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Rumeli Fortress or Rumeli Hisari

Rumeli Fortress or Rumeli Hisari
It would be difficult not to notice the huge fortifications of the Rumeli Hisari or Fortress (European Castle) as you cruise the Bosphorus as it stands adjacent to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. Although it is not the biggest castle you will see along the strait, it is certainly the most impressive and the area that surrounds it is full of excellent waterside restaurants and cafés.  

As Sultan Mehmed II believed he could conquer Constantinople, in 1452 he built this enormous castle at the narrowest point on the Bosphorus directly opposite the smaller Anadolu Hisari ( Anatolian Fortress ) on the Asian shore and built by his grandfather Beyazıd I. The Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Dragases was forced to give him the land to build on even though its construction would be deemed as a declaration of war.


It was erected on the same spot that the Persian king, Darius the Great, watched his army of 70,000 men cross the Bosphorus from a bridge made of boats while on-route to attack the Scythians in 512 BC. Mehmed used 1,000 craftsmen and 2,000 labourers to quickly complete the construction that he himself designed and it only took 4 months. Halil Pasa, Zaganos Pasa and Saruca Pasa, his three Grand Viziers were responsible for the work on the three main towers which bear their names. On its completion, Mehmed was then able to stop supplies of grain reaching Constantinople from the Black Sea intending to weaken the city and aid his victory. Only one ship ever attempted to breach the blockade, it was Venetian and the vessel was sunk and its crew impaled.

After the fall of Constantinople Rumeli Hisarı ( Rumeli Fortress ) became a “customs collection point” which over time changed to Rumeli Kavagi , and parts of the castle were used to incarcerate foreign prisoners of war.

It sustained bad damage from an earthquake in 1509 and two of the towers lost their floors to a fire in 1746. Restoration work was carried out by Sultan Selim III but by the 19th century it was completely abandoned and squatters moved in and set up home there. There are drawings that show the tall main towers with similar roofs to the Galata Tower ’s witch’s hat. The castle underwent complete renovation in 1953 in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul.

Getting to Rumeli Hisari and Asiyan

From Kabatas you can take Buses in the 25 series or from Taksim take Bus Nos. 40, 40T and 42T.

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