Istanbul tours are probably the most fulfilling cultural tours in Turkey that you will encounter.
have a lot of walking route options when it comes to discovering
Istanbul by walking.
You can start with “half day tours” and continue with “1 day tours”. Or you can combine my “Walking Tour” routes in a way that suits your needs.
You can be your own tour guides and create your own private tours after you read my suggestions for you.
Here is the 5th Walking Tour that covers the historic Beyazıt Square and magnificent Süleymaniye Complex;
This is an itinerary that introduces you to the early buildings of Ottoman Istanbul and Süleymaniye Complex; the artwork of Sinan, the Chief Architect.
You will see quite a number of works of Sinan, the Chief Architect in your Istanbul Tours. And this is the one that you shall not miss.
It starts with the Beyazıt Square and goes further afield to explore the historic imperial buildings surrounding the square and Süleymaniye Complex afterwards.
You will explore the Imperial Quarter of Byzantine Empire and the first Imperial Quarter of Ottoman Istanbul. You will witness how the Old City has changed over the centuries.
I tried to explain each interesting, historic building that you will encounter on this route of your Istanbul Tours. You don’t have to get in each and every one of them. I just wanted to inform you about the historical back-ground of the “First Imperial Quarter of the Old City” and the buildings around it.
This is one of the most important Imperial Quarters that you will see on your Istanbul Tours.
Beyazıt Square was an important place during the reign of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. This makes it one of the places which has a lot of historic layers that you will see on your Istanbul Tours.
Byzantine Empire Era:
In Byzantine times, the area became an important central point during the reign of Constantine the Great. The hill overlooking the Golden Horn was full of palaces, mansions and other monuments then.
Emperor Valens built the biggest fountain of the city here. Emperor Theodosius erected a basilica, monuments and statues here. It was named “Taurus Forum” said to have been inspired after the “Trian Forum” in Rome.
The "Forum of Taurus" was decorated with statues but all metal statues were melted down and the ones carved in stone were destructed, during the "Latin Invasion" in 13th century.
Ottoman Empire Era:
After the conquest in 1453, first Ottoman palace, Old Seraglio (Eski Saray) was built here in 1454. It was the first Ottoman imperial residence in Istanbul. Second biggest mosque complex in the city, Beyazıt Mosque Complex was built here in 1506.
The first palace of the Ottoman’s became the "Old Seraglio" (Eski Saray) after the construction of Topkapi Palace. Sultan and his household moved to the new Topkapı Palace. Old Seraglio became home to the wives and mothers of previous sultans, mothers of ex-princes who lost the chance to become a sultan and concubines who had lost the sultan's favor.
The Old Seraglio (Eski Saray) was demolished by Sultan Mahmut II. and the Ottoman Ministry of War and its magnificent gateway were erected on its site in 1866.
The marvelous gate on the North end of the square was the entrance gate of the Ministry of War of the Ottoman Empire. Now it welcomes students to the grounds of Istanbul University. And the building of Ministry of War is being used as the main building of Istanbul University.
What you see as the Beyazıt Square and many of the surrounding buildings are the main campus of the Istanbul University today. The campus occupies the ground on which Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror built his first palace right after the conquest.
By the way, let’s clear something out. There are no typos, the name of the Sultan was “Bayezid” but in time, the name became “Beyazıt”. Now the neighborhood, square and the complex are called “Beyazıt”.
This is the second biggest mosque complex erected in Istanbul that you will see on your Istanbul Tours. (The biggest one is "Fatih Complex" which was built for Fatih Sultan Mehmed II, the Conquerer).
Beyazıt Mosque Complex was commissioned for Sultan Bayezıd II by architect Yakup Şah, between 1501-1506. The complex was located between the Grand Bazaar and the Old Palace that serves as Istanbul University today.
Bayezid Mosque Complex consists of; a mosque, a soup-kitchen (a place to serve food free as a charity), a primary school, a hospital, a madrasah (theological school), a hamam, a caravansarai (for the lodging of merchants and caravans)and several tombs.
The mosque is the oldest classical Ottoman Style mosque in Istanbul. You can see the charming courtyard surrounded by domed porticoes and ancient columns supporting them (made of granite and porphyry), when you enter through the grand gate.
The courtyard of Beyazıt Mosque is paved with polychrome marble and there is a decorated ablution fountain (where people wash before entering the mosque for prayers) in the center of the courtyard.
The mosque has two minarets with 76 meters between them. The minarets are decorated with colored marbles and calligraphic art. The mosque has a grand interior, it has a central dome and 2 semi-domes and four smaller domes supporting it.
You will see a lot of domes on your Istanbul Tours but this is one of the oldest and nicest.
The Sultan’s lodge is to the right of the minber, supported on columns made of very rare marbles.
This museum will be one of your best stops in your Istanbul Tours if you are interested in Ottoman calligraphic art.
In this museum you can see on display;
the Korans in hand-writing, imperial seals, diplomas, “Hilye-i Şerif” (descriptions of the Prophet), equipment and apparatus for calligraphic writing, samples of book-binding, holy relics, miniatures, wall hangings and manuscripts illustrating calligraphic styles, dating from the 13th century.
There are also some examples of calligraphy on stone, tile and glass.
The building which the museum is in, was the "madrasah"(educational institution) of Bayezid Mosque Complex but it was built a couple of years later than the complex, in 1506.
Beyazıt Madrasah is one of the typical Ottoman madrasahs with a U-plan that you will see in your Istanbul Tours.
Madrasah building is 44 x 36.6 m. in size. It has a courtyard that is surrounded by domed porticoes on three sides. There are 20 domed rooms behind the porticoes.
The classroom-masjid is at the fourth side of the courtyard and is covered by a dome with a 7.40 m diameter.
There is a nice fountain and a sun-dial in the courtyard, which can be interesting to see on your Istanbul Tours.
This marvelous gate was the entrance gate of the Ministry of War of the Ottoman Empire, built in 1866.
Today it is the main entrance to one of the oldest universities of the world; Istanbul University. The university celebrated its 550th anniversary in 2003.
Istanbul University was established as a center for theological studies in Ottoman Empire period. Madrasah (School of theological and environmental sciences), was founded immediately after the conquest of Istanbul by Sultan Mehmed II, the conquerer, in 1453.
The Madrasah is regarded as the precursor to the "Darülfünun". "Darülfünun" was founded as an institution of higher education on 23 July 1846 and it evolved into Istanbul University in 1923, after the Republic revolution.
The Main Gate itself is marvelous, but what you see when you enter is much better. Entrance to the school grounds is usually limited to students and staff of the university. But there is a high possibility that you can get in if you ask to the guards at the main gate. Ask anyway, it is worth it!
What will you see if you get in;
This elegant, Ottoman Baroque style fire-watch tower is not the first tower built at the same point. The first one was built in timber, in 1749. It stood there only for 7 years until it was burnt down in one of the famous big fires of Istanbul (Cibali Fire) in 1756.
The second one was built in timber again. And of course, again it was burnt down in flames. This time, by the fire that riot Janissaries started after Sultan Mahmud II declared his decision of dissolving the Janissary Corps (Yeniçeriler Ocağı, The military force of the Ottoman Empire), in 1826.
And it seems that the lesson was learned after two fires, the new fire-watch tower was made of stone in 1828 and it is still intact after nearly 200 years.
Fires were the biggest problem of Istanbul when this tower was built. Fire-fighting was very important those days because all houses were built as wooden. It was a matter of time for a neighborhood to be burnt down on a windy night. And unfortunately hundreds of houses were burnt down on the famous fires of Istanbul.
Current Beyazıt Tower was commissioned for Sultan Mahmud II in 1828, by architect Senekerim Kalfa (member of the famous Balyan family of architects).
This fire-watch tower is one of the landmarks of Istanbul that you will see on your Istanbul Tours. It is 85 meters high and has four floors.
Thanks to the technology, this tower is no longer needed for tracking fires. Instead, we can climb up to watch the amazing views of Istanbul.
This is the second tower in your Istanbul Tours that you can get to the excursion point on it. (The other one is more popular Galata Tower in Galata.)
The entire Old City, the Golden Horn, the entrance of the Sea of Marmara and even the Princes’ Islands are within the range of watch sight from Beyazıt Tower.
It takes a long climb up (256 steps to be precise) to the tower for amazing views of The Golden Horn, Bosphorus, Galata Tower, Topkapi Palace, Bosphorus Bridge, etc... And it is definitely worth it!
Suleymaniye Kuru Fasulyecisi is a nice restaurant that serves a special dish named “kuru fasulye” of (dried beans meal) which is higly adored by Turkish people. "Kuru Fasulye" is not your only option,but it is highly advisable, I know a lot of people driving in Istanbul traffic just to taste it again. (Okay, I'M busted!)
They also have a good range of Turkish Cuisine dishes that you can choose from.
It is right across the main gate of Süleymaniye Mosque, right next to the public fountain. It is the first one at the corner. You will easily understand which one, just by seeing the crowd in front of it.
It is a very nice spot to eat in the open-air with a nice view of gorgeous Süleymaniye Mosque. If you are not hungry, you can stop here for a drink.
Price: Low - Average
This complex is one of the places you should definitely see in your Istanbul Tours.
Süleymaniye Complex is settled on one of the seven hills of Istanbul and dominates the Historic Peninsula over the Golden Horn. It is an important landmark for Istanbul.
Sultan Süleyman, the Magnificent who put his mark on the whole 16th century charged Sinan, the Chief Architect for this gorgeous complex. He was one of the greatest and most powerful of Ottoman sultans.
The complex was built at the zenith of the Ottoman Empire. The construction took place between 1549 and 1558.
There are amazing views from the courtyard, at the Golden Horn side of course…
"Darüzziyafe" is a nice and elegant restaurant. It is one of the few restaurants in Istanbul that serves Ottoman Cuisine dishes. It is a good idea to taste its delicious meals while you are there.
It is not only the special dishes there, the building is worth seeing too. See the building even if you don't eat there. Maybe you can stop for a drink at the beautiful and peaceful courtyard. It is a very good stop to make on your Istanbul Tours. You can watch the centuries old trees and Süleymaniye Mosque from the courtyard.
It is at the North-west side of the mosque, housed in the building which was the “Kitchens” in the Ottoman times. Take the mosque to your right hand side, walk along the mosque, take the first right just after the mosque, it is the second building on your left.
Address: Şifahane Sokak No:6, Süleymaniye
I hope you liked the "Istanbul Tours, Walking Route 5: Beyazıt Square and Süleymaniye Mosque Complex".
This is one of the best Istanbul Tours that will give you the feeling of Old Istanbul.
And I hope you are not tired yet! There are lots of "Istanbul Tours" options I have created for you...
Now let's head to:"Istanbul Tours, Walking Route 6: Grand Bazaar"