Stroll around this fascinating urban park to take a step back in time and admire the culture of old Constantinople.
During the glory days of old Constantinople, the Hippodrome (Hipodrom) was the epicentre of chariot racing and the playground of countless Byzantine and Ottoman emperors. The arena may have been packed with horses, charioteers and 100,000 frenzied spectators back in the day but, these days, this is one of the most laid-back urban spaces in Istanbul.
While many of the original features of the Hippodrome have been lost to time, the original 3rd-century race track remains and offers a very pleasant path from which you can explore the area's main sights.
Although the Hippodrome is often referred to by locals as “Atmeydanı” or “Horse Square”, historically the space has also served as a social and political hub with numerous parades, judiciaries and imperial ceremonies taking place under the eye of various rulers. The men themselves may have turned to dust but, as you explore the nooks and crannies of this intriguing park, you’ll be glad that some of their artistic and architectural influences remain.
Dominating the park is the 3,500-year-old pink granite Obelisk of Theodosius which was brought from Egypt by Emperor Theodosius the Great. Note the intricate carvings of the emperor and his family on the obelisk's marble pedestal.
Within a stone's throw are the somewhat incongruous remains of the Tripod of Plataea or the Serpent Column. Originally topped with three serpent heads, the bronze tripod was cast to commemorate the Hellenic victory over the Persians in the Battle of Plataea in 480 BC.
Near the northern end of the park sits the German Fountain, which was offered as a token of friendship from the Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm to Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1900. With eight marble columns supporting the exterior and an interior adorned with beautiful golden mosaics, this ornate gazebo is a must-see.
The celebrated Roman charioteer Porphyrius had the distinguished honour of having seven statues built in his name. Although none of these statues have survived, the bases of two of them are on display in the nearby Istanbul Archaeological Museum along with one of the remaining serpent heads from the Serpent Column so, when you have had your fill of the park, why not pop over and pay a visit to the museum?