotel, ☎ +90 212 635 20 20, fax: +90 212 534 18 55, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Istanbul Hotel Grand Anka Serves with hospitality, greetingly respectfully from 1996.
- Tulip Guesthouse, Akbiyik cad. Terbiyik Sokak No:15/2, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 517 65 09, e-mail: email@example.com. Very friendly and helpful staff, two guys both university educated, intelligent, well acknowledged about Turkish history and Middle East politics, always eager to let you know about Istanbul's cultural events and highlights. Kitchen has a great view to Marmara with free coffee and Turkish tea. Dorm beds €10, en-suite rooms from €45.
- Hostel Orient, ☎ +90 212 517 9493, fax: +90 212 518 3894, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeni Akbiyik Cad 13, Sultanahmet. Okay hostel in a good location in Sultanahmet. Staff are friendly and willing to help. Cafe/bar upstairs, rooftop lounge area overlooking the Golden Horn, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the oldest mosque in Istanbul (it's small and has one minaret, just go down the street towards Topkapi). Pretty cheap rooms, but the travel agency downstairs is overpriced, as is the beer in the bar. Belly dancers two or three nights per week in the basement bar, but expect competition for her affections from older local businessmen. 18/20 YTL for 8 bed/4 bed dorm rooms, private rooms 40-70 YTL.
- Istanbul Hostel, 35 Kutklu Gun Sokak, Sultanahmet (Next to Blue Mosque and Four Season Hotel), ☎ +90 212 516 93 80. Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 10-11AM. Six and eight bed dorms, street-level tables, rooftop restaurant and lounge area with amazing views and mediocre food, basement bar/cafeteria/patio, where free Turkish breakfast is served every day. Free wireless and free internet at two aging computers in the lobby. Staff are very helpful and friendly. Staff can arrange transport to and from the airport, and the hostel has a travel agency which can set you up with other hostels and trips in the country. Atmosphere is good. Downstairs rooms may be noisy; the upstairs rooms share a single (working) shower (which doesn't get hot) in an unventilated restroom. no real common room. dorms 20 YTL.
- Istanbul Hostel Sinbad. Kucuk Ayasofya Mh., Demirci Resit Sokak, Sultanahmet. Offers budget accommodations for backpackers. They offer discounts for students and hostels' card holders, together with some other amenities as free breakfast. Sinbad has a total 22 rooms - 92 beds. Dorm rooms have six beds, only female dorm, single, double, triple, quad rooms are available.
- Bahaus Guesthouse, Bayramfirin Sokak No:11, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 638 65 34, fax: +90 212 517 66 97. Friendly staff with lots of useful objective information to share. Dorm room around €12 including breakfast. Rooftop bar beer 5 YTL (can't bring anything except water to hostel). Free internet.
- Mavi Guesthouse, ☎ +90 212 517 72 87, fax: +90 212 516 58 78, e-mail: email@example.com. Kutlugün Sokak No:3, Sultanahmet. Breakfast is included in the price and this guesthouse is close to the Four Seasons Hotel and many other backpackers. Staff can arrange transport to and from airport (approx 12 YTL). Internet is available for a nominal fee or free with wireless LAN Laptop. Small (cosy) TV room etc. €10/11 for 6 bed/4 bed dorm rooms, private rooms for €20-33.
- Yeni Otel, at a side street 100 m from Sirkeci station. Go towards Sultanahmet and turn into the first street on the left. Shared basic bathrooms, hot water. Manager is friendly but has a limited knowledge of English. 50 TL for a basic double.
- Mavi Onur Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Aksakal Sokak No:28, 34410 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 4580690, fax: +90 212 4580692, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Small, family run guesthouse. Offering six rooms that have their own private shower, toilet, hair-drying facilities and air conditioning. The breakfast is included in the price and they have a rooftop terrace. from €11 for a dorm bed to €42 for a triple room (high season prices).
- Hotel Nomade, Divanyolu Caddesi, Ticarethane Sokak 15, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 513 81 72, fax: +90 212 513 24 04, e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms and air-con. € 80/100 for single/double rooms, breakfast included.
- Hotel Prince, Nobethane Caddesi Kargili Sokak 5, Sirkeci, ☎ +90 212 513-2550, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast is served on the roof top restaurant with a great view of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Bosphorus. Rates start at €75/100 for single/double in high season.
- Tulip House, Katip Sinan Cami Sok. No:28 (close to Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet tram stop), ☎ +90 212 458-8403. Beside everything required in a mid-class hotel such as open-buffet breakfast, Wi-Fi, clean rooms, bathrooms etc, Tulip House has very large rooms with high ceilings and a perfect sea view. Try to rent a room on the sea side with balcony, for a perfect evening. The guys running the place are exceptionally helpful, especially Emrah who has very large knowledge about Istanbul and Turkish history.
- Hotel Armagrandi Spina, Utangac Sok. 19, 34400 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 638-1727, e-mail: email@example.com. Beautifully renovated boutique hotel that has excellent off-season deals (€60/night via hotels.com) and decent mid-range prices during peak season. Smaller rooms great for couples. Breakfast on terrace included, with amazing view of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. You may see one or both from your room window, too. Elevator, no frills minibar, free Wi-Fi, exceptional staff.
- Berkin Hotel, Alemdar Mahallesi, Divan Yolu Caddesi Çatalçeşme Sokak, No: 18 - 20 Sultanahmet Istanbul, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star hotel in a very central location in Sultanahmet. 10 mins to Blue Mosque by cab. Free wireless is available in the reception area. Clean but small rooms. €75/night.
- Armada Hotel, Ahirkapi Sok. 24, 34122 Cankurtaran, Istanbul. Semimodern hotel. Free wireless. Located in Sultanamet between the sea and the Blue Mosque. Working air-con, fridge. Own bathroom. Restaurant at the top of the building with a nice view of the sea and the Blue Mosque. Price via hotels.com: €42 double room.
- Sultanhan Hotel, ☎ +90 212 516-3232, fax: +90 212 516-5995, e-mail: email@example.com. Piyerloti Caddesi No:15/17 Sultanhamet. This five-floor hotel features 40 guest rooms, all of which have Ottoman-style décor with patterned fabrics and chestnut furnishings. All are equipped with internet connections, satellite television and minibars. €190/230 for single/double in high season.
- Blue House Hotel (Mavi Ev), ☎ +90 212 638 90 10/11/12/13/14/15/16, fax: +90 212 638-9017, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dalbasti Sokak No:14, Sultanahmet. Opened July 1997 and located at the heart of old city centre, steps away from world famous Blue Mosque. €120/140 for single/double in high season.
- Empress Zoe, Adliye Sokak No:10 (Near Akbiyik Caddesi, Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 518-2504, fax: +90 212 518-5699, e-mail: email@example.com. A wonderful little hotel in a quiet street just off Sultanahmet, with spartan but elegant rooms decorated in Turkish style and beautiful views over the Hagia Sophia from the rooftop terrace. All mod cons including bathroom, air-con, safe. Rooms from €50 and suites from €100, including breakfast.
- Ibrahim Pasha, Terzihane Sok. No. 5, Adliye Yani, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 518-0394, fax: +90 212 518 4457, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A lovely boutique hotel just steps away from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The room rates include a full Turkish breakfast in the dining area off the main lobby. The hotel has a rooftop sitting area with direct views of most of the major sites in Sultanahmet - an incomparable vista as the moon rises on a clear evening. The comfortable rooms have all mod-cons, including Wi-Fi. The staff are attentive, courteous and helpful. Highly recommended. Rooms from €125 for a standard.
- Dersaadet Hotel, ☎ +90 212 458 07 60, fax: +90 212 518 49 18, e-mail: email@example.com. Kapiağasi Sokak No:5, Sultanahmet (one block below Kucukayasofya Caddesi). Boutique hotel on a quiet street 5-10 minute walk from the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya. Rooms are decorated in 19th century Ottoman-style and come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and safe, and all guests can use the high-speed internet/Wi-Fi in the lobby. The rooftop terrace looks out over the Sea of Marmora and part of the Blue Mosque. Room rate includes breakfast. €95/105 for single/double in high season, suites are €120 - 240 depending on time of year and room (10% discount if paid in cash).
- Hotel Niles Istanbul, ☎ +90 212 517 32 39, fax: +90 212 516 07 32, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dibekli Cami Sokak No:19, Beyazit. Another Ottoman mansion converted to a hotel, it is located five minutes from the Grand Bazaar. Rooms come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and Wi-Fi, and there is high-speed internet in the lobby. Complimentary breakfast is served in the rooftop terrace, which overlooks the Sea of Marmora. €55/65 for single/double in high season (10% discount if paid in cash).
- Hotel Inter Istanbul (Budget rates on mid-range facilities), ☎ +90 212 518 35 35, fax: +90 212 518 35 38, e-mail: email@example.com. Mithatpasa Cad. Buyuk Haydar Efendi Sok. No: 29 Beyazit. Away from the crowd and touts of Sultanahmet yet within walking distance (approx. 7–10 minutes). Located on a quiet street stone-throw away from the Grand Bazaar, Beyazit tram station and buses that goes to Taksim and other parts of Istanbul (2-minute walk). Modern-style rooms, comfy beds, TV with English programs and news, wi fi connection in rooms and a free PC use at the lobby, helpful staff that make-up rooms and replaces towels daily. €35/40 single, €45/50 double, €55-60 triple, €65-80 family (winter/summer) inclusive of breakfast. 10% discount on cash payments and free airport-hotel pick-up (min. 3 days stay).
- Yigitalp Hotel Istanbul (Budget rates), Gençtürk Cad. Çukur Çeşme Sok. No: 38 Şehzadebaşi, (+90 212) 512 98 60 (Fax: (+90 212) 512 20 72, firstname.lastname@example.org) . Rooms with en-suite bathrooms, air-con, satellite TV, and free internet access. From € 55/65/90 for single/double/triple rooms.
- Erguvan Hotel Istanbul, ☎ +90 212 4582784, e-mail: email@example.com. Aksakal Cad. No:3 Sultanahmet. Rooms with air-con, satellite TV.
- Eski Konak Hotel Istanbul, ☎ +90 212 458 74 23, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cankurtaran Mahallesi Akbiyik Cad. No:44, Sultanahmet. In the heart of historical Sultanahmet, one of Istanbul's newest hotels. Just a short walk to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Friendly multilingual staff. 9 rooms.
- Hotel Med Cezir, ☎ +90 212 517 59 35, e-mail: email@example.com. Tevkifhane Sok. No: 6 Sultanahmet. Small hotel and restaurant located right beside the Four Seasons Hotel. Comfortable and well appointed guest rooms with or without a private bathroom. Offering exceptional views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the terrace bar is the perfect place for a drink in the evening. 24 hour room service is available. 10 rooms.
- Garden House Istanbul (Rose Garden Suites), Şht. Mehmet Paşa Sk 1 (Tram T1 to Çemberlitaş or Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 517 9111-12, fax: +90 212 517 00 80, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This facility very close to the Blue Mosque, but in a quite neighboorhood both serves as a mid-range hotel, and exclusive suites branded as 'Rose Garden Suites'. The Hotel has nicely furnished, if somewhat small rooms. The main draw is the courtyard which has been turned into a nice garden and the rooftop terrace. The on-site restaurant offers a 20% discount for guests. The rates are from €49-219 All year around.
- Hotel Tashkonak, ☎ +90 212 518 28 82, fax: +90 212 638 84 91, e-mail: email@example.com. Kucuk Ayasofya Cad. Tomurcuk Sokak 5 Sultanahmet. This quaint hotel offers great rooms, an exceptionally friendly staff and some of the best views of the Sea of Marmara anywhere in Sultanahmet. They also have free wi-fi, TV with English channels and a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning. Prices range from €50 for a single room up to €165 for a family room. 8% discount if paying with cash and free airport pickup is available.
- Hotel Sultan Hill, ☎ +90 212 5183293, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tavukhane sok. No:17-19-21 Sultanahmet. The hotel has been completely restored to resemble the original 18th century Ottoman house previously on the site. The panoramic view from the terrace is stunning with views of the sea and the Blue Mosque. The hotel is located within walking distance of all the major tourist attractions. There are 17 rooms, a traditional courtyard and a roof terrace bar. All rooms have air-con, mini-bar, TV, wi-fi and a safe. Room rates include breakfast. Room rates: single room €60, double €80, triple €120 and family €140 throughout the year.
- Esans Hotel Old City Istanbul, ☎ +90 212 516 19 02, fax: +90 212 516 19 03, e-mail: email@example.com. Ishakpasa Cd. Yenisarachane Sokak No:4, Sultanahmet Old City Istanbul. Traditional Family-Run Unique hotel on a quiet street 3 minutes walk from Ayasofya.Rooms are decorated in 19th century Ottoman-style with air-con, TV, mini-bar and safe, Wi-Fi in the lobby.Complimentary International Phone Call and selected essence to be placed in room. The rooftop terrace looks out over the Sea of Marmara and Princess Islands. Room rate includes breakfast. €95/110 for single/double in high season, suites are €120 - 190 depending on time of year and room (5% discount if paid in cash and free airport transfer with 4 nights).
- Hotel Sultania, Ebusuud Cad/Mehmet Murat Sokak. No: 4, ☎ +90 212 528 08 06, fax: +90 212 511 99 16. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Ebusuud caddesi Mehmet Murat Sokak No: 4 Sirkeci Sultanahmet. 42 unique rooms which all the rooms are dedicated to the famous sultan wives. This is a concept hotel offering boutique hotel services and amenities. From €85.
- Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Tevkifhane Sokak No:1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü., ☎ +90 212 638 82 00, fax: +90 212 638 82 10. A converted prison in the historic Sultanahmet district. Offers stunning views of the Haghia Sophia, but no pool. Standard rooms start around $420..
- Celal Aga Konagi Hotel at Beyazit, Sehzadebasi, ☎ +90 212 519 09 09, fax: +90 212 514 09 09. Balabanaga Mah. Sehzadebasi Caddesi No:5/7, Sehzadebasi-Eminönü. With a free spa and pool facilities and free wireless internet, Celal Aga Konagi Hotel provides luxurious accommodation in the heart of Istanbul. 5-minute walk away and the Grand Bazaar and Blue Mosque is just a 20-minute walk away. Standard rooms start around $350.
- Hotel Prince, Nobethane Caddesi Kargili, Sok. No: 5 Sirkeci, i Istanbul Turkey, ☎ +90 212 513 25 50, fax: +90 212 522 43 59, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A 4 Star Hotel offering 127 modernly decorated rooms for business and leisure travellers.
- Sirkeci Konak Hotel, Taya Hatun Sokak 5, Sirkeci, ☎ +90 212 528 43 44, fax: +90 212 528 44 55, e-mail: email@example.com. A charming hotel which offers rooms with air-con, satellite TV, free wireless internet connection. While listed here as a 'splurge', the room prices are generally similar to many mid-range hotels. The New York Times called it "a reasonable option" getting "all As for effort and implementation". Guests are served a complimentary breakfast.
All of Sultanahmet Park (between Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque) is a wifi hotspot free of charge.
There are also a couple of internet cafes along the tram line between Sultanahmet and Gülhane.
The focal point of the peninsula for travellers, Sultanahmet Square, is safe and policed during day and night, so by staying within the realms of common sense, you shouldn't encounter problems there. However, there are some issues to keep in mind for the rest of the old city:
- The dilapidated, though picturesque, neighbourhoods around Süleymaniye, Zeyrek, the banks of Golden Horn west of Atatürk Boulevard (i.e., neighbourhoods of Balat, Fener, Ayvansaray), along the old city walls, and along the Marmara coast (especially Kumkapı west to Yedikule) are home to the impoverished recent immigrants to the city. While this doesn't automatically translate to these neighbourhoods being dangerous, you may feel more comfortable if you avoid them (especially narrow back alleys) during the evening and night. Around the main tourist sights, and the main streets leading to them, in these neighbourhoods, such as Süleymaniye Mosque or the taverns at Kumkapı, are perfectly safe, though.
- Scams involving extremely overpriced drinks are common at nightclubs around Aksaray, which are best avoided completely. These are quite dangerous with the possible involvement of organized crime. See the "stay safe" section of main Istanbul article for more details on this.
- Around Aksaray and Laleli, there are a number of illegal brothels which are not controlled by health authorities in any way. If you choose to engage in such activity, keep in mind that the (usually Eastern European and Central Asian) women you will encounter are more often than not involuntarily forced into prostitution to "pay off" the cost of their trip to Istanbul (where they were hoping to get decent jobs) and had their passports seized by their "boss". 24-hr national hotline phone # 157, with operators speaking in English, Russian, and Romanian in addition to Turkish is where you can report such incidents to bring the victims to safety.
- In Eminönü's crowded underground passages (and in the rest of Eminönü, in general), be extremely wary of pickpockets, especially when climbing up and down the stairs.
Istanbul Police Department has a "tourism police" office with multilingual staff in Sultanahmet, just across the street from Hagia Sophia, where you can report passport loss or any other problems.
- Star Laundry, Yeni Akbıyık Cad. 18, Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 638-2302. Laundry service. TRY4/kg (c. €2/kg).