Sultanahmet district – 9 things to do in the old city of Istanbul


Whether it is walking the ancient city walls, wandering in the bazaars, visiting the Ottoman mosques, watching the sunset in the Golden Horn, or even relaxing in one of the traditional Turkish baths, there is always something you can do in the old city of Istanbul.


The Sultanahmet district in Istanbul is home to the most historical sites in Turkey, and one of the best tourist areas in Istanbul, and it is one of the most crowded areas of Istanbul that are crowded with tourists from all over the world.

Sultanahmet is located on the historical peninsula that stretches across the Bosphorus to Asia, and was formerly the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

The area was named after Sultan Ahmed I, who died in 1617 AD, and was buried in a mausoleum near the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul.

In our article, we will get to know about many things that you can do to make the trip to Sultanahmet more enjoyable, stay with us!


Walk the ancient city walls from the Sea of ​​Marmara to the Golden Horn

The Great Walls of Theodosius kept the city safe from any attacks for a thousand years before it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, and it stretched 6.5 kilometers (four miles) across the historic peninsula.

From the Sea of ​​Marmara to the Golden Horn, these Roman walls have survived and remain a tourist attraction visited by thousands of tourists, wander the neighborhoods around the wall, and sample Turkish food and tea from the restaurants and cafes located there.


Major attractions include the Chora Church (Kariye Museum) that is famous for its mosaics, the beautiful Ottoman Mihrimah Mosque and the former palace of Byzantine Emperors Blachere (Tekfur Saray Palace).

Note: Out of caution, avoid walking along the walls at dusk, and at the end of your walk take the ferry down the Golden Horn from Ayvansaray.

Refreshing steam bath in Istanbul

Hygiene is an integral part of Islam, and in the days before homes got their own water supply, the traditional Turkish bath played a major role in the lives of residents in Turkey, as the sultans created huge dome places for cleanliness between the wooden houses of the city.

Visitors to the Turkish baths today have come to get the distinct Turkish bath experience, lounging on the hot marble, washing themselves with warm water from elegant copper dishes and having a perfect massage.

Hürrem Sultan, Cağaloğlu and Çemberlitaş are among the best Turkish baths in the old city of Istanbul.

Note: The above three hammams have separate sections for men and women, for a mixed session with traditional Turkish baths try the Sulaymaniyah Hamam.

Walk around the colorful streets of Balat and Fener!

The narrow cobbled streets of these two areas, which descend from the hill to the waterfront of the Golden Horn, were once the preserve of the Jewish, Armenian, and Greek communities of the city of Istanbul.

Then some old European style houses were bought and renovated in the late nineteenth century, coinciding with the emergence of a large number of old-style cafes around the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George, making it a tourist attraction.


Balat and Fener are great areas to wander around and take lots of photos, don’t miss the recently restored Bulgarian Church of St Stephens.

Note: Ferries leave from the dock in Karakoy, and you can also reach them from Sultanahmet neighborhood, and they stop at Fener and Balat.

Dive into Istanbul’s old Bazaars

The Grand Bazaar with more than 4000 shops and the Spice Bazaar is perhaps the most square of the old markets in Istanbul, and it attracts a lot of visitors every year.

Dive into the maze of the Grand Bazaar in search of everything from handcrafted Turkish clothing and rugs to leather jackets and traditional gold jewelry, as well as dried fruits, nuts and Turkish sweets everywhere in the Bazaar.


Note: Exit the Spice Bazaar via its western gate and stroll the bustling Hasırcılar Sokak Street (Straw Makers Street), while smelling the delicious aroma emanating from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, one of Istanbul’s leading coffee roasters.

Enjoy a Turkish coffee on the roof with a panoramic view of Istanbul

Experience the multiple terraces of Ağa Kapısı Café at sunset to enjoy the stunning views across the domes and minarets of the old city from Galata Bridge to the Bosphorus.

The place serves Turkish coffee and tea and also offers some types of juices.

Explore the Galata neighborhood at sunset

Head to the crowded market area spanning Galata Bridge at sunset to see how the Golden Horn got its name.

You will see the mesmerizing reflection of the sun at sunset, and have a cold drink at one of the many cafes built on the bridge itself.

Note: Be sure to walk along the Galata Bridge to take beautiful pictures, the bridge is also surrounded by local fishermen so you can have a nice chat with them.

Discover the famous Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

More than a thousand years of history separate these two colossal and iconic buildings, rising proudly 500 meters (1640 feet) in the heart of Sultanahmet.

Start with Hagia Sophia, which was built in 527 by order of Justinian I (Byzantine Emperor), then with the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the entry of the Ottomans it was converted into a mosque.

Today, the Hagia Sophia is a museum and mosque, and one of the great buildings in the world, with its stunning central dome and interior architecture covered with golden mosaics.


A short stroll through a green square decorated with a beautiful fountain takes you to the domed Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque), which was deliberately built opposite the Hagia Sophia to simulate the wonders of the previous structure, its name largely derived from the blue Iznik tiles, as more than 20,000 pieces adorn the interior.

Note: Be sure to visit the square between the two buildings at night to see their dimly lit architectural beauty.

Buy vegetables for the week at Çarşamba Market (Wednesday)

The oldest, largest and most lively street market in the city has given its name to an entire region.

Çarşamba (Wednesday in Turkish), a large market that stretches for many miles along the streets, there is stall after stall filled with fruits, vegetables, household utensils and clothes.

Note: Çarşamba is known for its conservative attitude, so expect to see lots of shoppers in traditional and modest clothing.

Visit Topkapi Palace, the center of the Ottoman Empire

Topkapi Palace is a whole series of buildings nestled between picturesque gardens, and a half-day visit barely suffices to do it.

From here, various Ottoman sultans ruled an empire that stretched from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula and from North Africa to the Crimea.


In Topkapi Palace you will find many beautiful rooms, charming gardens, armories and spacious kitchens to discover, and the view of the Bosphorus at the top of the palace will captivate you with its beauty.

Note: To get quick entry to the palace and many other museums without having to wait hours in a long line and at the same time at a lower price, get an Istanbul Museum Card for five days, which can be purchased online, from hotels, or in the museums themselves.