Historic Areas of Istanbul:
The historic areas of Istanbul are a group of sites that showcase the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the city that was once the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The historic areas are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and include four zones: the Archaeological Park, the Süleymaniye quarter, the Zeyrek quarter and the land walls.
The Archaeological Park is located at the tip of the peninsula and contains some of the most iconic monuments of Istanbul, such as the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), the Hippodrome of Constantine, the Basilica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace. The park also features ancient ruins, tombs, cisterns and baths that date back to various periods of Istanbul’s history.
The Süleymaniye quarter is named after the Süleymaniye Mosque, which is one of the masterpieces of the Ottoman architect Sinan. The mosque complex includes a madrasa, a hospital, a library, a caravanserai, a hamam and a cemetery. The quarter also has many other historical buildings, such as bazaars, hans, khans and vernacular houses.
The Zeyrek quarter is centered around the Zeyrek Mosque, which was formerly the Church of the Pantocrator. The mosque is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul and was built by Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife Irene in the 12th century. The quarter also preserves some of the oldest wooden houses in Istanbul.
The land walls are the fortifications that surrounded the city from the 5th to the 15th century. They were built by Emperor Theodosius II and were later repaired and reinforced by various rulers. The walls consist of a double line of ramparts with towers and gates that stretch for about 6.5 km from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara.
To visit the historic areas of Istanbul, you need to buy a ticket that gives you access to all the sites within each zone. The ticket prices vary depending on the season and the type of visitor. You can buy tickets online or at the entrance of each site. The opening hours also vary depending on the site and the season, but generally they are open from 9 am to 5 pm every day except Mondays. You can check the official website for more information on tickets and opening hours.
To get to the historic areas of Istanbul, you can use public transportation such as buses, trams, metro or ferries. You can also take a taxi or rent a car or a bike. The historic areas are well signposted and easy to navigate on foot or by bike. You can also join guided tours that offer different itineraries and themes for exploring the historic areas.
Some tips for visiting the historic areas of Istanbul are:
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes as you will walk a lot and some sites have uneven surfaces or stairs.
- Respect the dress code and etiquette when entering mosques or other religious buildings. You may need to cover your head, shoulders and legs and remove your shoes.
- Bring water and snacks as there are not many options for food and drinks within some sites.
- Avoid visiting during peak hours or holidays as some sites can get very crowded and noisy.
- Be aware of pickpockets and scammers who may target tourists in some areas.
Some tours that you can join to learn more about the historic areas of Istanbul are:
- Istanbul Classics Walking Tour: This tour covers all the major attractions in the Archaeological Park, such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. The tour lasts for about 4 hours and includes an English-speaking guide and entrance fees.
- Süleymaniye Mosque and Ottoman History Tour: This tour focuses on the Süleymaniye quarter and its history and culture. You will visit the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, as well as other historical buildings such as bazaars, hans and khans. The tour lasts for about 3 hours and includes an English-speaking guide.
- Byzantine Heritage Tour: This tour explores the Byzantine legacy in Istanbul through its monuments and art. You will visit Zeyrek Mosque (Pantocrator Church), Chora Church (Kariye Museum), Blachernae Palace and Tekfur Palace. The tour lasts for about 4 hours and includes an English-speaking guide and entrance fees.
- Istanbul Land Walls Tour: This tour takes you along the land walls that protected Istanbul for centuries. You will see different sections of the walls, such as Yedikule Fortress, Belgrade Gate, Silivri Gate and Edirne Gate. You will also learn about the history and legends of the walls. The tour lasts for about 3 hours and includes an English-speaking guide.
Some prohibitions that you should follow when visiting the historic areas of Istanbul are:
- Do not touch or damage any monuments or artifacts.
- Do not litter or smoke within any site.
- Do not take photos or videos without permission or where it is forbidden.
- Do not make loud noises or disturb other visitors or locals.
- Do not enter any restricted areas or climb on any walls or towers.
Some things that you should see when visiting the historic areas of Istanbul are:
- The mosaics and frescoes in Hagia Sophia and Chora Church that depict scenes from Christian history and art.
- The calligraphy and tiles in Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque that showcase Islamic art and culture.
- The relics and treasures in Topkapi Palace that reveal the splendor and secrets of Ottoman sultans.
- The obelisks and columns in Hippodrome that commemorate ancient races and ceremonies.
- The water reservoirs in Basilica Cistern that create a mysterious atmosphere with their columns and carvings.