The Sultanahmet Square, also known as Hippodrome and surrounded by the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, one of the most famous tourist areas in Istanbul, as well as a popular meeting point. The area is very impressive tourist zone of the Sultanahmet neighborhood on the Historical Peninsula that leads to all historical sites around Sultanahmet. It is very well known place for all Istanbul visitors, where they mostly head on for first, on their first day of Istanbul visit.
The area in and around the Sultanahmet Square is the historic Istanbul and leads about all of the historical sights of Istanbul that include the must-see mosques such as the Blue Mosque, the museums such as famous Topkapi Palace Museum and Hagia Sophia Museum, historical sites and palaces. The compact and relatively traffic free area makes it easy to explore the region on foot.
Once being a Byzantium hippodrome, the square itself hosts the famous historic places and sights that include; the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, the Colossus or the Column of Costantine Porphyrgenitus and the German Fountain.
A Brief History
The 4th century Hippodrome was built by the Constantine the Great, after his declaration of Istanbul as the capital of the Roman Empire. It was located in what we now call Sultanahmet Square.
The hippodrome was a lively place during the Byzantium period, where the races take place. The racers were turning around the hippodrome seven times to win the race.
Things to Do & See
Strolling around the Sultanahmet Sqaure, enjoying the peaceful and historic atmosphere leading the most popular landmarks, museums, mosques, churches, fountains and historical sites of Istanbul, and having a rest at the variety of restaurants and cafes around, are the major attractions.
About all of the most visited historical sites in Istanbul, such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Archaeology Museums and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are situated nearby the Sultanahmet Square and all can be explored on foot.
The famous Monuments Trio
The Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, the Colossus or the Column of Costantine Porphyrgenitus are the famous trio of the monuments in heart of the Sultanahmet Square. These three monuments, which are still standing today, are lined up along the center of the area where those racers turn around.
The Egyptian Obelisk
It is the famous of the three erected monuments in the heart of the square. The monument was brought from Egypt in the year 390 and could only be erected in its present place within 31 days. The monument originally dates back to 1450 BC and was made for the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutmosis III. We can say that it is one of the oldest monuments in Istanbul.
The monument stands on a marble pedestal and it depicts the Byzantine Emperor Teodosius I and the people watching the races. It is also possible to see how the obelisk was erected on the reliefs.
It is a 32 meters column, which looks extremely impressive. It is the turning point of the horses during the race times at the hippodrome. The brass plates covering the top of the column and the bronze sphere on the top were used by the Latins during the year in 1204 like in the many statues and ornaments in the Hippodrome were used for making coins.
The Serpentine Column
The Serpentine Column is one of the very unusual monuments in Istanbul, which adorns the square. The column is a talisman brought from the Delphi Temple in Apollo to protect the city from the insect invasion. You’ll see three snakes that are intertwined. Their heads heads severed. The only remaining snake-head is exhibited at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) is one of the most beautiful mosques and landmarks in both Istanbul and the world. It was built in the 17th century (1603-1617) with the order of Sultan Ahmet I. Its name comes from the very beautiful blue interior “Iznik tiles”. It is a great sample of the Turkish and Islamic architecture and one of the most visited sights and mosques in Istanbul. Read more about Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia Museum
Dating back to 325, Hagia Sophia is a former church and mosque and declared as one of the world’s greatest architectural works and accepted as the 8th wonder of the world. Hagia Sophia is also one of the most visited landmarks and museums in Istanbul and in the world. Read more about Hagia Sophia Museum
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Located at the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, it is one of the most important buildings of 16th century Ottoman civil architecture. The museum displays very unique, more than over 40,000 items at the carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic and ethnography sections. Read more about Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Hurrem Sultan Hamam (Turkish Bath)
Located between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, the historical Hurrem Sultan Hamam (Turkish Bath) (1556-1557) was constructed by the Architect Sinan, with the wish of the Hurrem Sultan, the famous wife of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The operating Turkish bath (separate baths for men and women) offers hamam packages with various massage therapies and rituals. There is also an outdoor cafe and restaurant where you may have a rest during your Sultanahmet stroll.
Located in between the Sultanahmet Square and the Blue Mosque, the German Foutain, also known as “Fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm II”, is a very beautiful fountain with that has great architecture with columns and a beautiful dome.
How to Get There
The most practical way to get to Sultanahmet is via Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line).
- The closest tram stop is Sultanahmet.
- Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour buses.
- From Taksim, take the funicular to Kabatas (from taksim Square) or funicular to Karakoy (from Tunel square) and than take the tram.
- If you stay at the Sultanahmet hotels, than you easily walk to the Square.