The Hippodrome of Constantinople

Visit the Hippodrome of Constantinople

Turkey is full of oriental and European elements. Istanbul is the heart of Turkey. Due to its beautiful landscapes, magnificent buildings, calm waters, and chronological monuments, Istanbul is the most visited place in this country. It has the Eminönü Square, Galata Tower,
Çamlıca Hill, Dolmabahçe Palace, Maiden’s Tower, and other quirks to offer. Sultanahmet Square is one such masterpiece, located in the heart of Istanbul. Besides enclosing fountains and parks, it has remnants of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. You might be wondering what is the Hippodrome and how to get there? Fret not! We are here with all the information.

Access Istanbul’s top attractions and save up to 70% on admission

What is Hippodrome, and Why is It Name So?

The hippodrome is a Greek word meaning “Horse Racecourse”. The first Hippodrome was an ancient Greek stadium where horse and chariot races were held. Today the term hippodrome is used for large arenas or theaters. There are many hippodromes around the world. One such prominent and ancient hippodrome is Istanbul’s Hippodrome of Constantinople, which is under discussion here.

When and Who built the Hippodrome of Constantinople?

The early Hippodrome of Constantinople was established during the Byzantine era when Emperor Septimius Severus built the city. He expanded the city walls to build an arena for chariot racing in 203 AD.

Later, Constantine-I refurbished the hippodrome making it more prominent. He used the area for not only horse and chariot racing but also for public execution, parades, and public shaming of enemies.

Access Istanbul’s top attractions and save up to 70% on admission

Sultanahmet Square
Location of Sultanahmet Square

A single lap of the Hippodrome track measured almost 300 meters. The overall length and width of the Hippodrome were 400 meters and 200 meters. Around 30,000 to 60,000 bystanders could sit in the arena. There were wooden benches for ordinary people. However, for VIPs, marble seats were used.

Powerful political and religious parties sponsored the teams that participated in the races held at the Hippodrome.

Tourist Guide for the Hippodrome

So, are you excited about visiting the Hippodrome? Well, you can get a two-in-one experience by visiting Sultanahmet Square. Firstly, you can visit the Hippodrome, and secondly, you can witness historical monuments situated near it.

Places Not to Miss

Some of the heirloom memorials that Constantine acquired and built during his dominion during the Byzantine period are still standing tall amid the city.

Although most of the monuments and statues adorning the Hippodrome did not survive the later majesties, four of the famous memorials still exist. These are the Obelisk of Thutmose III, Walled Obelisk, Statues of Porphyrios, and Serpent Column.  Let’s have a brief overview of each of them:

  • Serpent Column

Constantine and his legatee Theodosius the Great erected the Serpent Column. They did this to heighten the portrayal of their kingdom. This column is adorned by the works of art collected worldwide. It was built in the center of the Hippodrome to commemorate the triumph of the Greeks over the Persians during the 5th Century B.C Persian wars.

Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace & Basilica Cistern: Combo Ticket + Audio Guide

    Serpent Column in Istanbul
    Istanbul mosque
    • Obelisk of Thutmose III

    Theodosius the Great not only played a role in embellishing the Serpent Column but also secured an obelisk from Egypt in 390 and set it up in the Hippodrome. This Obelisk was chiseled from Pink granite. It was erected at the Karnak temple during the supremacy of Thutmose III. Astonishingly, the top section of the Obelisk withstands on a marble pedestal in good condition.

    • Walled Obelisk

    Constantine Porphyrogenitus erected the Walled Obelisk in the 10th century. During the Fourth Crusade, the gilded bronze plaques of the Walled Obelisk were dismissed by Latin troops.

    • Statues of Porphyrios

    As mentioned earlier, chariot and horse racing were the two effective forms of recreation: smart charioteers were often proclaimed as local heroes. Porphyrios was one of these popular charioteers.

    He played for two teams, ‘Green’ and ‘Blue.’ Seven statues were erected in the Hippodrome to honor his skills. Unfortunately, not even a single of these statutes survived, but the bases of the two statues are preserved. These are showcased in the famous Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

    Great Palace of Constantinople

    When the Hippodrome was expanded by Constantine I, it was connected with the Great Palace of Constantinople. Today this palace lies under the Blue Mosque. You can view the foundations of the Great Palace of Constantinople at the Museum of The Great Palace Mosaics, where they were preserved long ago.

    How to Get to the Hippodrome?

    You can reach the Hippodrome in five different ways. You can either take the tram/train, Uber/taxi, or the bus from Istanbul airport.

    Izniq tiles
    Mosque exterior

    By Uber/Taxi

    Get to the Hippodrome by booking an Uber or a taxi which takes 16 minutes only.

    By Bus

    There is transit route 96T for the bus. It takes nearly 1 hour and 42 minutes.

    By Tram/Train

    The transit line for the tram is T1 and for the metro is M1. Both will drop you at the Hippodrome in 52 minutes.

    Hippodrome Istanbul Hours

    When summer prevails, heat rises to an unbearable level in Istanbul. So if you are planning to visit this city, it is advisable to come here during the months from March to May or September to November.

    There is the highest number of visitors at Sultanahmet Square during the daytime from 10 a.m to 11 a.m. It may take 2 hours for you to see the Hippodrome.

    Try to visit the square during the early hours of the day to avoid massive crowds. You will be able to witness the remnants of ancient Hippodrome, including the Obelisk, thoroughly at this time of the day.

    Some Facts to Remember

    Long ago, the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet Square was a vast arena. However, presently there is not much of it left. So, while discovering this renowned tourist destination, consider visiting nearby places like the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Hagia Sophia Museum, and Blue Mosque.

    Although there are no particular constraints on wearing shorts for comfort, it is better to dress respectfully while visiting religious places like mosques and shrines.

    Singing Off:

    After knowing everything about the Hippodrome, you must be planning to visit it. However, you might wonder about the Hippodrome Istanbul entrance fee. You will be happy to know that there is no fee. You can visit the place free of cost. Just make sure you go there at the right time to enjoy yourself well.

    Good luck!

    The Hippodrome of Constantinople