Being a peninsula bounded by bodies of water to the north, east, and south (the Golden Horn, Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara, respectively) and by the old city walls to west, this part of the city is essentially what used to be called Constantinople. The rest, of what is today Istanbul, were independent cities, towns, villages, fields or even complete wilderness later absorbed by the city. This process is still going on as Istanbul grows with an increasing speed. Recent discoveries in the construction of Yenikapı train and subway station, on the southern coast of the peninsula, date the very first time of Istanbul's settlement back to about 8000 years ago, which makes the city one of the oldest still-inhabited spots of the world. However, tradition states that Byzantium was first settled by Greek colonists from Megara on the Greek mainland in 667 BC. According to this tradition, they and their leader Byzas consulted the Delphi oracle, who said they would create a great harbor city "across from the land of the blind". After much sailing, they arrived at the strategically superb peninsular site of Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu) and encountered some fishermen who told them they lived in Chalcedon, a very less privileged site across the Bosphorus. ("They are the blind!", said Byzas to himself). This spot that the Megarans chose to found their new colony is now occupied by Gülhane Park and the Topkapı Palace. Once the starting point of the Hippie Trail, the Sultanahmet area has been the main tourist district of the city since the 1960s. As the Hippodrome of Constantinople, it was for long one of the main social centres in the city — a role it still temporarily plays for the evening feasts during the Ramadan — and hence is a part of the old city with an exceptionally disproportionate number of historic sights. The name of the district derives from the Turkish name of the imposing Blue Mosque on one side of its main square, which in turn is named after the Ottoman sultan Ahmet I (r. 1603–1617), who had the mosque built and is buried in a mausoleum in the yard of his mosque. Parts of the peninsula was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. Flyover 3 historical architecture 1-Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Ayasofya Meydanı (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 522-1750. Daily 09:00-19:00. Dating from the 6th century, it was built as a basilica for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. A masterwork of Roman engineering, the huge 30-m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The church was looted by the fourth Crusaders in 1204, and became a mosque in the 15th century when the Ottomans conquered the city. It was converted into a museum in 1935. Don't miss the excellent mosaics, including those in the gallery, reached by a stone ramp to the left of the entrance. You can hire a guide at the entrance of the museum. As of October 2017, there is extensive renovation work occurring inside the building, with scaffolding filling much of the north side of the interior. Outside temporary barriers stopping access to the north side of the building. 2-Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Meydan Sokak 17 (By tram T1: Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 518-1319. May-Oct 09:00-21:00, Nov-Apr 09:00-19:00. With its six minarets and sweeping architecture the Sultanahmet or 'Blue' Mosque impresses from the outside. Unlike Haghia Sophia, this is still a working mosque, entry is through the courtyard on the SW side which is back side of mosque. No shorts or bare shoulders (shawls are provided) and you will need to remove your footwear (bags are provided that you can place your shoes in). The mosque is closed during ritual prayer but mosque volunteers provide you with a free presentation about the Mosque and also about Islam during that period. The venue for this event is the mosque's conference hall. It is the building with "Free Event" sign that will be on your left while you are approaching the mosque from Hagia Sophia. They do not charge you anything. Free, donations welcome upon exit. 3-Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı, Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi) (by tram: Gülhane/Sultanahmet), ☎ +90 212 512-0480. M W-Su 09:00-18:00. The imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for four centuries. Contains exhibitions of fine craftmanship. Lavishly decorated, with four courts of increasing grandeur. In the second court of the entrance to the Harem (admission extra) and the State Treasury, housing a weaponry display. The third court has the Imperial Treasury. Islamic and Christian relics, rugs, china. The views from the Fourth Court over the Bosphorus are spectacular. You can also see Prophet Mohammed's belongings. Any bus or tram with a sign or indication that it heads for or calls at Topkapı will not take you anywhere near Topkapı Palace. Rather, it is going to a neighbourhood named after the city gate near which it’s situated ("cannon gate"), which may be worth a trip to take a look at the impressive city walls. Topkapı neighbourhood is located in the extreme western part of the old city, near the city walls, while Topkapı Palace is located in the extreme eastern part, which means the distance between them is at least 7–8 km. ‘Topkapı’ alone almost always refers to the neighbourhood, not the palace. For the palace, the stop/station you should look for is 'Sultanahmet'. 40 TL, Harem 25 TL extra (no concessions; only credit cards and Turkish currency accepted).