Istanbul: Places to Explore


Sultanahmet: The Historic Center

The old walled city of Istanbul rises on several hills above the port of Eminönü, and an incredible concentration of art and architecture spanning thousands of years is packed into the narrow, winding streets of this part of town. To appreciate the beauty and magic of the Old City, and for a postcard-worthy overview of its main sights, head to the Galata Bridge at the mouth of the Haliç, also known as the Golden Horn, where this inlet meets the Bosphorus. Nowhere else in Istanbul do you get such a rich feel for the magic of this ancient and mysterious place. At the eastern edge of the Old City, Topkapı Sarayı sits perched on the promontory overlooking the Bosphorus and the mouth of the Golden Horn, while behind the palace rise the imposing domes and soaring minarets of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. To the southeast you can see the sprawl of old buildings that make up Sultanahmet (named after the sultan who built the Blue Mosque), with Yeni Cami close to the waterfront next to the Egyptian Bazaar; to its right, up the hill is the sprawling Süleymaniye mosque complex. Farther west is the line of the city's ancient land walls. When it comes time to see these sights up close, the best way to get around is on foot, and most of the main sites are within a short distance of each other.

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