Istanbul Travel Guide



Atmeydani (Hippodrome)
The hippodrome was an immense construction 480 meters length and 117.5 meters wide; it could seat, according to estimations one hundred thousand spectators. It was build in 203 by the Emperor Septimus Severus and later on Constantine the Great extended and remodeled it.
As Haghia Sophia was the center of religious life, the hippodrome was the center of the civil activities. The interests and passions of the population was divided between theological controversy and chariots races on the hippodrome.
Today you can only see some monuments where the hippodrome was. If you are curios and want to see how was the old Constantinople city center click here ! The central line, or spina of the hippodrome was marked by obelisks and columns, three of which are still outstanding monuments at Sultan Ahmet square (see picture bellow: the red line is where the hippodrome was located, behind it you can see the Blue Mosque and Saint Sophia).
The first monument is the Egyptian obelisk (first on the left from the picture above). It was originally commissioned by the pharaoh Thutmose III (1549-1503 B.C.) who erected it at Deir el Bahri opposite Thebes in upper Egypt to commemorate one of his campaigns in Syria and his crossing of the Euphrates river. It was erected on its present site by Theodosius the Great in 390 A.C. and at the bottom of it there is a marble stone with some sculptured relieves regarding Theodosius.
The second monument is the Serpent column. The three bronze serpents were the base of a trophy that once stood at the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was dedicated to Apollo as a token of gratitude by the 31 Greek cities which defeated in the Persian battle Plataea (479 B.C.). The column was probably brought from Delphi by Constantine the Great.
The third monument is a roughly build pillar of stone 32 meters high dated around the 4th century. It is know that the monument was formerly reverted with gilded bronze plaques. In 1204, during the latin invasion, these plaques were removed, melted down and minted.

Aya Sofya
Hagia Sophia, which is assumed as the first and the only unique application in connection with its architecture, magnificence, size and functionality; is a product of east - west synthesis which inspired the Ottoman mosques on the basis of thoughts. This piece of art is one of the most important monuments, remained till today of the world architectural history. For this reason, Hagia Sophia had drawn attention of all humans with its architecture, mosaics and Turkish era structures besides its historical background during centuries. Hagia Sophia was church for 916 years, and mosque for 481 years, and now functions as a museum since 1935.
The initial Hagia Sophia, which is assumed to be constructed by Emperor Ist Konstantinos (324 - 337) by Byzantium historians had burned as a result of a revolt, and no ruins had reached today.Emperor IInd Theodosius, had constructed Hagia Sophia for the second time and opened for worship on 415. Similarly basilica planned this structure had burned on 532 during Nika revolution. During the excavations performed on 1936, some ruins related with this have been revealed. Stages, columns, heads showing the entrance to this temple are various architectural parts.

Bayazýt Mosque
It is at the square, which is mentioned with its name. This great mosque and ýts kulliye, (theology school, school, imaret, caravansary and hamam), is constructed by son of Fatih, II. Bayezit on 1501 - 1506. It has two minarets which are 87 meters away from each other. Plan of the Bayazýt Mosque is similar to Hagia Sophia. But it is separated from it with especially a perfect architectural application which includes a different characteristic having worship order of a culture.

Kapali Çarsi (Grand Bazaar)
Kapali Çarsi (Grand Bazaar) has been a shopper's Mecca since just after the mid-15th century, when the smallish warehouse was turned into a teeming bazaar by a constant stream of traders, selling everything from carpets to cummin. These days it's the most fantastic, monstrous, labyrinthine and totally manic shopping bazaar you could hope to experience.

Tourist shops selling glittery geegaws line the main streets, but delve into the back streets and you'll still find Istanbullus buying a few metres of cloth, a gold bangle for a daughter's birthday, a beautifully crafted gold-plated 'eye' to ward off evil or an antique carpet.

The confusing labyrinth of streets was originally named after the goods sold there (Mirror-makers St, Pearl Merchants St, Fez Makers St and so on), and although that's not necessarily the case today, it is still possible to buy precious gems, old coins and intricately crafted jewellery in Jewellers St.

The Grand Bazaar is also renowned for offering basement-bargain deals on fur and leather goods, kilim products and a range of handcrafted goodies. Just remember to keep your wits about you.

Topkapi Palace
It is located on the promontory of the historical peninsula in Ýstanbul which overlooks both the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus. The walls enclosing the palace grounds, the main gate on the land side and the first buildings were constructed during the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the Conqueror) (1451 - 81). The palace has taken its present layout with the addition of new structures in the later centuries. Topkapi Palace was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans, starting with Fatih Sultan Mehmet until 1856, when Abdülmecid moved to the Dolmabahçe palace, functioned as the administrative center of the state. The Enderun section also gained importance as a school.
The main exterior gate of the Topkapi Palace is the Imperial Gate (Bab-i Hümayun) which opens up to the Ayasofya Square. This gate leads to a garden known as the First Court. This court has the Aya Irini Church which was once used as an ammunition depot and behind the Church there is the mint. In the past various pavillions allocated to different services of the palace were located in the First Court. In later years these have been replaced with public buildings and schools. Some of these are still existing. At the end of the 19th century Archeology Museum and School of Fine Arts (now Oriental Works Museum) were built in the large garden which is to the northwest of the First Court. The oldest structure in this section is the Çinili Kösk built by Fatih, which is now used as the Museum of Turkish Tiles and Ceramics. On the walls of this outer garden facing Bab-i ali (the Imperial Gate), there is Alay Köskü (procession Pavillion) where the Sultans used to watch the marching ceremonies. A section of the outer garden was planned by the municipality at the beginning of the 20th century and opened to the public. Known today as the Gülhane Park, the enterance has one of the largerst gates of the palace. After the First Court, there is the Second Court which contains the palace buildings. It is entered through a monumental gate called Bab'us-Selam or the Middle Gate.

Underground Cistern
Yerebatan Sarayi (which translates as "Sunken Palace") is Istanbul's largest underground cistern. It is the only one in the city that has been renovated and opened for public viewing. The cistern was constructed during the reign of Constantine I in the 4th century and was enlarged by Justinian I in the 6th century. For much of the Ottoman period it served as little more than a well and a fishing hole for the locals in what is now Sultanahmet. In 1987 the cistern underwent massive restoration work, which included the removal of 50,000 tons of mud and water. Today Yerebatan Sarayi is a major tourist attraction and offers cool respite from Istanbul's searing summer heat. Pulsing lights, water dripping from the ceiling and eerie music played over strategically placed speakers add an air of mystery to the place.
The cistern is 140 by 70 meters (459 by 230 feet) and holds 80,000 cubic meters of water. Supporting the ceiling of small domes are 336 columns, many of which are mismatched and appear to have been pilfered from elsewhere. The purpose of the two large Medusa heads supporting a pair of columns on the north side of the cistern is unknown, since they were not discovered until the cistern was drained.

Princes Islands
There are 9 islands on the city of Marmara close to the city of Istanbul. These islands are called Princes' Islands, because in the old days the princes used to be exiled in these islands. Four of these nine islands are inhabited. There are mostly the summer houses of the inhabitants of Istanbul. These islands are called Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Buyukada. To drive cars, trucks or motorcycles are banded on the islands. The only vehicles that are used are either bicycles or horse carts.

Princes Islands Cruise in Marmara Sea To Princes Islands retreats for the Byzantine princes who are famous for their beautiful pine woods and beaches. The largest and most enjoyable of the islands is Buyukada. There you can enjoy a ride in a horsedrawn carriage among the pine trees after relaxing on the beaches in the numerous coves of its coast.

Fatih Mosque
The Imperial Fatih Mosque, constructed between 1462 and 1470, bears the name of the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and is the site of his mausoleum. Standing atop another of Istanbul's hills, its vast size and great complex of religious buildings - medreses, hospices, baths, a hospital, a caravanserai and a library make it well worth a visit.
This was the first great Turkish complex to be built on an urban scale in the city after the conquest. The patron was Mehmet (Fatih) (1451-1481) himself. The architect is known as Atik Sinan. with which lakab - pseudonym-he is general-ly distinguished from Koca Sinan, the great classical architect. Construction of the complex took place between 1463-1470. Architecturally it is one of the most well-integrated and successful groups of buildings of its type on that scale. Among the auxiliary buildings were a school, library, hospital, caravansaray, imaret and hamam, little trace of which however survives today.

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