Most short-stay visitors spend all their time in Sultanahmet, home to Istanbul’s main sightseeing attractions: the church of Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), the greatest legacy of the Byzantine Empire; the Topkapı Palace, heart of the Ottoman Empire; and the massive Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii). Here also are the ancient Hippodrome, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (housed in the former Palace of İbrahim Paşa), the eerily lit Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı), a fascinating Byzantine underground cistern, and the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı), the largest covered bazaar in the world. The monumental architecture, attractive parks and gardens, street-side cafés, and the benefits of a relatively traffic-free main road combine to make this area pleasant for both sightseeing and staying – but beware of hustlers, particularly the carpet-selling variety.

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