On the Sultanahmet side of Istanbul there's no shortage of impressive buildings and sights. Allow yourself some time to get lost in the back streets to get a glimpse of the local life.
In the video below we visit Gülhane Park, Sultanahmet Mosque, Valens Aqueduct, Suleymaniye Mosque and ended the day strolling down Istikal Street.
If you missed our previous videos, on Day 2 we walked along the Golden Horn to see St Stephen Church, cruised the Bosphorus River and spent some time around Taksim Square. On Day 1 we visited the Egyptian Spice Bazaar as well as the Grand Bazaar, strolled through the Hippodrome and went down into the Basilica Cistern.
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 and Sultanahmet, it is faster to take the shortcut through Ankara Caddesi as the tramline follows an arch through that part of the city. Just watch your step when you hear a tram's horn if you use the sidewalk along Hüdavendigar Caddesi between Sirkeci, Gülhane, and Sultanahmet Square - the sidewalk is not very wide and trams pass VERY close!
Hagia Sophia was originally a basilica constructed for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I and dates from the 6th century. The expansive 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world! Sadly, construction work has been ongoing since 2016 and although still open, there is scaffolding (mostly inside) on about one-third of the area.
Sultanahmet Mosque (aka Blue Mosque) with its six minarets and sweeping architecture is iconic and impressive from the outside as well as the inside. Unlike Haghia Sophia, this is still a working mosque and entry is through the courtyard on the SW side - which is the backside of the mosque. No shorts or bare shoulders are allowed (shawls are provided) and you will need to remove your footwear (bags are provided that you can place your shoes in). Women need to wear headscarves. Entrance is free, but donations are welcome upon exit.
Gülhane Park was the royal hunting grounds in the past and today it’s a public park with lots of seasonal flowers and huge plane trees for a great shady hide-way during the heat of summer. The high walls on one side of the park separate it from Topkapı Palace. The park has two gates, one near Sultanahmet (on the street between Sultanahmet Sq and Sirkeci, the street on which tram runs), and the other on the avenue lying on the coastline. We exited here and walked across the road down to the river where we found a few jetties overlooking the Bosphorus.
From there we made our way to the Third Hill of Istanbul to the Süleymaniye Mosque. This is a stunning building from the Ottoman imperial era with expansive views over Istanbul. The truly staggering size of the Suleymaniye Mosque is one of its most distinctive features - dominating the Golden Horn and providing a landmark for the entire city.
Valens Aqueduct is a double-storey Roman structure built during the reign of Valens (to provide the city with fresh water coming from the surrounding forests. The aqueduct is one of the symbols of the city and its 921-meter long span will welcome you to the city on your way from the airport. It's rather remarkable how this ancient structure is seamlessly incorporated with the modern transport infrastructure.