Do you live in Sultanahmet? You're lucky! You are in the historical center of Istanbul (in Constantinople). And to see it, you need just to go to Sultanahmet Square. Ask how to get there at your hotel's reception. It is very small area, so the time on the road won't take more than 5 minutes.
Well, you are at Sultanahmet Square. Start your acquaintance with it from the Hippodrome. It is a compact square on which you will see three very high columns. It is the Egyptian obelisk of 5 thousand years old, Greek column, casted-in with Hellenes from weapons of the conquered Persians, and Constantine column on which Ottomans set up the head of the last emperor of Constantinople. Detailed information about every columncan be found on the informational boards near each of them.
Take a look to the right, standing with your back to the Greek column and with your face to the Constantine column. An old building with a balcony made of wood is in front of you. It is the museum of Islamic art opened in Sultan vizir's house (prime minister, in the modern language). It is closed on Mondays, in any other day you can get there by buying a ticket, it costs 10 liras. You will see there lots of luxurious miniatures, and will see how people lived in Ottoman Istanbul. Took a look at it? Then go straight to the Hippodrome. Go sidewards to the Egyptian obelisk direction and them down. Paved square is in front of you, behind it – a giant cathedral. It is Hagia Sophia (the ticket costs 20 liras), the greatest monument of Byzantine epoch. Remember, the museum (it is a museum now) is closed on Mondays.
After visiting it, go back to the square and cross it (50 meters) to reach the giant Blue mosque. The entrance is free. Take your shoes off and if you want you can leave it in a special place or take it with you in a bag. Ladies will get blue kerchief to cover naked shoulders and hair. You can relax here (it's always cool in summer and warm in winter here) by sitting on a carpet in the corner. Don't laugh loud and don't smoke here. These are the simple behavior rules.
Leaving the Blue mosque, go to the left to the tram tracks. Cross it and go to a small yellow building with a sign board "Eribatan". It is the underground reservoir Yerebatan with numerous antique columns. Fishes are splashing in the water on the floor of Yerebatan reservoir, in the corner – a huge head of Medusa, carved of marble thousands years ago. It is one of the most incredible places in Istanbul. The ticket costs 10 liras. Don't be afraid to get lost, the reservoir is quite compact.
Leaving it, you will get to the same street with the tram tracks. Cross the street and go straight through the paved square (Hagia Sophia will be on your left). After 30 meters you will reach the half dug-out palace of Constantine. This building belonged to Constantine the Great, thanks to him the city became the capital of Byzantine Empire. You can admire it for free.
Now go to the left. Huge gates of Topkapi palaces complex are in front of you. This place was the residence of Ottoman empire sultans for 300 years. The entrance is free. You can admire the church of St. Irene here (outside only, it is closed inside) – antique Christina temple of Constantinople (the 4th century) and the garden of sultans as well. The church of St. Irene is on the left from the main gates ( it is seen). Straight from the gates – the alley which leads to the palace complex. Buy a ticket, it costs 20 liras, and visit armory, kitchens, bedrooms and harem. The tickets are on sale in the box offices, which are located on the right side. The palace is closed on Tuesdays.
Discover beauty of Istanbul views. We start our excursion with a walk in Gulhane park (the park of roses). It is located right behind Topkapi palace. You need to go down the road with the tram tracks about 500 meters from Sultanahmet Square, and on the right you will see the stone gates, they are pink. This is the park entrance (free). In the park – lots of exotic birds, trees, fountains, arbors, children's playgrounds. On the right from the main alley the Topkapi wall is seen. Go straight through it and you will reach a small hill (it is about 300 meters from the entrance), from which you can admire the stunning sea view.
ATTENTION: If you live in the lower part of Sultanahmet (Sirkeci area, closer to the sea and railway station), then you have to go UP on the tram tracks and the park entrance will bee on your right.
Took a walk in the park, admired parrots, flowers, and trees? Well now go back to the park entrance and there you will see a path which leads up and to the right. Walk a path (it is paved) and 20 meters away you will see the gates and the box office. You've reached Archaeological museum of Istanbul. More than one million of exhibits, rich collection. The ticket costs 10 liras. Sculptures and tombs – in the yard. Just behind the entrance on the left – the hall of Anatolian civilizations. The first civilizations in the world. Hittite stone lions are lying near the hall entrance.
After visiting it, go out, cross the museum yard and get to the main hall. There are located the ancient Rome and Greece, Stone and Bronze ages, Byzantine, Crusades, and Ottoman empire... Leaving the central museum building, go to the right. There is a small wing, there is located a small exposition of fire emergency service of Istanbul. And for dessert – the hall of Ottoman ceramics (just in front of the main building, 20 meters). When you pass it you will leave the museum territory (exit – on your right) and walk down along a paved path to the park entrance.
If you live in the lower part of Sirkeci area go down, if in the upper part - go up. If you don't want to walk, take a ride on the tram for one stop. To Sirkeci - the stop is located just below the Gulhane park entrance, on the right from the gates. In the upper part of area – cross the street, the stop is almost in front of the park entrance.
If you still don't want to go home, then buy a token in wicket or in tokens selling machine on the tram stop and put it into ticket barrier, wait for green index and enter the stop. Your stop is near Gulhane park. Get on the tram, ride to Eminonu stop (take a look at the map above the door – the tram tracks directions are given there). Alight from the tram on the stop and go downstairs to pedestrian underpass. Then you get there turn to the right and move forward. On underpass exit turn to the right and go round the big mosque (Yemi Cami).
A long building made of bricks will be in front of you. It is Egyptian market (or Seasoning market). It is the best place to buy sweets, traditional Turkish smoked food, cheese, souvenirs, coffee, tea, fragrance, and of course, spices! Leaving Egyptian market, go down to pedestrian underpass and then straight. You will reach the Golden Horn seaside. If you like strolling, then take a walk along the bridge (it's in front of you) to the Galata tower.
On the other side of Golden Horn there is located a small fish market, where fishermen sale fresh caught fish. It is a perfect place for photo shoot (as well as the bridge itself). You can also buy here flounder or octopus, shrimps and fishes and then ask the hotel chef to cook it for you. If you don't want to, then go back where you started your stroll and buy a balyk-hamburger (bread with grilled fish, salad, tomatoes, and onions). It costs 4-5 liras. You can also have a sail along the Bosphorus on yachts or cutters. It costs from 20 to 40 liras (depending on the season and the ship type). Usually a trip takes about 1.5 – 2 hours and includes sightseeing: fortresses and buildings.
Ships land in the same harbour (Eminonu harbour). From there, through a pedestrian underpass you cross the street, you need to turn to the right in the underpass, then you reach the tram stop. Get in and ride to Sultanahmet stop.
If you go on foot, the road should take about 15 minutes.
Well, you are near Istanbul tram tracks. It is the best place to start any excursion, and go there if you get lost. But you have our guide book so you won't get lost. Get on the tram (1.75 liras, token, slot in ticket barrier, green index, wagon – as usually).
Today you need to alight from the tram on Karakoy tram stop. Then get down to the pedestrian underpass and turn to the right. Come out at a little square. It is also named Karakoy. Just in front of you – in five minutes – the Bosphorus. Karakoy is a very "Russian" area. Russians came here at the beginning of the 20th century, when emigrants used to settle here, escaping from Russia at time of the revolution. You will see here an amazing Orthodox church...on the 7th floor of the building. Don't rush to lift there, just stay near the seaside and admire cruise and cargo liners landind in Karakoy harbour. You will see lots of restaurants and cafes along the seaside.
Take a snack in one of these cafes, then go back through the pedestrian underpass to the subway stop. Go towards to the direction in which you were going before and then alight from the tram on Karakoy stop. Now you are going to the terminal point, Kabatas. Cross the road sidewards the Bosphorus and go along the shore there, where are no tram tracks. You will pass Dolmabahce mosque, and then you will see the Dolmabahce palace itself. There are always a lot of buses in front of it. Pass through the metal detector, get to the inner yard with a beautiful garden and there in the box office, on the left from the main gates, buy a ticket to enter the palace. If you want to visit harem too, then the ticket will cost 20 liras. Without visiting harem – 15 liras. Just notice, before you enter Dolmabahce, you will get special cellophane slippers for your shoes, to keep parquet safe. Only groups are allowed to visit Dolmabahce. You don't have to pay any extra money, you will be united into a group and then you can go visiting the palace together. Or just join any other group. The palace is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. The palace is worth to be seen all, but especially the guard mount, sultan's private bathhouse, Aivazovsky paintings (they are hanging on the walls), snuffbox and thrones decorated with jewels. Just try to not touch the walls, they are golden in the literal sense (40 t of gold was used for the palace gilding). Go out to the palace's main stairs, which lead straight to the sea. Sultan's boat used to land here.
Leaving Dolmabahce go back to Kabatas stop (just go sidewards the mosque and you will see the stop behind it). Cross the road and get down to pedestrian underpass and follow the sing board FUNIKULER. In subway after the stairs which lead down, you will see ticket barriers. Pass them by putting qa token into a slot. Wait a minute for a wagon. Less than in two minutes you will get to Taksim hill. Leave the subway and you are at Taksim Square. Just in front of you – the Independence Square (in the center – the Independence monument – several people in bronze). On your left - the big pedestrian Istiklal Avenue. This is the concentration of bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, cult houses, brand shops, cinemas, the place of youth's, musicians', tourists' and artists' hangouts. Sometimes a tourist tram drives along Istiklal. This is the only kind of transport, allowed on this street. It drives VERY slowly and gives preventing signals to the passers by, so don't be afraid of getting into a road traffic accident. By the both sides of Istiklal there are the ancient consulates and embassies, temples... For example, the catholic church of Saint Anthony – the largest catholic church of the city. The entrance is free. In 40 meters from the church there is the catholic temple of Maria Draperis. We recommend you to walk all along Istiklal, which descends to the the Galata tower. Raising to its observation point on a high-speed lift costs 11 liras. On the top there is a cafe and if you are afraid of height, you should better enjoy the view from there than from the observation point.
Having left the tower go to the left and then to the tram tracks. Pass the pedestrian underpass and from the tram stop go back home to the necessary stop. There are three of them in Sultanahmet – Sirkeci/ Gulhanepark/Sultanahmet.
What to do? Go to the nearest tram stop, get on a tram which drives to the sea. At the terminal point Kabatas, on the way to it you will ride across the bridge through Golden Horn, and then alight from it through the left door.
Get down to pedestrian underpass. Pass first ticket barrier for free (you are leaving the tram stop) and turn to the left. Ticket barrier forward – put the subway token into it (1.75 liras). Wait for green index. And you are on FUNIKULYR stop now.
Then you go up on a wagon, alight from it and turn to the right. First ticket barrier is free. Go straight beside the moving staircase without turning anywhere. Another ticker barrier in front of you. It's fee-paying – put a token into a slot, wait for green index. Now you are in the covered Istanbul subway. Now take a look at the sign boards. You need MECDIYEKOY stop. It is second one from your point of departure.
Well, you are at MECDIYEKOY stop. You can lift to CEVAHIR shopping mall using a special entrance. Follow the sign board with word CEVAHIR on it. To go back, repeat your route in the opposite direction. In other words – get in subway and ride to Taksim, then leave the subway, pass first ticket barriers and pass the entrance which leads to FUNIKULYR stop. Ride on funicular, then alight from it, pass ticket barriers and move left diagonally. Pass ticket barriers which lead to Kabatas tram stop. Get in the tram. Ride to Laleli Universitesi stop.