The Hippodrome of Constantinople: Entertainment at Its Finest

In the old city of Istanbul lies one of the glories of the ancient world, the Hippodrome of Constantinople. This was a center of entertainment for the Byzantine Empire and now can be found at the Sultanahmet Meydani, or Sultan Ahmet Square. Visitors that seek enlightenment on the entertainment of another age must add the Hippodrome of Constantinople as one of their stops while in Istanbul.

The Ancient World Loved a Good Time

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was Constantinople’s circus during the Byzantine Empire. It was here that lavish sporting events and socializing took place to flame the passions of citizens. Horse and chariot racing were commonly performed in this structure that predates the period of Constantine.

Built when the city was known as Bysantium, the Emperor Septimus Severus added the hippodrome in AD 203. When Emperor Constantine the Great moved the seat of government to Byzantium or Nova Roma in AD 324, he renovated the Hippodrome. At this time, the Hippodrome was 450 meters long and 130 meters wide and could hold 100,000 spectators. There was a U-shaped race track with the emperor’s lodge at the eastern end of the track. Great statues of horses, chariot drivers, emperors, heroes, and gods once filled the area. The city’s social life centered around the activities in this structure with huge bets on races, supported by Constantinople’s political parties in the Senate. The Hippodrome fallen into ruin by 1453.

People visiting the Hippodrome today can see three monuments of the original Hippodrome on site. The Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Thutmose III and the Walled Obelisk can be easily viewed, as well as the middle barrier of the racecourse, all in a landscaped garden. The Obelisk of Thutmose the III is striking, rising 60 meters and weighing 800 tons. It was constructed by the Pharaoh Tutmos III during his reign from 1549-1503 B.C.  It was erected in Constantinople in 390. Made of pink granite, the marble base shows a relief of the Emperor and his family watching chariot races and makes reference to the Sun God Amon Ra. All of the monuments and decorations at the time were intended to showcase the greatness of Constantinople to the world. Other elements of the Hippodrome can be seen at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

Plan Your Visit

The area is now a public park, named At Meydani, or “Horse Grounds”. On a nice day, visitors can easily walk the grounds without worrying about opening hours or entrance fees. The park is Wi-Fi accessible. With such a rich and colorful history, a tour would be the best way to reimagine what happened on site and what life was like throughout the ages.

On a clear day, the Hippodrome is an easy way for visitors to stretch the legs and imagine the social center of the Byzantine period. An accessible public park allows individuals to view the structures and area on their own schedule and can be an excellent stop between other indoor sites.


Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

In a three-story, neo-classic prison building with a landscaped courtyard, the Four Seasons Sultanahmet is in the center of Istanbul’s Old Town. It has luxury accommodations with original works by Turkish artisans, such as handwoven Turkish rugs.

Read More

Sura Design Hotel & Suites

Centrally located in Sultanahmet district, this designer hotel features a palace-like interior. Its modern rooms are soundproof, peaceful accommodations with free Wi-Fi.

Read More

Hagia Irene: Constantine’s First Church

An impressive structure within the grounds of the Topkapi Palace is the Hagia Irene, an Eastern Orthodox Church with its beginnings going back to the time of Constantine. It has byzantine elements and is one of the most important Istanbul churches, especially from a historical standpoint. This landmark of Istanbul and early Christianity during the era of Constantine is found sequestered in the outer courtyard of today’s Topkapi Palace. Discover more about the Hagia Irene Museum today.

Read More

Dosso Dossi Hotels Old City

Located in Sultanahmet district, Dosso Dossi Hotels Old City is within a walking distance from historical sites and the tram station. The property offers facilities including a Turkish bath, a sauna, and a fitness centre. The rooms of the hotel are equipped with soundproofing. 24-hour front desk and free WiFi is also available throughout.

Read More

Deluxe Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel

Situated a 10-minute walk from Grand Bazaar, this luxurious hotel features rooms with Ottoman-style decorations and a fully-equipped gym. Historical sites such as Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are within walking distance. The breakfast rooms and restaurant offer stunning views of the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul’s skyline.

Read More

Visiting Hagia Sophia: An Istanbul Museum Not to be Missed

Considered by many as one of the world’s most magnificent Byzantine structures, the Hagia Sophia is known by many names including the Church of Divine Wisdom, Sancta Sophia, and the Church of the Holy Wisdom. This incredible Istanbul museum features some of Turkey’s most prized historical relics, tombs, and mosaics set amid its striking architecture that take you back in time, where you can literally feel the rich history of this revered Istanbul landmark.

Read More

Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel

Centrally in Sultanahmet area of the Historic Peninsula, Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel features a sit-down restaurant, a buffet restaurant and a bar. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and a lovely garden. Free Wi-Fi access is available.

Read More

Bekdas Hotel Deluxe

With a roof-top restaurant overlooking the Sea of Marmara, Bekdas offers modern accommodation near Istanbul University. It is a 5-minute walk from the Grand Bazaar and 150 m from tram T1 Lalelı stop. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

Read More

Hagia Sophia Hotel Istanbul Old City

This luxurious hotel is centrally in Sultanahmet district, surrounded by major cultural landmarks of the old city. The hotel has stylish rooms with free Wi-Fi, next to Basilica Cistern and 80 m from Hagia Sophia.

Read More