Sultanahmet Camii/ Blue Mosque:800m
Ayasofya/ Haqia Sophia:450 m
Topkapı Sarayı/ Topkapi Palace:400 m
İslam Sanat Müzesi/ Islamic Art Museum:500 m
Yerebatan Sarnıcı/ Basilica Cistern:500 m
Kapalı Çarşı/ Grand Bazaar:900 m
Uluslar arası Sirkeci Tren İstasyonu/ Sirkeci International Railway Station:400m
Karaköy Limanı/ Karakoy International Sea Port:1.2 km
Gülhane Tramvay Durağı/ Gulhane Tram Station:50 m
Atatürk Havaalanı/ Ataturk Airport:21 km
Taksim Meydanı/ Taksim Square:3.5 km
Mısır Çarşısı/ Spice Baazar:800 m
Vapur İskelesi/ Ferry Station:450 m
Metro & Tram
In order to get to The Print House Hotel, get off at the Zeytinburnu stop on the M1 line and transfer to the T1 line. Get off at the Gülhane stop on the T1 line, which operates between Zeytinburnu and Kabataş with stops in Topkapı, Beyazıt, Çemberlitaş, Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Tophane, and more.
Constantinople, the centre of the Byzantine Empire which lasted over a thousand years, later became Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years. The city is a mixture of Europe and Asia. A stroll around Sultanahmet, inside the city walls, among mosques, museums and the Great Bazaar is a trip through both history and daily life. Modern Istanbul is on the other side of the Galata Bridge in Beyoglu, around Taksim and the northern suburbs with lots of good restaurants and shopping. Waterways play a central role in the life of the city and boat traffic on the Bosporus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara is extremely intensive.
After decades in which scaffolding cluttered the interior of Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century Byzantine masterpiece, the thrill of being able to experience the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum is hard to overstate. Downstairs the building is largely empty; the best of the glittering mosaics lurk in the galleries upstairs. Before the end of the year, the city’s finest carpets will go on display in the soup kitchen added after the church was turned into a mosque.
• Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Square,
+90 212 522 0989,hagiasophia.com
If there is one absolute must-see in Istanbul, it has to be the Topkapi Palace, home to generations of sultans and their wives, who were closeted in the famous harem. A collection of lush green courtyards and delicate kiosks, the Topkapi boasts a treasury to put the crown jewels in the shade, as well as views to die for over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn. Try to visit on a day when no cruise ship is in town to avoid the worst of the crowds.
+90 212 512 0480,topkapisarayi.gov.tr
Facing Hagia Sophia across a small park and mirroring its domed silhouette, the early 17th-century Blue Mosque is one of only a handful of mosques in the world to boast six minarets. Is it really blue? Well, not noticeably, although all the walls are papered with fine İznik tiles. It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still popularly used as a mosque.
• Sultanahmet Square,
The city’s most unexpectedly romantic attraction, the Basilica Cistern, offers an insight into the complicated system that once brought drinking water into Istanbul from Thrace. Constructed in the sixth century and then forgotten for centuries, the cistern that once stored the water has been fitted with lights and music. Fish flitter around the bases of the 336 columns that support the ceiling. Don’t miss the upside-down head of Medusa that forms the bottom of one column.
• Yerebatan Caddesi 13,
+90 212 522 1259,yerebatan.com
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
The İstanbul Archaeological Museums, a museum affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is located in İstanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood, on the Osman Hamdi Bey slope connecting the Gülhane Park with the Topkapı Palace. Its name is plural, since there are three different museums under the same administration: The Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum (Eski Şark Eserleri Müzesi) andTiled Kiosk Museum (Çinili Köşk Müzesi).
• Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu, Gulhane Park,
+90 212 520 7740
Unmissable as you stand on the busy Galata bridge and look up at the city’s historic skyline is the mosque designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan for Suleiman the Magnificent. Newly restored to its original splendour, it is generally regarded as the finest of the 42 surviving mosques he designed for Istanbul. It retains much of the original complex of social service buildings that came attached to it, including several madrasahs, a hospital, a library and a hamam.
• Professor Siddik Sami Onar Caddesi. Open outside prayer times
Watery Istanbul is a city that cries out to be viewed from on high, and you can get a bird’s-eye view of everything from the balcony at the top of the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu, the modern part of old Istanbul that, in pre-Republican days, was home to the city’s foreign residents. Built in 1348, the tower once formed part of a sub-city belonging to the Genoese that stretched right down to the Bosphorus. In a footnote to aviation history, it was from this tower that Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi flew across the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia in 1638, thus inaugurating the first ever intercontinental flight.
• galatatower.net, +90 212 293 8180
The heartbeat of Istanbul, İstiklal in Beyoğlu is the embodiment of the city’s incomparable spirit. Once you jostle your way through the crowds past power suits, school uniforms, backpacks, cameras and guitars, take a breathe by the Galatasaray High School’s gigantic gates. Grab some roasted chestnuts in the fall or winter, or if it’s hot some Kahramanmaras ice-cream from a cheeky vendor, who’ll make you work for your cone. And be sure to roam into the sides streets – Küçük Parmakkapı Sokak is a heaven where the sounds of live Turkish rock, dice hitting backgammon boards and the haze of sheesha smoke weave together.
A short walk from the Grand Bazaar, the 17th-century Eminönü Egyptian Spice Bazaar, open seven days a week, is another favourite of the camera-wielding, souvenir-seeking tourist. A bustling gastronomic paradise since 1664, this is the best place to pick up dried fruits and nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, oils and essences of the finest order. • Sururi Mahellesi, Fatih
Constructed in 1461, the Grand Bazaar, boasting 5,000 shops, is one of the largest covered markets in the world. Once a vibrant hub of international and local trade, recent decades have seen this labyrinth of glittering delights win the hearts of wide-eyed tourists in search of the ultimate oriental shopping experience. With beckoning sellers peddling exquisite textiles, pottery, spices, jewellery, lanterns and souvenirs, bartering is an absolute must. • The Bazaar is closed Sundays; Divanyolu Caddesi 42, Sultanahmet