Adalar, Avcilar, Bagcilar, Bahçelievler, Bakirkoy, Besiktas, Bayrampasa, Beykoz, Beyoglu, Eminonü, Eyüb, Fatih, Gaziosmanpasa, Kadikoy, Kâgithane, Kartal, Küçükçekmece, Pendik, Sariyer, Sisli, Ümraniye, Üsküdar, Zeytinburnu, Büyükçekmece, Çatalca, Silivri, Sile, Esenler, Güngoren, Maltepe, Sultanbeyli, Tuzla
This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbours in the world, it was once the centre for the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests. Today, attractive parks and promenades line the shores, a picturesque scene especially as the sun goes down over the water. At Fener and Balat, neighbourhoods midway up the Golden Horn, there are entire streets filled with old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues dating from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides in Fener, and a little further up the Golden Horn in Eyup are some wonderful examples of Ottoman architecture. Muslim pilgrims from all over the world visit Eyup Camii and Tomb of Eyup, the Prophet Mohammed's standard bearer, and it is one of the holiest places in Islam. The area is a still a popular burial place, and the hills above the mosque are dotted with modern gravestones interspersed with ornate Ottoman stones. The Pierre Loti Cafe, atop the hill overlooking the shrine and the Golden Horn, is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquillity of the view.
Beyoglu and Taksim
Beyoglu is an interesting example of a district with European-influenced architecture, from a century before. Europe 's second oldest subway, Tunel, was built by the French in 1875, must be also one of the shortest – offering a one-stop ride to the start of Taksim. Near to Tunel is the Galata district, with the Galata Tower, which long ago became a famous symbol of Istanbul. Visitors are invited to walk around on the top of the tower and enjoy a tremendous 360-degree view of the city.
One of the city's main focal points for shopping, entertainment and urban promenading lie between the Tunel and Taksim Square on Istiklal Cadesi. This area offers a fine example of the contrasts and compositions of Istanbul; fashion shops, bookshops, cinemas, markets, restaurants and even hand-carts selling trinkets and simit (sesame bread snack) ensure that the street is packed throughout the day until late into the night. With the exception of old tramcars, which shuttles up and down Istiklal Cadesi, the street is otherwise reserved for pedestrians. There are old embassy buildings, Galatasaray High School, the colourful ambience of Balik Pazari (Fish Bazaar), and restaurants in Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage). Also on this street is the oldest church in the area, St Mary's Draperis, dating back to 1789, and the Franciscan Church of St Antoine, demolished and then rebuilt in 1913.
The street ends at Taksim Square, a huge open plaza and the hub of modern Istanbul. The ever-crowded square is crowned with an imposing monument celebrating Ataturk and the War of Independence. The main terminal of the new subway is under the square, adjacent to a central bus terminal, and at the north end is the Ataturk Cultural Centre, one of the venues of the Istanbul Theatre Festival. Several five-star hotels are dotted around this area, like the Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Hilton (the oldest of its kind in the city). North of the square is the Istanbul Military Museum.
Taksim and Beyoglu have for centuries been the centre of nightlife, and now there are many lively bars and clubs off Istiklal Caddesi, including a variety of dance clubs and small concert halls.
Many places of tourist interest are concentrated in Sultanahmet, heart of the Imperial Centre of the Ottoman Empire. The most important places in this area, all of which are described in detail in the “Places of Interest” section, are Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, Sultan Ahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque), the Hippodrome, Kapali Carsi (Covered Bazaar), Yerebatan Sarnici, and the Museum of Islamic Art.
In addition to this wonderful selection of historical and architectural sites, Sultanahmet also has a large concentration of carpet and souvenir shops, hotels and guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants, and travel agents.
Ortakoy was a resort for the Ottoman rulers because of its attractive location on the Bosphorus, and is still a popular spot for residents and visitors. The village is within a triangle of a mosque, church, and synagogue, and is near Ciragan Palace, Kabatas High School, Feriye Restaurant and the Princess Hotel.
The name Ortakoy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life there when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops, and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed on weekends and holidays.
The first sight of Sariyer is where the Bosphorus connects with the Black Sea, after the bend near Tarabya. Around this area, old summerhouses, Consular residences, and fish restaurants line the river, and a narrow road, which separates it from Buyukdere, continues along to the beaches of Kilyos.
The ferry boat services stops on the European side of the Bosphorus are at the wharfs in Sariyer and Rumeli Kavagi. Both of these districts, along with Anadolu Kavagi, are famous among Istanbul residents who heavily frequent the wonderful fish restaurants and shops on the weekends and holidays as they escape hustle and bustle of the city.
After these points, the Bosphorus is lined with tree-covered cliffs and little habitation. The Sadberk Hanim Museum, just before Sariyer, is an interesting place to visit with a collection of archaeological and ethnographic items, housed in two wooden houses. A few kilometres away is the huge Belgrade Forest, the largest forest area in the city, which was once a haunting ground for the Ottomans that now offers a popular weekend retreat
Relatively unknown to tourists, the suburb of Üsküdar, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, is one of the most attractive suburbs. Religiously conservative in its background, it has a tranquil atmosphere and some fine examples of imperial and domestic architecture.
The Iskele, or Mihrimah Camii (Mosque) is opposite from the main ferry pier and on a high platform with a huge covered porch in front, often occupied by older local men watching life around them. Opposite are the Yeni Valide Camii, built in 1710, and the Valide Sultan's green tomb, which looks like a giant birdcage. The Cinili Mosque takes its name from the beautiful tiles that decorate the interior, and was built in 1640.
Apart from places of religious interest, Uskudar is also well known as a shopping area, with old street market selling traditional local produce, and a good flea market with second hand furniture. There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes with great views of the Bosphorus and the rest of the city, along the quayside. In the direction of Haydarpasa is the Karaca Ahmet Cemetery, the largest Muslim graveyard in Istanbul. The front of the Camlica hills lies at the ridge of this area and also offers great panoramic views of the islands and river.
Further south along the Bosphorus towards the Sea of Marmara is Kadiköy, a lively area with wonderful markets, food, and entertainment, making it especially popular with wealthy locals. During the 5th century the area hosted important Christianity consul meetings, but there are few viable telltales left of that age. Kadiköy has enjoyed a great deal of development and improvement over the last century, and a favourite past-time for people is to walk along the fashionable promenade near the waterfront in the evenings, especially around the marinas and yacht clubs.
Bagdat Caddesi is one of the most trendy – and label-conscious – shopping street of the town. The district of Moda is the Benadam art gallery as well as many foreign cuisine restaurants and cafes.
To the north of Kadikoy is Haydarpasa, with the Prussian-style train station, which was built in 1908. The train station was once the first stop along the Baghdad railway, and now it is the main station for eastbound destinations both within Turkey and abroad. There are tombs and monuments dedicated to the English and French soldiers who lost their lives during the Crimean War (1854-56) near the military hospital. The north-west wing of the 19th Century Selimiye Barracks, which once housed the hospital used by Florence Nightingale to care for soldiers, remains to honour her memory.
Polonezköy, although still within the city, is 25 km. away from the centre and not easy to reach by public transport. Translated it means the “village of the Poles,” and the village has a fascinating history: Prince Czartorisky, the leader of the Polish nationals who was granted exile in the Ottoman Empire to escape oppression in the Balkans, established the village in 1848. During his exile, he bought a plot of land from a local monastery and succeeded in establishing a community composed of people from the Balkans, and it still survives.
Since the 1970s the village has become a popular place for local Istanbulites. All the Poles live in the village, and the place is also inhabited now by wealthy city people, living in the few remaining Central European style wooden houses with pretty balconies.
What attracts most visitors to Polonezkoy is its vast green expanse, which was designated as Istanbul 's first national park. The park feature picturesque paths through a beautiful forest with streams and wooden bridges. Because of its popularity, it gets crowded on the weekends and the nearby hotels are usually full.
Kilyos is the nearest beach resort to the city, on the Black Sea coast on the European side of the Bosphorus. It has since developed into a holiday village and gets very crowded during the summer. Due to its close proximity to Istanbul, 25km, and plenitude of convenient public transport, it is good destination for a day trip, and is a popular for weekend getaways with plenty of hotels and several campsites.
A pleasant, small holiday town, Sile lies 50km from Üsküdar on the Black Sea coast. It is quite common for many of the residents to work in Istanbul and make the commute daily. The white sandy beaches are easily accessible from the main highway, lying on the west, as well as a series of small beaches to the east. The town itself if perched on a cliff top over looking a bay and tiny island. There is an interesting French-built black-and-white striped lighthouse, and a 14th century Genoese castle on the nearby island. Apart from its popular beaches, the town is also famous for its craft; Sile bezi, a white muslin fabric a little like cheesecloth, which the local women embroider and sell on the street, as well as all over Turkey.
The town has plenty of accommodation available, hotels, guesthouses, and pensions, although they do typically get very crowded on the weekends and during the holidays. It is a popular getaway location for people in Istanbul, especially in the summer. There are small restaurants and bars in the town.
Also known as the Istanbul Islands, there are eight within one hour from the city, in the Marmara Sea. Boats are continually available to offer transportation to Sirkeci, Kabatas and Bostanci, with more services during the summer. These islands, on which monasteries were established during the Byzantine period, were a popular summer retreat for palace officials. It is still a popular escape from the city, and a place where the wealthy own summerhouses.
Buyukada (the Great Island ) is the largest and most popular island and had a long history as a refuge for people who had faced exile or needed a place in which to retreat to; its most famous guest had been Leon Trotsky, who stayed for four years writing ‘The History of the Russian Revolution'. The monastery of St George also played host to the grand daughter of Empress Irene, and the royal princess Zoe, in 1912.
The island consists of two hills surmounted by monasteries with a valley between. Motor vehicles are banned, but from the main square off Isa Celebi Sokak a person can find transportation in the form of a horse carriage.
The southern hill, Yula Tepe, is the quieter of the two hills, and is also home to the St George Monastery. It consists of a series of chapels on three levels, with one of the buildings dating back to the 12th century. In Byzantine times it was used as an asylum, with iron rings on the church floors used to restrain patients. On the northern hill is the monastery Isa Tepe, a 19th century house.
The entire island is lively and colourful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses, and shops. There are huge well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas.
Burgazada is a much smaller island with less of a tourist infrastructure. The famous Turkish novelist, Sait Faik Abasiyanik lived here, and his house has been turned into a museum. The museum, dedicated to his work, offers a remarkable tranquil and hallowed atmosphere.
Heybeliada ‘ Island of the Saddlebag', because of its shape, is loved for its natural beauty and beaches. It also has a highly prestigious and fashionable watersports club on the northwest of the island. One of its best-known landmarks is the Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with an important collection of Byzantine manuscripts. The school sits loftily on the northern hill, but permission is needed to enter, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener. The Deniz Harp Okulu, the Naval High School, which was originally set up in 1852 as a Naval War Academy and converted into a high school in 1985, sits on the east side of the waterfront near the jetty. The island is popular for walking, cycling, and swimming at many of the isolated beaches, as well as at Yoruk Beach, set in a magnificent bay. There are plenty of good local restaurants and tea houses, especially along Ayyildiz Caddesi, and the atmosphere is one of a close community.
The wide beaches of Kilyos on the European side of Black Sea, 25th km. outside Istanbul, attract Istanbul residents during the summer months. Belgrade Forest is the largest forest in Istanbul. The residents typically converge on the forest during the weekends for family picnics and other fun activities. The Moglova Aqueduct, one of the longest aqueducts within Turkey, which was constructed by Mimar Sinan during 16th century as part of Ottoman aqueduct system, acts a wonderful complement to natural scene. The largest stretch of the aqueduct, Sultan Suleyman Aqueduct (800m long), passes through the Golf Club.
Polonezköy – Polish immigrants founded Polonezköy during 19th century. It is 25 km. away from Istanbul on the Asian coast and features a relaxed atmosphere where strolls down the quaint streets can lead to the discovery of tasty traditional Polish meals served by the descendants of the original settlers. Polonezköy acts as a resort city for Istanbul residents, who go there to enjoy the beaches, restaurants, hotels, and shopping for famous Sile cloth among other things.
Bayramoglu – The village features the Darica Bird Paradise and Botanic Park, and is only 38 km. away from Istanbul. This gargantuan park, with its trekking roads and restaurants are full of bird species and plants from various parts of the world.
Eskihisar fisherman borough, where yachtsmen anchor their ships after daily voyages in the Marmara Sea, is south east of Istanbul. The village is home to Hannibal 's tomb, which is situated near a Byzantine castle. The village also features the Osman Hamdi Bey museum in the location of the 19th century painter's house.
There are a lot of Istanbul residents' who have summerhouses in Silivri, about 65 km. away from Istanbul. It is a huge holiday village with magnificent restaurants, sports and health centers. The village also offers a Conference Center, which promotes "cultural tourism" and business-holiday mixed activities for businessmen looking to escape the rapid tempo of urban life. Scheduled sea bus service connects Istanbul to Silivri.
The nine islands in the Marmara Sea were the banishing places for the Byzantine princes. Today they host wealthy Istanbul residents' who go there to enjoy cool winds during summer months. The islands are full of quaint 19th century houses. The biggest island is Büyükada, where people can have marvellous treks through the pine forest or have a swim within one of the numerous bays around the island!
Other popular islands are Kinali, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeliada. Regular ferry voyages connect the islands to both the European and Asian coasts. There is a rapid sea bus service from Kabatas during the summer.
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