Istanbul City Walls: Self-Guided Walking Tour + Detailed Map

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Istanbul walls, Land Walls of Constantinople, Byzantine Walls, and the Theodosian Wall are all popular names for the fascinating ancient ramparts constructed nearly two millennia ago to defend this historic city.

Known by many names, the unique and historic Istanbul walls are not yet widely known to mass tourism.

Visitors frequently arrive in Istanbul with an itinerary full of grand mosques, opulent palaces, and labyrinthine bazaars that characterize the UNESCO core of the city.

A relative few, however, seem to make it beyond the boundaries of Sultanahmet (i.e. the Old City), or are even aware that physical remnants of the ancient city walls of Constantinople not only exist, but offer a unique and unforgettable way to dive deeper into Istanbul’s past, present, and future.

Here’s what you need to know about visiting the largest existing section of the Istanbul walls, the Theodosian Wall, including our custom walking map for doing a self-guided walk along any length of this amazing 7 km-long archeological site.

If you’re pressed for time, navigate to the bottom for our interactive map and be sure to read the helpful comments at the end of this post from recent visitors.

What Are the Istanbul Walls?

walking on top of Istanbul Walls of Constantinople

Constantinople (Istanbul’s former Byzantine name) was once a heavily fortified city on a peninsula.

Shortly after the founding of the city in 330 A.D., work began on a series of land walls to the west, where the peninsula joins the European continent.

The city walls were constructed for the usual purposes of keeping invading marauders out–and the good times in.

A century later, the Theodosian Wall was constructed farther to the west, enlarging the city significantly. These are perhaps the most interesting of the surviving Istanbul walls.

We walked along remaining stretches of the Theodosian wall, which was constructed in the 5th century, A.D.

To our amazement, much of the original ramparts and gates still exist, and some have also been restored. You can even walk along the top of significant stretches of the city walls as well!

Start:Golden Horn Park (Haliç Parkı) / Ayvansaray Ferry Stop.
GPS: 41°2’18.716″N 28°56’32.302″E
End:International Peace Park (Uluslararası Barış Parkı).
GPS: 40°59’21.902″N 28°55’8.681″E
Hike Type:Urban Point-to-Point
Distance:7 km (4.35 mi)
Elevation Gain:70 m (256 ft)
Difficulty:Easy/Moderate
Exposure:Largely exposed to the elements. Prepare accordingly.
Kid-Friendly?:The walk on surface streets is child-friendly.
However, exercise extreme caution when climbing/ walking on ramparts with children.

Why Visit the Old City Walls?

Istanbul’s old city walls cut through a fascinating area of the city that differs significantly from the primary tourist centers, lending a far different perspective on daily life in this city of 15 million.

Climbing the Istanbul walls, however, was the highlight of our trek (yes, you can even climb the ramparts in some sections!), offering stunning views of the massive sprawl that is Istanbul in the 21st century.

Update: Sadly, recent visitors say it is no longer possible ascend to the top of the walls. While we hope this changes in the future, we think admiring the walls from street level is still worth the trek.

From the top of the ramparts, you can see all the way to Levent and Maslak, Istanbul’s two booming financial districts which are located some ten kilometers (six miles) to the northeast and are virtually invisible from the Old City.

Istanbul is so sprawled out that it’s hard to fathom anyone ever coming close to exploring it all in a lifetime.

What to Expect

cafe along Istanbul City Walls self-guided tour
A sidewalk cafe along the Istanbul walls.

Depending on where you start and end, you’re likely to come across several well-preserved and restored forts and structures, a handful of museums, and gift shops.

Many of the restored sections of the wall are even open for climbing, often via steep stone stairs, for a bird’s eye view of this sprawling city.

You will also find some very rundown and dilapidated sections of the wall as well, that are off-limits to visitors.

Also expect to encounter interesting and unique neighborhoods and other quirky points of interest along the way.

While exploring the ancient city walls, we came across a coffee shop, perfectly positioned to take advantage of all two of the wall’s visitors (us) on this particular day.

The coffee was excellent, and the ambiance was even better, with seating in one of the old alcoves formed by a particularly large portion of the ramparts.

We only came across two other wall explorers at the height of summer during our four-hour journey — a couple of young Turkish guys who seemed far more keen on snapping epic selfies than on the ruins themselves.

Other than that, we had the entire wall to ourselves.

With the exception of the cats, of course…

Lots and lots of cats everywhere in Istanbul.

One local attributed the abundance of felines to the predominant Muslim culture, as cats are revered in Islam.

The scene above appears worse than it actually is. The cats seem to be confined, but to a very large series of chambers of an old fortress complex with plenty of room to roam.

They also appear to be healthy and well fed. Now, why there are so many of them enclosed in this particularly area, no one could say.

In addition to the amazing views and unique interaction with physical history, walking the length of the Istanbul walls also offers a glimpse into the city’s meteoric rate of gentrification.

Our route began in a relatively run down area of town, but within blocks transformed into brand new luxury townhouses with high-end supermarkets, restaurants, and other fashionable amenities.

In many ways, exploring the city walls is a perfect way to wrap up a stay in Istanbul, immersing yourself in the city’s ancient past while gaining insight into Istanbul’s future.

Self-Guided Walking Tour + Map

flag atop old rampart istanbul walls turkey

Alright, let’s get to it! Below, you’ll find our very own detailed, handcrafted map for exploring any section of the Theodosian Walls of old Constantinople on your own.

We’ve gone to great lengths to include as much information for historic points of interest as we can. As you might imagine with 7 km of wall, however, there’s a lot still missing here. Much of the information is either disputed by scholars or hard to match up to the exact location.

Would We Do this Self-Guided Walking Tour Again?

In hindsight, we were happy with our DIY urban explorations, but felt like we could have gotten a whole lot more out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience if we’d hopped on a tour or hired a guide with deep local knowledge.

We know we certainly we missed out on a boatload of secrets, both ancient and contemporary. There are so many sections of the wall that have no available information in English, and it was obvious that there is major social and economic changes happening in the neighborhoods flanking the walls.

Plus, we still don’t know what’s up with all those cats!

If we were to do it all over, we’d hop onto one of these tours, or even fold it into an all-day city tour.

If you’re still keen to go the self-guided route, read on!

Pick a Starting Point

Visiting and walking along the Istanbul walls is fairly straightforward, and only costs the price of a ferry ticket or taxi to get you there.

We took the ferry to Golden Horn Park (Haliç Parkı) / Ayvansaray Ferry Stop at the northernmost point of the city walls, where the walls meet the Golden Horn (see interactive map below).

Alternatively, you can take the Marmaray rail to Kazlıçeşme İstasyonu station and start at the southernmost point, or a taxi to any point in between, depending on how many different sections of the wall you wish to see, or how long you plan to walk.

The entire stretch of wall from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara is about 7km.

Interactive Map

walking map Istanbul walls of Constantinople
Click on the image above to zoom and scroll around the map in a new window.

A few important notes about using our custom interactive map:

  • The BLUE track is our recommended walking route, from Ayvansaray Ferry Terminal down to Kazlıçeşme Marmaray Railway Station.
  • The RED dotted line is the approximate location of the city walls.
  • ORANGE markers indicate the major points of interest, including the various city gates, towers, and fortresses. It’s worth noting that we sourced the information we’ve provided on the points of interest from Wikipedia. Follow the link after each passage for more information and sources.
  • Keep an eye out for opportunities to walk along the top of various segments via stairways. Access points are often locked behind iron gates depending on the day.
  • New cafes seem to be popping up frequently, but we still recommend bringing enough water and snacks to sustain your 7 km journey if you choose to go the distance.
  • If you have extra time, make sure to hop off the track and explore some of the interesting parks and other historic sites along the way as well. Many are marked on the map.
  • The map we’ve put together is free for you to use on your own Istanbul Walls adventure. But please, if you republish the map on your own site, please credit this post with a url link.
  • If you find any errors in our map, please let us know!
  • Enjoy!!!

Planning a Trip to Istanbul?

Read up on our other helpful articles:

Istanbul City Walls of Constantinople pin
Istanbul City Walls of Constantinople pin

20 thoughts on “Istanbul City Walls: Self-Guided Walking Tour + Detailed Map”

  1. Chuck Lukaszewski

    Quick follow up to my trip report from October 9, 2023 that you recently published.

    Was doing some follow-up research after getting home and came across a very well produced online video history series chronicling various Istanbul sites of historical significance. They have a two-part series on the Theodosian Walls which I really wished I had found beforehand. Perfect compliment to the AwayGoWe self-guided tour.

    – The Land Walls of Constantinople (Part 1) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fepOTrg8J6c
    – The Land Walls of Constantinople (Part 2) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H9zfsn8o-g

    The videos are an academic-level detailed history and breakdown of the walls going from south to north. Including what to look for in terms of construction, translations of surviving inscriptions, and military significance of the changes in topography along the Wall.

    Also – for those with interests in ancient water systems there is a huge amount of Roman aqueduct engineering to see in and around Istanbul. This same site also has an excellent video on the Valens Aqueduct not far from the Theodosian Wall.

    Reply
    • Thanks Chuck for the helpful updates and supplemental info! I’ll be sure to incorporate it into the guide in the next update.

      Reply
  2. We are in Istanbul and want to visit and walk the ancient walls.
    Your guide and map are superb. We have decided to give your DIY walk a go over a guided one. Will let you know how we get on !
    Thank you so much for sharing this 😀

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Great to hear, Sally and Paul! Enjoy!

      Reply
  3. Chuck Lukaszewski

    Thanks for doing this. In Istanbul now and was looking everywhere for info on how to walk the Walls. This resource was ideal help.

    As we were staying in Old Town directly on T1 tram line along Ordu Caddesi, I just took that west to Topkapi station and started walking the wall north from there to the Horn. Then caught a cab (for ~110 lira or ~5 USD) to the south end and walked north back to tram station. I also managed to catch the Yedikule Dungeons Museum (Yedikule Hisarı Müzesi) open on the S end. This is the 7 tower bastion including the “Golden Gate” in the wall that was used for many things since 1458. It’s not open every day, and it closes at 5. Worth the 100 lira entry fee.

    Am a student of military history, also have read up on Mehmet II’s campaign against the city. My advice to future would-be walkers:

    – If you have limited time is to do the south half of the wall only (between Kennedy Caddesi main freeway along Marmara sea) up to Ordu Caddesi (main street with T1 tram line that bisects Old City).
    – You could even just do the southern ~2KM or so and stop. The reason is that the Wall is in progressively worse shape the further N you go. North of Ordu Cad. it’s not much to look at. I think that’s also where the “sketchy” areas are that were reported by others here. (Although I didn’t think anything was unsafe and I walked the whole thing – note that it’s not exactly the most well-to-do housing area along the wall but I felt perfectly safe.)
    – The full 4 wall fortification system including both sides of the moat is only intact on the very southern end. The moat has been filled so it’s only maybe ~5 meters deep and is mostly small farms now being actively worked. If you truly want to get a sense of the Walls as a defensive system that is the place to start and end. By ~2km N of the Yudikule bastion the moat is largely gone (it was repurposed for the freeway that runs N/S along the W side of wall).

    Finally, please note that contrary to earlier reports here there is no place where one can climb to the top. All stairways are solidly blocked off along entire length of Wall. Not sure how long this has been the case.

    Thanks again David and friend for publishing this. I mostly followed your track, other than starting/ending in the middle of the Wall.

    Happy Trails.

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Many thanks for your trip report, Chuck! This is very helpful information for future walkers. I’ll be sure to incorporate these updates into the post as soon as I can.

      Reply
  4. Hi!
    We completed the tour on June 18, 2023 and the map was an excellent guide for us! It was a fascinating time travel experience. We started from the Yenikapi end where we bumped into wild dogs so had to do a de-tour but from that time on we managed to follow the map. Thanks for putting it together! Happy to answer questions!

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Thanks, Krisztina! So happy to know it was helpful to you!

      Reply
  5. We are planning a trip to Istanbul in January 2023. As a history buff I am fascinated by the Theodosian Walls and would love to walk the entire length. Some comments mention the “sketchy” areas along parts of the route. I cannot tell when these comments were written and don’t know if things have improved since they were made. Do you have any updated info on how safe it is to walk the entire length? Thank you for you site.

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Hi Kelly. This is a great question and I wish I had a good answer. Unfortunately, we haven’t done the route since the start of the pandemic. If there’s any doubt, going with a local guide might be the best option. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  6. Great information! Thank you!

    I’ve been studying Constantinople for a long time and visited these walls in 1992. Going there this May and wondering about hiking the entire length as you did. But I’m a little concerned about walking on and inside the walls and towers. the street is obviously fine. When we visited in 1992 they were areas that were very sketchy I wondered if it was safe to be there. In one of the YouTube videos online now there’s a guy walking on the walls and someone comes up to him speaking in Turkish which I think the man is himself Turkish. And he turns around and says in the video that this man told him it’s very dangerous you need to turn around? I have heard other comments expressing the same concern.What do you think?

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Thanks for your comment, Richard. It must have been so interesting to visit back in 1992. We last visited in 2014, and at the time we noticed a lot of gentrification and new high-end development along the walls. There were quite a few other people walking the walls as we did on that day and we never felt threatened. Of course…a lot has happened in Istanbul and world since our visit. Our experience was very positive, but wish I could offer better insight on the current situation.

      Reply
  7. Thanks Dave!
    Your trail and interactive map is amazing. I always wanted to visit the wall, but didn’t know where to go, now it is an attraction and hike combined, finished it today, Amazing!

    Reply
  8. What a great resource! Thank you for sharing. I’m planning a visit in a few months and will definitely be doing this walking tour.

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Awesome! Happy travels!

      Reply
  9. You’ve inspired us to walk the walls ourselves – well done.

    Reply
    • David Baxter (AwayGoWe)

      Awesome! Enjoy!

      Reply
  10. I was born within these walls, but have spent only 6 of my childhood years there before moving abroad. The pandemic has been good to me in the sense that I’ve researched a lot into world history and stumbled upon this website. Ashamed to say you’ve discovered more of Istanbul’s rich history than I have..

    Reply
  11. Why there are no comments here? Thanks for putting it together!

    Reply
    • That’s a great question! Congrats for being the first! Safe travels!

      Reply

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