Sultanahmet, Istanbul: Top things To Do and See
Istanbul is a city with a large concentration of historical sites for tourists to explore. While having so many sites to see is wonderful for tourists, it can be a drawback. It is possible to miss some of Istanbul’s best locations, such as Sultanahmet.
Sultanahmet is Istanbul’s Old Town. You will find some of the city’s legendary attractions including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Blue Mosque, just to name a few. Sultanahmet is a relatively small area of Istanbul and it isn’t difficult to explore the area. It also retains an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The quiet lanes and quaint side streets are perfect for strolling. There are also impressive views of the Bosphorus.
Not only will you find some of Istanbul’s top things to do in Sultanahmet, but accommodation is available at multiple price points. Yes, there are a number of reasons to visit Sultanahmet and here are some of them.
Sultanahmet: Things to Do and See
Unfortunately, Sultanahmet is a destination overlooked by many travellers pressed for time. Yet, the Sultanahmet neighbourhood has truly unmissable sites. The famous neighbourhood has a variety of tourist attractions and it is a prime location to spend your days in the Turkish city.
The Grand Bazaar
Sultanahmet’s Grand Bazaar has more than 4,000 shops for tourists to wander through. Although the Grand Bazaar can get a little touristy, its incredible size, architecture, and products are a joy to see. The Grand Bazaar is a maze of stalls, shops, and lanes with all manner of items sold. You can find items such as knockoff designer jeans, Turkish rugs, leather goods, and Turkish jewellery. The Spice Bazaar can be found next to the Grand Bazaar. There, you can locate a variety of items from nuts to spices you have never seen before.
The Galata Bridge is a great place to finish off your day of sightseeing in Sultanahmet. The waterfront provides exceptional views of the Golden Horn at sunset and this gives you the opportunity to see how it got its name. There are a variety of cafes and bars built around the Galata Bridge making it possible to relax while watching the sunset over Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia, also known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom, was built in 527 by Justinian, an emperor of the Byzantine Empire. For centuries it served as an important religious building, but today, the Hagia Sophia is a popular museum. Its central dome and golden mosaic interior are breath-taking. After exploring the Hagia Sophia, wander over to the Blue Mosque. The giant domed mosque was constructed opposite the Hagia Sophia to emulate it. The Blue Mosque received its name thanks to the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles that cover its dome. You shouldn’t miss the square between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. It is a beautiful area to sit around during the evening with its lovely fountain.
Topkapi Palace is a series of buildings set among gardens. The palace takes some time to explore, so schedule plenty of time during the day to visit it. Topkapi Palace was the home to various Ottoman sultans. From the palace, the sultans controlled an area from the Balkans to Arabia to North Africa to Crimea. You will find fragrant gardens, armouries, tiled kiosks, and large kitchens in the palace. There are views from Topkapi Palace across the Bosphorus all the way over to the Asian side of Turkey.
Sip a rooftop drink
Istanbul is a sprawling city that stretches for kilometres. Although Istanbul has a tremendous nightlife, Sultanahmet isn’t flush with nightclubs, bars, and restaurants after dark. The Old Town does have some excellent hotel bars providing drinks in the evening. Hotel Arcadia Blue’s terrace is ideal for anyone seeking views of Istanbul at sunset. You will see the incredible minarets and domes that make up Sultanahmet. The Pierre Loti Hotel has a rooftop terrace as well that provides breath-taking views of the Old Town.
Visit a hammam
When most homes didn’t have their own running water, hammams played major roles in everyday life for Istanbul’s citizens. In the Islam religion, cleanliness is an important aspect of life. Therefore, hammams were vital to residents cleaning themselves before prayer. Wealthy sultans constructed large domed temples to provide good hygiene for citizens. In modern Istanbul, tourists visit hammams to partake in the Turkish bath experience. A visit to the Hammam allows you to soak in the warm marble baths while being dosed in more warm water from copper bowls. You can also enjoy an expert Turkish massage.
Walk the ancient city walls
The Walls of Theodosius prevented invaders from attacking the city. Invaders from the Arabian regions as well as Attila the Hun attempted to attack Istanbul but the city’s walls kept the citizens safe. The city’s walls stretch 6.5 kilometres and span the peninsula from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. The walls are in good condition and great for exploring. The neighbourhoods in which the walls meandre are practically untouched by tourists, giving you the chance to escape many of the visitors to the city. Some of the top sites to explore include the Church of St. Saviour, Kariye Museum, the Ottoman Mihrimah mosque, and Blachernae.
Balat and Fener
Balat and Fener are two extraordinary districts located in Sultanahmet. The areas are made up of narrow, cobbled streets that make their way down the hill toward the waterfront of the Golden Horn. Balat and Fener were once the areas of Istanbul inhabited by the city’s Armenian, Greek, and Jewish populations. The neighbourhoods are being rebuilt today after some of the buildings fell into poor shape. There are a variety of cafes that have opened around Balat and Fener. If you want to explore one of Sultanahmet’s coolest areas and grab a Turkish coffee or tea, then don’t miss out on a trip to the districts. While visiting Balat and Fener, don’t miss the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral or St. Stephen’s church. Both are Instagram-worthy.