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Istanbul: all you need to know about the old town

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Judit Llordes
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Discovering Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

A few weeks ago, the historic Sultanahmet district in Istanbul was making headlines around the world. Because the attack which struck the city affected the old Byzantine hippodrome, which borders the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the two most visited monuments of the largest city in Turkey. So here is everything you need to know about the old city of Istanbul.





Take a walk on the Byzantine Hippodrome

Located on the European side of Istanbul, the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, brings together the main historical remains of the city that was successively the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

Built in the 324nd century by the Roman emperor Septimius Severus then enlarged in 1 by Constantine the Great, the hippodrome, the living center of ancient Constantinople, is today a long esplanade. Three columns, the obelisk of Theodosius I, the serpentine column and the walled column of Constantine, testify to the past grandeur of these places located on Sultanahmet Square.

Hagia Sophia, the church that became a mosque

Along this square stand the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, two grandiose buildings reflecting the diversity of the heritage of a city at the crossroads of East and West. The banks of the Bosphorus are also adorned with remarkable Ottoman palaces such as Topkapi Palace.
A major architectural work built in the 1453th century at the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn, the Church of Hagia Sophia, where the Byzantine emperors were crowned, was converted into a mosque in the XNUMXth century after the capture from Constantinople by the Ottomans in XNUMX.



After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the proclamation of a secular Turkish republic, the mosque was transformed into a museum in 1935. Its majestic dome perched 55 m high and its four minarets are today visited by millions of tourists who can admire the beauty of walls covered with marble and decorated with mosaics.




Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque with 6 minarets

Right in front of Hagia Sophia stands out the Sultanahmet Mosque, called the Blue Mosque, in reference to the color of its ceramics. Built in the XNUMXth century by Sultan Ahmet I, this mosque is one of the largest in Istanbul, and one of the few in the Muslim world to have six minarets.


The sublime Topkapi Palace

Another must-see tourist spot near Sultanahmet Square, Topkapi Palace, “Sublime Porte” of Ottoman power for five centuries, was the first of the palaces built by Sultan Mehmet II after the capture of Constantinople, renamed Istanbul.



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