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Attractions Within Sultanahmet, Istanbul

October 2017

Most of your favorite attractions in Istanbul would most likely be located within the Sultanahmet vicinity and are within walking distances. Choosing a hotel close to this area makes sense as you’ll save on transport cost. You’ll find lots of hotels to suit your budget in Sultanahmet and the tram that runs through it makes traveling around Istanbul convenient.

The major attractions in Sultanahmet are :
1. The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
2. The Hippodrome
3. Colourful Building
4. Arasta Bazaar
5. Topkapi Palace
6. Hagia Sophia
7. Basilica Cistern
8. Gulhane Park

The attractions are listed in a sequence that will avoid uphill walk. Get off the at the Sultanahmet tram stop for your first attraction, The Blue Mosque a short walk away. The last attraction, Gulhane Park will be a downhill walk from Basilica Cistern. If you intend to do your visit in reverse order, the walk from Gulhane Park to Basilica Cistern will be a taxing uphill walk, let alone if you have to push a wheelchair.

(The famous Grand Bazaar is a brisk seven minutes slight uphill walk from Sultanahmet tram stop or you can take the tram and get off one stop ahead at Cemberlitas).

Attractions in Sultanahmet area

Attractions in Sultanahmet area. Click to enlarge.

1. Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
Alighting from your tram at Sultanahmet tram stop, walk across Sultan Ahmet Square to The Blue Mosque, your first attraction. Do bear in mind that you will be visiting a mosque and you should be properly attired. Being a working mosque, non-Muslims will not be allowed to enter before or after the start of prayers. Visit this site for visiting hours for non-Muslims.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

The Blue Mosque as seen from across Sultanahmet Park.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

Entrance into the Mosque from the inner courtyard.

2. The Hippodrome
Exiting The Blue Mosque, head left for The Hippodrome. These are two columns of tall ‘pillars’ one being the ‘Obelisk of Theodosius’ and the other ‘Walled Obelisk’. In-between, you find the ‘Serpent Column’.

The Hippodrome

Walled Obelisk

The Hippodrome

The first of the two pillars you’ll reach coming from the Blue Mosque – Obelisk of Theodosius

3. Colourful Building
Not far from the Hippodrome walking towards Arasta Bazaar, you’ll see these colourful building. I’m not sure what this is but you’ll see a restaurant besides it, with the dining area extending well behind this multi coloured facade. Nice to have selfies here.

Colourful building

A restaurant is to the right. It’s dining area extending well behind the multi coloured facade.

From another angle.

4. Arasta Bazaar
Walking straight on from the colourful building, will take you to Arasta Bazaar. As the name implies, it’s a bazaar – a rather less visited, less crowded bazaar. Prices are a little on the high side here and varieties aren’t that varied. Wouldn’t miss much if you skipped this.

Arasta Bazaar

One of the entrances to Arasta Bazaar.

Arasta Bazaar

A rather ‘high-end’ bazaar feeling here.

5. Topkapi Palace
Exiting Arasta Bazaar from the other end, head for Topkapi Palace 1st courtyard entrance, about 450m away. This is one of Istanbul’s main attraction with lots and lots of visitors during peak season. You’ll be well advised to get online tickets if you intend to go in.

Topkapi Palace.

It’s another 400m to this 2nd courtyard entrance into the palace grounds.

Topkapi Palace

Palace building inside the complex.

6. Hagia Sophia
Another main attraction of Istanbul is Hagia Sophia. As with Topkapi Palace, the ticket crowd can be maddening at Hagia Sophia. Obtaining online tickets is a clever option.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia from the outside.

Hagia Sophia

View of the ground floor from the upper terrace.

7. Basilica Cistern
Across the road from Hagia Sophia is Basilica Cistern, an underground chamber capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water. Although this is a lesser attraction, crowd do build up at times. Unfortunately, you would not be able to get online tickets for Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Pillars inside Basilica Cistern.

Basilica Cistern

One of the two Medusa heads inside Basilica Cistern.

8. Gulhane Park
If you are visiting Istanbul in April through May, do pay a visit to Gulhane Park to see the beautiful tulips. The park isn’t too big, thus you get to see varieties of tulips but not get overwhelmed. A lot of benches in the park for you to rest. No entrance fees to enter.

Gulhane Park

The multi coloured tulips in Gulhane Park.

Gulhane Park

Black tulips in Gulhane Park.

Night pictures of Sultanahmet attractions. Due to the close proximity of our hotel, Star Holiday Hotel, we can choose what time to photograph these attractions.

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque).

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia.

The ‘Serpent Column’ of The Hippodrome in-between Obelisk of Theodosius and Walled Obelisk.

Topkapi Palace & Hagia Sophia Online Ticket

October 2017

Save your energy, time & frustration. Get online e-tickets for Topkapi Palace & Hagia Sophia here. Avoid the madding crowd at Hagia Sophia and the slightly busy Topkapi Palace ticket office. With your e-tickets, just proceed to the entrance turnstile to scan your e-tickets and enter right away.

If you are unlucky to be visiting these attractions during peak season, believe me, you would not want to stand in line for tickets to Hagia Sophia. The crowd outside will also give an indication how’s it’s going to be inside.


credit:reiendaa.blogspot.com

credit:artphototravel.net

Steps to purchase your online tickets are detailed below. It’s a pity this site do not sell online tickets for Basilica Cistern, an attraction just across the street from Hagia Sophia, all within walking distance of each other located around Sultanahmet area.

STEP 1
1. Click the arrow key for the drop-down option box and select which attraction (only one) you wish to visit.
2. Select quantity of tickets required.
3. Click the ‘Add To Cart’ button.
If you require tickets for other attractions, repeat steps 1 – 3.
4. Click ‘Next’.

 

STEP 2
On the 2nd page, you are required to fill the shipping address. DON’T WORRY, nothing is sent to that address. Your e-tickets will be e-mailed to you. Leave blank for ‘Your Citizenship No’. You can use your hotel’s address for the address box. Once everything is filled up, click “Save & Next’.

 

STEP 3
Page 3 will display summary of your e-ticket order. If every thing is in order, click ‘Go To Purchase’.

 

STEP 4
The 4th page will request for your credit card information. Once duly filled, click ‘Purchase’.

Upon successful payment, you’ll receive an e-mail of your transaction detail with an attachment for you to print your e-ticket. Cut out your ticket and bring it along during your visit to the said attraction. Although nowhere on the website nor on the ticket mentioned of expiry date, we were made to understand it is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance.

All tickets are issued under one name. Back in 2014 (tripadvisor) there were fury as only the named person with corresponding ID were allowed to enter but on the ticket officer’s discretion, the others were later allowed to enter as well. For my instance in October 2017, no ID checks were made. Me & wife simply scanned the QR code at the turnstile and went in. No hassle.

If you want peace of mind, you could purchase the e-tickets under different names. This would involve multiple purchase transactions.

e-ticket for Topkapi Palace.

e-ticket for Topkapi Palace.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

October 2017

On the second day, we made a visit to Hagia Sophia. We are aware of the huge crowd it draws as we have seen so previously. As we have not bought tickets, we were at the entrance gate well before the 9 o’clock opening time. We can afford so, as the hotel we are staying, Star Holiday Hotel is a stone’s throw away. Already, a handful of visitors were at the gate waiting for the ticket counter to open. Should you wish to avoid the crowd, you can purchase e-tickets here.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia from the outside.

Hagia Sophia

Crowd lining up outside to enter Hagia Sophia.    Credit : reiendaa.blogspot.com

Hagia Sophia

Line building up at the ticket office after 9 am. We were the first few to enter.

From the date of its construction in 537 AD until 1453, Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian church. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 1453 till 1931. Later it was declared as a museum by Atatürk in 1935. Hagia Sophia is also called Church of the Holy Wisdom or Church of the Divine Wisdom.

Hagia Sophia

Entrance to Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia floor plan.

Hagia Sophia

A more elaborate floor plan of Hagia Sophia. Credit:fajrin-thelionheart.blogspot

Hagia Sophia.

The main entrance into Hagia Sophia. Atop the 2nd door is a mosaic penal of Christ & Leo.

Hagia Sophia is famous for its massive dome and the innovative architectural design employed, is said to have changed the history of architecture. The dome, for example, is uniquely supported by four pendentives, the first building to use curving triangular vaults. Most of the 30 million mosaic tiles which covers the building’s interior, have recently been restored to the brilliance they were 1,500 years ago. Sadly, the interior is still filled with scaffolding from floor to ceiling as restoration works continue.

Hagia Sophia

The main dome of Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

Floor-to-ceiling scaffolding obstructing views.

Hagia Sophia

Far end of Hagia Sophia opposite the entrance.

Hagia Sophia

Another view of a section of the dome.

Hagia Sophia

Chandelier hanging from the roof.

Hagia Sophia

The ‘mimbar’ or rostrum from which sermons are delivered. Mosaic panel of Madona & child on the dome.

Hagia Sophia

The Library of Mahmud I.

On the upper level, the ceiling are painted with designs with yellow background. Marble is extensively used in the building and at a particular section of the wall, you’ll see different shades and colors of marble used side-by-side. Much of the marble floor, due to it’s age, has noticeable cracks. Several sections are cordoned off due to the ongoing restoration works.

Hagia Sophia

Gallery or aisle on the upper level. Beautifully decorated ceiling.

Hagia Sophia

The intricate design of the ceiling.

Hagia Sophia

A pillar went wrong? Yes, it’s slanting.

Hagia Sophia

The intricate scaffolding spoiling the views.

Hagia Sophia

View from the upper level.

Hagia Sophia

Visitors starting to build up on the lower level.

Hagia Sophia

One of the aisle on the upper level with a serene mood. Notice the different colored marble slabs on the wall.

On the upper level of Hagia Sophia, there is a mysterious “Perspiring Column”, “Weeping Column“ or “Wishing Column” made of marble that stays moist. Legend says that this column has the power to cure illness. The column is one of 107 columns in the building. The pillar is partly covered in bronze, with a hole in the middle, and it is damp to the touch. The faithful who seek to heal their ailment would put their thumb into the hole and then rub it to the affected area of their body.

Hagia Sophia

The “Perspiring Column” or “Weeping Column“ or “Wishing Column” on the upper level.

Hagia Sophia

Deisis mosaic penal.

Hagia Sophia

Komnenos mosaic panel.

Hagia Sophia

Zoe mosaic panel.

Hagia Sophia

Sunu mosaic panel.

Below are pictures of objects seen inside Hagia Sophia. The pictures are captioned and if you require more information about it, do Google around. We went in on our own without guides, so we are deprived of further information about the objects we’ve seen.

Hagia Sophia

Synod Decision.

Hagia Sophia

Sarcophagus of the Empress.

Hagia Sophia

Porphyry Altar.

Hagia Sophia

Snake Patterned Pool (Libation Vessel).

Hagia Sophia

Tombstone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo.

Hagia Sophia

Marble Jars.

Hagia Sophia

Bell of Hagia Sophia.

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