Places of worship are only part of the story of the ancient city of Istanbul. Pieces of history are littered across the streets and buried beneath your feet. Nothing is more of a testament to this than the Hippodrome, where you can look straight down into the layers of history the city has been built on. The Hippodrome once held chariot and horse races, but is now capped by impressive monuments collected from the Byzantine and Ottoman days.
Not too much further afield is the Topaki Palace, which once housed the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Entrance comes at a steep price, with different sections each with their own separate tickets and tours. The palace is incredibly crowded during peak season, think about walking in a very long and slow line. The intricate decor makes the Palace a must see, and the views from the top are breathtaking.
Next door to Topaki are the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the museums are just massive and will take hours of exploring. One of the main highlights are the Sarcophaguses and statues from Babylon and Rome. For the price, the Museum of Archaeology can not be missed for any lover of history.
Not too far from Sultanahmet center are the Bosporus Ferry Cruises. These cruises can take you up the Bosporus Strait to Anadolu Kavağı. There are several private hawkers that will try to lead you astray, but a public ferry can take you all the way. This is basically at the Black Sea and the end of the Strait. At the top of this village stands a very old fortress called Yoros Castle, which is over 800 years old and built upon an old Greek temple. The castle stands in ruins, but can be freely explored due to the state.
Across Sultanahmet stands the tall Galata tower. Built by the Genoese almost 700 years ago, this tower crowns the city on a hill. Galata Tower is only part of the story, the hill is covered with cafes and art galleries. The alleys wind around and the stately homes are just wonderfully posh. This is the area worth spending time in and even staying in, aside from the minor inconvenience which is walking up the steep hill. An old funicular (Tünel) goes up the hill and then a tram takes you to Taksim. It is the second oldest underground rail in the world.