<p>Map: Istanbul</p>

Like Rome, the oldest part of Istanbul is built on seven hills. “The (1) Süleymaniye Mosque complex crowns the third hill of Istanbul.”—Saffet Emre Tonguç, author, 101 Must-see Places in Turkey. Commissioned by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1550 to celebrate his 30th year on the Ottoman throne, this mosque complex designed by master architect Mimar Sinan aspired to rival the Hagia Sofia in size and majesty. In the rose garden are the (2) tiled tombs of Sultan Süleyman and his Ukrainian consort Roxelana. The modest (3) grave of Sinan (www.turkishculture.org/pages) lays in a triangular plot on Mimar Sinan Caddesi, opposite the eastern Ağalar Gate. The complex’s (4) soup kitchen (Şifahane Caddesi 6) is around the corner on Şifahane Sokak and back in business serving traditional Ottoman cuisine.

Continue along Şifahane to Şemsettin Sokak. Turn left where the street dead-ends into Vefa Sokak, which becomes Katip Çelebi Caddesi. On the left is (5) Vefa Bozacısı (Katip Çelebi Caddesi 104; www.vefa.com.tr/english/tarihce.htm), a 130-year-old Albanian family institution producing the fermented millet drink boza as well as balsamic vinegar. One block ahead, cross into the greenery of Saraçhane Parkı, a district named for its leatherworkers. Inside the park you’ll find a one-room, twisted minaret mosque—(6) Burmali Cami—with four columns recycled from ancient Byzantium, and (7) Şehzade Mehmed Kulliyesi (www.archmuseum.org/biyografi), the earliest imperial complex built by Mimar Sinan. Housing public services including schools, medical and kitchen facilities, stables, and a caravanserai (roadside inn), it was dedicated to one of Süleyman’s son who died young. Note the prince’s "superb marble mausoleum with tiles from the best 16th-century periods.”—Edda Renker Weissenbacher, author, İznik Tiles in Istanbul.

Across Şehzadebası Caddesi rises the modern (8) Istanbul municipality office complex (Şehzadebası Caddesi 25). To its right, above the Haşim İşcan underpass, named for one of Istanbul’s first mayors, are the meager remains of the sixth-century (9) Church of Saint Polyeuktos, founded by Byzantine princess Juliana Anicia, granddaughter of Valentinian III. The church was designed from biblical accounts of Jerusalem’s Temple of Solomon, and its pomegranate-blossom piers now embellish Basilica San Marco in Venice.

Head along Atatürk Bulvarı, which begins the Fatih district, to the (10) Valens Aqueduct (Bozdoğan Kemeri). This 65-foot-high (20-meter-high) bridge spans more than a half-mile (805 meters) and was completed in the fourth century. Now straddling automobile traffic, the aqueduct once transported water from Belgrade Forest, 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) north. Just beneath the archways sits the 14-room madrassa theological school and (11) tomb of Gazanfer Ağa (Kovacılar Sokak 12), chief of Topkapı Palace’s white eunuchs, who was executed for meddling in harem affairs. The 1599 shrine contains an octagonal public fountain, a place for distributing free goods to the public on holy days. The complex displays the satirical collections of the (12) Caricature and Humor Arts Museum (Kovacılar Sokak 12), dating from the first cartoon in an 1867 Turkish newspaper.


About Istanbul and Turkey

  • <p>Photo: Grand Bazaar</p>


    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Istanbul.

  • <p>Photo: Whirling dervishes</p>


    Explore Turkey through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

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