Fatih is one of the largest and central districts of Istanbul, Turkey, in the heart of the city. Since it constitutes the old quarter of the city that was taken by Mehmed the Conqueror on May 29, 1453, even today it is also called the real Istanbul or the first Istanbul. Previously, the district of Eminönü at the tip of the historic peninsula was also a part of the Fatih district. Today, the districts of Fatih and Eminönü comprise the historic peninsula up to the Theodosian land walls at the western end of the old city center, i.e. the areas which together constituted the Byzantine capital Constantinople.
Fatih sits within the Roman walls, is home to the Fatih Mosque, the first Ottoman imperial mosque in Istanbul, and the second prominent Ottoman mosque in the city after the Eyüp Sultan Mosque which is just outside the land walls, near the Golden Horn. Since it is the primary historical area of the city, it contains some of the most important historical monuments in Istanbul.
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The municipal district of Fatih is in Istanbul with its boundaries on the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, while the Western border is shared with the Theodosian wall.
With its rich history and character, Fatih has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List with the most iconic piece of architecture in the Old City the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which is also known as the Blue Mosque, designed by Sultan Ahmed I.
As one of the most conservative districts of Istanbul, Fatih is built around many mosques, where observant Muslims attend regularly, including the colossal complex of the Fatih Mosque at the centre of the district.
Today Fatih is very multi-cultural due to the influx of immigrants coming from the Eastern Anatolia region. The mix of cultures is evident in the market area of Malta Çarşı where one of Istanbul's oldest bazaars plays host to a wealth of international food and produce. The district is also known as the gastronomic centre of the city where the authentic flavours of Turkish cuisine can be experienced.
Walking through Fatih, it is hard to miss the 20-meter-high Valens Aqueduct that was completed in the fourth century and spans more than half a mile. The bridge was used to transport water from Belgrade Forest but now straddles a motorway.
Beneath the archways of the Valens Aqueduct sits the 14-room Islamic religious school and tomb of Gazanfer Ağa, who was chief of Topkapı Palace’s white eunuchs. The 16th century shrine contains an octagonal public fountain and within the complex there are exhibits of the satirical collections of the Caricature and Humor Arts Museum.
- Currency: Turkish Lira
Approximate flight time from the UK: 6 hours
Time zone: UTC +0 / +2 Eastern European Time
Food-lovers: Fatih has some of the best restaurants in the country which are as diverse as its heritage. Fusion creations, aromatic Asian dishes and Italian classics can be enjoyed in restaurants as well as city’s signature dishes of succulent kebapçıs, aromatic mezes and freshly caught fish.
History and culture: Due to its Greek, Persian, Roman, Venetian and Ottoman occupation, Istanbul is home to many historical buildings. Ancient mosques, palaces and churches all hark back to Fatih’s heritage.
As the number one tourist destination in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia is a sixth century building which was originally a Christian patriarchal basilica, built for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. In the 15th century when the Ottomans conquered Sultanahmet the basilica was later turned into an imperial mosque. Today Hagia Sophia is a museum and is open to the public. Hagia Sophia has a huge 30m diameter dome that covers the largest enclosed space in the world, down to impressive Roman engineering and beautiful architecture.
An ornate library hides behind the omphalion and many of the floors of the museum are marble. Mosaics adorn the base of the northern tympanum, featuring portraits of St Ignatius the Younger, St John Chrysostom and St Ignatius Theodorus of Antioch from the ninth century. Upstairs in the galleries are more mosaics depicting biblical scenes. On the opposite side of Hagia Sophia are the Baths of Lady Hürrem which were built in the 16th century and dedicated to Süleyman the Magnificent’s wife Hürrem Sultan.
Address: Sultanahmet Square, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Opening hours: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Entry cost: Adult 30 TL, children under 12 years free
Official website: www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr
The Bosphorus Strait
The prominent Bosphorus Strait that separates Europe from Asia features stunning views of Ottoman palaces in Fatih. The natural strait sits in a valley between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
The Şehir Hatları Short Bosphorus Cruise leaving from Eminönü is the best way to spend a day exploring the strait. Each afternoon the traditional Şehir Hatları ferryboats depart the Eminönü docks past the Galata Bridge and sails up beyond the Faith Sultan Mehmet Bridge, returning to the docks after a two hour trip.
Address: Evliya Çelebi Cad. No:1 D:4, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
Opening hours: Tours depart every day at 2.30pm
Entry cost: One way 15 TL, return 25 TL
Official website: http://en.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en
The giant underground Basilica Cistern was built by Justinian in the sixth century and was designed to service the Great Palace and surrounding buildings. The cistern also provided water to the residents of Fatih. Built using over 300 columns, many of which were recovered from ruined temples and feature fine carved capitals, the Basilica Cistern is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in İstanbul.
The cistern was renovated and cleaned by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 1985 and opened to the public in 1987. Visitors can walk along its raised wooden platforms and experience water dripping from the vaulted ceiling within the cistern. A unique atmosphere is created by the schools of carp that swim in the water.
Address: Yerebatan Cad., Sultanahmet Istanbul, Turkey
Opening hours: 9.00am - 6.30pm mid-April – September
Entry cost: 20 TL
Official website: yerebatan.com/homepage
As the imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for four centuries, Topkapi Palace is made up of four courts which are lavishly decorated and open to the public. The best way to view the Palace is to wander through its spacious grounds until you come to the four courtyards.
In the first court is the Byzantine church of Hagia Eirene. The second court houses the entrance to the Harem and the State Treasury with a weaponry display. The Third Court is entered through the Gate of Felicity and was the Sultan’s private domain. In the fourth court are pleasure pavilions including the 19th century Mecidiye Köşkü.
Address: Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm
Entry cost: 40 TL (Harem 25 TL extra)
Official website: topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en
Hodjapasha Cultural Center
The Hodjapasha Cultural Center was originally a large 15th century hamam that now showcases some of the best of Turkey’s traditions. Within its high domed ceilings of Ottoman design are two sections; the first of which is an exhibition and foyer area. Hodjapasha’s other section has a circular glass dance floor and a musicians stage which is the performance area. From belly dancing to whirling dervish, the Cultural Centre hosts a range of attractions to crowds of up to 200 people.
Address: Hocapaşa Hamamı Sk. 3, Istanbul
Opening hours: 9.00am – 11.00pm
Entry cost: From 50 TL
Official website: www.hodjapasha.com/en
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