The Rumelihisari Fortress – Don’t Miss This Epic Must in Istanbul

Istanbul’s fortress, Rumelihisari. If you love the romanticism of the Ottoman empire, this is a must visit spot in this exotic city!

Istanbul, the only city in the world to span two continents- two cultures, and while we lived in Turkey, we had to go a couple of times per year. One of our favorite places to go and have breakfast, gawk at the view, and enjoy the fort was Rumelihisari, especially after the hustle and bustle of Sultan Ahmet and getting our fill of whirling dervishes and Turkish rug salesman. The Rumeli area is peaceful and relaxing, and the breakfasts are amazing!

Interior of fortress.
Interior of fortress.

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Rumelihisari – Istanbul’s Fortress

A formidable fortress, Rumeli, looms over one of the narrowest parts of the Bosphorus. It originated as a defense tactic, but since it was built in 1493, it has had plenty of jobs during its lifetime, kind of like me. It has been everything from a protector, to a toll booth, to a prison, and now is retired to being a museum. 

The inner garden of the fortress, complete with tower and cannons.
The inner garden of the fortress, complete with tower and cannons.
Old rusted door.
It’s fun to climb around and discover things, like this old rusted door

Built by Sultan Mehmet II in order to besiege Constantinople and wrest the power from Constantine XI, the fortress only took a little over four months to erect.  From there you can also see the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge which is the only way to drive from Europe to Asia.

Rumeli is not on the main tourist track, because it’s not close to Sultan Ahmet and the likes of the Blue Mosque, and even though it’s registered as a museum, there are not many exhibits. It’s really an excuse climb around the walls and meander in the garden. 

Fortress walls and tower.
Fortress walls and tower.

Cost and Opening Hours

Rumelihisari costs 18 Tl. to get in, and except for Wednesdays is open from 9 AM – 7PM in summer (5PM in winter).

Note: If you are traveling to Istanbul during the summer months, there are often open-air concerts on the museum grounds. Check with your hotel before you go.

The Bosphorus View to Die For

It also has one of the best views in the entire world, one of Europe and Asia. Some restaurants nearby have taken advantage of the view and the romanticism that comes with this medieval fort. They serve breakfast.

If you are touring around Turkey, breakfast is usually served at your hotel and there’s no reason to go elsewhere. However Turkish people love breakfast, called kahvalti.

The view across the Bosphorus from Rumelihisari.
The view across the Bosphorus from Rumelihisari.

A True Rumelihisari Breakfast

Locals come to this area to eat a traditional kahvalti, which you can liken to our brunches. Often served midday and entails quite the buffet, it’s a reason to be with family. They will eat breakfast like this until at least 3:00 in the afternoon. 

One plate of breakfast to start out.
Kahvalti, or breakfast, usually has tomatoes, cheese, eggs, sausage, and lots of bread.

There are many cafes at the base of the fortress that serve eggs (with various ingredients), bread, honey, yogurt, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, a smorgasbord of Turkish goodness. Most kahvalti has a number of Turkish vegetarian dishes as well as offering some sausages and such.

One of the most famous of these restaurants is the Kale Cafe.  We’ve eaten there a couple of times, and it’s pretty darn good.  If you go, be prepared to stay and eat for awhile. It opens at 5:30 in the morning, and even though you might not want to start quite then, go early or stand in quite a line. Also, ask to take a picture of their çay stand in the kitchen.

Looking up at the fortress turrets and walls.
Looking up at the fortress turrets and walls.

Getting to Rumelihisari

It really is pretty easy to get to Rumelihisari.  From bustling Eminonu, or any metro stop near the main tourist sites for that matter, take the metro towards Kabatas. 

By Bus:

From there you have to cross the street to the buses and take the 22, 22RE,  or 25E.  These are all very frequent and you won’t have to wait more than five minutes. Tell the bus driver as you get on where you are going and try to sit not too far from him.  He’ll take care of you and tell you where to get off if you happen to miss the not-too-tiny fortress. 

By Car:

Of course you can drive as well. Just put this address in your GPS. Yahya Kemal Cd., 34470 Sarıyer/İstanbul. There usually is parking, and someone will direct you and charge you a nominal parking fee.

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4 thoughts on “The Rumelihisari Fortress – Don’t Miss This Epic Must in Istanbul”

  1. I have only been to Istanbul once and it was quite impressive. I wouldn’t mind going back and checking out an off the beaten path place like Rumelihisari. I spent more of my time at the markets and the Sultan Ahmet (tourist spots).

    1. Rhonda, I think with little time that’s what should be done. Sultan Ahmet has some pretty impressive sites, but you know we love Turkey and there’s always so much more to see.

  2. Looks lovely Corinne and not sure how Frank missed a trip to this fortress in our last visit. We didn’t love our visit to Antalya but I found Istanbul pretty exciting. Who would love a breakfast that lasts till 3pm. It’s my favorite meal of the day :).

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