Istanbul City Walls and Gates

I’ve been wanting to walk along these ancient defence walls, ever since I first came to Istanbul which was about ten years ago. The chance came this weekend after a business trip I made to Bandırma.

There are plenty of online reviews and articles about this walk so I’m not going into any great descriptions here, you’ll be pleased to know, and I’ll let the photos do the work for me. The sun was high for most of the walk which does not make for the best pictures and there was far too much traffic but you’ll have the later problem at anytime.

I did it the hard way and walked out from my hotel in Beyazıt (near Sultanahmet), in a westerly direction, until it reached the land walls at Yedikule. Then I went roughly north an northeast until I reached the Golden Horn at Ayvansaray. I then made my way through the maze of streets in Fatih and back to my Beyazıt. I did over 22 km (13.5 miles) but the much easier way is to take the train to Yedikule from Sultanahmet then catch a bus for your return.

Yedikule Gate

The castle of Yedikule was impressive but it was impossible to gets good photo of it. A drone would have been useful!

Second Military Gate

Gate of Spring

Gates of Rehsios

Looking for tea, I wondered into Merkezefendi (to the west of the walls) and found this little gem. The following beautifully restored building was designed by the architect Abdülbaki Paşa in the 17th century and I believe originally used for teaching the Koran. In the 1970s it was a children’s library but these days it is known as Nağmedar and maintained for live classic music recitals .

Nağmedar (near Merkezefendi Mosque)

The Walls near Fetihkapı

Fatih Sultan Mehmed (Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror) and his army entered Istanbul via this gate in 1453 when he conquered the city.

Fatihkapı (The Gate of Fatih)

Chora (Kariye) was an Orthodox church before the conquest and on which it was converted into a mosque and a minaret added. It is now a museum though my timing was not good as the whole of the outside and part of the inside was obscured and inaccessible due to these works. That’s a very good excuse for a return visit as it contains some stunning orthodox icons.

Ottoman House and Chora Minaret

Some of the Frescoes in Chora

Graveyard and Street next to Chora

Eğrikapı (The Curved Gate)

Situated in Ayvansaray, Tekfur Palace (Palace of Porphyrogenitus) was built as an annex to the Blachernae Palace in the late thirteenth century. The exact construction date of the palace is not certain, yet according to the primary sources it was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282) for his son Prince Constantine “Porphyrogenitus”. The location of the palace was crucial, because it was situated at the highest point of Constantinople (Byzantine Istanbul) on the northwest corner of the city, therefore controlling the Golden Horn, Pera (today’s Galata), and city itself.

Walls of Tekfur Palace (Palace of Porphyrogenitus)

Tefkur palace was also under renovation and so I couldn’t get any decent shots but that’s just yet another good excuse to return.

Originally built in 1898, the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church has a historical presence in Istanbul. In the late 19th century, Prince Stefan Bogoridi, an Ottoman statesman of Bulgarian origin, donated the land he owned to the church, and started the efforts for its building. The original construction plans were made by the Armenian architect Hovsep Aznavur. The cast iron parts of the church, weighing about 500 tons in all, were produced by the Austrian company Rudolph Ph. Waagner, and were transported by ship from Vienna, through the Danube, Black Sea, and Bosphorus to Istanbul. Two of the surviving tower bells were brought from Russia’s city of Yaroslav.

Bulgarian St Stephen Church, Balat

So, that’s a very brief review of the main sites. Well worth visiting if you want to get away from the hordes of tourists in Sultanahmet and many other parts of the city. There’s were some warnings on some websites about the drunks and vagrants that frequent some of the parts of the walls and though I discovered some of them not one even spoke to me or bothered me.

You may find these links of use (from which some of my information was ruthlessly plagiarised):

This video was one of my inspirations for this walk. The original video on YouTube was much better quality but access has been removed (from the UK) due to copyright issues.


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