Istanbul Historical Peninsula is one of the most touristic places of the city today. The Historic Peninsula, surrounded by the Theodosian Walls, was the place known as Constantinople during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The district is now called Fatih. This name comes from the title “Conqueror” attributed to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II.
Today, it is possible to trace the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires in the historical districts of Istanbul. For example, in the middle of the Historic Peninsula, you can see the Roman-era Valens Aqueduct.
In addition, many churches from the Byzantine period are still standing. Cisterns, columns and palace ruins from the Byzantine period are spread over different parts of the Historic Peninsula.
The most distinctive historical monuments in the Historic Peninsula are the mosques from the Ottoman period. These mosques, built between the 15th and 19th centuries, reflect the architectural change that the empire underwent over time.
In this article, you can find the most beautiful neighborhoods to see in the Historical Peninsula. There is also a map of the Istanbul Historical Peninsula at the end of the article. So you can find the exact location of the places you want to visit.
Istanbul Historical Peninsula Districts
Istanbul Historical Peninsula districts offer a magnificent experience to history buffs. In the following lines, we have listed 10 places to visit in Istanbul Historical Peninsula. These districts have such a rich historical heritage that it is not possible to fit everything in one article. For this reason, you will be surprised by the hidden gems that you will encounter while visiting these places.
Sultanahmet is located in the heart of the Old City. This district, which hosted imperial palaces during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, has the most magnificent historical monuments in Istanbul.
Sultanahmet restaurants promise you a dining experience in harmony with the historical texture. In this district, you can try places such as Deraliye Restaurant and Matbah Restaurant, which represent Ottoman Cuisine.
2. Eminonu and Sirkeci
Eminonu stands out as the transportation hub of the Historic Peninsula. With two iconic structures such as the Spice Bazaar and the New Mosque, Eminonu is also one of the best street food places in Istanbul.
Eminonu is a popular destination among tourists and Istanbulites alike. Many options for cheap clothing and groceries can be found in the local markets, especially around Spice Bazaar.
Sirkeci, on the other hand, is a historical square located in the busiest part of Eminonu. Istanbul’s best local restaurants and dessert shops can be found in the streets surrounding Sirkeci Tram Station.
Among these, Hocapasha Street stands out. You can find the best examples of traditional Turkish dishes, such as doner kebab, meatballs and pide, in the restaurants lined up on this street.
3. Fener and Balat
Fener and Balat districts are located on the Golden Horn coast. Many churches and synagogues can be visited in these districts where non-Muslim people lived during the Ottoman period.
Fener Balat walking tour is one of the most popular activities in recent years for both tourists and Istanbulites. As the interest in these districts increased, many nice cafes were opened, especially around the Church of St George in Fener.
The Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate, one of the most important spiritual centers of Christianity, is located in Fener district. On the other hand, Ahrida Synagogue, one of the most important synagogues of Istanbul, is located in Balat.
Edirnekapi is located next to the famous Theodosian Walls, which were built during the Byzantine period. These walls protected Constantinople from barbarian attacks during the Middle Ages.
The most important feature of Edirnekapi is that it hosts the Chora Church, one of the hidden jewels of Istanbul. This structure, which has the best preserved mosaics from the Byzantine period, serves as the Kariye Mosque today.
Fatih is actually the official name of the entire Historical Peninsula. However, today the Fatih Mosque in the heart of the Old City and the streets surrounding it are specifically referred to as Fatih.
After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans, Fatih Mosque was built in place of the 1100-year-old church, which was on the verge of collapse. The Patriarchate, on the other hand, was moved to Fener, which was mentioned in the previous title.
Today, Fatih is one of the liveliest places in the Historic Peninsula. Here you can better observe the local life. Also, some of the oldest kebab restaurants in Istanbul are located in this district.
Suleymaniye is located very close to the Grand Bazaar, the famous shopping place of Istanbul. The most important historical monument you can see in the Suleymaniye district is the Suleymaniye Mosque, which is dedicated to Suleiman the Magnificent.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was built in the 16th century when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power. Built by Mimar Sinan, the most prolific architect of the Ottoman Empire, it is the largest mosque in Istanbul.
Suleymaniye Mosque is located on a hill in the middle of the Historic Peninsula, overlooking the Golden Horn. After visiting the mosque, you can take a break at restaurants famous for Turkish white bean stew.
7. Aksaray and Laleli
Aksaray is the rail transportation center of the Historical Peninsula. From here, you can go to Uskudar or Kadikoy on the Asian side via Marmaray. In addition, thanks to the Metro M2 connection, you can reach Istanbul’s business and shopping centers such as Taksim, Sisli and Maslak.
Laleli, on the other hand, has come to the fore among the best places to stay in Istanbul in recent years. In the last ten years, large buildings have been restored and hotels with large rooms have been opened in Laleli and Aksaray.
Beyazit is one of the most crowded squares in Istanbul. Here is the main campus of Istanbul University, the oldest university in the city. In addition, the Grand Bazaar is located in Beyazit.
After visiting the Grand Bazaar in Beyazit, you can visit the local markets in the streets surrounding the historical building. You can buy very cheap clothes in these streets. Donerci Sahin Usta, one of the most famous doner kebab places in Istanbul, is also located in Beyazit.
From Beyazit, you can go down to Eminonu, where Spice Bazaar is located, via Mahmutpasa Yokusu. This public bazaar is famous as the place where young girls shop for dowry. This route is marked on the map at the end of the article.
Cemberlitas is the name of the tram stop between Sultanahmet and Beyazit. However, this square is home to an important historical artifact that cannot be noticed at first glance.
Celebrations were held in this square when Emperor Constantine declared Istanbul the co-capital of the Roman Empire in 330. A porphyry column was erected in the Forum of Constantine (today Cemberlitas) in honor of the emperor. The remains of the Column of Constantine are still in this square.
Cemberlitas is also home to one of the Old City’s most famous baths. Among the best Turkish Baths in Istanbul, Cemberlitas Hammam can be found right next to the Cemberlitas Tram Station.
Samatya is a district on the south coast of the Historic Peninsula. Located close to the Sea of Marmara, Samatya is famous for its Turkish taverns and traditional restaurants.
For example, Develi Restaurant, one of Istanbul’s famous kebab places, is located here. In addition, old taverns such as Safa Meyhanesi, which serves Armenian cuisine, are in this area.
There is another hidden gem near Samatya that is not open to visitors today. This is the remains of the Stoudios Monastery, which was the most important monastery of the city during the Byzantine period.
The abbot of this monastery was the most important religious authority of the city after the Patriarch of Constantinople for centuries. The building, which served as the Imrahor Mosque in the Ottoman period, is in ruins due to earthquakes and fires.
Istanbul Historical Peninsula Map
Istanbul Historical Peninsula map shows us the most important historical artifacts to see in Istanbul. The best public transportation means to explore Old Istanbul is the Tram T1 with the stops marked on the map.
If you want to see more detailed maps about the two sides of the Golden Horn, the Old City and Beyoglu (aka Taksim), you can also take a look at the article named Istanbul Tourist Map. This article covers all the places that visitors to Istanbul need to know.
Istanbul Historical Peninsula is the place that offers us the most in-depth information about the history of the city. However, it is necessary not to be limited to the places that everyone knows and to go out of the tourist route.
If you walk through the districts on the West side of the Historic Peninsula, you will encounter many surprises. These include old Byzantine churches, small Ottoman mosques and traditional restaurants.
The Historic Peninsula is definitely a place that will not disappoint its history-lover visitors. By visiting these districts, you can create a wonderful photo album during your Istanbul trip.
Written by Serhat Engul