Guide to SKOPJE

Rumelian Castle – fortress with spectacular view of the Bosphorus


Tourists visiting Istanbul have always wondered where to find the place with the best view of the Bosphorus. Balkon3 reveals the secret of making all your photos of the strait that separates Europe and Asia look like picture perfect postcards. It is rather simple – just visit Rumelihisar, a fortress with rich history where you can see museum exhibits and enjoy breakfast with a breathtaking view of the Bosphorus.
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Rumelihisar fortress is located in Sariyer district of Istanbul standing on a hill on the European side of the Bosphorus. It gives the name to the neighborhood around it. Rumelihisar was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452, before he conquered Constantinople. The three great towers were named after three Grand Viziers of the Sultan – Halil Pasha, Zaganos Pasha and Sarica Pasha.
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The castle is situated at the narrowest part of the Bosphorus strait (660 meters) and is very close, just opposite, the Anadoluhisari (Anatolian Castle) which was built during the reign of Sultan Bayezid I. This location was chosen in order to prevent the city receive help coming from the Black Sea during the Ottoman siege. During previous sieges of the city the Sultan’s biggest problem was the Byzantine fleet blocking the Bosphorus. The fortress that has been there since Roman times, was used as a prison and later there was also a monastery.

In preparation for the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II (1432-1481), son of Murad II, began constructing the fortress immediately after his second ascend to the throne in 1451. He rejected the peace treaty with the Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos (1404-1453) who understood the message the Sultan sent by constructing the fortress. Construction began on 15 April 1452, and each of the three main towers were named after viziers who supervised it, also the Sultan personally came several times to oversee construction. With the help of thousands of masons and builders, the fortress was completed in a record time of 4 months and 16 days on August 31st 1452 .
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Rumelihisar fortress consists of one small tower, three main towers and thirteen small watchtowers on the connecting walls of the fortress. The fortress, which was designed by architect Muslihiddin, was initially called Bogazkesen meaning “the strait cutter” referring to the Strait of Bosphorus. Later, its name was changed into Rumelihisar which means “fortress on the land of the Romans” i.e. Byzantine Europe.
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The fortress lost its importance when several other fortresses were built along the coastline. In the 17th century it was used as a prison primarily for foreign prisoners of war. Rumelihisar was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1509 and was restored and renovated several times in the following years. In 1746 a fire broke out destroying the wooden parts of the main towers. During the reign of Sultan Selim III it was built again. Rumelihisar has been used as a museum and outdoor theater since 1960. There is an exhibition of weapons, cannon balls and chains that were used in the conquest of Istanbul.
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The fortress is open to visitors every day except Wednesday from 09:30 until 16:30. Admission costs 5 TRY (two euros).

Text and photo: Kristina Angeleska