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Past, present and future: exploring Istanbul’s historic peninsula

Anyone who’s visited Istanbul has probably visited its historic peninsula, home to some of its most iconic architecture and cultural and historical attractions, a legacy from the four major empires which once ruled from the seat of this ancient centre.

The magnificent Topkapi Palace, overlooking the Golden Horn in Istanbul.

Istanbul’s historic heyday

History tells us Istanbul was built on seven hills. On one of these hills, an acropolis grew, a centre for trade and commerce on the Bosphorus, connecting modern-day Sultanahmet to Europe and Asia. During Roman times, the area was extended to allow for chariot races to be held there. Later the Ottomans would train their horses and hold ceremonies in this Roman square.

The central acropolis in Istanbul was extended during Roman times to make space for chariot racing.

The historic site was an important strategic point for the city’s defences: Byzantine emperors and later, the Ottomans constructed fortifications and walls on the hill overlooking the strait. During the 16th century, after the Fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans turned Istanbul into one of the world’s most powerful ports, building mosques, palaces and army barracks in the district, some of which can still be seen today.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the focus was shifted from Istanbul to Ankara.

A period of disrepair

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when the Turkish Republic was still in its infancy, the country began an effort to westernise. Focus was shifted to Ankara, and Istanbul, governed from the outside for the very first time, became neglected as fewer resources were channelled into the city.

Poor town planning meant number of areas on the periphery of the historic peninsula, such as Fatih, Eyup and Gaziosmanpasa, fall into disrepair. A large number of illegal dwellings sprung up in these areas - after all, the city was still an economic hub, attracting workers leaving the countryside for the metropolis.

The Blue Mosque, a must-see on the tourist agenda

Today and tomorrow

While the heart of the historic peninsula has become a go-to destination for every tourist, the areas on the outskirts, the Golden Horn, remain downtrodden. Although, like the more central areas, there are beautiful mosques and churches, and some incredible historical sites, the shabbiness of the streets and the reputation for danger means these areas are avoided.

However, this is changing. With the government’s relentless regeneration schemes, which have already transformed other parts of the city from rundown areas into modern city centres, it’s just a matter of time before these historic areas enter a new phase.

In Eyup, Fatih and Gaziosmanpasa, illegal dwellings are being demolished, making way for new developments. Schools and hospitals are being built to accommodate the middle class families and professionals who are starting to buy up in the area. Transport links are being improved, with metro line extensions and improved roads.

The Hilton Hotel in the heart of the regenerated Bomonti area of Istanbul

We’ve seen the effect regeneration has had on similar areas. Six years ago in Bomonti, a former industrial area near Sisli, you could buy property for US$1000 per square metre. Today, you’d be lucky to find anything for $4000. The speed and trajectory of prices in regenerated areas is so drastic that it’s little wonder why investors are targeting these areas. Their low entry points, combined with the high potential for returns, is simply irresistible for local and foreign property investors. Istanbul professionals covet these types of properties, especially the potential for sea view apartments in Istanbul, which means guaranteed rental income and an excellent exit strategy.

Read more: The rise of Istanbul property, 2011-2016 

What to see on the Historic Peninsula:

Hagia Sophia: the Church of the Divine Wisdom was built in 537. After the conquest of Istanbul it became a mosque. Now, it’s a popular museum.

Topkapi Palace: the Ottomans ruled from the palace for almost four centuries after it was built in the 1470s. Today, it’s a museum that offers a glimpse into one of the greatest modern empires.

Mosques: Explore some of the old mosques in the area, including Sultanahmet, Suleymaniye and Yeni.

The Grand Bazaar: This famous covered market is one of the world’s largest, with more than 4000 shops selling everything from ceramics to jewellery to carpets, spices and leather.

Basilica Cistern: this intriguing and atmospheric site was forgotten for centuries. Now, it’s a popular attraction, with visitors heading underground to wander the huge ancient cisterns and see the eerie stone Medusa heads.

Gulhane Park: One of the city’s largest public parks, Gulhane was once part of Topkapi Palace’s grounds. Since it opened to the public in 1912, it’s been a popular spot for a walk and a picnic lunch.

Read more: Why Istanbul’s regeneration projects are ideal for first-time investors

Investment homes near the Historic Peninsula

Regeneration homes near Topkapi Palace
First call prices for Golden Horn homes
Metro apartments in central Istanbul
Minutes away from the historical Ottoman palace and 15 minutes from the historic peninsula, these one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments are priced 35% lower than completed projects. However, they won’t remain at this price for long as they will increase in value as the construction progresses. Units have a 60-month payment plan, and the value is expected to double within five years.

This Golden Horn project features all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern Istanbul home, including leisure facilities, shops, cafes and restaurants. The sea view property Istanbul is also well connected to the historic peninsula and beyond, which will mean it’s likely to be coveted by city professionals, allowing an easy exit in a few years. The project is currently on offer at a pre launch price, which will see units appreciate by 79% upon completion.


These Gaziosmanpasa apartments could not be better connected: the complex has its own metro access, allowing residents easy access into the central city and beyond. The excellent facilities in this city community will make the project desirable to young professionals and families, with leisure facilities like gyms, a mall, green areas and cafes, bars and restaurants. Urban regeneration in the area is creating a new buzz around this Gaziosmanpasa suburb, and we expect prices here to soar in the next five years.



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