Sultanahmet: The heart of historic Istanbul

Crammed with historic attractions, Sultanahmet is one of Istanbul's most popular sites for tourists

Sultanahmet: The heart of historic Istanbul

World Bulletin / News Desk

Regularly crammed with tourists from around the world, Sultanahmet is the heart of Istanbul's historic old town.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, Sultanahmet is up one of Istanbul's oldest settlements. The district's main streets start at the Hippodrome - today named Sultanahmet Square - and follow the slopes of the hills.

Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are the district's landmarks and are surrounded by others, like Binbirdirek Cistern, Istanbul Archeological Museums, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Gulhane Park, Arasta Bazaar and the German fountain.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople - also called Horse Square - was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. In the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras, horse racing and chariot racing were very popular.

Four teams took part in the chariot races, each one financially supported by a different political party within the Roman, Byzantine Senate and huge amounts were bet on the races. Besides chariot races and gladiator fights with wild animals, there were performances by musicians, dancers and acrobats.

The original ground level of the Hippodrome was about 5 meters lower than the present surface. Three monuments including Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpent Column and the Walled Obelisk, have remained to present. The area is important in terms of witnessing both the Byzantine and Turkish eras.

Sultan Ahmet mosque, or the Blue Mosque, is one of the Ottoman imperial mosques in Istanbul and incorporates classical Ottoman and some Byzantine elements.

It is the only mosque in Istanbul with a design that incorporates six minarets, 21,043 handmade ceramic tiles and more than fifty different tulip designs decorated its interior.

Topkapi Palace is the other important monument of Sultanahmet, which is also situated near the Hippodrome. It is the largest and oldest palace in the world to survive to the present but became a museum in 1924 at Mustafa Kamal Ataturk's request.

The Hagia Sophia - another landmark of both Sultanahmet and Istanbul - sits opposite the Blue Mosque. Designed as a Christian basilica in the 6th century by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus, it was chosen as a world heritage site by UNESCO and is one of the most prominent surviving monuments in the world.

For visitors, the district of Sultanahmet, which took its name from Sultan Ahmet I who ordered the building of the Blue Mosques, there are dozens of restaurants and a number of hotels in all price ranges. The streets are lined with shops and mansions.

Sultanahmet is very special place, a tourist from Latvia said adding, "Your culture is different. We don't have a kind of square. Here has a special feeling. There is something special in this place."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Ocak 2014, 13:03