Istanbul at Sultanahmet: Within Walking Distance Guests of Four Seasons can explore Sultanahmet Square like a local. Here are six must-see locations and experiences.
1/6 Completed in AD 537, the Hagia Sophia has served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral and, after the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, an imperial mosque before it was deconsecrated and made a museum in 1935. Adorned with intricate mosaics and famous for its ambitiously engineered dome, it is considered a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
2/6 The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is known as the Blue Mosque for the brilliant Iznik ceramic tiles that line the interiors. Five times a day, the muezzin sounds the call to prayer. During prayers, only Muslims may enter the building. Visitors may enter at other times through the north door. Stained-glass windows and ornate chandeliers illuminate prayer areas.
3/6 Though the Grand Bazaar is considered a must-see for it sheer scale, the Arasta Bazaar is a good stop for beautiful Turkish textiles, from gossamer scarves to luxurious cashmere and cotton bed linens, as well as carpets, ceramics, and silver jewellery. The Great Palace Mosaic Museum is also located at the bazaar.
4/6 Once the sun sets, the massive edifices of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia take on a powerful air of mystery, dramatically illuminated by hundreds of spotlights. Never more beautiful than at night, an evening stroll around Sultanahmet Square is not to be missed.
5/6 A modest entrance on Sultanahmet Square belies the vast subterranean proportions of the Basilica Cistern. Built in the sixth century as a reservoir for the Great Palace of Constantinople, it is the largest of the city's hundreds of cisterns. The vaulted ceiling is supported by dramatically lit columns, which line concrete catwalks perched above the water.
6/6 Topkapi Palace was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. The complex functioned as its own city, containing the treasury, a library, mosques, and housing. A museum since 1924, the Topkapi's grounds are a popular place to stroll and people-watch, as well as catch a glimpse of the Golden Horn inlet and the Sea of Marmara. Look for parrots flitting among the tree branches overhead.
Perfectly situated in the city’s historic district,
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet is just a five-minute walk from the most breathtaking monuments in Byzantine and Ottoman history, including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace, all of which are situated on or near Sultanahmet Square. Built on the site of Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great’s Hippodrome, where spectators gathered to socialise and bet on chariot races, the square is the setting for the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in the former Ibrahim Pasha Palace. It’s also where you will find the ancient red granite obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmoss III that Roman Emperor Theodosius I had brought from Egypt in the late fourth century and re-erected in the same spot where it stands today. Plan Your Visit
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Issue 4 2013