What Should You Know About Istanbul’s Seven Hills?

Roman Emperor Constantine built the city on 7 hills, based on the fact that there were the sun, moon, and 5 planets in the sky during his lifetime. Like Rome, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire protected the borders of the city with 7 hills and built their magnificent structures on them. The seven hills that are claimed to be built in Istanbul are located in the region we call the city wall or the Historic Peninsula, that is, in the part of the conquered Istanbul, which is in the very center. It covers the triangle stretching from Edirnekapi to Sarayburnu.

Where Are the Seven Hills of Istanbul?

Sarayburnu on the first hill, Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque on the second hill, Suleymaniye Mosque on the third hill, Fatih Mosque on the fourth hill, Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque on the fifth hill, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque on the sixth hill, and Haseki Kulliye on the seventh hill. For further reading, you can also check our article things to know about Istanbul.

The Hills are listed below:

1.  Sarayburnu Hill

Sarayburnu Hill, also known as Topkapı Palace Hill, starts from Sarayburnu in the Historical Peninsula and reaches a height of 45 meters from the sea. This hill became the heart of Istanbul during both the Roman and Ottoman periods.

Topkapi, built on the hill Palace, Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia are just a few of the monumental structures that determine the view of the hill. The “Million Stone”, which is considered the starting point of the roads stretching all over the Roman Empire, is located on this hill. The wide square called the Hippodrome, where horse races, gladiator fights, and various ceremonies were held before the Ottoman Empire was also on this hill. The Ottomans called this square “Atmeydani”. Today, it is known as “Sultanahmet Square”.

Sarayburnu Hill stretches from Sirkeci in the north to Kadırga Harbor in the south. This hill was chosen as a palace area during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. In other words, we can say that Sarayburnu Hill is the most important hill among the 7 hills. In addition, the first place where King Byzas of Megara founded the city is Sarayburnu Hill. The most important reason for this was that the hill was surrounded by the sea on 3 sides and it was the ideal place where the city could be established strategically since the land-side was above sea level.

After all, Mehmet the Conqueror preferred this end of the Historic Peninsula for the palace.

Topkapi Palace, Aya Irini, Ayasofya, Sultanahmet Mosque, Ibrahim Pasa Palace, Milyon Tasi, German Fountain, Little Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul Archeology Museum, Yerebatan Sarnici, Cagaloglu Bath, New Mosque, Sirkeci Station, Bukoleon Palace, Arasta which has a market and dozens of artisan restaurants.

Places to see on Sarayburnu Hill are listed below:

  • Topkapi Palace: The contribution of Mimar Sinan is great in Topkapı Palace, which is the oldest among the palaces that have survived to this day with a history of nearly 400 years and the largest one with an area of 700 thousand square meters. In addition to Mimar Sinan, Acem Ali, Davud Aga, and Sarkis Balyan are among the owners of the touches that beautify the palace. In Topkapı Palace, which was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1985, silvers from the Ottoman palace treasury, precious stones, sultan portraits and dresses, and weapons used by the Ottoman army, You must see Prophet Muhammad’s cardigan, beard, and sword.
  • Aya Irini, the first museum of the Ottoman Empire: Hagia Irene, the first church of Byzantium, was built in the 330s. However, today’s Hagia Irene is not the same because the first wooden Hagia Irene was burned in 532. Even after it was repaired, a fire broke out several times in the church, and it survived the earthquake. So the church was passed many times. When Istanbul passed to the Ottomans, it was turned into a museum and became the first museum of the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, various classical music concerts are also held in it.
  • Ayasofya: The Hagia Sophia Museum is among the most important monuments in the history of world architecture that have survived until today. The largest church built by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul fascinates with its mosaics. Materials consisting of gold, silver, glass, terracotta, and colored stones were used in the making of the mosaics. During the Ottoman Period, in the 16th and 17th centuries, altars, pulpits, muezzin mahfils, sermon pulpits, and maksures were added to Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque. Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum by the decision of the Board of Directors, but today it has been reopened as a mosque.
  • Ground zero of Rome: The Milyon Tasi was considered to be the zero point of Rome, the center of the world, in ancient times. Located on the right corner of the road from Ayasofya to Beyazit, this stone, which is almost invisible today, is also the source of the saying “all roads lead to Rome”.
  • Yerebatan Sarnici: The Yerebatan Sarnici, located southwest of Ayasofya, was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. This large underground cistern was called the “Yerebatan Sarnici” among the people because of the marble columns rising from the water and appearing as innumerable. The Yerebatan Sarnici, which met the water needs of the surrounding residents during the Byzantine period, was used for a while after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453. However, after the Ottomans established their water facilities in the city, the cistern was not needed. The two Medusa Heads used as pedestals under the two columns in the northwest corner of the cistern are considered masterpieces of Roman Period sculpture art.

2. Suleymaniye (Beyazit) Hill

Beyazıt Hill, one of the three most prominent hills in Istanbul’s geography, is 50-60 meters above sea level. Suleymaniye Mosque, the pearl of Beyazıt Hill, which forms the highest ridge of the city together with the sixth and seventh hills, is known as the work of Mimar Sinan’s journeyman. This hill is even known as Suleymaniye Hill.

This hill, where Istanbul’s silhouette is best seen after Sarayburnu Hill, is a region that can be reached as you go up the Golden Horn shores and is within walking distance of both Cemberlitas and Sarayburnu Hills.

Beyazıt Mosque, Mimar Sinan Tomb, Istanbul University, and Beyazıt Tower are among the must-see places on Suleymaniye Hill, which is a region where local and foreign tourists most want to see and visit in Istanbul. You should also stop by the Historical Vefa Bozacisi after you have been here.

Places to see on Suleymaniye (Beyazit) Hills are listed below:

  • Suleymaniye Mosque, the journeyman work of Mimar Sinan: The cornerstone of architectural history, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the journeyman work of Mimar Sinan, arouses admiration for centuries with its engineering, fine craftsmanship, and architectural genius. The mosque, which contributed greatly to the formation of Istanbul’s silhouette, is a domed structure that is larger than Hagia Sophia. The four minarets in the mosque represent Kanuni as the fourth sultan after the conquest of Istanbul; The ten balconies on the minarets symbolize that he is the tenth sultan in Ottoman history.
  • Beyazit Tower: The Beyazıt Tower, which was built in the Beyazit district of Istanbul to monitor and report the fires, is located on the Central Campus of Istanbul University. Fires were announced from the tower by hanging baskets during the day and by lighting lanterns at night. For a long time, it was illuminated in different colors at night and was used to announce the next day’s weather forecast to Istanbulites.

3. Cemberlitas Hill

Cemberlitas Square is considered the second hill of Istanbul and the Cemberlitas Column, brought from Rome, rises here. The monuments located on this hill, which is about 50 meters above sea level, are lined up consecutively on the Mese-Divanyolu.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque, which adorns the hill, is the first baroque mosque built in Istanbul. Cemberlitas, which was erected on this second hill of Istanbul in honor of Emperor Constantine I in 330 AD, and also the historical Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world, located on this hill. In addition, on this hill are the Firuzaga Mosque, Binbirdirek Cistern, Cemberlitas Bath, Corlulu Ali Pasa Mosque, and madrasah, Cinili Han, and Spice Bazaar are also located.

The first point we recommend including in your list of places to visit on Cemberlitas Hill is the Cemberlitas Column. The history of the Cemberlitas Column, which is almost a symbol of the region, dates back to AD. It dates back to 330. This structure, which has survived from the Byzantine period, was erected in the honor of Constantine.

After the Cemberlitas Column, you should also visit the Cemberlitas Bath. Cemberlitas Bath, which is among the works of Mimar Sinan, was built in 1584 at the request of Nur Banu Sultan, the mother of Murat III. The bath is also mentioned in Evliya Celebi’s book Seyahatname. We recommend you relax in Cemberlitas Hamam before closing the day in the Historic Peninsula.

Places to see Cemberlitas Hills are listed below:

  • Nuruosmaniye Mosque: The building, which was started to be built by Mahmud I, was left unfinished after the death of Sultan Mahmud. Osman III., who succeeded Sultan Mahmud, completed the construction and determined its name as Nûr-ı Osmanî Mosque. The complex, which was completed in 1755, was almost entirely built in baroque style, except for the inscriptions written in Hüsn-i Calligraphy. Some attribute the meaning of the name of Nuruosmaniye Mosque to Osman III and those who say that it means the light of the Ottoman Empire. Some argue that the mosque got its name because of the light and light inside.
  • Serefiye Cistern: Byzantine Emperor II. The serefiye Cistern, which was built by Theodosius between 428 and 443 to provide water storage through the Bozdoğan Aqueduct, was opened to visitors after 8 years of restoration work.

3. Fatih Hill

It is located within Fatih Hill, Fevzi Pasa Street, and Ataturk Boulevard, at the highest point of the Historic Peninsula. For this reason, the most prestigious buildings were built in this region during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. During the Byzantine period, there was the Church of the Apostle, which was built by Emperor Constantine I and dedicated to 12 apostles. When this structure was destroyed during the conquest, Fatih Sultan Mehmet decided to have a mosque built as a victory of the conquest, and Fatih Mosque was built. The tomb of Fatih Sultan Mehmet is also located here.

Places to see on Fatih Hills are listed below:

  • Fatih Mosque: Of course, Fatih Mosque is one of the must-see places on Fatih Hill. This mosque, which took four years to build, was completed in 1470. The name of its architect is Atik Sinan, but do not confuse it with the famous Mimar Sinan. According to rumors, the Fatih Mosque was ordered to be beautiful enough to overshadow Hagia Sophia.
  • Sahn-i Seman Madrasa: The Sahn-i Seman Madrasa located here is a gigantic structure that was one of the most important educational institutions in the Ottoman Empire for a long time. The curriculum of this madrasah, whose name means “eight departments”, was prepared by the famous Turkish scientist Ali Kusçu. Only a part of the madrasah, which was destroyed by the earthquake, has survived to the present day.
  • Old Imaret Mosque: This mosque, which is very close to Zeyrek Mosque, was built in 1087 for the use of nuns. After the conquest, it was first converted into a zaviye and then into an almshouse of the Fatih Complex. Food was distributed to the needy from this building every day.
  • Maidenstone: The granite of Kiztası, one of the symbols of Fatih, was brought from Egypt and its top was built in the Ancient Greek style. The original name of the stone erected in the name of Marcianus, one of the lesser-known emperors of Byzantium, is the Marcianus Column. The Turkish name comes from the fairy girl motifs on it.
  • Molla Zeyrek Mosque: This mosque, located in the neighborhood of the same name, is one of the old Byzantine structures. Built with donations from Empress Irene Komnena, the church was built as the Pantokrator Monastery, which includes a library and hospital buildings. When it was turned into a mosque and madrasah after the conquest, it took the name of Molla Zeyrek, who taught here. It is the largest and most important religious building remaining from Byzantium after Hagia Sophia.
  • Women’s Market: Located between Bozdogan Aqueduct and Zeyrek Mosque, Women’s Market is famous for its shops selling buryan kebab, curtain pilaf, and Siirt pistachio.

5. Yavuz Selim Hill

This hill takes its name from the Sultan Selim Mosque and the Complex on it. The number of architectural works hosted by this region, which is sandwiched between the back of Fatih and the shores of the Golden Horn, is very high. Fethiye Mosque and Fener Greek Patriarchate are located on this hill, which is about 50-60 meters high from the Golden Horn. Many monasteries and churches were built here during the Byzantine period, whose name was Deuteron. During the Ottoman Empire, many mosques, madrasahs, and tombs were built in the district, where the teachers and ulema lived.

Places to see on Yavuz Selim Hills are listed below:

  • Yavuz Selim Mosque: Although Yavuz Selim Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul, it is not well known. The mosque, which was built on the fifth hill of the city with seven hills, is one of the seven selatin mosques. Here you can also visit the tomb of Yavuz Sultan Selim, who doubled the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The tomb of Sultan Abdulmecid I designed by Garabet Balyan is also located here. The view of the Golden Horn seen from the terrace of the mosque is another beauty of the Yavuz Selim Mosque.
  • Aspar Cistern (Wednesday Cukurbostan): Aspar Cistern is right next to the Sultan Selim Mosque. It was named after General Aspar, who was killed by the Byzantine emperor Leo in 471. Since the Ottoman Empire, open-air cisterns have been called “Cukurbostan” among the people. The Aspar Cistern on Wednesday is also known as “Cukurbostan” among the people. The historical Sultan Cistern opposite the cistern is used for wedding and engagement organizations today.
  • Theotokos Pammakaristos Monastery / Fethiye Mosque: Fethiye Mosque, one of the rarest works of Byzantium, was built by Emperor John Comnenus and his wife Anna Doukaina. The chapel on the south side was added in the 13th century with the contribution of a noble named Mihail Glabas Tarkaniotes. The church was used as a patriarchate from 1456 to 1458. It was converted into a mosque by Sultan Murad III in 1573. A part of the building, which is called Fethiye Mosque to remind the victories of Georgia and Azerbaijan, is used as a mosque and a chapel is used as a museum.

6. Edirnekapi Hill

Edirnekapı Hill was built in the Edirnekapi and Ayvansaray neighborhoods and also carries the western walls of the city. This hill, which is gently sloping around Kariye Mosque, becomes steeper in the Kemerkaya locality. Yedikule district was the farthest part of the city of Istanbul from the center both in the Ottoman period and the Republican period. Therefore, many factories were built here.

Edirnekapi Hill, famous for its historical Byzantine Walls, is one of the most visited places among the 7 Hills of Istanbul. This hill, which hosts many important historical and touristic attractions, includes a part of Eyup, Ayvansaray, and Edirnekapi.

This area, where Mihrimah Sultan Mosque and Tekfur Palace are located, is known as the place where the western walls of the city are located. This hill, which is also known as the most dominant sightseeing place of the land walls, is also known as Mihrimah Sultan Hill.

Places to see on Edirnekapi Hills are listed below:

  • Mihrimah Sultan Mosque: Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is one of the most popular historical buildings in the Edirnekapi region. The mosque, which was built together with a madrasa, a double bath, a bazaar, a primary school, and a social complex, is located on the inner side of Edirnekapi, which is the highest place in the city wall, right next to the walls. The building was built by Mimar Sinan for Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent.
  • Chora Museum: Among the places to visit in this region, there is also the Kariye Museum. The name “Khora”, which means “rural area” or “outside the city” in Greek, was deemed appropriate for the building because it was outside the city walls of Constantine. During the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453, the structure was not damaged. The Chora Monastery Church, which continued to be used as a church for a long time, is a very interesting structure in Eastern Roman art with its architecture, mosaics, and frescoes.

7. Kocamustafapasa Hill

Kocamustafapasa district, which is also one of the oldest settlements in Istanbul, is the last of the city’s famous 7 hills. Kocamustafa Hill, the region that goes from the Aksaray district to the city walls and the Marmara coast, resembles a triangle with its three elevations. Topkapı, Aksaray, and Yedikule are the corners of this triangle.

It is marked by the Forum of Arkadius and the Column of Arkadius located in the middle of this forum. The hill, which is approximately 60 meters above sea level, is home to many historical buildings today.

Haseki Complex, Bayrampasa Mosque, and Arkadius Forum were built on this hill. There are mosques, tombs, and monuments visited by many people today, where the hill is located. There are also many artisan restaurants around Kocamustafapasa Hill where you can eat. After visiting the historical places in this region, you can take a delicious lunch break and try different flavors at an affordable price.

Places to see on Kocamustafapasa Hills are listed below:

  • Cerrahpasa Mosque: You should see the Cerrahpasa Mosque, which was built by the Grand Vizier Cerrah Mehmed Pasha in 1593 by Davud Aga, one of the journeymen of Mimar Sinan.
  • Haseki Complex: Haseki Complex was built by Haseki Hurrem Sultan in 1551 by Mimar Sinan. It consists of a complex, mosque, madrasah, primary school, soup kitchen, hospital, and fountain. Some of the tile panels adorning the window pediments are in the Topkapı Palace Museum.

What is the History of the Seven Hills of Istanbul?

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is a city rich in history and culture. One interesting aspect of Istanbul’s history is the fact that it was built on seven hills, similar to Rome. The concept of a city being built on seven hills is a common one in ancient and medieval history, with many cities around the world claiming to be built on seven hills. The most famous example of a city built on seven hills is Rome, which is said to be built on the seven hills of the Roman Forum. The concept of a city being built on seven hills is often associated with power and strength, as the hills provided a natural defense for the city and made it easier to defend against invaders. Each of these hills has played a significant role in Istanbul’s history and has contributed to the city’s rich cultural heritage. The Seven Hills of Istanbul are a testament to the city’s long and storied history and continue to be a major attraction for visitors from around the world.

The names and dates of the 7 hills are recorded in history as follows.

  1. Sarayburnu (Topkapi)

The first hill starts from Sarayburnu and extends towards Sultanahmet Square. It is the hill on which Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosques, and Ibrahim Pasha Palace are located. However, the square called Hippodrome, where horse races, gladiator fights, and various ceremonies were held before the Ottoman Empire is also located on this hill. This square was called “Atmeydani” in the Ottoman period. The name it has today is “Sultanahmet Square”. It is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides and the land side is higher than the sea level, it has always been used as a center since its first establishment. Fatih Sultan Mehmet preferred this end of the Historic Peninsula for the palace, which would be the center of the Ottoman Empire.

This area, also known as Sarayburnu Hill, in other words, Topkapi Hill, is located approximately 30 meters above the sea. Besides Topkapi Palace; Hagia Sophia Museum, Blue Mosque, Ibrahim Pasha Palace, German Fountain, and Million Stone are also located on this hill.

  1. Cemberlitas (Nuruosmaniye)

Cemberlitas is known as the second hill of the city. It covers the area where Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Cemberlitas are located. It is 40 meters above sea level. Famous artifacts are found in the region; Cemberlitas is listed as Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Corlulu Ali Pasa Madrasa. According to some perspectives, the Spice Bazaar can also be included in this group.

  1. Sulaymaniyah (Beyazit)

It is expressed as the second most prominent hill after Sarayburnu in the silhouette of the city. It is the hill on which Suleymaniye, the magnificent work of Mimar Sinan, rises above the Istanbul University building complex and the magnificent Beyazit Mosque, which can be reached as you go up from the shores of the Golden Horn. Beyazit Mosque, which is the oldest building on the hill, was built by Architect Hayreddin in the early 1500s by Sultan Bayezid Han II. Perhaps the most prominent hill, this region attracts a lot of attention, especially when traveling by ferry.

  1. Fatih (Fatih Mosque)

It is the fourth hill of Istanbul. The third hill is connected to the fourth hill by the Bozdogan Aqueduct. The most important work on the fourth hill can be expressed as Fatih Kulliye. The kulliye, which consists of the Fatih Mosque and four madrasas on its right and left sides, is known as one of the first social complexes built systematically. It would be appropriate at some point to say that this is the hill that you care most about throughout history. In historical sources, it is stated that Fatih Mosque was built in its place, and the Church of the Apostle, one of the important works of Rome (the church dedicated to the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ), is located here.

  1. Yavuz Selim (Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque)

It is the fifth hill of Istanbul. The hill is located in the Carsamba district of Fatih county. This hill, overlooking the Golden Horn from a steep slope, is located 50 m above the Golden Horn. Important artifacts found in the region are listed as Kariye Mosque and Fener Greek Patriarchate. It is also the hill where Yavuz Sultan Selim, the conqueror of Egypt, was buried after his death. The most beautiful work on this hill is the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque, which was started to be built by Yavuz Sultan Selim but was completed by his son, Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, after his death.

  1. Edirnekapi (Mihrimah Sultan Mosque)

Located in the Edirnekapi region, this hill is the highest hill that carries the city. The most important building on this hill is the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, a work of Mimar Sinan.

  1. Kocamustafapasa (Anchor – Haseki)

Kocamustafapasa hill is the only hill in the Thrace region of Istanbul. The most important building on it is the Cerrahpasa Mosque, which was built by the Grand Vizier Cerrah Mehmed Pasha by Davud Aga in 1593.

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