Istanbul’s most popular tourist destination is Sultanahmet. The district that we call Sultanahmet today served as the center of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Istanbul’s top attractions such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are located in Sultanahmet. For this reason, Private Walking Tour of Sultanahmet is the most popular tour in Istanbul.
My name is Serhat Engul, I have been a private tour guide in Istanbul for about 17 years. In this article, I will introduce you to 6 important touristic spots in Sultanahmet. The guided tour of Sultanahmet includes these stops.
In addition, I would like to make suggestions about places you can visit on the second and third day. My personal recommendation is to take the Fener and Balat walking tour or the Beyoglu walking tour.
Private Walking Tour of Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Private Sultanahmet walking tour allows you to discover 2700 years of history. You can learn the history of Istanbul from the Ancient Greek period. Duration of this guided tour is 6 to 8 hours.
In the lines below, you can find 6 historical places that you can see during the Sultanahmet tour. These tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other and can be easily visited in a day.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian as a church in 537. After serving as a church for 900 years, it was converted to mosque when the city was captured by the Ottomans in 1453 and served as a mosque for 500 years.
Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The 1000-year-old mosaics from the Byzantine period were cleaned and became visible. Hagia Sophia offers its visitors the traces of two Abrahamic religions together.
Hagia Sophia has been converted back into a mosque since July 2020. However, it is still open to touristic visits. When the restoration is finished, the mosaics from the Byzantine period will be seen as before.
2. Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque will surprise you with its gray appearance at first sight. Blue Mosque, which has a very imposing and beautiful architecture from the outside, is a 17th century building.
You will understand why the mosque is identified with the blue color when you see the interior. Because the walls of the building, whose original name was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, are covered with blue tiles.
The name of Sultan Ahmed, who built the mosque, gradually became Sultanahmet in the local language. For this reason, the name of both the mosque and the district where it is located is Sultanahmet.
3. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is a structure that spreads over a very large area. It is a building that reflects the origins of the Turks from Central Asia. The palace, which is decorated with large courtyards, was used both as a management and a living space in history.
Topkapi Palace was built in the 15th century. However, during the 400 years in which 25 Ottoman sultans lived, new buildings were constantly added to the palace. Therefore, the architecture of the palace does not present a unity. It is recommended to visit with a private tour guide to understand its history.
The Hippodrome of Constantinople was built by the famous Roman emperor Constantine the Great. It remained the main entertainment center of the city throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods.
Chariot races held here were watched by tens of thousands of people. Only the obelisks in the center remained from the Hippodrome. These monuments are known as Obelisk of Theodosius, Serpent Column and Walled Obelisk respectively. Each of these historical artifacts has its own story.
As a guide who loves historical narratives, I reserve an important part of the Sultanahmet walking tour for the Hippodrome. Because it is very useful to create a timeline about the history of Istanbul in my guests’ minds.
5. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is a 1500 years old water reservoir. It was built to fulfill the water requirement of The Great Palace by Emperor Justinian. Basilica Cistern provides a magical atmosphere due to 336 ancient Greek columns gathered from the ruins of Greek colony Byzantium.
6. Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar is a 350-year-old shopping center visited by millions of people every year. The historical bazaar with many shops is a paradise for shoppers. We go there at the end of the Sultanahmet walking tour.
However, those who are only interested in the history part of the tour may not want to go here. In this case, we extend the other parts of the tour and do not go to the Spice Bazaar.
Cost of Sultanahmet Walking Tour
Cost of Sultanahmet Walking Tour is 240 USD up to 4 people. Please consider that it’s a private guided tour and there will be just you! If you are looking for a shorter tour, you may also check the private half day Istanbul tour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Museum entrance fees are not included in the price. Admission is free for licensed tour guides.
Transportation is not needed for this tour. We meet at the Sultanahmet Tram Station which is just next to Blue Mosque and Hippodrome. This is a private walking tour.
What can I Learn from Sultanahmet Tour?
I use maps and visuals to help you understand the diverse history of Istanbul. I provide detailed information about Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
I share my history knowledge in an entertaining way. It’s the distinguishing feature of my Sultanahmet tour. You may also check my TripAdvisor reviews to see what people think about my service.
Book Your Guided Sultanahmet Tour
Private guided tour of Sultanahmet is organized by Serhat Engul, a licensed tour guide in Istanbul. Average tour duration is 6-7 hours. The price of the tour is 240 USD. If you are interested in this tour of Istanbul Old City, you can contact through the link below.
You may find our CONTACT FORM from this link
Other Recommended Istanbul Tours
The private guided tour of Sultanahmet will take your whole day. However, your time will not be wasted. Because you will see the most important historical places to visit in Istanbul. I can recommend two other Istanbul tours to complete the historical experience you will get on the Sultanahmet tour.
Since the Sultanahmet walking tour is intense and tiring, you may want to take a break one day. In the meantime, you can digest the things you have learned and take a boat tour in the Bosphorus.
When you are ready to join a guided tour again, I recommend you the Fener Balat walking tour and the Beyoglu walking tour. These two areas are the most important historical places of Istanbul after Sultanahmet.
1. Fener Balat Walking Tour
Fener Balat tour focuses on the life of non-Muslims in the Ottoman period. Fener is the old Greek district. Balat was the Jewish quarter in Ottoman Istanbul.
Fener Balat walking tour also includes places such as Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christians in the world. During the tour, many churches, synagogues and cafes & restaurants with local flavors are visited.
2. Beyoglu Walking Tour
Beyoglu walking tour perfectly complements the historical experience you have in Sultanahmet. After seeing the early Ottoman structures in Sultanahmet, you will continue your historical journey in Beyoglu.
There are two periods in the history of the Ottoman Empire. The first is the Classical Period, when the empire was at its peak. You can see the traces of this period in and around Sultanahmet. Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque reflect this period very well.
The Modern Period represents Westernization. The Ottoman built European-style palaces and structures from the 19th century. You can see the best examples of this period in Beyoglu.
Beyoglu walking tour covers the Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Galata and Karakoy areas. A walking tour in this district will give you information about the last periods of the Ottoman Empire.
Recommended on TripAdvisor
Private Walking Tour of Sultanahmet by Serhat Engul
Wendy C says
Are you still conducting tours? We are interested in a private half day tour of Istanbul on November 21st for 2 people. I see that the Basilica Cistern used to be part of the tour; since it’s currently closed, will another destination replace it?
Serhat Engül says
Thank you for reaching out. Your request also reached me via email. So I wrote you a detailed answer on this topic.
To put it briefly, yes, I am still doing a half-day tour and since Basilica Cistern is closed, we visit Theodosius Cistern instead.
My name is Mila
I’m interested in your private walking tour either in Sultanahmet area or Beyoglu area.
I’m staying in Istanbul from 12/25 to 12/28.
I’m travelling with my daughter Yelena, and she can consider to join the tour as well.
Please let me know your availability as soon as you can.
Serhat Engül says
Thank you very much for your tour request. I have sent you a detailed reply via your email address registered in the system.