Roaming The Heart of Historic Istanbul

The heart of historic Istanbul is called Sultanahmet. It’s got the Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, and the site of the Roman Hippodrome.

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It’s also got about a jillion tourists, and half a jillion shops catering to tourists. Though when we were there (in December and January), the crowds weren’t bad.

Street view of the Bosphorus.
Street view of the Bosphorus.

And Sultanahmet is not Turkish Disneyland. It seems to have a fair amount of ordinary life going on, along with the historic sites, the hotels, and the carpet stores. We enjoyed wandering the streets here, as we did in other parts of Istanbul.

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There are a number of wooden buildings that look like they could use some fixing up.

2009-12-24 07.12.17Though some sported some pretty nice carvings.

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Most buildings are in much better shape, and I’m sure many are insanely expensive. Balconies and windows with fancy metalwork are commonplace.

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There are newer buildings built right up against centuries-old fortifications.

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Not all the shops are for tourists.

Man selling simmits, a sort of Turkish bagel.
Man selling simmits, sort of a Turkish bagel and very delicious.
Tea vendor.
Tea vendor.

As in all of Istanbul, street vendors are a ubiquitous part of the scene.

The Serpent Column.
The Serpent Column.

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Carving from the xxaldsf
Carving from the Theodosius Obelisk

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Sultanahmet Square is on the site of the old Roman Hippodrome. Among other things, we saw the Serpent Column and the Theodosius Obelisk, both about 17 centuries years old.

Another street view of the Bosphorus.
Another street view of the Bosphorus.

Walking around, you frequently catch glimpses of the Bosphorus with its many ships.

Istanbul is a very large and very remarkable city, I’ll do several more posts about our experiences there.

42 Comments on “Roaming The Heart of Historic Istanbul

  1. Not surprised to see hotel signs in English, but even the historic markers include English. Thanks, Turkey!

    Interesting that they use A.D., not a year based on when Muhammad fled Mecca. I wonder if they are switching to the less-Christian-oriented system of “B.C.” and “B.C.E.” that is becoming more common in the United States.

    • Well, Ataturk ushered in an era of determined secularism and westernization, so that could have something to do with it. Though the current government seems to be going in the other direction.

  2. Wow, that’s old! Love the juxtaposition of such old and new together. What an interesting city to visit!

  3. These are fantastic photos – the little street with the painted wooden houses and bay windows could almost be San Francisco!

  4. I am really enjoying this. Especially in the dead of winter, a change of view. I love walking around and exploring foreign cities. Looking forward to seeing more!

  5. oh goody. Can’t wait for the next installment. Not many women on the streets. ??? Or did you avoid getting people in your photos??

    • I avoided getting people in my photos for the most part. I was never uncomfortable on the street in Istanbul. In the south in a small town, there were more women with head scarves and men sitting in groups at cafes, but there were always women about, and always comfortable.

  6. Thanks again for sharing your adventure. Am looking forward to the next chapter. I’m not sure I would recognize any of my old haunts.

  7. I’d love to roam the heart of historic Istanbul, buy a Turkish bagel on the street, and gaze up at the Theodosius Obelisk. Of course, they would sell Coca-Cola! Wonder if it tastes different than ours…

  8. I was in Istanbul about 15 years ago and absolutely loved it! Getting lost in the Spice Markets and Grand Bazaar are one of my best memories. It was such an incredible city. I would love to go back.

  9. I am enjoying seeing more of Istanbul, having never been. I do like the mix of the old and the new, and loved the old wooden buildings, and the balconies and windows.xxx

  10. The new architecture seems more like San Francisco. But the older buildings are really well-done and unique. I keep seeing more on Istanbus, a place I;ve never looked at before…

  11. I love seeing momuments — who doesn’t — but it was a special treat to see buildings off the main street. I like seeing how ordinary people live.

  12. Istanbul has been on my travel wish-list for ever, now. I’m glad to see you have been there and took some nice snaps of the living city! I liked it

  13. What made you choose Istanbul? It looks amazing but I didn’t realize there was a lot of tourism there. I guess I need to broaden my travel horizons.

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