About Rumeli Fortress
The Rumeli Fortress (Rumelihisari) in Istanbul, Turkey, was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II as he prepared to lay siege to Constantinople and conquer it from the Byzantines.
Over 3,000 people toiled to construct the Rumeli Fortress over a staggeringly short period of 4 months. Located along the Bosporus, Rumeli Fortress stands across from the Anadolu Hisari, a fort built by Mehmet’s great grandfather and on the site of a former Roman fortification.
Mehmet was finally successful in capturing Constantinople in 1453 and is known as Mehmet the Conqueror. Today, the historic Rumeli Fortress and museum is open to the public, who can enjoy great views from its towers.
Rumeli Fortress history
Sultan Mehmed II had learnt from his father’s difficulties in trying to capture Constantinople: a Byzantine fleet had effectively blockaded the Bosphorus. As soon as he ascended the throne, Mehmed began planning another offensive. In Constantinople, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI hoped to secure diplomatic peace with the Ottomans in order to protect the city.
However, Mehmed refused peace and continued with his siege plans by constructing a large fortress at the narrowest part of the Bosphorus. Building began in 1452 as Mehmed signed his own initials and those of the Prophet Muhammed on the first brick with goat blood.
The fortress, originally ‘Bogazkesen’ meaning ‘strait/throat cutter’, was built on top of an old Roman fort, and was later renamed Rumelihisari meaning ‘Fortress on the Land of the Romans’. Mehmed’s plan was successful: aid was prevented from reaching Constantinople in the last raid by the Ottomans in 1453. Constantinople fell in April of that year after a siege that lasted 53 days.
After Constanipole’s fall, the fortress served as a customs checkpoint, losing its strategic significance when another pair of towers were built further up-river. During the 17th century, the Rumeli Fortress was used as a prison for prisoners of war. The building’s wooden parts later burned in a 1746 fire and although it was repaired, the fortress was only ever used for residential purposes afterwards.
Rumeli Fortress today
Since 1960, Rumeli Fortress had been a museum and open-air theatre for a multitude of concerts and festivals all year. Open to the public each week (except Wednesdays) from 9am to 4.30pm, much of the fortress remains to be explored and you can easily spend around an hour there.
Highlights of any visit to Rumeli Fortress include the main rounded tower, Fatih or ‘Conqueror’, towering over 28 metres tall from which you can climb and look out at the water. After visiting the castle, follow the sea-side walkway along the side for a scenic stroll.
Getting to Rumeli Fortress
Buses 22, 22RE, 25E, 29D, 40T and 42T all stop at Rumeli Hisari, and for those driving there are several car parks along the waterfront, a few minutes walk away. For great riverside views of the fortress, take the ferry from Eminonu Pier across to Emirgan Pier, which takes around 50 minutes. Then walk 20 minutes southwards to Rumeli.