Roman Heritage Walking Tour II, Istanbul (Self Guided)

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.
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Roman Heritage Walking Tour II Map

Guide Name: Roman Heritage Walking Tour II
Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul (See other walking tours in Istanbul)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Author: kane
Istanbul Archaeological Museums

1) Istanbul Archaeological Museums (must see)

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums (IAM) consist of three distinct museums: 1. The Archeological Museum 2. The Museum of the Ancient Orient and 3. The Museum of Islamic Art. Located in the Eminonu district of Istanbul, near the Topkapi Palace, the IAM houses some of the most remarkable objects and collections that span over a millennium in world history. The most distinctive and famous item exhibited is the Alexander Sarcophagus which was once believed to be made for Alexander the Great. The Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BC) which was signed between Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire and Ramesses II of Egypt is also on display. There are over one million objects housed in the IAM and the oldest objects age thousands of years BC. The IAM is distinctive as it has a vast collection of locally found artifacts, which are reminiscent of the origin of the city of Istanbul. Over 800,000 Ottoman decorations, coins, seals medals, stone works and statues are housed on the upper floors of the building where there is also a library with over 70,000 books.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a wider perspective on how cultures and kingdoms have shaped the world. Where east meets west!

Visit all the separate buildings to see the variety of collections, but make sure to focus on the intricately carved sarcophagi: they are the reason the museum was founded in the 19th century.
The Istanbul Museum Pass Card is valid here; buy it to get discounted access to the Archeology Museums, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts, and a bunch more.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-7pm
Hagia Irene

2) Hagia Irene

The Hagia Irene is also called the Hagia Eirene ("Holy Peace") in Greek and Aya İrini in Turkish. This is an Eastern Orthodox Church located in Istanbul, in the outer courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. After being closed, in April 2014 it was opened to public as a museum. The entrance fee is 20 TL per person.

The church originally stands on the location of a pre-Christian temple, and it is one of the first churches to be built in Constantinople. During the 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great commissioned the first Hagia Irene church to be built, but it was burned down in 532. In 538 the church was restored by Emperor Justinian I. Before the Hagia Sophia was completed, the Hagia Irene used to serve as the Patriarchate.

The church is typically built in the form of a Roman basilica and consists of two naives and an aisle, which have been divided by pillars and columns. Today, the Hagia Irene is one of the only existing examples of Byzantine architecture in the city of Istanbul, which has retained its original atrium. Constantine V had the church’s interior decorated with frescoes and mosaics.

Today, due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristics and impressive atmosphere, the museum is the setting for classical music concerts during the Istanbul Music Festival.

Operation hours: Wednesday - Monday 9 am - 5 pm.
Great Palace of Constantinople

3) Great Palace of Constantinople

The Great Palace of Constantinople is known by many names including the Palatium Magnum in Latin, the Büyük Saray in Turkish and also as the “Sacred Palace”. The palace was an Imperial Byzantine Palace, and it is located in the district of “Old Istanbul”, between the Hippodrome (now Sultanahmet square) and Hagia Sophia.

It used to serve as the royal residence of the Byzantine Emperors from 330 AD to 1081 AD. For over 800 years, this palace has served as the center of Imperial Administration for the Eastern Roman Empire. Today, only a few remnants of its original foundation have survived.

Constantine the great planned out the palace for himself and for his heirs in 330 AD, and during its history, it has been rebuilt and expanded several times. The palace complex suffered a lot of damage during the Nika riots in 532. The Emperor Justinian I rebuilt the palace lavishly and alterations and extensions were added by Basileos I and Justinian II.

During the Ottoman era, much of the Great Palace of Constantinople was demolished, and its many buildings served as housing, and mosques. Sultan Ahmet I demolished the remaining structures of the palace in order to build the great Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

4) Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) (must see)

This monumental structure was once an Orthodox patriarchal Basilica, then a mosque, and now, finally, is a Museum in the city of Istanbul. It was built in the fourth century by Constantine the Great as a Church, and it has seen much of the changing ruling powers of Istanbul ever since.

Many people mistake it as being dedicated to Saint Sofia, but the church was, in fact, originally dedicated to the second person of the Holy Trinity, and its full Greek name is “Church of the Holy Wisdom of God”, with Sophia meaning “Wisdom”.

Before its takeover by the Ottoman Turks in 1435, the church housed many holy relics. It was converted into a Mosque by Sultan Mehmed II, and it remained a mosque for the next 500 years.

Located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, Hagia Sophia is, without doubt, one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture and was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. It houses many decorations that make it distinctive and it is famous for its beautiful mosaics that decorate the entire structure.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique in it being both a church and a mosque, with respective symbols omnipresent.
Even if you are not familiar with Byzantine history, you will surely be impressed.
The multi-domed enclosure is so mesmerizing you can't take your eyes away from it!

Should you want to visit multiple museums, buy a Museum Pass at the Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts as there are few people in the line (the queues at the Hagia Sophia are usually enormous and it can take an hour or more to get a ticket). The Museum Pass (valid for 5 days) allows you to queue-jump and gets you into other museums/attractions as well.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7pm, last entrance: 6pm (Apr 15-Oct 31); 9am-5pm, last entrance: 4pm (Nov 1-Apr 14)
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı)

5) Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) (must see)

The Yerebatan Sarnıcı or the Basilica Cistern translates as “Cistern Sinking Into Ground” and is one of the many ancient cisterns that are present in the city of Istanbul. Located near the Hagia Sophia, on the peninsula of Sarayburnu, it was built in the 6th century AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the first. The name is derived from the Stoa Basilica upon which it was built. The Basilica was said to be built by Ilias and housed many structures and gardens. Historical texts state that over seven thousand slaves were involved in the construction of the Cistern.

The cistern used to provide a filtration system for the water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and surrounding buildings on the historic First Hill. After the Ottoman conquest, it continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace and continues to do so in modern times. It has undergone many restorations, both by Ottoman emperors and the Roman emperors before them.

Today, the cistern is open to visitors and houses many historical relics like the Medusa columns and triumphal arches. The former can be viewed in the cistern's North West corner.

Why You Should Visit:
Great (spooky) atmosphere that makes for magnificent photos and the preservation of history is done remarkably.
Right next to Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque, so easy to fit it in along with the other attractions.

Watch your step as some parts (near Medusa heads) can be extra slippery, and take a jacket especially if you get cold easily.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5:30pm

6) Milion

The Milion was a mile-marker monument that was erected in Constantinople in the 4th century AD. It had the same function as the Milliarium Aureum present in Rome, and acted as the starting point for measurement for all the roads leading to the main cities of the Byzantine Empire.

The monument remained intact as late as the 15th century, and during the 1960’s its fragments were discovered once again. The Milion is located in the district of Eminönü, in Istanbul, in the neighborhood of Cağaloğlu. It is located close to the Basilica Cistern, at the North corner of the square of the Hagia Sophia.

The Milion was built by Constantine the Great, when he was re building Byzantium which he had named Nova Roma (new Rome). He tried to emulate many features that Old Rome had including the Milion. When it was originally built, it was a tetra-pylon structure, surmounted by a dome, or a double triumphal arch, surmounted by a dome. It was built near the old Byzantium Walls, in the first region of the city. The monument was considered the origin of all the roads leading form Constantinople, to the European cities of the Byzantine Empire with distances marked on the structure.
Palace of Antiochos

7) Palace of Antiochos

The ruins of the Palace of Antiochos lie close to the Firuz Ağa Camii or the Firuz Aga Mosque, south of the Mese, and Northwest of the Hippodrome. The palace was most probably the residence of the Persian eunuch Praepositos Antiochos, who was serving at the court of Theodosios II.

The building is a hexagonal structure, built with five deep semicircular apses, and consisted of circular rooms located between the apses. The original 5th Century palace consisted of 2 sectors, the northern sector and the southern sector. The apses of the palace were polygonal from the outside and semicircular inside. The circular rooms were built between neighboring apses and a marble pool was built in the floor of the main hall. The palace was elaborately built, but when Antiochos fell from Imperial favor, all work was abandoned in 429. The palace was confiscated and used for imperial purposes until its conversion into the church of Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon.

During the early 7th century, when the body of St. Euphemia was brought to Constantinople from Chalcedon, the palace was converted into the church of St. Euphemia. The saint was a virgin who had performed a miracle and had been martyred in Chalcedon during the year 303. The church was also decorated with the relics of Saint Euphemia.

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 I

Roman Heritage Walking Tour I

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).

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
Roman Heritage of Outer Constantinople

Roman Heritage of Outer Constantinople

Istanbul, known as Constantinople in the Middle Ages, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over a millennium. Although conquered by the Ottomans in 15th century, the city still preserves many signs of its imperial Roman past that reflect the might and splendor of this long vanished empire.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 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
Walking the Bosphorus Coast

Walking the Bosphorus Coast

What Istanbul is today and what it was in medieval times is due to the geographical location of the city and the fact that it lies on the Bosphorus shore. This tour will take you along the coast so that you can enjoy the beautiful view and admire the city's architecture.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.7 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

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.