Sultanahmet Istanbul Guide

Sultanahmet (the Old City) is one of the most visited attractions in Istanbul. A tourist center that combines history, architecture, culture, and art, Istanbul’s Old Town and historical zone, a communication center, and an important sightseeing, entertainment, and shopping area for tourists for a beautiful walk through Istanbul’s Old Town. Here’s a quick guide to exploring Sultanahmet Istanbul with top sights, best places to stay, top places to eat and insider tips.

Sultanahmet is the historical part and the heart of Istanbul. It is the former heart of the Ottoman Empire and was named after the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I. Istanbul is known as the city of seven hills and Sultanahmet is the first hill of Istanbul.

With popular landmarks from the Three Kingdoms, such as Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and Basilica Cistern, Sultanahmet is a natural magnet for millions of tourists in Istanbul also with its variety of souvenirs, restaurants and cafes, hotels, and guesthouses. The relatively car-free region makes it easy to explore the area on foot and by tram.

14 Best Attractions in Sultanahmet Istanbul

Strolling through Sultanahmet Square, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere in the company of Istanbul’s most popular attractions, museums, mosques, churches, fountains, and historical sites, and resting in the numerous restaurants and cafes in the area is one of the best things to do in Sultanahmet to do.

Approximately all of the most visited historical sites in Istanbul, such as the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi PalaceBlue MosqueBasilica CisternIstanbul Archeology Museum, and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are located here and can all be explored on foot.

Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square, also known as Hippodrome and surrounded by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, is a popular meeting point and a very impressive tourist zone of Sultanahmet leading to all historical sites around Sultanahmet.

The Hippodrome from the 4th century of the Byzantine period, the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpent Column, the Colossus, the Column of the Constantinian Porphyry Genitus, and the German Fountain are the main attractions in the square.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Sultanahmet Istanbul

The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) is one of the most beautiful mosques and landmarks in Istanbul and the world. It was built in the 17th century (1603-1617) by order of Sultan Ahmet I.

Its name comes from the very beautiful blue interior “Iznik tiles”. It is a magnificent example of Turkish and Islamic architecture and one of the most visited attractions and mosques in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia Sultanahmet Istanbul

Dating back to 325, Hagia Sophia is a former church and museum that has been declared one of the world’s greatest architectural works and recognized as the 8th Wonder of the World. Hagia Sophia is also one of the most visited landmarks and museums in Istanbul and the world.

Serving as a museum since 1935, the July 10, 2020 decree to officially declare Hagia Sophia a mosque after the Turkish Administrative Court annulled a 1934 decision that paved the way for Hagia Sophia to be used as a museum.

Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace Museum In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Topkapi Palace is one of the richest museums in the world is a magnificent oriental palace and one of the greatest architectural works in the world. It was the residence of the Ottoman sultans as well as the administrative and educational center of the empire. It houses the finest samples of seal, bookbinding, jewelry, and box art as well as inscriptions.

The former imperial kitchen houses the world’s best collection of Chinese porcelain. The Sultans’ costumes were also exhibited there. The treasury has a stunning and excellent collection of jewels such as emeralds, rubies, and diamonds adorning turban crests, swords, and golden thrones embroidered with seed pearls.

And finally comes the famous Harem, the private part of the palace where the Sultans’ wives and concubines lived.

Hagia-Irene Museum

Hagia-Irene Museum In Sultanahmet Istanbul

The 4th century Hagia Irene, formerly a church, now a museum, also serves as a center for cultural activities and exhibitions and is located in the 1st courtyard of the Topkapi Palace Museum.

It consists of three sections which include; the Naos, narthex, and atrium, while the standing atrium is the only surviving example from the Byzantine period.

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

Museum Of Turkish And Islamic Art In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Located in the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, it is one of the most important buildings of 16th-century Ottoman civil architecture. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art displays very unique, more than 40,000 exhibits in the areas of carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic, and ethnography.

Archaeological Museums Istanbul

Archaeological Museums Istanbul

One of the richest archeology museums in the world, the Istanbul Archeology Museum consists of three separate museums on the premises, including the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tile Pavilion.

Museums house over a million immense collections of civilizations such as Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations that have had deep impacts throughout history.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

One of the most impressive and mystical buildings in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is a very calm and peaceful place conveyed by the columns through impressive arches. The columns, including the iconic Medusa heads, were assembled from ancient structures and sculpted from various types of marble.

Arasta Bazaar

Arasta Bazaar

Located behind the Blue Mosque, Arasta Bazaar is a lively and touristy place where you can find a variety of rugs, leather, handicrafts, and souvenir shops.

Great Palace Mosaics Museum

Great Palace Mosaics Museum In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Also known as the Istanbul Mosaic Museum, it is an impressive mosaic museum located in the Arasta Bazaar within the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) complex. The mosaics in the museum have themes from daily life, nature, and mythology.

Hurrem Sultan Hamam (Turkish Bath)

Hurrem Sultan Hamam In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Located between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the historic Hurrem Sultan Hamam (Turkish Bath) (1556-1557) was built by the architect Sinan at the request of the Hurrem Sultan, the famous wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The operating Turkish bath (separate baths for men and women) offers hammam packages with various massage therapies and rituals. There is also an outdoor cafe and restaurant where you can rest during your Sultanahmet walk.

Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III

Fountain Of Sultan Ahmet Iii In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Located in front of the Imperial Gate of Topkapi Palace, the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III is a gorgeous Baroque-style fountain built in 1728.

German fountain

German Fountain In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Located between Sultanahmet Square and the Blue Mosque, the German Fountain, also known as the “Fountain of Kaiser Wilhelm II”, is a beautiful fountain with great architecture, columns, and a beautiful dome.

Gulhane Park

Gulhane Park In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Located between Sultanahmet and Eminonu, Gulhane Park (Rose Garden) is one of the most beautiful parks in Istanbul for tourists and locals. The park covers a huge area. There are a variety of very beautiful gardens, trees, pools, and outdoor cafes with impressive views of the Bosphorus.

The park also houses a museum of the history of science and technology in Islam, which is unique in the world and worth seeing.

4 Best Hotels In Sultanahmet Istanbul

I have listed only the best hotels in Sultanahmet. I’ve visited some of these places myself.

My recommendations are based not just on my own experiences, but also on the feedback from thousands of travelers who’ve stayed in these hotels. This makes it easier for you to discover the best accommodations in Sultanahmet in Istanbul.

I have only featured hotels that have received an average rating of 8.2 out of 10 or higher.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At Sultanahmet

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At Sultanahmet Istanbul

This 5-star hotel is very close to the historic heart of the city, just a short walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It offers comfortable and well-furnished rooms, with the Marmara Suite being the largest at 130 square meters.

For a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, the hotel’s beautiful gardens are perfect. And for a truly unforgettable experience, visit the rooftop lounge. The A’ya Terrace offers unique cocktails and a stunning view of the Hagia Sophia at sunset.

Price: from 590€ for 2 persons /1 night


Kybele Hotel

Kybele Hotel In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Kybele Hotel, located in the Sultanahmet area, doubles as a charming and unusual boutique hotel and restaurant. This 3-star hotel catches the eye of those passing by with its colorful harmony and unique decor. The owners have spent years gathering antiques to decorate the inside, creating a captivating atmosphere with exquisite antiques.

Guests can enjoy authentic appetizers and a wide selection of dishes from both Turkish and international cuisines. For those in search of a stunning view, a visit to the hotel’s terrace is all that’s needed.

Price: from 590€ for 2 persons /1 night


Kaftan Hotel

Kaftan Hotel In Sultanahmet Istanbul

The Kaftan Hotel is a 3-star hotel perfectly located for visiting historical places in Sultanahmet, very close to the Mosaic Museum and the Blue Mosque. Here, you’ll feel the friendly Turkish hospitality.

The hotel’s inside is decorated in a traditional style, making it feel cozy and comfortable, like a home away from home. It has 20 rooms, all decorated nicely in soft colors to make the space warm and inviting. If you’re looking for a clean place with a good location, friendly people, and comfort, think about staying at Kaftan Hotel in Istanbul.

There’s also a terrace on the roof where you can have hot or cold drinks any time, with a beautiful view of the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque.

Price: from 69€ for 2 persons /1 night


Peyk Hotel

Peyk Hotel In Sultanahmet Istanbul

The Peyk Hotel is a 3-star hotel that’s conveniently located near all the major sites in the Historic Peninsula and close to the tram station, making it easy to get around.

The rooms at Peyk Hotel are elegantly furnished, clean, and comfortable. You’ll enjoy free WiFi everywhere in the hotel, air conditioning, and LED TVs with satellite channels in all rooms.

Around the hotel, you’ll find plenty of restaurants. Plus, Peyk Hotel has a restaurant where you can enjoy an open buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Price: from 130€ for 2 persons /1 night


5 Best Places To Eat & Drink in Sultanahmet Istanbul

Deraliye Restaurant

Deraliye Restaurant In Sultanahmet Istanbul

For over 35 years, Deraliye Restaurant in Sultanahmet has been serving traditional flavors that once graced the tables of the Ottoman palace. The menu at Deraliye Ottoman Palace Cuisine includes dishes from Central Asia to Iranian cuisine, all made according to the original recipes from the Ottoman era.

At Deraliye, you can enjoy special dishes like stuffed vine leaves with sour cherry, stuffed cabbage with chestnuts, and Stuffed Sudak Fish. Deraliye has become one of the most popular restaurants in Sultanahmet, drawing both locals and tourists with its unique and historic dining experience.

Address: Alemdar Mahallesi Ticaret Hane Sokak Giriş Kat No 10, 34122, Istanbul

Matbah Restaurant

Matbah Restaurant In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Matbah Restaurant, which specializes in Ottoman cuisine, is among the preferred restaurants for Turkish dishes and Turkish cuisine as well as Ottoman cuisine. The group menus at Matbah Restaurant also have special names such as Dersaadet and İstinbolin.

These menus offer special dishes from the Ottoman palace cuisine, such as almond soup, lamb neck with plums, imambayıldı, sailor’s pastry with honey, nrbaç, and hibeş. Matbah’s summer special “a la carte” menu includes cold appetizers such as baba gannuş and stuffed squid with shrimp.

Matbah Restaurant serves meals accompanied by classical Turkish music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Address: Cankurtaran, Caferiye Sk. No:6 D:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul


Saray Restaurant  In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Saray Restaurant in Eminönü is a great place to enjoy fresh and quality fish. Here, you can savor seasonal fish along with a variety of salads. If you’re looking for a delightful fish meal with a view of the sea, Saray Restaurant offers this experience at affordable prices. It’s the go-to spot in Eminönü for seafood lovers.

 Address: Yeni, Alti Boğaz Tarafi, Galata Köprüsü, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul

Hocapaşa Pidecisi

Hocapaşa Pidecisi In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Hocapaşa Pidecisi is the most well-known and oldest pita place on the Historical Peninsula. They make the pitas just how you like them, serving them hot and crispy. You’ll be surprised by the variety they offer, including pitas with minced meat, eggs, cubed meat, cheese, sausage, and even pizza. Make sure you come hungry to try different flavors. If you’re looking for a filling meal at a good price, this is the place to go.

Address: Hoca Paşa, Ankara Caddesi & Hoca Paşa Sokak No:11, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul

Pandeli Restaurant

Pandeli Restaurant In Sultanahmet Istanbul

The Spice Bazaar, a must-visit spot on the Historical Peninsula, houses Pandeli Restaurant. Here, you’ll find delicious dishes waiting for you. Because it’s so popular, some dishes might run out by lunchtime and not be available until the evening. To make sure you get to try their most famous dishes, it’s a good idea to call ahead and reserve a table. Pandeli Restaurant has been around since 1901 and continues to be a favorite among both local and international tourists. It’s worth adding to your list of places to eat.

Address: Mısır Çarşısı No: 1 (The Spice Bazaar) Eminönü (Ragıp Gümüşpala Caddesi) İstanbul

Best Places to Shop In Sultanahmet

Lamps At Grand Bazaar In Sultanahmet Istanbul

Sultanahmet isn’t just a great place to shop now; it was also a key shopping area in Istanbul during the Ottoman era. Key shopping spots in this district include Arasta Bazaar, Nuru Osmaniye Street, and the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is especially popular with tourists and is one of the top shopping destinations, with over 3000 shops.