1 City 2 different districts. Taksim and Istanbul Old City, namely Sultanahmet. Both are the most crowded places in Istanbul, but they are the most much-frequented places for tourists. But there is a difference between them. Sultanahmet is a historical district with a mosque, museum, and cistern, while Taksim is a more modernized district with Galata Tower, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, bars, shopping centers and is mostly preferred by young people. Both have a lot to offer to native and foreign tourists. So if you have come to Istanbul and have time, we recommend you to visit these 2 different faces of Istanbul. That is when you experience the real Istanbul. In this article, we compared Istanbul Old City and Taksim for you. Let’s analyze what you can do in these 2 beautiful districts together.
Sultanahmet, which we can call the historical center of Istanbul, is the first hill of Istanbul, consisting of 7 Hills. You will feel its architecture and historical texture with each cell. On the other hand, there is Taksim, with its always lively nightlife, crowded streets, popular cafes and restaurants, bibliopole and passages where you can find everything from books to ornaments. Two different cultures are located just 15 minutes away on a traffic-free road. Let’s see what awaits us in these two districts together.
Places To Stroll Around In Istanbul Old City
Old City, Sultanahmet is connected to the Fatih district of Istanbul. First, let’s start with places that you must see when you go to Sultanahmet, whether you are local or foreign. If you go to this beautiful historical district do not turn back without seeing these palaces and mosques. Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Hurrem Sultan Hammam are the main places you can visit here. When you visit these historical museums and see historical artifacts, you will feel like you have embarked on a journey through history. Because in this historical peninsula you can still see traces of the ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empire. Moreover, Sultanahmet Meydan is a pedestrianized area (area closed to traffic). So you can easily walk everywhere. Those who want to see Eminönü and Beyazıt can easily go by tram from Sultanahmet in a short time.
1- Topkapı Palace
Topkapı is among the most visited museums in the world. The palace, which is very rich in history and architecture, is teeming with nature. It is located on a triangular promontory overlooking the Istanbul Strait and the Golden Horn. During the Ottoman period, 25 Sultans lived in this palace. After the conquest of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, who sees the city in ruins, eventually begun to beautify the city by saying to an architect to build new places. The main purpose of building the palace is to work, rest and conduct state affairs. The harem section, which was not in the plan, was later built in the middle of the 16th century. The palace is in the form of a castle. And there are all the structures that a small city can have. The tour of the Palace begins with the first gate Bab-ı Humayun, and then you move to the first courtyard called Alay Square. These courtyards become significant from the outside to the inside. The entrance fee of the palace is 200 TL. Topkapi Palace is one of the largest architectural works in the world.
2- Hagia Sophia Mosque
Hagia Sophia was first built as a church in 325. After many years, it was rebuilt and turned into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet. It served as a museum from 1935 to 2020. With the decision taken in 2020, it started to serve as a mosque again. It is adjacent to Topkapi Palace, so it is close. It is very rich in art and architecture and is one of the most significant structures in the world. For a tourist who visited Istanbul, Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the first places that comes to mind. Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom” in ancient Greek. Hagia Sophia has been damaged many times in history for reasons such as fire and rebellion, but it has always been restored and preserved its importance until today. Mimar Sinan built a retaining wall and strengthened the building. If you want to travel in history, you can visit Hagia Sophia Mosque for free.
3- Blue Mosque
The mosque, whose English name is Blue Mosque because the blue color is the majority on the wall ornaments (Iznik tiles and domes) inside the building, was completed in 7 years by a student of architect Sinan. With its 6 minarets and magnificent architecture, it is one of the most beautiful structures in the world and one of the most visited mosques. The digging used in the construction of the Blue Mosque is now exhibited in the Topkapı Palace. There is Sultan first Ahmed’s single-domed tomb and sundial; behind it, there is the Museum of large palace mosaics belonging to Byzantine palaces; inside of it, there are 3 entrance doors, 260 windows, 22,000 pieces of Iznik and Kütahya tiles. Blue Mosque is located in Sultanahmet Square. You can come to Sultanahmet by Bağcılar- Kabataş tram.
4- Basilica Cistern
An underground water tank that serves to accumulate rainwater is called a cistern. Because the water resources of the historical peninsula of Istanbul were also very limited, during the Byzantine period, Istanbul also had quite a lot of cisterns. Istanbul is a city suitable for siege due to it is surrounded by seas on three sides. And it has already been besieged many times. During these sieges, which lasted for months, the people survived by drinking water from these cisterns. This cistern has a water storage capacity of 100,000 tons. The Basilica Cistern is located next to the tram road, opposite the Hagia Sophia Mosque. In the end, when you go to the cistern, which serves as a museum today, we recommend that you see the head of Medusa, which is upside down under a column. There are 336 columns in the cistern, each 9 meters high and 4.8 meters far from each other. Those who want to visit the unique Basilica Cistern can visit it every day of the week between 9.00 a.m- 6.00 p.m. We should say that the museum is closed on the first day of public holidays and bairams. The price of the museum varies. It is 15 tl for local visitors and 30 tl for tourists and 5 TL for students and teachers. A museum card is not valid.
5- Istanbul Archaeological Museum
Istanbul Archaeological Museum is a museum that can be considered one of the largest historical collections in the world. This museum houses historical artifacts from ancient Greek and Roman times, as well as hundreds of artifacts belonging to civilizations such as Assyria, Hittite, and Egyptian. The museum has a neo-classical style building. The first written treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh, is on display in this museum. The museum is closed on Mondays. You can visit by giving 60 tl the other days of the week between 10.00 a.m- 5.00 p.m. The winter period between 9.00 a.m and 6.00 p.m. Before you go, in case there are changes in tickets and times we suggest you visit the muze.gov.tr website.
6- Turkish And Islamic Art Museum
Turkish And Islamic Art Museum was first built in 1914 in a building located in the Suleymaniye Mosque complex. But due to the problem of theft experienced at that time, Osman Hamdi Mister collected artifacts and opened a new museum as the Museum of Islamic Foundations. This museum takes its present name after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in the following years. In 1983, it was moved to the place of Ibrahim Pasha Palace, which was built for Ibrahim Pasha during Suleyman the magnificent period. The museum has been in the same place since that day. As the name suggests, the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum offers us Turkish- Islamic works. The museum, which has a unique carpet collection, has 1,700 pieces of Anatolian, Iranian, Caucasian, Uşak carpets. Apart from carpet, there are many works of manuscripts, wood, glass-metal-ceramic. Except for Mondays you can enter the museum every day between 10.00 a.m and 5.00 p.m. The price is 60 tl. The Museum card is valid.
7- Hürrem Sultan Hammam
Hürrem Sultan Hammam is located between Hagia Sophia Museum and Blue Mosque. Architect Sinan built this hammam upon saying Sultan Suleiman the magnificent because Hürrem Sultan wanted it. In this hammam, the male and female parts are separate. Today, you can go to this hammam and get a massage and learn about the hammam culture of our country at the same time. Moreover, you can taste Turkish cuisine by sitting in the cafes and restaurants located in the garden.
8- Gülhane Park
Gülhane Park is located between Topkapı Palace and Sarayburnu. For many years it was used as the garden of Topkapi Palace. They later turned it into a park. In addition, Atatürk first showed the Latin alphabet to the public in this park, and in 1839, the Imperial Edict of Gülhane was first read in this park. There are children’s gardens and tea gardens around the park.
Places Where You Can Eat In Istanbul Old City
You have to see Sultanahmet not only for its historical sites but also for its restaurants where you can taste delicious Turkish and Ottoman cuisine. We ran some names for you guys.
Fine Dine Istanbul Restaurant offers Ottoman and Turkish cuisine, with a stunning view of the Bosphorus Bridge on one side, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia Museum, and the Blue Mosque, and the Sea of Marmara on the other.
Khorasani Kebap Restaurant (Grill House), the restaurant on meat and grill is located one street behind the tram station.
For Seasons Hotel- Seasons Restaurant Sultanahmet is a luxury restaurant where you can sit with stunning views of Sultanahmet.
Deraliye Ottoman Restaurant is a restaurant that includes Ottoman cuisine. Dishes and desserts are made with Ottoman recipes. Matbah Ottoman Palace Restaurant is another restaurant where Ottoman dishes are served.
Sultanahmet Grilled Meatball Restaurant, we recommend that you do not leave Sultanahmet without eating meatballs in a place that has become a tradition since 1920. By sitting in the space, you will feel the spirit of the street and Istanbul.
The Fisherman Sabahattin started as a small restaurant and grew. Then moved to a historic building, which was restored in 1927. It is our suggestion to those who will come to Sultanahmet and prefer to eat fish or seafood.
Places Where You Can Stay In Istanbul Old City
Because Sultanahmet is a central and tourist district, there are many hotels, boarding houses. It is possible to find a place to stay at every price. But according to the price, the location and facilities of the hotel change. We have researched several 5, 4, and 3-star hotels for you.
- Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel (Five- Star Hotel)
This 5- star luxury hotel costs from 164,22 dollars per person per night. Breakfast, dinner, drinks, one-way airport transfer, and free shuttle service are available. There are 360 meters between Sultanahmet District and 130 meters between Basilica Cistern.
Address: Divanyolu Avenue, Alemdar District, Ticarethane Street, No: 10, Sultanahmet/ İstanbul 34122
- Ibrahim Pasha Hotel (Four Star Hotel)
Ibrahim Pasha Hotel is a 4-star hotel that is more suitable than Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel. You can stay in this hotel for 102,47 dollars per person per night. This price includes breakfast. You might cancel for free if you wish. It is the nearest hotel to Sultanahmet District. There are 170 meters between them. It is 420 meters away from the Basilica Palace.
Address: Terzihane Street, No: 7, Sultanahmet- Fatih/ İstanbul 34122
- Lapis Inn Hotel (Three- Star)
Although it is lower star than other hotels, it has more facilities. If you want to get good service for less money, it is a hotel that you should evaluate. One night costs 63,03 dollars per person. This price includes free breakfast. Breakfast, late check-out, room sterilization, quick check-in, early check-in, spa discount, free premium wi-fi, and free wi-fi are among the facilities the hotel offers. It is only 330 meters from the Sultanahmet district and 160 meters from the Basilica Palace.
Address: Alemdar District, Ticarethane Çıkmazı Street, No: 3 Fatih/ İstanbul, Sultanahmet 34110
How To Go?
You might easily go to Sultanahmet by using the Bağcılar- Kabataş tram. If you are coming from Taksim, you can first reach Kabataş by funicular and then Sultanahmet by taking the tram from Kabataş. If you are coming from Beşiktaş, you can first go to Kabataş by bus or on foot, and then arrive at Sultanahmet by taking the tram. Those who want can also go by bus lines 32A, 54E, 66, 92B, BN1, HVIST- 12.
Places To Stroll Around In Taksim
Taksim is a district of Beyoğlu located on the European side of Istanbul. It stays in our mind with its crowded streets. In Taksim, where young people go very fondly, you can visit the bibliopole and dive into books, if you want, you can sit in cozy cafes and spend a pleasant time with your friends. Unlike Sultanahmet, Taksim is famous for its nightlife. There are places on the bright streets where you can go and have fun and drink alcohol. So, where should you see when you go to Taksim? It’s really hard to sum it up, but we’ve searched the top places for you. Let’s examine it together.
1- Gezi Park
Gezi Park is located behind Taksim Square. It is a park where you can sit and relax, have a good time with your children and get full of greenery.
2- Istiklal Caddesi
The first thing that comes to mind when you say Taksim is Istiklal Street. This street, which is noteworthy for its historic buildings is open only to pedestrians and has cafes, bars, restaurants, art centers, cinemas, shopping centers on both sides, offer 7/24 nightlife and entertainment to everyone local or tourist. Along the street, you can visit famous places such as Madame Tussauds Museum, Sent Antuan Catholic Church, Pera Museum, Flower Passage, and French Street. You can enjoy the nightlife of Istanbul which lasts until morning at Nevizade, located at the back of Galatasaray Fish Market, and Asmalımescit and Çiçek Passage, which have cute narrow streets full of tables and chairs around.
3- Galata Tower
If you want to take a look at Istanbul from the hill, the best place for this is Galata Tower. You can watch the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Galata Tower was first built as a lantern tower. The tower, which was used as a warehouse during the Byzantine period, began to be used as a watchtower after the conquest of Istanbul. During the reign of Suleiman the magnificent, it became a dungeon, and then a fire tower. This magnificent tower, which has not been destroyed despite having seen many wars, uprisings, and fires throughout history, is the symbol of the Galata district. You can also witness this history by paying 100 tl to the tower located at the end of Istiklal Street.
4- Atlas Passage
In the Atlas passage, which has cinema within it, you can shop pleasantly.
5- Terkos Passage
Unlike Atlas passage, Terkos Passage, located in the open air, is a place where you can find beautiful clothes.
6- Flower Passage
It is a passage where you will witness the culture of old Istanbul. It has many beautiful taverns and restaurants. It is always dynamic and lively.
7- Sent Antuan Church
It is just above Istiklal Street. Don’t pass this church without visiting.
8- Demirören Shopping Center
It is a large shopping mall building that will catch your eye on Istiklal Caddesi. Inside, you can find everything from food places to clothing stores. If you went to Taksim on a hot summer day, you could stop by to cool off and relax.
9- Pera Palas
It is a historical hotel where there is Atatürk’s room and which is the subject of novels.
10- Galatasaray High School
11- Atatürk Cultural Center
12- Middle Players Theatre
13- Istanbul Folk Theatre
14- Asmalı Stage
P.S. In this article, we summarized places to visit in Taksim in a summary for showing differences between Sultanahmet and Taksim. For a more detailed Taksim article, you can look at the “What to Do in Taksim” article on our site.
Places Where You Can Eat In Taksim
Taksim is a district with many alternatives in terms of food and drink. There are various restaurants, small cafes, taverns. So you won’t have any trouble finding a place that meets your every request. Even at the entrance to Istiklal Street, where you can eat on your feet and taste street delicacies, there are wet hamburgers. Because when you say Taksim, wet hamburgers come to our minds. Nevizade Street, French Street, Çiçek Passage, and Asmalımescit have bars and nightclubs where you can experience the nightlife. Take a look at the different concepts we have prepared for you.
1- Turkish- German Bookstore
It’s a cafe full of little books that can be called a complete student place. It has a quiet environment where you can sit, study, and read books. At the same time, you will be accompanied by German desserts.
2- Kızılkayalar Wet Hamburger
It is located just at the entrance to Istiklal. It is a convenient and delicious stop for snacking on your feet. However, you can experience the street spirit of Istanbul and Taksim.
3- 360 Istanbul
The restaurant, which is more elite than other places, has a stunning view of Istanbul day and night.
4- U2 Istanbul Irish Pub
It is just one of the hundreds of entertainment venues in Taksim. It is frequented by those who want to listen to music and have entertainment.
5- Fıccın Restaurant
It is a suitable place for those who like traditional tastes and want to taste Circassian and Anatolian cuisine. It is famous for its Turkish-type ravioli and proves that alcohol and home cooking can be compatible.
6- Historic Pano Winery
If you like wine, it’s the right place for you. You will get enough flavor in the winery which combines meat with special production wines of different flavors.
Places Where You Can Stay In Taksim
Taksim is a central district and has many hotels. Apart from hotels, there are low-priced and not-so-clean hostels. But these hostels are usually found in the back streets. The places where these hostels are located are more secluded and uncanny than the places where other beautiful hotels are. In this article, we investigated three popular hotels in Taksim.
1- Point Hotel Taksim
Point Hotel Taksim is 2,7 km away from the center. A night is 175,84 dollars for per person. You have a right to free cancellation.
Topçu Street No: 2 Taksim-Beyoğlu/ Istanbul 34437
2- Faros Hotel Taksim
It is 2,4 km from the center. Thanks to the fact that it is 180 meters between public transport, you can easily travel within Istanbul. Airport transfers are available with an extra charge. Room service, spa, wi-fi, library are also available at the hotel.
Taksim Street No: 55, Taksim- Beyoğlu, 34437
3- Ragip Pasha Apartment
You can stay for 89,09 dollars per person per night. You have the right to cancel free. The apartment is 2.1 km away from the center. Parking is available.
How To Go?
Taksim is easy to reach because it is a central place and there are many public transport stops. It is possible to go to Taksim by bus from many districts in Istanbul. 37T, 38KT, 40, 48T, 49T, 72T, 129T, DT2 are bus lines with stops in Taksim. Apart from the bus, if you are coming from the Anatolian side, you can come to Beşiktaş, Kabataş or Karaköy by ferry, you can reach Taksim by yellow dolmus from Beşiktaş, Kabataş, and Karaköy by funicular. The M2 metro line is another transportation option for going to Taksim.
Is It Worthing To Visit Istanbul Old City And Taksim?
Sultanahmet vs Taksim. As an Istanbulite, I can easily say that the two districts are more than worth visiting, exploring, seeing. Two different districts of Turkey’s largest city. They both have tons to offer. It’s not wrong to say that the only thing they have in common is tourist attractions. You’ll see authentic Turkish shops galore in both places. Both Sultanahmet and Taksim are tourist destinations, but the culture of both is different. Although Taksim is primarily frequented by tourists, it is a place locals live. Furthermore, young people prefer having fun, shopping or sitting in cafes and relaxing there. We cannot tell Taksim or Sultanahmet. Stay wherever it suits your tastes and hobbies, but be sure to visit both districts. Fatih district, which Sultanahmet is connected, has a more crowded population (396. 594) Beyoğlu, which Taksim is connected, has a smaller population (226,396).
Taksim is a place where you can feel the local atmosphere with many shops, buildings, restaurants. Sultanahmet is a place more touristic and where you can see more historical places, Turkish traditions, and cuisine. In Sultanahmet, you take a tourist trip, but in Taksim, you keep up with the daily routine. If we compare them at price, some things are more expensive in Istanbul Old City because Sultanahmet is more touristy. In Taksim, you can find some things at a more affordable price. As a location, Taksim is more suitable for accommodation due to its proximity to public transport and easy access to other districts. Apart from luxury and expensive hotels, there are cheap but questionable safety hostels.
Taksim also has modern restaurants, nightclubs, small cafes, and bars. In Sultanahmet, there are places to serve more Turkish cuisine, Turkish Delight, Turkish coffee, etc. Differences also arise in terms of culture and art. Taksim is home to many art centers, theatres, cinemas, and shops. You can look at books from a bookstore and then drink coffee and enjoy them. But Sultanahmet is mostly home to historical monuments, buildings, palaces, and mosques. While you can shop for souvenirs in Sultanahmet, you can shop for clothes, shoes from shopping malls, passages in Taksim.
We believe that you will find a piece of yourself in 2 districts that offer us two different cultures, and we recommend that you add both to your tour list and not leave Istanbul without visiting Istanbul Old City and Taksim.