The Old City of Istanbul (Turkish: Eski İstanbul, "Old Istanbul", also Tarihi Yarımada, "Historic Peninsula" and Suriçi, "Walled City") is the oldest part of the city, and the location of most of its historic 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 an increasing speed.
The construction of Yenikapı train and subway station, from 2004 to 2014, on the southern coast of the peninsula, revealed archeological finds that 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. The urban area was greatly expanded by Constantine the Great for his Imperial capital, inaugurated on 330 AD: foundations of the Constantine walls were uncovered by the digs for Yenikapı station.
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 on its grounds.
Parts of the peninsula was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Being central, the Old City is easy to reach by public transport. See also Istanbul main page: note especially that Atatürk Airport closes in March 2019, and that Sirkeci railway station has closed - trains from Europe terminate at Halkali.
The Marmaray cross-city line runs between Halkali in the western suburbs, via several dozen stops including Sirkeci, under the Bosphorus to Kadikoy, then out east to Pendik and Gebze. Trains run 06:00-23:00 every 15 mins, fares are by distance but won't exceed 4TL. This is the quickest way to reach Asia side, and to connect with mainline trains east and west.
A modern tram line runs through the old city, passing most of the main sights, and linking it with Galata and other places north, and the suburbs in the west. Tram stops are located at Eminönü, Sirkeci, Gülhane, Sultanahmet, Beyazıt, and Aksaray among others. Trams can be very crowded, but services are frequent and journey times are short.
- Bus 61B runs between Taksim and Beyazıt close to the Grand Bazaar.
- Any bus to Eminönü or Beyazıt will pass within 10 mins walk of Sultanahmet.
Ferries cross the Bosphorus from Kadıköy and Üsküdar to Eminönü. There are also smaller private boats plying on the same routes. Another option is to take the ferry 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.
In Istanbul there are plenty of yellow taxis and cab fares are not expensive. A ride from Atatürk Airport (IST) to Sultanahmet is about 18 km and the cab fare is 55 TL, while a ride from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) to Sultanahmet is about 45 km and costs around 145 TL, as of Feb 2018.
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's quicker to shortcut along Ankara Caddesi (Street) as the tramline makes a roundabout loop 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 step 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.
Around Sultanahmet SquareEdit
- 1 Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Ayasofya Meydanı (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ . Daily, except for Monday during winter season 09:00-19:00 during summer, and till 17:00 during winter. Dating from the 6th century, it was built as a basilica 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. As of October 2017, there is extensive renovation work occurring inside the building, with scaffolding filling much of the north side of the interior. Outside temporary barriers stopping access to the north side of the building. 60 TL.
- 2 Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı, Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi), ☎ . M W-Su 09:00-17:00 during winter; 09:00-19:00 during summer. 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. 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. 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 homonymous city gate ("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. For the palace, the stop/station you should look for is 'Sultanahmet'. 60 TL, Harem 35 TL extra (no concessions; only credit cards and Turkish currency accepted).
- 3 Hagia Irene (Aya İrini) (on the grounds of Topkapı Palace). The same working hours as 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 during the Ottoman period. The place is now accessible year-round, which is a novelty, but requires a different entry fee from Topkapı palace. 30 TL.
- 4 Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Meydan Sokak 17 (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ . 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.
- 5 Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici), Yerebatan Cad 13 (By tram T1: Sultanahmet). 09:00-17:30. 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 Medusa stone heads are impressive. 20 TL, 5 TL for students.
- 6 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 Egyptian obelisk, and the Serpent Column from the Delphi oracle, standing here since Theodosius' time in the fourth century, remain. The four bronze horses that used to be on top of the Emperor's box in the Hippodrome were looted by the crusaders in 1204, and are now on the façade of St. Mark basilica in Venice . 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.
- 7 Column of Constantine (Çemberlitaş sütunu/Burnt Stone), Yeniçeriler Caddesi. One of the most important examples of Roman art in Istanbul. The column is 35 m tall.
- 8 The Museum of Archaeology (Arkeoloji Müzesi), Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu, Gülhane (Tram T1: Gülhane; take the first right after entering Gülhane Park), ☎ . Tu-Su 9:00-19:00, and till 17:00 during winter. A must see! One of the best, including a great collection of Sumerian tablets, pieces of the wall of Babylon and Roman marble statues. It contains some very famous pieces of ancient art, such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, once believed to be the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great himself (but later found out to be not the case), very well preserved and highly adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great; one of the Serpent Column's missing heads; a twin sister head of the Medusas inside the Basilica Cistern; and several red porphyry Imperial sarcophagi on the courtyard. 30 TL.
- 9 Great Palace Mosaics Museum (Büyük Saray Mozaikleri Müzesi), Arasta Çarşısı, Sultanahmet (inside Arasta Bazaar, just south of Blue Mosque), ☎ , fax: . 9:00-19:00 (15 Apr-25 Oct); 9:00-17:00 (25 Oct-15 Apr). This museum hosts the pavement mosaics of the Byzantine-era Great Palace of Constantinople, which stretched from the Hippodrome to the coast of the Sea of Marmara. 20 TL.
- 10 Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Binbirdirek Mh. Atmeydanı Sk. No: 12. Daily 9:00 - 19:00 (summer), Tu-Su 9:00 - 17:00 (winter). 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. 35 TL.
- 11 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 BCE 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).
- 12 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 orientalis)—which means lots of shade as well. The high walls on one side of the park separates it from Topkapı Palace.
While there are still signs in the park for cafes overlooking the Bosporus, as of October 2017, they are derelict and behind temporary barriers. It is still possible to check out the Column of the Goths (Gotlar Sütunu), a Corinthian-style marble pillar dating back to Roman times, with some badly deformed Latin inscriptions on its pedestal, just north of the palace wall. 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. Also nearby are the ruins of a Byzantine monastery.
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.
- 13 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 rebuilt) 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.
- 14 History of Science and Technology in Islam Museum, Gülhane Park. 09:00 - 18:45 during summer, and till 16:45 during winter. Fascinating museum in a restored building that was the stables for Topkapı 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. 12 TL.
- 15 Istanbul Railway Museum (TCDD Museum), Sirkeci Railway Station (Within station at ground level.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Su 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 certain national holidays. Free.
- 16 Tombs Museum (Türbeler Müzesi), Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi. Free.
- 17 Little Hagia Sophia (Kücük Ayasofya Camii), Küçük Ayasofya Cd No:78 (10-min walk from Tram T1 Sultanhamet stop, or 5 minutes from Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque by going roughly south and downhill). Formerly known as the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, this building was constructed around 530 AD (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.
Fener, Balat, and Ayvansaray neighbourhoodsEdit
- 18 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), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:30-16:00. Many view this as the centre of the world's Orthodox faith. The Patriarchate has been 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.
- 19 St Stephen Church (Sveti Stefan Kilisesi), Fener (on the southern shore of the Horn; close to waterfront, on the main avenue). 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.
- 20 Fethiye Museum (Pammakaristos Church), Fethiye Cad. Çarşamba. It was built as the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos ("All-Blessed Mother of God"), between the 11th and the 12th 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 26 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. While the main building remains a mosque, the parekklesion has since then been a museum. Museum entrance fee 6 TL.
- 21 Dimitrie Cantemir Museum (Dimitrie Cantemir Müzesi), Sancaktar Yokuşu 6. The residence in Fener neighbourhood of the Moldavian prince, Dimitrie Cantemir
- 22 Ahrida Synagogue (Ohrid Synagogue). It was built by Macedonian Jews from the city of Ohrid around 550 years ago. The synagogue is located in Balat, once a thriving Jewish quarter in the city, which housed the first Jews who settled in Istanbul after the Spanish expulsion. Today, it’s a middle-class neighborhood and as you walk you can see the oldest Jewish houses with the Star of David.
- 23 Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi), Edirnekapı (near the city walls; bus: #87 from Taksim), ☎ , fax: . 09:00-17:00 during winter, and till 19:00 during winter. 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-20th century and have been partially restored. Mind-blowing frescoes and mosaics now cover the entire inside of this church but access is 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. 45 TL.
- 24 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 battle damage of 1453 and 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. 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.
- 25 Fatih Camii (Conqueror's Mosque), Ali Kuşcu Mh.. 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 Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror, 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. Following the trend of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine emperors, whom he considered as his predecessors, Mehmet II's tomb is in the graveyard in the southeast side of the mosque, as is that of his wife, Gülbahar Hatun. Both were reconstructed after the earthquake. The türbe of the Conqueror is very baroque with a lavishly decorated interior.
- 26 Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii), Süleymaniye Mh. (about 15-20 min 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, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and his Ukrainian spouse, Roxelana (known as Hürrem Sultan in Turkish). Free admission to the mosque building and tombs in the courtyard.
- 27 Valens Aqueduct (Bozdoğan Kemeri) (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-m 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.
- 28 Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hisarı) (suburban train: Yedikule). This fortress in the very southwest of old city was Porta Aurea ("Golden Gate") in Byzantine times, when it was main ceremonial entrance into the capital, used especially for the triumphal entry of an emperor on the occasion of military victories. During Ottoman era, the gate was expanded into its present shape ("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.
- 29 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! It is in a somewhat rough neighbourhood, so better visited when there is still daylight. Free.
- 30 Rüstem Pasha Mosque (Rüstem Paşa Cami), Hasırcılar Cd 74-88 (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. The interior walls are fully covered by beautiful Iznik pottery, then at its height of sophistication.
- 31 Koca Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Sümbül Efendi Mh. 34107. Built 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 9th 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 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.
- 1 Hurrem Sultan Hamamı, ☎ . 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 (1556-1557 AD). It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) 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. 35 min: €85, 50 min: €105, 70 min: €120, 90 min: €170.
- 2 Çemberlitaş Hamamı, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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. 70 TL for self-service, 115 TL for Turkish massage, 190 TL for Turkish massage and oil massage).
- 3 Cağaloğlu Hamamı, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 €30, scrubbing €40, massage €45, self-service, scrubbing, and massage €50, and luxury service €110. Credit cards not accepted.
- 4 Süleymaniye Hamamı, Mimar Sinan Caddesi 20, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Sultan Suleyman had this hamam built by the famous architect Sinan in 1550. Sinan used this hamam for washing as did the Sultan once. It's a bit touristy, though it could be worse, and the Suleymaniye hamam is the only mixed hamam in Istanbul. However, no singles (male or female) are allowed, families or couples only. 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. €40. Credit cards not accepted.
- Tarihi Şifa Hamamı, Sifa Hamami Sokak No. 24, ☎ . 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 main section and a separate female section for the scrubbing. 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. 80 TL for a scrub and massage, 120 TL for scrub, massage, and an oil massage.
You can buy tourist-kitsch souvenirs all around the city. A magnet with coloured picture of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia will cost 2 TL 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.
- 1 Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). M-Sa 09:00-19:00. 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, ☎ . You will find Ottoman and other antique metal ware - copper bowls, jugs, pots and the like - once used in hammams and kitchens.
- Derviş, 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, ☎ . Grand Bazaars’ oldest family-run antiques dealer offers Ottoman silver, furniture and jewellery from old Ottoman families, and other oriental treasures.
- Deli Kızın Yeri, 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, ☎ . 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, Cadircilar Caddesi Lutfullah Sokak no 34/36, Beyazit (in the Grand Bazaar), ☎ . 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.
- 2 Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı also known as Spice Bazaar) (in Eminönü). It 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, ☎ . The only store recommended by The New York Times.
- Bazaar 55 Rug House, Akbiyik Cad. 55, ☎ . Arguably the most trust-worthy carpet shop.
- Mehmet Cetinkaya Gallery, Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesi, 7 Tavukhane Sokak, ☎ . Glorious museum-quality textiles, a feast for the eyes.
- Chalcedony, 2 Ayasofya Caferiye Sokak, ☎ . One stop shop for raw rocks, smooth stones and finished jewellery of the pale-blue. They also sell chalcedony, a semi-precious gemstone named after the nearby ancient town of Chalcedon (modern Kadıköy across the Bosphorus).
- 3 HorHor, Kırma Tulumba Sokak 13. Antique market with more than 200 stores and workshops. Very relaxed atmosphere. You will be able to walk around and study the selection undisturbed. The items are mainly Arabic, European, and Turkish.
- 4 Historia, Vatan Caddesi (Adnan Menderes Bulv.) 2 (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), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 has served 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 8 TL, 10 TL or even higher (the real price is about 4-5 TL). 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.
- 1 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), ☎ . The staff is friendly and the food is great. Chicken Shish for 10 TL or Chicken Crepe for 8 TL.
- 2 Vivaldi Restaurant, Mustafa Kemalpasa Cad. No 52/A (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), ☎ . Definitely try the bitter wrap or mixed pide. Friendly staff who will insist on giving you free Turkish tea in this quiet little cafe in a non-tourist-trap area. meals under 10 TL.
- 3 Doy-Doy Restaurant, Sifa Hamamı Sokak No: 13, Sultanahmet, ☎ . 9:00 - 22:00. An unassuming cafe spread out over three floors and a roof terrace with views over the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque. Serves a menu of simple kebabs, chicken and lamb stews, and pide 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. Service varies. meals 10-15 TL.
- 4 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), ☎ . 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.
- 5 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.
- 6 Tarihi Subaşı Lokantası, Çarşıkapı, Nuruosmaniye Cad. No:48-2 (close to 'Nuruosmaniye' gate of Grand Bazaar), ☎ , fax: . Traditional Ottoman/Turkish cuisine. A must-go place.
- 7 Rumeli Cafe, Ticarethane Sokak No:8 (near Divanyolu Caddesi, about one block from the Basilica Cistern), ☎ . 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 indoors and on the sidewalk. Sometimes overcharge. 35-55 TL per person (main, appetizer + one drink).
- 8 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.
- 9 Palatium Cafe & Restaurant, Kutlugün Sok. 33 (Opposite Four Seasons Hotel), ☎ . Daily 11:00-23:45. Decent food and ice cold beer. Lounge in the comfy bean-bag chairs, and backgammon and Nargileh are available. The restaurant looks down into the foundations of a Roman-era palace.
- 10 Cafe Amedros, Hoca Rüstem Sok 7, ☎ . Daily 09:00-00:00. Good Ottoman cuisine and a small international & vegetarian selection. The street here is plagued by aggressive touts, but they drift away once you've sat down and one of them has earned his baksheesh.
- Other cuisine: admit it, you might want a break from Turkish - especially if you've been touring away from the city, where alternatives are rare. So try Korecan (Korean) on Yeni Sarachane Sk, Seoul on Akbiyik Cad, Virginia Angus Steakhouse on Uzun Carsi Cad, and Burgerillas near the bridge ramp.
- Four Seasons Hotel, Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü (see Sleep listing), ☎ . Lunch 12:00-15:00, Sat brunch from 11:00. Seasons Restaurant does lunch for non-residents, but what it's famous for is its sumptuous (and pricey) Saturday brunch.
- 11 Asitane, Dervişali Mahallesi Kariye Cami Sokak No:6 34240 Fatih (200 m east of jcn of Edirnekapi & Fezvi Pasa). Th-Tu 12:00-22:30. Not easy to find, this up-market place specialises in "Ottoman Palace" cuisine, which tends to mean sweet-and-savoury with lamb.
- There's a cluster of fish restaurants beneath the Galata Bridge over to Kadikoy. Their open-air decks have great views of the Old City, with the water traffic bustling past as if you were on a liner in harbour. The sea reflects the view and so do the prices. These places are happy for you just to sit and drink without eating.
Bars: Sultanahmet doesn't really do freestanding bars, they're usually part of a restaurant or hotel. Some options are: Galata Star on the bridge, Wagon Bar and Red River Pub adjacent off Hüdavendigar Cad, Beni Afet on Atmeydani Cad, Just Bar on Akbiyik Cad, Pierre Loti off Divan Yolu Cad, and Room Bar off Ataturk Blvd.
Cafés and Dessert Restaurants are numerous. They include:
- Cagaloglu Hamami Café, Prof. K.I. Gurkan Caddesi, Cagaloglu. Within a former hammam, dating 1741, where you can listen to live traditional Turkish music. Cash only, open W-M 12:00-22:00.
- 1 Sark Kahvesi, Yaglikcilar Caddesi 134 (in the Grand Bazaar). M-Sa 08:30-19:00. The most famous cafe in the market. Has an old-time feel, full of traders playing backgammon.
- 2 Sarayburnu Aile Çay Bahçesi (Exit Gulhane Park below the Gothic Pillar, cross busy Kennedy Cad. Turn left and take the ugly road down and right to Sarayburnu point). Tu-Su 24 hrs, M 07:30-00:00. Ugly surrounds but this open-air cafe has fantastic views. Tea, coffee and many flavours of hubble bubble.
Water: the Ottoman Drinking Fountain is at the corner of Şeyhülislam Hayri Efendi Cad and Bankacilir Sk. It's probably okay to drink; it's definitely okay for rinsing face and hands when you're sticky with baklava from the cafes.
Accommodation in the peninsula is mostly around Sultanahmet. Budget hotels and hostels are clustered in Cankurtaran, the neighbourhood just south of Sultanahmet Square towards the coastal strip of Kennedy Cd.
Istanbul has a large community of CouchSurfing.com users who will let you stay at their home free. In return you take your host out for a meal, and spend time sharing your culture with them.
- Serenity Hotel Istanbul, Kucukayasofya Mahallesi Kasap Osman Sokak No:27 Sultanahmet (200 m from Blue Mosque), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 3 star, rooms include air-con, TV, laundry, free wireless connection and internet. B&B double from €50.
- Blue Tuana Hotel (Formerly Big Orange Hotel), Akbıyık Değirmen Street No: 3 Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: . Small 3-star with wi-fi in the lobby, free internet in the rooms, air-con. No curfew, 24 hour check in. B&B double from €35.
- Olimpiyat Hotel, Ebusuud Caddesi Erdogan Sokak no: 6 (Just next to Topkapi Palace), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 3 star, rooms include air-con, TV and minibar, laundry, free wireless connection and internet. B&B doubles from €60.
- Star Holiday Hotel, Divanyolu Street No:10 Sultanahmet (right in front of the Blue Mosque), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 3 star, rooms include air-con, TV and minibar. Breakfast terrace overlooks Sultanahmet. B&B double from €50.
- Deniz Houses Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi No:14 Sultanahmet, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with own bathroom, wireless internet access, cable TV, possibly sea view with balcony, minibar, free breakfast, 24-hr reception, air-conditioning, terrace, laundry service. B&B double €40.
- Istanbul Holiday Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi No:28 Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. Doubles from €40.
- Dongyang Hotel, Alemdar Cad. Tramway Yolu Üzeri No: 7 Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with en suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. Korean spoken. Dorm €15, doubles from €40.
- Stone Hotel Istanbul, Binbirdirek Mah.Sehit Mehmet pasa yokusu Sk.No 34 Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, and internet access. Highly variable on cleanliness. B&B doubles from €45.
- Hotel Alp Guesthouse, Cankurtaran Mh., Adliye Sk. No:4, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. All the rooms have en-suite bathroom, TV, wired/wireless free internet connection, mini-bar, safe box. B&B double €40.
- Grand Anka Hotel, Molla Gürani Mahallesi, Molla Gürani Cd. No:46, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 3/4-star with modern rooms. B&B doubles from €50.
- Tulip Guesthouse, Akbiyik cad. Terbiyik Sokak No:15/2, Sultanahmet, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- International Orient Hostel, Cankurtaran Mh., Akbıyık Cd. No:9, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Okay hostel in a good location, helpful staff. Cafe/bar upstairs, rooftop lounge area . 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. Dorm from €15, single room from €25.
- Avrasya Hostel, Cankurtaran Mh., Seyit Hasan Sk. No:12, Sultanahmet (Next to Blue Mosque), ☎ . 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. Free wfi and free internet in the lobby. Staff are very helpful and friendly. 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 from €20.
- Eski Konak Hotel, Cankurtaran Mahallesi Akbiyik Cad. No:44, Sultanahmet (100 m from Sultanahmet Mosque), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. New 9-room hotel with friendly multilingual staff. B&B doubles from €40.
- Bahaus, Bayramfirin Sokak No:11, Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: . Friendly staff with lots of useful objective information to share. Free internet. Dorm €15-20 ppn with breakfast.
- Yeni Otel, Hocapaşa mah.Nöbethane Cad.Dervişler Sok. No:12 Sirkeci (100 m from Sirkeci station). Shared basic bathrooms, hot water. Manager is friendly but has little English. B&B doubles from €25.
- Hotel Nomade, Divanyolu Caddesi, Ticarethane Sokak 15, Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en suite bathrooms and air-con. B&B double €70.
- Tulip House, Katip Sinan Cami Sok. No:28 (close to Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet tram stop), ☎ . Mid-range hotel with Wi-Fi, clean rooms, bathrooms, etc. Try to rent a room on the sea side with balcony. Helpful knowledgeable staff. B&B doubles from €45.
- Sarnıç Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi, Fatih, ☎ . Boutique hotel, wi-fi in the lobby, free internet in the rooms, air-con. B&B double from €70.
- Hotel Armagrandi Spina, Utangac Sok. 19, 34400 Sultanahmet, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Renovated boutique hotel, smaller rooms great for couples. Elevator, no frills minibar, free Wi-Fi, helpful staff. B&B doubles from €70.
- Armada Hotel, Ahirkapi Sok. 24, 34122 Cankurtaran. Semi-modern hotel. Free wireless. Air-con, fridge. Own bathroom. Restaurant at the top of the building with a nice view of the sea and the Blue Mosque. B&B doubles from €70.
- Sultanhan Hotel, Piyerloti Caddesi No:15/17 Sultanhamet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Five-floor hotel with 40 guest rooms, all with Ottoman-style décor with patterned fabrics and chestnut furnishings. All are equipped with internet connections, satellite television and minibars. B&B doubles 120€.
- Blue House Hotel, Dalbasti Sokak No:14, Sultanahmet, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Very central 3-star. B&B doubles from €80.
- Empress Zoe, Adliye Sokak No:10 (Near Akbiyik Caddesi, Sultanahmet), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Boutique 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. B&B doubles from €90.
- Ibrahim Pasha, Terzihane Sok. No. 5, Adliye Yani, Sultanahmet (Just west of Sultanahmet Mosque), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Boutique hotel, rooms have all mod-cons, including Wi-Fi. Rooftop terrace looks over old city sights. Staff are attentive, courteous and helpful. B&B doubles from €125.
- Dersaadet Hotel, Kapiağasi Sokak No:5, Sultanahmet (Just south of Sultanahmet Mosque, off Kennedy Cd), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Boutique hotel with rooms decorated in 19th century Ottoman-style and come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and safe. High-speed internet & Wi-Fi in the lobby. The rooftop terrace looks out over the Sea of Marmara and part of the Blue Mosque. B&B doubles from €80.
- Hotel Niles, Dibekli Cami Sokak No:19, Beyazit (Close to Grand Bazaar), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and Wi-Fi, and there is high-speed internet in the lobby. B&B doubles from €75.
- Hotel Inter Istanbul, Mithatpasa Cad. Buyuk Haydar Efendi Sok. No: 29 Beyazit (By Beyazit tram stop), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Modern-style rooms, comfy beds, TV with English programs and news, wifi in rooms and free PC use at the lobby, helpful efficient staff. B&B doubles from €70.
- Erguvan Hotel, Aksakal Cad. No:3 Sultanahmet (South of Sultanahmet Mosque, off Kennedy Cd), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with air-con, satellite TV. B&B doubles from €80.
- Hotel Med Cezir, Tevkifhane Sok. No: 6 Sultanahmet (Next to Sultanahmet Park), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 10-roomed hotel with 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. B&B doubles from €35.
- 1 Garden House Istanbul (Rose Garden Suites), Şht. Mehmet Paşa Sk 12 (Tram T1 to Çemberlitaş or Sultanahmet), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mid-range hotel,plus exclusive '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. B&B doubles from €80.
- Hotel Tashkonak, Kucuk Ayasofya Cad. Tomurcuk Sokak 5 Sultanahmet. (off Kennedy Cd), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Small 3-star hotel, small rooms but friendly staff and great views of the Sea of Marmara. Free wi-fi, TV with English channels. B&B doubles €60.
- Hotel Sultan Hill, Tavukhane sok. No:17-19-21 Sultanahmet (Just behind Sultanahmet Mosque), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Restored to resemble the original 18th century Ottoman house previously on the site. 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. Panoramic view from the terrace. B&B double €80.
- Esans Hotel, Cankurtaran Mh., Ishakpasa Cd.Yenisarachane Sk.No:4, 34122 (300 south of Topkapi), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 3-star family-run hotel on a quiet street 3 minutes walk from Agia Sofya. Rooms are decorated in Ottoman-style with air-con, TV, mini-bar and safe, Wi-Fi in the lobby. in room. The rooftop terrace looks out over the Sea of Marmara and Princes Islands. B&B doubles €100.
- Yigitalp, Gençtürk Cad. Çukur Çeşme Sok. No: 38 Şehzadebaşi, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms, air-con, satellite TV, and free internet access. B&B doubles from €60.
- 2 Hotel Sultania, Ebusuud Cad/Mehmet Murat Sokak. No: 4 (200 m south of Sirkeci station), ☎ , fax: . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Boutique hotel with 42 unique rooms, each dedicated to a wife of the sultan. Double from €110.
- 3 Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Tevkifhane Sokak No:1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü., ☎ , fax: . A converted prison near Sultanahmet mosque. Offers stunning views of the Haghia Sophia, but no pool. Doubles from €360.
- Celal Aga Mansion Hotel, Balabanaga Mahallesi, Sehzadebasi Caddesi No:5/7, Sehzadebasi-Eminönü (Next to Vezneciler metro), ☎ , fax: . 87 rooms; with spa, pool and free wireless internet. Doubles from €350.
- Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Istanbul - Sirkeci (formerly Hotel Prince), Nobethane Caddesi Kargili, Sok. No: 5 Sirkeci (100 m from Sirkeci station), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 4-star hotel offering 127 modernly decorated rooms for business and leisure travellers. Doubles from 120€.
- Sirkeci Mansion Hotel, Taya Hatun Sokak 5, Sirkeci (200 m fsouth of Sirkeci station), ☎ , fax: . A charming hotel which offers rooms with air-con, satellite TV, free wireless internet connection. B&B doubles 130€.
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, ☎ . Laundry service. 4 TL/kg.