Length 4.9 km (3 miles), terrain mainly flat with hill-climb near the end
Istanbul running routes:
Istanbul Sultanahmet old town route
Istanbul Bosporus shore run
For more running routes, see Routes List.
This route hits the water just where the Bosporus route leaves it.
NOTE: To avoid the tourist masses that daily flood the area between the Hippodrome and Topkapi, try to run in the mornings.
If you were smart enough to book a hotel in Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood, the heart of the old town, then here is a route that will take you past all the main sights. This is an inspiring route, indeed, heading past the greatest glories of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
|The Blue Mosque, with stray dog|
So, let's not waste any time: time to hit the streets!
The starting point is at the Egyptian obelisk in the Hippodrome, that long, paved plaza in front of the Blue Mosque. The Hippodrome was built by the Romans as a horse-racing stadium, seating 30,000. The stadium building blocks have long been carted away to be used in the many Ottoman building projects, but the north/south-oriented open space has remained.
And just south of that stands the masonry obelisk, still showing the holes where the gold-plated bronze plates once depicted the successes of one of the Byzantine emperors.
But the real star of the scene is the Blue Mosque, sitting off to the east side of the plaza, its 6 minarets and huge dome dominating the horizon. Definitely take time later to visit it and see its beautifully-worked interior.
So now, turn north and run up the Hippodrome, towards the red hulk of the next amazing building: the Hagia Sophia. This impressive structure has withstood invasions and earthquakes for about 1500 years. Built by Emperor Justinian, it was the greatest church in Christendom. When the Turks stormed the city in 1453, Sultan Mehmet rode into the church on his horse and turned it into a mosque. After the Turkish revolution of 1922, it became a museum, and you can visit its mix of Moslem and Christian symbols, in its semi-restored state. I wonder what it would look like if someone did a first-class job of restoring the interior...
|Heading towards the Hagia Sophia|
Stay on Cankurtaran street until the street ends by running straight to the battlement-topped walls of the sultan's Topkapi palace grounds. Turn right there to run uphill on Soguk Cesme street between Hagia Sophia and the palace walls. There is a row of wooden houses lining the stone walls on the left. The houses all belong to one hotel, with suites in each house: not bad!
|Wooden houses along Topkapi walls|
|Gate inscriptions at Topkapi palace|
|The ladies' baths|
This is the nicest neighborhood in the old town. It's full of beautifully restored buildings, now used as hotels and restaurants. Few Turks live in this small area now, but if you head down the hill to the east, the neighborhood is less dominated by tourists.
Turn left at Kutlugun and run back to the Topkapi walls again, where you turn right and go a further block before you zig back south again on Akbiyaik. This is the main entertainment street in the neighborhood. Follow it past all the hotels, restaurants and cafés as it curves to the left and starts to head downhill. Just before it goes under the railroad bridge, turn right on Akbiyik Degirmeni street, just before the nice hotel.
|Along Akbiyik Street|
The street winds just inside the railroad line. Just stay to the left when you don't know where to go.
Eventually, it will come out at a little plaza where you can see the cross-street go downhill under the train tracks, on Aksakal street. Look to the right, uphill, and you'll see the rounded brick support wall of the south end of the Hippodrome.
NOTE: the Bosporus running route connects up to this one at this spot.
Turn left to run south on Aksakal, under the train tracks and past the ancient city walls, running straight to the Bosporus water. Cross the shore road, Kennedy Caddesi, and turn right to run past the gas station, where you can finally turn left to run into the waterside park. The old city walls line the scene along the right side.
|Head straight west along the water|
|The fishing harbor and restaurants|
|The fish fountain: follow that guy in the black coat up Ustad!|
It ends at Paykane street, where you turn right and run the five blocks back to the south end of the Hippodrome.