An important part of Ottoman social and architectural history, fountains functioned as meeting places as well as water sources. The oldest water structures date back to Roman times. After the conquest of Istanbul, dilapidated water systems such as aqueducts were repaired, and new systems were built to supply water to the citizens—throughout the later eras as well. Fountains were one of these water sources. For a very long time, Turks had always given great importance to water, and already had a number of practices and beliefs about water. However, it became more crucial after the Turkish people embraced Islam, as water has an essential role in Islam, especially in terms of cleanliness.


 It is considered a great act of charity to provide water to thirsty people, which is the reason most of the fountains were built in Ottoman times, helping a great deal of people. Building a fountain is considered an ongoing good deed which will benefit the person even after he passes away. When it was asked of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  what the best charity is, he said “Providing drinking water.” It was especially common for Sultans and their mothers, wives and daughters to endow money for the construction of fountains, and this was mostly for religious intentions. Fountains decorated the exteriors of houses, especially after the 16th century, as well as their interiors. They represent architectural style, change and novelty of their time. It is reported that there were still 1,600 Ottoman fountains in Istanbul at the start of the 20th century.


Visitors can see different types of fountain while strolling around the city. Wall fountains are mostly fountains whose tanks are connected to the wall, and they are built with dimension stone. They became particularly popular after the 15th century, up until the 20th century. Shadirvan fountains look like a stone stake rising from a basin with water pipes. They cannot be found in Istanbul today, although they were thought to be common in the past. Free-standing fountains were built in squares and across piers. They became popular after the 18th century, influenced by westernisation. Another type of fountain is the column fountain. This type of fountain emerged after the 18th century. It was made by carving a waterway inside a marble column and adding a pipe and a tap.


Noteworthy and famous fountains in İstanbul include:


 The Fountain of Davut Paşa

A wall fountain, the Davut Paşa Fountain is considered one of the oldest fountains in Istanbul. It was built in 1485 with Davut Paşa’s endorsement. Davut Paşa was a vizier of Mehmet the Conqueror.


Fountain of Ahmed III

 The Fountain of Ahmed III is located between the entrance of Topkapı palace and Hagia Sophia Mosque, both of which are in the Fatih district. This fountain is important in the way its architecture clearly demonstrates the transition to a more western style. It was built with the endorsement of Sultan Ahmet III in 1728 during the “Tulip period,” during which time a European influence started to manifest itself in art, architecture and so on. It features a square layout with five small domes on top. Within this square, each corner is a semi-circular protrusion, featuring three fountains with grilles. There is also a fountain at the centre of each facade. All surfaces have been so thoroughly decorated that there’s nowhere left unadorned, and although some of these decorations are in a Turkish decorative art style, one can also see motifs inspired by Western European art.

Gülhane Park Fountain

Observant visitors may notice a wall fountain at the entrance of Gülhane park. The fountain was endorsed by Sultan Ahmed I and built in 1605, later to be rebuilt in 1889 by Abdülhamit II. Calligraphic inscriptions from both phases of construction have survived to the present day.


The German Fountain

The German fountain was built in the hippodrome square to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898. All parts of the fountain were prepared in Germany, then brought to Istanbul and assembled there. It was built entirely in the Neo-Byzantine style, which is different from traditional Turkish fountain architecture. It is octagonal in shape, and a copper-clad dome sits on top of eight arches supported by eight green columns. Accessed by a marble staircase from the west, a corridor surrounds the marble chamber in the middle.