Old Constantinople, like Rome before it, was built on seven hills. Each hill is a site of great importance to the history of the city.
Topkapı Palace Hill
Located on the historical peninsula and with a height of 30-40 meters, this hill has always been the center of public life in the city. This is the site on which one finds both the Byzantine and Ottoman palaces, the Hagia Irene, the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Sultanahmet Mosque, the İbrahim Paşa palace, the Milion Stone, the German Fountain, the Küçük Ayasofya Mosque, the Istanbul Archeological Museum, the Yerebatan Cistern, the Cağaoğlu Hamam, the New Mosque, the Sirkeci Train Station and the Bukeleon palace.
At 50 meters above sea-level, this hill is the site of the Mese-Divan Road with its thousands of years of history. Here one can find the Firuzağa Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Binbirdirek Cistern, the Çemberlitaş Hamam, the Çorulu Ali Paşa Mosque and Madrassa, the Nuruosmanyie Mosque, the Çinili Han, and the Spice Bazaar.
The third hill, at an elevation of 60 meters, is one of the highest in Istanbul. In Byzantine times the Theodisil Forum was located here and now one can find the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Beyazit Mosque, Istanbul University, the Laleli Mosque, the Çukurçeşme Hamam, the Süleymaniye Külliye, the Tomb of the Architect Sinan, and the Zeyrek Mosque.
This hill was one of the most prestigious spots during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. In the Byzantine period it was the site of the Church of the Twelve Apostles, while during the Ottoman period the Fatih Mosque and Külliye built in its place became the focal point of the fourth hill.
The fifth hill of Istanbul, Yavuzselim Hill, was known for the Pammakaristos Monastery which is now the site of of the Museum of the Conquest (Fethiye Müzesi). Here one can also find the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque, the Chora Museum and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
The city’s sixth hill, located behind the fourth hill, is one of the highest in Istanbul reaching an altitude of 70 meters. It is the site of the Tekfur Palace, the only remaining structure from the Blachernae Palace Complex which was the focal point of the hill during the Byzantine period. Today one can also find a number of works by the architect Sinan here, including the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque.
Separated from the other hills by a deep valley, the seventh hill of Istanbul has an altitude of 60 meters. During the Byzantine period it was the site of the Arkadius Forum, built in 403 C.E., and was marked by the Arkadius pillar. During the Ottoman period the Haseki Külliye, the Haseki Sultan Mosque and the Bayrampaşa Mescid became important landmarks.