The ancient Hippodrome, the
scene of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life, stood
in the open space in front of the Blue Mosque, an area
now called Sultanahmet. Of the monuments which once decorated it,
only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the
bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine.
Remains from the curved-end section of the Hippodrome's wall can be
seen on the southwest side of these three monuments. Today, the
square forms the center of Istanbul's historical, cultural and
tourism activities. You should take particular note of the
surrounding wooden houses, particularly the l8th century ones on
Sogukçesme Street. Delightfully restored, they have new life as
small hotels and one houses a fascinating library of books on
The Ahmet III
Fountain, built in 1729, stands at the entrance to Topkapı
Palace. Deep overhanging eaves shade the water spouts where the
parched could stop for a cup of refreshing water. This highly ornate,
free-standing fountain is a superb example of the late Ottoman style.
Mahmut II built the Beyazıt
Tower (85 meters high) in 1828 as a fire tower. Today it
stands within the grounds of Istanbul University.
Aqueduct, built in 368 A.D., supplied the Byzantine and
later the Ottoman palaces with water. Today part of the remaining
900 meters of double-tiered arches straddle the major highway that
runs through the old part of town.
The Istanbul land
walls, once an impenetrable fortification, stretch seven
kilometers from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn.
Restored recently, and many times previously, these walls date from
the fifth century and the reign of Emperor Theodosius II. UNESCO has
declared the land walls and the area which they enclose to be one of
the cultural heritages of the world.
The Galata Tower,
a Genoese construction of 1348, rises 62 meters high over the Golden
Horn. From the top, you see a marvelous panorama of the Golden Horn
and the Bosphorus. In the evening, tourists enjoy its popular
restaurant, nightclub and bar.
or the European Fortress, was built by Mehmet the
Conqueror in 1452 prior to his capture of Istanbul. Completed in
only four months, it is one of the most beautiful works of military
architecture in the world. (Open every day except Mondays.)
as Leander's Tower, Kız Kulesi is one
of the romantic symbols of Istanbul. First constructed in the l2th
century on a tiny island at the entrance to Istanbul's harbor, the
present building dates from the l8th century.
Istanbul Boğazı (Bosphorus)
stay in Istanbul is not complete without the traditional and
unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the winding strait
that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful
mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty.
Modern hotels stand next to yalı (shorefront wooden villas), marble
palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor
small fishing villages. The best way to see the Bosphorus is to
board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the
shores. You embark in
Eminönü and stop
alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip
excursion, at a very reasonable cost, takes about six hours. If you
wish a private voyage, you can contact one of the agencies which
specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruises.
During the journey, you
pass in front of the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace; farther along
rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of Yıldız Palace. On
the edge of this park, on the coast, stands Çırağan Palace ,now
restored as a grand hotel. Refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz,
it stretches for 300 meters along the Bosphorus shore, its ornate
marble facades reflecting the swiftly moving water. In Ortaköy, the
next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a
streetside gallery. The variety of people create a lively scene;
sample a delicious bite from one of the street vendors. In Ortaköy,
there is a church, mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by
side for hundreds of years - a tribute to Turkish secularism and
tolerance. Overshadowing Istanbul's traditional architecture is the
Bosphorus Bridge, one of the world's largest suspension bridges
linking Europe and Asia.
beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian
side. Behind the palace rises Çamlıca Hill, the highest point of
Istanbul. You can drive here to admire the magnificent panorama of
Istanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the
opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutköy contrast
with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few
kilometers farther out, facing each other across the straits like
sentries guarding the city, stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisarı
and Anadolu Hisarı. The Göksu Palace, sometimes known as Küçüksu
Palace graces the Asian shore, next to Anadolu Hisari. The second
link between the two continents; the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
straddles the waterway just past the two fortresses.
From Duatepe Hill, on the
European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge
and the Bosphorus. Below Duatepe, beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with
color when the tulips bloom in spring. Opposite, on the Asian shore
is Kanlıca, a fishing village now a favored suburb for wealthy
Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its
shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlıca and Çubuklu
is the Beykoz Korusu (Abraham Paşa Woods), a popular retreat. In
the cafes and restaurants you can enjoy the delightful views and
clear fresh air. On the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem
to dance at their moorings. The coast road bustles with taverns and
fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sarıyer
and Büyükdere. Sarıyer has one of the largest fish markets in
Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk
puddings and börek (pastries). A little further on past Sarıyer,
the narrow strait widens and disappears into the Black Sea.
Haliç - The Golden Horn
horn-shaped estuary, divides European Istanbul. One of the best
natural harbors in the world, the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and
commercial shipping interests were centered here. Today, lovely
parks and promenades line the shores where the setting sun dyes the
water a golden color. In Fener and Balat, neighbourhoods midway up
the Golden Horn, whole streets of old wooden houses, churches, and
synagogues date from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox
Patriarchy resides here at Fener. Eyüp, a little further up,
reflects the Ottoman style of vermicular architecture.
Cemeteries sprinkled with
dark cypress trees cover the hillsides. Many pilgrims come to the
tomb of Eyüp in the hope that their prayers will be granted. The
Pierre Loti Cafe, atop the hill overlooking the shrine is a
wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.