The ancient Hippodrome, scene of chariot races and the centre of Byzantine civic life, stands in the area that is now in front of the Blue Mosque, and now part of Sultanahmet. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine. Remains of the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of the three.
Today, the square forms the centre of Istanbul's historical, cultural and tourist life, and the surrounding wooden houses – especially the 18th century ones on Sogukcesme Sokak – were recently restored giving them a new lease of life as small hotels.
Theodosius Obelisk, is originally an Egyptian piece of art erected in 1547 BC and originally 60m tall, but only the upper third of it survived the shipment from Egypt, brought to Istanbul by Emperor Theodosius in 390. Made from pink granite, its pictures and hieroglyphs depict the victories of Thutmos III, and reliefs of members of his family can be seen on the base.
This ancient monument remains unchanged since the Roman Period, and lies at the entrance of Gulhane Park, the external garden of Topkapi Palace. Erected in the third or fourth century, it composes of a 15m high marble monolith on a high platform. The column head is adorned with an eagle, typical of Corinthian method. It is also known as Gots Column, due to the inscriptions which mention the victory against the Gots.
Also known as Cemberlistas obelisk, this burnt column of masonry was erected by Constantine the Great in 330 AD, in celebration of the dedication of the capital city of the Roman Empire. It was placed in the middle of an oval square on the city's second hill, in the area now known as Cemberlitas, and was burnt during the great fire of 1779 which destroyed much of the area.
Also known as Burmanli Obelisk, it was imported from the Apollo Temple in Delphi, to Istanbul during the fourth century and is one of the oldest monuments in the city. The original one was constructed in 409 BC, and made from melting and moulding the guns of the Persian Army, after their defeat to the United Greeks.
When constructed in 393 AD during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, it was the biggest square in the city. Originally named as Form Tauri, die to the bronze bull heads in the victory cases in the middle, today only a few marble blocks and columns remain, on which the statue of the Emperor rises. At the north end was the first palace constructed by Fatih, and is now Istanbul University. The monumental gate at the university's entrance, and the fire tower, date back to the 19th century.
The square which decorates the 15th century Beyazit Mosque (the oldest surviving imperial mosque in the city) lies adjacent to the crowded Kapali Carsi (Covered Market).