Sultanahmet Square, located in the heart of the historic Fatih district, is the first place all tourists without exception come to. This relatively small square is considered to be the main square in the city.
- The main attractions of Sultanahmet Square
- What to see near Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square territorially kind of combines the space of Aya Sofia and Sultanahmet squares and the territory of the former Hippodrome. Here is the most powerful cluster of Istanbul's most popular attractions from the Hagia Sophia Cathedral and the Topkapi Palace to the Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque, to which, incidentally, the square owes its name. The official name of the Blue Mosque is Sultanahmet Mosque. The tour of this historical heart of Istanbul usually begins from the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, gradually moving to the line of the former Constantinople Hippodrome.
Sultanahmet Square brings together Istanbul's most popular attractions
The main attractions of Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square began to take shape in the early period of Byzantine Constantinople, for this was once the center of the city with the Imperial Palace overlooking the main square, which in turn flowed into the Hippodrome.
The current Sultanahmet Square began to take shape from the founding of Constantinople
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in the mid-15th century, the Ottoman period of Constantinople began, and the city gradually became known as Istanbul. But the main square of the city, near which appeared the sultan's palace and the main city mosques, remained in the same place. Of course, much has changed since then, but to imagine the different historical stages of the formation of this square tourists help sights located here.
St. Sophia Cathedral
Near a small square with a fountain tourists have a view of Istanbul's famous cathedral - the Hagia Sophia, which is now a functioning Muslim mosque Ayia Sofia. In order to visit this temple, and it must be visited, it is enough to cross the small Ayia Sofia Square, articulated with the Sultanahmet Square and enter under the arches of once the most beautiful temple of the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
The history of St. Sophia Church consists of beautiful and tragic pages
Yes, yes, the Temple of St. Sophia was built in the early Middle Ages, during the reign of Emperor Justinian (6th century) and for a long time was considered the largest and most beautiful orthodox temple in the world. The cathedral had a long and very difficult fate, which you can read in a separate article about the temple. There is also a description of the architectural features of the temple, tells about the most interesting fresco paintings and the current use of this temple structure.
Fragments of the mosaics of St. Sophia Church are preserved from the 10-13 centuries
In the immediate vicinity of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral is a large area of the famous Sultan's Palace Topkapi.
1 Baba-y Hümayun Street
At the beginning of Bab-yı Hümayun Street, departing from Sultanahmet Square, there is a beautiful early 17th century architectural monument, the Sultan Ahmet Fountain, behind which is the main entrance gate to the former Sultan's residence, the Topkapı Palace complex. This palace is also one of the top attractions of today's Istanbul.
The Ahmed III Fountain is located between the Hagia Sophia Temple and Topkapi Palace
The palace area consists of four courtyards, each with its own name and purpose. There are interesting sultan's quarters and harem town, the Palace of Kitchens and numerous pavilions, the Tower of Justice and the Library. There is also a unique Byzantine temple of the 4-6 centuries - the Church of St. Irene, which was never used as a mosque and has kept its original appearance of the iconoclastic era.
In many rooms of the palace there are small but very interesting museum exhibits. So, to visit such a tourist attraction as the Topkapi Palace you should allocate at least 3-4 hours. More information about this attraction, its history and the most interesting objects can be found here. You can visit this palace all days except Tuesday, from 9 am to 6 pm.МMany rooms of the palace transport visitors into the atmosphere of oriental fairy tales
On the two opposite sides, located to the right and left of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, are also noteworthy objects. On its northwestern side is the building of the Byzantine reservoir (Basilica Cistern) and the remains of the Kilometer Zero of Constantinople. On the southeast side (along Baba Hümayun Street) is the territory of the Archaeological Park with the ruins of the Great Imperial Palace and the Carpet Museum.
There is a separate article about these and other most interesting surviving sights of Byzantine Constantinople, which can be seen today in this and other areas of Istanbul.
This fragment of the kilometer zero of Byzantine Constantinople is not immediately noticeable
Of the sights from the Ottoman period, the curious tourist here will be interested in approaching the Firuz Aga Mosque, located between the German Fountain and the Kilometer Zero near the streetcar stop.
Firuz Agha Mosque
It is not very large and very discreet architecturally, but it was built on the outskirts of Sultanahmet Square at the end of the 15th century on the initiative of Firuz Agha, the chief treasurer of the sultan. The mosque has a single dome and one minaret, the entrance is decorated with a portico with three domes.
Firuz Agha Mosque appeared near Sultanahmet Square at the end of the 15th century
The most interesting details of the interior of this temple are the wooden carved door and the stone carving above the door, as well as the image of the sun.
In those days there was a small cemetery next to the mosque, where the mausoleum of Firuz Aga was also installed, but when Divanolu Street was widened, the cemetery was eliminated. The marble sarcophagus of Firuz Agha can be seen today in the small courtyard of the mosque.Firuz Aga Mosque is small, but very cozy and made with great love
From here, tourists move towards the preserved dividing line of the Byzantine Hippodrome, beginning at the German Fountain, to the left of which is the Mausoleum of Sultan Ahmet the First, which will also be interesting to look into.
Mausoleum of Ahmed the First
The entrance to the popular Sultan's Mausoleum is located in Sultanahmet Square near the German Fountain. The construction of this tomb was started after the sudden death of Ahmed the First, who died of typhus at the age of 28, at the request of his sons. Under the direction of the architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, the mausoleum was built in three years and subsequently became the burial place for more than three dozen of Ahmed's descendants.
The Mausoleum of Ahmed the First is located directly on Sultanahmet Square
This mausoleum is memorable for tourists both for its large size and its interior details. The front door attracts special attention with its interior decoration, because here one can see the use of ivory, mother-of-pearl, turtle shells, etc. Very peculiarly - in three rows - the windows are placed, filling the tomb with diffused light.
The main color scheme of the interior is blue, with small additions of shades of green and blue. On the walls of the tomb can be seen the decorations of tile inserts with a grass pattern, and in the central part of the dome a beautiful medallion attracts the eye.
The interior of the Mausoleum of Ahmed the First contains many ornamental decorations
The tomb of Ahmed the First is distinguished from other tombstones by its mother-of-pearl inlay. Here is also the burial place of Kesem, the Sultan's favorite wife. After seeing the Mausoleum, we continue on to the Hippodrome, looking at what has survived to this day.
Hippodrome of Constantinople
What remains of the Byzantine Hippodrome is now called At Meydana Street and is located between the German Fountain and the University of Marmara. Here you can see a unique monument of Egyptian culture - the Egyptian Obelisk, also called the Obelisk of Theodosius.
The Egyptian obelisk is one of the amazing artifacts of the Hippodrome
There are the remains of the Serpent Column and the Obelisk of Constantine. Located in a straight line, all these obelisks were in the center of the Hippodrome's dividing line, around which the gambling horse races in medieval Byzantium took place. You can read more about the history of the Hippodrome of Constantinople and its main attractions here.
If you stand with your back to the German Fountain, a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II to the reigning Sultan Abdul-Hamid II in the late 19th century, and face the Obelisk of Constantine, you can find the little-known Ibrahim Pasha Palace, which now houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art on the right.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (Ibrahim Pasha Palace)
12 At Meydany Street
Those people who watched with passion the popular series "The Magnificent Century", of course, with sympathy followed the development of the love affair between the Sultan's chief vizier Ibrahim Pasha and the Sultan's sister Hatice. So, the Museum of Islamic Art is located in the palace, which was presented by Suleiman the Magnificent for their wedding.
While walking along the Hippodrome, don't forget to check out Ibrahim Pasha's Palace.
Historians could not find documentary evidence of the fact that Hatice was the wife of Ibrahim Pasha, but the filmmakers decided to follow a beautiful legend. Nevertheless, whoever Ibrahim Pasha's wife was, they did live in this palace.
The construction of this palace structure on the site of the former stands of the Byzantine Hippodrome dates back to the 16th century. It was built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent and was probably used by the sultan's family. After the palace was given to a friend of Suleiman and his chief vizier, the palace took the name of Ibrahim Pasha.
The makers of "The Magnificent Century" paid a lot of attention to the relationship between Ibrahim and Khatija.
Ibrahim Pasha is a very interesting historical figure with a tragic fate. His image in the series "The Magnificent Century" is created by actor Okan Yalabyk.
The son of a Venetian fisherman caught in Turkish slavery, turned out by fate to be a slave of the future Ottoman sultan. They grew up together, were educated, and played together. Subsequently, Ibrahim became the chief falconer of Suleiman, and then the Guardian of Chambers. Big surprise for everyone was the appointment of a former slave to the highest official post of the empire - the Grand Vizier (1523).
Ibrahim showed himself at his best as a warrior, a commander, an adviser to the sultan, and a diplomat. But to hold high positions surrounded by ill-wishers was dangerous at all times. And Ibrahim Pasha's life ended tragically. He was strangled at the behest of his longtime childhood friend Suleiman (1536).Ibrahim Pasha, played by actor Okan Yalabyk, was memorable to all viewers
After the execution of the vizier, the palace went to the state treasury. At various times it housed various services, even a prison and a sewing workshop. At the beginning of the 20th century (1914) the Museum of Islamic Art appeared in Istanbul, which was originally located on the grounds of the Blue Mosque.
After the restoration of Ibrahim Pasha Palace in 1938, it was used as a Museum of Turkish and Muslim Art and today it has all kinds of utensils, jewelry, carpets, arts and crafts, etc. on display.
The architecture of the palace retains the aura of the Sultan period of the city's history of the 16th century.
All exhibits are located in specialized departments, such as - woodwork, glassware and ceramics, metalwork, stone, etc. There is a hall of ethnography and an exposition of ancient carpets.
It is interesting to walk under the arches of this legendary building, where the life of the chief vizier of the empire took place. There is also a beautiful courtyard and a great terrace. Although the palace does not occupy a very large area, it leaves a very good impression.
Ibrahim and his wife used to walk under these palace vaults
By the way, during the restoration of the palace, fragments of the tribunes of the Byzantine Hippodrome were discovered, which are now reserved and available for viewing, so do not miss this interesting object. You can visit this museum all days except Mondays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance to the museum is opposite the Egyptian Obelisk. If you have a Museum Card, you can get a good discount on the purchase of the ticket. Opposite the Museum of Turkish Art is one of the most popular gems of Istanbul's temple construction, the Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque or the Sultanahmet Mosque
This beautiful structure is now not only the main mosque of Istanbul, but also its symbol and "visiting card". The mosque was built in the early 17th century at the command of ruler Ahmed the First in connection with the end of the Thirteen Years' War with Austria.
The fact is that the Thirteenth War was one of the many wars of Austria for its independence. And it ended with the signing of the Treaty of Zhytvatarok (1606), which meant the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Literally three years later, the construction of a new mosque began, which was to return Allah's favor in the wars to come.
The Blue Mosque is now one of the city's main temple attractions
The construction of the mosque took place on the site of the former Byzantine Great Imperial Palace, the remains of which have been demolished. The last fragments of the spectator stands of the Hippodrome and even the Ottoman buildings of earlier periods were also destroyed. The architect of the mosque was Sedefkar Mehmet Agha, one of the disciples of the great Sinan, who built such mosques as Shehzadeh and Suleimania.
As a result of 7 years of construction, a beautiful temple building made of stone and marble and combining classical Ottoman and Byzantine architecture with 6 minarets appeared near the Hippodrome.
The interior of the mosque used a huge number of ceramic tiles of white and blue colors, made by hand by masters of Iznik (former Byzantine city of Nicea). Thanks to the decoration of these tiles the mosque received its second unofficial name of the Blue Mosque.
The blue tiles of the walls and vaults of the Sultanahmet Mosque gave it its second popular name
The main prayer hall has an area of more than 2,500 square meters and has four columns, on which the 24-meter diameter dome, which is 40 meters high, rests. According to the tradition, the decor of the temple contains floral ornaments of tulips, lilies, carnations and roses, inscriptions from surahs of the Koran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad. On the floor of the mosque, covered with numerous carpets, the light falls from 260 windows glazed with Venetian glass. A solid piece of marble was used to construct the mihrab, which houses the black holy stone from Mecca.
An architectural complex consisting of a hospital, madrasah, caravanserai, Runk, kitchens and a mausoleum in which Ahmet the First himself was later buried, gradually grew around the mosque. In due course many of the buildings have been demolished and today only the Mosque and the Mausoleum of Ahmet the First stand out from the Mosque (in front of the German Fountain).
You can visit this mosque every day, but not during prayers. The mosque has been undergoing restoration work for several years, but when it is finished, it will be even more beautiful.
What to see near Sultanahmet Square
Very often tourists, seeing the most top attractions of the square, that's where they stop. And this is very disappointing. After all, in addition to the above listed and, of course, very interesting architectural and historical sites, there are other places within walking distance of them that are attractive to the inquisitive tourist. Therefore, we want to pay special attention to them.
Not far from the Obelisk of Constantine there are interesting sights
For example, if you walk a little forward from the Obelisk of Constantine, which is on the southwestern border of Sultanahmet Square, leaving Marmari University on the left side, you can reach another unique Ottoman temple from the 16th century, built by the famous Sinan. It is the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque
Shehit Chesmesi Street, 5
The name of the mosque immortalized the name of a noble vizier with a surprising destiny, a bit reminiscent of the fate of Ibrahim Pasha. The Bosnian Serb was consigned as a boy to the Janissaries and brought to Istanbul, where he was to convert to Islam, after which he became known as Mehmed. After successfully completing school, he rose to the rank of vizier and practically led the empire, serving three sultans, beginning with Suleiman the Magnificent. He then served under Selim the Second and Murad the Third.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha is also one of the characters in The Magnificent Century
In the early seventies of the 16th century Mehmed Pasha decided to build a mosque and his wish was realized by Sinan, the most famous Istanbul architect of the time. The temple was erected on the site of the former Orthodox Church of Anastasia, elements of which were partially used in the new construction. The mosque complex included ablution fountains, madrasahs and a dervish monastery. By the way, the Koran School for boys functions here even today.
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque brings to us the aura of the late 16th century
The interior of the temple is somewhat reminiscent of the Blue Mosque, for the interior also makes extensive use of iznik tiles with floral ornaments of chrysanthemums and carnations. There are also many ancient inscriptions on the walls. In the wall above the entrance door is a piece of sacred stone from Mecca, the Ka'b. This active mosque has a small courtyard.
The walls of the Sokollu Mehmed-Pasha Mosque are covered with rich ornaments
Tourists who have been here note the amazing aura of this place, the atmosphere of romance and mystery. And you can visit this mosque from 7 am until sunset.
Grand Palace Mosaic Museum
36 Torun Street
Also from the Obelisk of Constantine, you can walk in just 5 minutes to another very interesting attraction of Byzantine Constantinople, the Mosaic Museum of the Great Imperial Palace. You can read more about this attraction here.
In the courtyard of the Museum of Mosaics you can see fragments of the columns of the Great Imperial Palace
It is more convenient to go to this museum from the Obelisk of Constantine, bypassing the Blue Mosque, along Tavukhane Street, passing behind the Sultanahmet Mosque complex and connecting the Hippodrome and Torun Street, which is parallel to it. The museum is directly accessible from the Arast Bazaar and Torun Street.
In this museum you can see close up the unique, miraculously preserved Byzantine mosaics of the 5th-6th centuries which once adorned the Great Imperial Palace and were later lost and only discovered in the middle of the 20th century by British archaeologists.Byzantine mosaics of the 4th-6th centuries consist of wall and floor paintings
Touching such an interesting page of Byzantine art, returned to us from oblivion, is very touching and exciting. In this small museum, you want to look at every detail of the mosaic paintings, the expressions of the faces depicted on them, fragments of everyday life, clothing of a bygone era, and so on and so forth. It really is a miracle!
While sightseeing in Sultanahmet Square tourists have the opportunity to relax in the eponymous park, enjoying the surrounding greenery, picturesque flowerbeds and freshness of the fountain. You can immerse yourself in the aura of the narrow streets surrounding the square, admire the distinctive architecture, treat yourself to corn and roasted chestnuts, and make your own tourist discoveries that you can later recall and tell your family and friends about.