Location

Just a 5-minute walk from Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, this hotel offers modern accommodation with free wireless internet access. It has a rooftop terrace and offers a buffet breakfast.

In the heart of Sultanahmet, Agora Life Hotel offers an ideal location for guests who want easy access to Istanbul's most historic sites.

Each of the rooms is tastefully decorated and has contemporary wooden floors. They come equipped with LED TV and laptop-size safes. Thoughtful touches also include a fruit basket and a bottle of mineral water upon arrival. There is also a complimentary coffee/tea setup in the rooms, which is refilled daily.

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is just 10 minutes' walk away. There are also excellent public transport links close to Agora Life, providing easy access to the rest of Istanbul. The lively Taksim Square is 4.5 km from the property and Istanbul Congress Centre is 6 km away.

The attentive staff can arrange a rental car, airport shuttle services, or offer tips on what to see and do in the area. Ataturk Airport is 18 km away and Sabiha Gokcen Airport is within 45 km of Agora Life Hotel. Istanbul Airport is 52 km away.

Hotel provides free airport pickup for guests who book their rooms on this website and stay 6 and more nights.

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, or Cisterna Basilica (TurkishYerebatan Sarnıcı – "Subterranean Cistern"), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey. The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Today it is kept with little water, for public access inside the space.

 

This subterranean cistern, in Greek kinsterne (κινστέρνη), was called Basilica because it was located under a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica. At this location, and prior to constructing the cistern, a great Basilica stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic centre. The basilica was reconstructed by Illus after a fire in 476.

Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Hagia Sophia. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city.

Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.

The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapı Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 metres (453 ft) by 65 metres (213 ft) – about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area – capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each spaced 5 metres (16 ft) apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric style with no engravings. One of the columns is engraved with raised pictures of a Hen's Eye, slanted braches, and tears. This column resembles the columns of the Triumphal Arch of Theodosius I from the 4th century (AD 379–395), erected in the 'Forum Tauri' Square. Ancient texts suggest that the tears on the column pay tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Basilica Cistern. The majority of the columns in the cistern appear to have been recycled from the ruins of older buildings (a process called 'spoliation'), likely brought to Constantinople from various parts of the empire, together with those that were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. They are carved and engraved out of various types of marble and granite.

Fifty-two stone steps descend into the entrance of the cistern. The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. The Basilica Cistern's water came from the Eğrikapı Water Distribution Center in the Belgrade Forest, which lie 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city. It traveled through the 971-metre-long (3,186 ft) Valens (Bozdoğan) Aqueduct, and the 115-metre-long (377 ft) Mağlova Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Justinian.

The weight of the cistern lies on the columns by means of the cross-shaped vaults and round arches of its roof.

The Basilica Cistern has undergone several restorations since its foundation. The first of the repairs were carried out twice during the Ottoman State in the 18th century during the reign of Ahmed III in 1723 by the architect Muhammad Agha of Kayseri. The second major repair was completed during the 19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876–1909). Cracks to masonry and damaged columns were repaired in 1968, with additional restoration in 1985 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Museum. During the 1985 restoration, 50,000 tons of mud were removed from the cisterns, and platforms built throughout to replace the boats once used to tour the cistern. The cistern was opened to the public in its current condition on 9 September 1987. In May 1994, the cistern underwent additional cleaning.

Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. There is no written evidence that suggests they were used as column pedestals previously. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze; however, it is widely thought that one was placed sideways only to be the proper size to support the column. The upside-down Medusa was placed that way specifically because she would be the same height right side up.

 

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian, and is located under the Soviet consulate. Its real-life location is a considerable distance from the former Soviet (now Russian) consulate, which is in Beyoğlu, the "newer" European section of Istanbul, on the other side of the Golden Horn.

In 1969 the cistern was used as a setting in Pawn in Frankincense, the fourth of the Lymond Chronicles books by Dorothy Dunnett.

The finale of the 2009 film The International takes place in a fantasy amalgam of the Old City, depicting the Basilica Cistern as lying beneath the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which, in the film, is directly adjacent to the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The cistern is featured in Clive and Dirk Cussler's 2010 Dirk Pitt fiction novel, Crescent Dawn and The Navigator.

In the 2011 video game, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, the player controlled character, Ezio Auditore, is given the chance to explore a section of this cistern in a memory sequence entitled The Yerebatan Cistern.

The cistern is also featured in Jean-Baptiste Andrea's film thriller Brotherhood of Tears (2013). In the sequence, the lead character, acting as a transporter (played by Jeremie Renier), delivers a suitcase to a mysterious client (played by Turkish actor Ali Pinar).

The cistern with its inverted Medusa pillar featured in the 2013 Dan Brown novel Inferno (as well as its 2016 film adaptation).

In the young adult Marvel novel Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, published in October 2015, the climactic scenes take place in the cistern and in a secret lab hidden behind it.

In the historical novel Eight Pointed Cross by Maltese-Canadian Author Marthese Fenech, the cistern is featured in scenes set in 16th century Istanbul.

 

Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (TurkishSultan Ahmet Camii; also known as the Blue Mosque) is a historic mosque located in IstanbulTurkey. It remains a functioning mosque, while also attracting large numbers of tourist visitors. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed's tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, another popular tourist site.

History 

After the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603–18 war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. It would be the first imperial mosque for more than forty years. While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with the spoils of war, Ahmet I procured funds from the Treasury, because he had not gained remarkable victories. The construction was started in 1609 and not completed until 1617.

It caused the anger of the ulama, the Muslim jurists. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Hagia Sophia (at that time, the primary imperial mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of significant symbolic meaning as it dominated the city skyline from the south. Big parts of the south shore of the mosque rest on the foundations, the vaults of the old Grand Palace.

Architecture

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendor. It has a forecourt and special area for ablution. In the middle it has a big fountain. On the upper side it has a big chain. The upper area is made up of 20000 ceramic tiles each having 60 tulip designs. In the lower area it has 200 stained glass windows.

Interior

At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade İznik style ceramic tiles, made at İznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses. The tiles were made under the supervision of the Iznik master. The price to be paid for each tile was fixed by the sultan's decree, while tile prices in general increased over time. As a result, the quality of the tiles used in the building decreased gradually.

The upper levels of the interior are dominated by blue paint. More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, today assisted by chandeliers. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found that were meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders. The decorations include verses from the Qur'an, many of them made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, regarded as the greatest calligrapher of his time. The floors are covered with carpets, which are donated by the faithful and are regularly replaced as they wear out. The many spacious windows confer a spacious impression. The casements at floor level are decorated with opus sectile. Each exedra has five windows, some of which are blind. Each semi-dome has 14 windows and the central dome 28 (four of which are blind). The coloured glass for the windows was a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.

The most important element in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. It is surrounded by many windows. The adjacent walls are sheathed in ceramic tiles. To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated minber, or pulpit, where the imam stands when he is delivering his sermon at the time of noon prayer on Fridays or on holy days. The mosque has been designed so that even when it is at its most crowded, everyone in the mosque can see and hear the imam.

The royal kiosk is situated at the south-east corner. It comprises a platform, a loggia and two small retiring rooms. It gives access to the royal loge in the south-east upper gallery of the mosque. These retiring rooms became the headquarters of the Grand Vizier during the suppression of the rebellious Janissary Corps in 1826. The royal loge (hünkâr mahfil) is supported by ten marble columns. It has its own mihrab, which used to be decorated with a jade rose and gilt and with one hundred Qurans on an inlaid and gilded lecterns.

The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems. Among the glass bowls one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All these decorations have been removed or pillaged for museums.

The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran. They were originally by the great 17th-century calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari of Diyarbakır but have been repeatedly restored.

It was first announced that the mosque would undertake a series of renovations back in 2016. Numerous renovation works had been completed throughout Istanbul and the restoration of the Blue Mosque was to be the final project. Renovations were expected to take place over three and a half years and be completed by 2020.

Exterior

The façade of the spacious forecourt was built in the same manner as the façade of the Süleymaniye Mosque, except for the addition of the turrets on the corner domes. The court is about as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade (revak). It has ablution facilities on both sides. The central hexagonal fountain is small relative to the courtyard. The monumental but narrow gateway to the courtyard stands out architecturally from the arcade. Its semi-dome has a fine stalactite structure, crowned by a small ribbed dome on a tall tholobate. Its historical elementary school (Sıbyan Mektebi) is used as "Mosque Information Center" which is adjacent to its outer wall on the side of Hagia Sophia. This is where they provide visitors with a free orientational presentation on the Blue Mosque and Islam in general.

A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side. Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback. The chain was put there, so that the sultan had to lower his head every single time he entered the court to avoid being hit. This was a symbolic gesture, to ensure the humility of the ruler in the face of the divine.

Minarets

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (one in the modern Sabancı Mosque in Adana, the Hz. Mikdat Mosque in MersinÇamlıca in Üsküdar and the Green mosque in Arnavutköy). According to folklore, an architect misheard the Sultan's request for "altın minareler" (gold minarets) as "altı minare" (six minarets), at the time a unique feature of the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. When criticized for his presumption, the Sultan then ordered a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.

Four minarets stand at the corners of the Blue Mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (Called şerefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies. Before the muezzin or prayer caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer.

Pope Benedict XVI's visit and silent meditation

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque on 30 November 2006 during his visit to Turkey. It was only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. Having removed his shoes, the Pope paused for a full two minutes, eyes closed in silent meditation, standing side by side with Mustafa Çağrıcı, the Mufti of Istanbul, and Emrullah Hatipoğlu, the Imam of the Blue Mosque.

The pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said, “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.” The pontiff noted that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West”, and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, saying, “he felt loved and understood.”

Cagaloglu Turkish Bath House

.Before the construction of Cağaloğlu Turkish Bath, the palace built by Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Paşa stood on the same location. The palace was destroyed by a fire in 1740, and the Cağaloğlu Bath started being constructed on its site. It is of capital importance historically and today as it is the last great Turkish bath constructed before Sultan Mustafa III prohibited the construction of great baths in 1768 due to the increasing water and firewood needs of the city.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdulmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Haci Said Aga was responsible for the construction works, while the project was realized by architects Garabet Balyan, his son Nigogayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa (members of the Balyan family of Ottoman court architects.) The design contains eclectic elements from the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, blended with traditional Ottoman architecture to create a new synthesis. The palace layout and décor reflect the increasing influence of European styles and standards on Ottoman Culture and Art during the Tanzimat Period.

Grand Bazaar - Kapalicarsi

The Grand Bazaar is located inside the walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighbourhood bearing the same name. It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci by foot.The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. SultanMehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles. It was named Cevâhir Bedestan (‘Bedesten of Gems’) and was also known as Bezzâzistan-i Cedîd (‘New Bedesten’) in Ottoman Turkish. The word bedesten is adapted from the Persian word bezestan, derived from bez ("cloth"), and means "bazaar of the cloth sellers".The building – named alternately in Turkish İç (‘Internal’’), Atik (‘Ancien’), or Eski (‘Old’) Bedesten – lies on the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, between the ancient Fora of Constantine and of Theodosius. It was also near the first sultan's palace, the Old Palace (Eski Sarayi), which was also in construction in those same years, and not far from the Artopoléia (Άρτοπωλεία) quarter, a location already occupied in Byzantine times by the bakers.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia "Holy Wisdom" is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. The church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 15-metre (49 ft) silver iconostasis. The focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the building witnessed the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius on the part of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. By this point, the Church had fallen into a state of disrepair. Nevertheless, the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers and they decided to convert it into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets – were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

ISTANBUL AIRPORT

Istanbul Archaeology Museums

In the 19th century, efforts were in place to modernize the Ottoman Empire, as many of the leading statesmen were exposed to Westernizing ideas through education and travel. The proposal to have an imperial museum came about because of the familiarity of several key players in the Ottoman political scene with the Louvre in Paris. The Ottoman sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861–1876) was impressed by the archaeological museums in Paris (30 June – 10 July 1867), London (12–23 July 1867) and Vienna (28–30 July 1867) which he visited in the summer of 1867, and ordered a similar archaeological museum to be established in Istanbul. The decision to establish an Imperial Museum under the Education Ministry came in 1869 with the appointment of a new director, but the idea of a museum was dropped with his resignation and because of budget restraints.

As education minister in 1872, Ahmet Vefik Pasha set up a museum directorship for the second time and hired the German historian, archaeologist, epigraphist and painter, Dr. Philipp Anton Dethier. He proved to be so successful at collecting materials that the idea of a purpose-built museum gained traction.

When Dethier died in 1881, painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey was appointed to the position that same year.

The site of the museums belonged to the Topkapı Palace outer gardens. The museum was founded by decree as the Imperial Museum (Ottoman TurkishMüze-i Hümayun‎ or Turkishİmparatorluk Müzesi) in 1891. The first curator and founder of the museum was Osman Hamdi Bey. Since an imperial decree protecting cultural goods in the Ottoman Empire was enforced, many governors from the provinces would send in found artefacts to the capital city. In that way the museum was able to amass a great collection. Upon its 100th anniversary in 1991, the museum received the European Council Museum Award, particularly for the renovations made to the lower floor halls in the main building and the new displays in the other buildings.

The construction of the main building was started by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1881, attaining its present neo-Greek form in 1908. The architect was Alexander Vallaury (who also designed the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul). The facade of the building was inspired by the Alexander Sarcophagus and Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women, both housed inside the Museum. It is one of the prominent structures built in the neoclassical style in Istanbul.

The Museum of the Ancient Orient was commissioned by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as a fine arts school. Then it was reorganised as a museum, which opened in 1935. It was closed to visitors in 1963, and reopened in 1974 after restoration works on the interior.

The Tiled Kiosk was commissioned by Sultan Mehmed II in 1472. It is one of the oldest structures in Istanbul featuring Ottoman civil architecture, and was a part of the Topkapı Palace outer gardens. It was used as the Imperial Museum between 1875 and 1891 before the collection moved to the newly constructed main building. It was opened to public in 1953 as a museum of Turkish and Islamic art, and was later incorporated into the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

Sultanahmet Square

The first of the seven hills on the promontory has been the most important and dynamic part of the city in all ages. When the city was first founded, the acropolis was a typical Mediterranean trading center surrounded by city walls. This trading center was enlarged and rebuilt during Roman times. The most prominent buildings and monuments of the Roman era were built in the vicinity of the Hippodrome. Very few relics of these works have endured to the present day. 

The imperial palace, known as the "Great Palace", used to spread over an area extending from the Hippodrome down to the seashore. Only the mosaic floor panel of a large hall remains from this palace today. The Augusteion, the most important square of the city, used to be here, and between the square and the main avenue there was the Millairium victory arch. The road used to extend as far as Rome and the stone marking the first kilometer was located here. The baths, temples, religious, cultural, administrative and social centers were all in this district. The area maintained its importance in the Byzantine and Turkish eras. Therefore some of the most important monuments of Istanbul such as the Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art and the Basilica Cistern are all located around the Hippodrome.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is a large palace in Istanbul that was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856). As well as a Royal Residence, The Palace was a setting for state occasions and Royal entertainments. It is now a major tourist attraction and contains important Holy Relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's SAW cloak and sword. The Topkapi Palace is among the monuments contained within the "Historic Areas of Istanbul", which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and is described under UNESCO's criterion IV as "the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces of the Ottoman period. The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, and covered a large area with a long shoreline. It contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. Construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. It was originally called the New Palace (Yeni Sarayi) to distinguish it from the previous residence. It received the name "Topkapi" (Cannon Gate) in the 19th century, after a (now lost) gate and shore pavilion. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. After the 17th century the Topkapi Palace gradually lost its importance as the sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosphorus. In 1856, Sultan Abdul Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint, were retained in the Topkapi Palace.

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (Turkish: Turk ve Islam Eserleri Muzesi) is a museum located in Sultanahmet Square in Fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey. Constructed in 1524, the building was formerly the palace of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha, who was the first grand vizier to Suleiman the Magnificent, and husband of the Sultan's sister, Hatice Sultan. The collection includes notable examples of Islamic calligraphy, tiles, and rugs as well as ethnographic displays on various cultures in Turkey, particularly nomad groups. These displays recreate rooms or dwellings from different time periods and regions.