Roman Heritage Walking Tour I, Istanbul (Self Guided)

Constantinople, being an imperial capital for over a millennium, still contains many important buildings and sites that show the greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you through the most famous of them, giving you a glimpse of the most developed and flourishing city of the middle ages in Europe - Constantinople (Present day Istanbul).
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Roman Heritage Walking Tour I Map

Guide Name: Roman Heritage Walking Tour I
Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul (See other walking tours in Istanbul)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
Author: kane
Boukoleon Palace

1) Boukoleon Palace

The Boukoleon Palace, also known as the Bucoleon was originally one of the Byzantine Palaces of Constantinople. The palace was most probably built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, but scholars still dispute its exact date of construction.

Lying on the shore of the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, the Palace was originally called Hormisdas. Justinian I named the Palace Bucoleon after the end of the 6th century. The name Bucoleon represents a Bull and a Lion, whose statues stood at the port in front of the palace. The palace was also called "House of Justinian" and "House of Hormisdas".

The palace was greatly expanded and renovated under Emperor Theophilos, and he added a large façade on top of the sea facing walls. Today, the palace lies is ruins, but it most probably had a balcony looking out towards the sea.

Boniface of Montferrat took the Boukoleon Palace during the Fourth Crusade in the 1204 sacking of Constantinople. The treasures that the palace housed at that time were beyond imagination. Also taking refuge at the palace from the invaders was Princess Margaret, the daughter of Bela III of Hungary. When Boniface captured her, he married the princess. The palace is a good place to visit to get a glimpse of Byzantine architecture, even though it mostly lies in ruins today.
Walled Obelisk

2) Walled Obelisk

The Walled Obelisk is also called the “Constantine Obelisk” and “The Walled Column”. It is situated at the south end of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which is now called the Sultanahmet Square, near the Serpentine Column in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square is also called “At Meydani” which means “Horse Square”. This is a popular tourist spot in Istanbul, and the famous Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are also located right next to the Sultanahmet Park. The Egyptian Obelisk and the German fountain lie close to the Walled Obelisk.

The obelisk is 32 meters high, and the year of its original construction is unknown. Constantine VII named it the “Constantine Obelisk” when he repaired it in the tenth century with roughly cut stones. Constantine had elaborately decorated the structure with gilded bronze plaques that portrayed the many victories and triumphs of his Grandfather Basil I. The obelisk also had a sphere constructed on its top by Constantine.

During the Fourth Crusade, all the bronze plaques were stolen, and in 1204, the crusaders melted the plates to be used for other purposes. The obelisk suffered further damage by young Janissaries, who liked to climb the structure to show off their prowess. Today, it is visited by tourists from far and wide.
Serpentine Column

3) Serpentine Column

The Serpentine Column also called the “Serpent Column”, the “Delphi Tripod”, the “Plataean Tripod” and the Yılanlı Sütun in Turkish is an ancient column made of bronze located at the Sultanahmet square in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square was once called the Hippodrome of Constantinople and was also known as the Atmeydanı (Horse Square) during the Ottoman period.

The Serpentine Column was a part of an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod that was originally located in Delphi. Constantine the Great relocated the column to Constantinople in 324 AD. The serpent heads, present on top of the column fell from it during the late 17th century, and one is on display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

The column was built to celebrate the victory of the Greeks who defeated the Persians during the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. The column along with its bowl and golden tripod, that have been lost to the ages, were part of an offering made to Apollo at Delphi in 478 BC. Today the column is located near the “Walled Obelisk” and the “Egyptian Column” in Sultanahmet square, which is a popular tourist spot in Istanbul. The famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are also present near the Sultanahmet Park.
Obelisk of Theodosius

4) Obelisk of Theodosius

The Obelisk of Theodosius is the ancient Egyptian Obelisk of Pharaoh Tutmoses III. It is also called the Dikilitaş in Turkish. During the 4th century AD, the obelisk was re-erected by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, known today as Sultanahmet Meydanı or Sultanahmet square in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square is a famous tourist spot in Istanbul.

Originally the obelisk was built for the great temple of Karnak in Egypt, but it was transported up the river Nile to Alexandria by the Roman Emperor Constantius II in 357, to commemorate his 20 years on the throne. It was transported to current day Istanbul by Theodosius I.

Made out of red granite, the structure was originally 30 meters tall, but its lower part was damaged most probably due to its relocations. Today it is 19.6 meters high and along with its base, it reaches a height of 25.6 meters. On all four sides of the structure, inscriptions describing the victory of Tutmoses III in 1450 BC, on the banks of the Euphrates River are depicted. The obelisk has suffered a lot of damage due to its several relocations and earthquakes, and the missing parts have been replaced by bronze and cubes of porphyry.
Theodosius Cistern

5) Theodosius Cistern

The Theodosius Cistern was once part of the water-supply system of Constantinople. It was part of the 250 kilometers of aqueducts and its size speaks by itself for its importance - 32 nine-meters-high marble columns support the structure that provided fresh water to the Imperial Palace and to the Baths of Zeuxippus. Built in 5th century it still amazes visitors.
Column of Constantine

6) Column of Constantine

The Column of Constantine is also known as the “Burnt Column” and Çemberlitaş sütunu in Turkish (çemberli means 'hooped' and taş means 'stone'). The column was constructed by Constantine the Great in 330 AD as a Roman monumental column. It is present in Yeniçeriler Caddesi between and Beyazıt and Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul.

The column was originally built of 9 cylindrical blocks of porphyry and had the statue of Constantine the Great resting on it, depicted as Apollo. The orb carried by the statue was said to house a fragment of the True Cross. The foot of the column consisted of a sanctuary that housed even more relics from the crosses of the 2 thieves who were crucified along with Jesus Christ.

It got damaged in 1106 AD by a strong gale and restored by the Byzantine emperor Manuel I. the emperor placed a cross on top of the column replacing the original statue. The Ottoman Turks removed the cross after taking over Constantinople in 1453. It is also called the 'Burnt Column' due to a fire in 1779, that scorched the column black. In 1985, the column and many other monuments in Istanbul were listed as World Heritage Sites.

Walking Tours in Istanbul, Turkey

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Creating your own self-guided walk in Istanbul is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Roman Heritage Walking Tour II

Roman Heritage Walking Tour II

Constantinople was an imperial capital for over a millennium and still contains many sites that demonstrate the importance and greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you trough the most famous of them, located in the inner city of Constantinople.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

Istanbul, throughout its history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a center of commerce and trade- a place to buy all kinds of exotic items. Today’s modern traveler in Istanbul also enjoys an interesting and colorful shopping experience. The sheer number of shops, bazaars, products, prices and insistent shopkeepers, however, can be overwhelming. To focus your search and improve your...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km
Shopping Tour of Istanbul

Shopping Tour of Istanbul

Istanbul can easily claim to be one of the most interesting cities in the world. Located on the very edge of Europe, it later expanded into Asia resulting in a mixture of both cultures. When it comes to shopping you will be amazed by the variety of goods you can buy here and the way everybody bargains - even in the grocery store. Take this tour and explore the legendary bazaars and the hidden...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Mosques Walking Tour

Mosques Walking Tour

Istanbul has been a center of Islam for over half a millennium. Add to the fact that it was always growing in population and wealth, and we have the reason why there are so many dazzling mosques in the city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 km
Museums Tour

Museums Tour

Istanbul is a city with nearly 2 millenia of history as a capital of empires and the largest city of the republic of Turkey. Tourists may see history on every corner, but museums have the finest artifacts on display. We invite you to walk through the best museums in Istanbul in the guide below.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.6 km
Architectural Walking Tour

Architectural Walking Tour

Istanbul can offer its visitors quite an unforgettable experience when it comes to architecture. Here you can admire both the architectural achievements of the long vanished Eastern Roman Empire and its influence and the traditional Ottoman-Arabic style. Take this tour to see some of the best examples these architectural styles.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul, known throughout history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a major center of commerce and trade, a place where merchants and general folk would rush to regularly in search of exotic things. In our days, modern travelers to Istanbul are also bound to enjoy a truly magnificent...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Istanbul for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Istanbul has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Istanbul's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Istanbul Tourist Pass or Istanbul Welcome Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple Istanbul's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows user to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Istanbul hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel, Deluxe Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel, Great Fortune Hotel & Spa.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Istanbul, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Istanbul typically costs somewhere between US$20 and US$80 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Istanbul from the open top of a bus listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the two interconnecting routes (the ticket is valid for both). The ticket provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour access, plus a free ride on Bosphorus sightseeing boat, and more.

- No visit to Istanbul is complete without savoring authentic Turkish cuisine. Embark on a 5-hour night food tour of Istanbul for a generous dollop of delectable Turkish culinary delights at the food hotspots many tourists don’t even know about.

- Get yourself lost for a while in the aromatic maze of stalls at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar in the company of a knowledgeable guide, followed by a jaunt aboard a sightseeing boat along the Bosphorus Strait!

- Prepare for an action-packed day of sightseeing visiting Istanbul's top attractions in a single go including historic district Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the dazzling Grand Bazaar and more.

- Follow an expert guide on a 3.5-hour walk around Istanbul’s must-see attractions to familiarize yourself with the city's contrasting cultures and history.

- Take an opportunity to witness centuries-old Istanbul culture in the form of whirling dervishes performing their dance-like spiritual ceremony accompanied by Persian chanting and traditional Turkish music played by live orchestra.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Istanbul, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Gallipoli, Ephesus, or Cappadocia. For as little as circa US$100 up to US$300+ per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites (rock pillars, cave villages and subterranean cities), explore World War I battlefields, see the finely-preserved ancient eastern Mediterranean city and walk the pavements once strutted by toga-clad Romans, visit what is believed to be St. Mary’s last place of dwelling, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Istanbul, and transported either by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, private vehicle or a plane (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.