Turkey's largest city, and by far the busiest - Istanbul is a world within a world, a bustling city of cultures, things to do, and places to see. We present our A to Z of districts within Istanbul.
Modern Atasehir is a business and trading centre with a suburban quarter, located at the junction of the O-2 and O-4 motorways in the Anatolian part of Istanbul. Most of the buildings are highrise, with a great number of luxury skyscraper apartments. Atasehir hosts headquarters and offices of companies and has top leisure facilities such as gyms, cinemas and restaurants.
This working-class suburban district is home to small, cramped apartment buildings, many built outside of regulations. There is little infrastructure to support the huge population, no parks, cinemas, and very few cultural or social amenities of any kind. However, Bagcilar houses a great deal of industry, particularly light engineering, textiles and printing and is home to all the biggest of Turkey's newspapers and TV channels. We may see changes wrought in this district as Istanbul’s economy continues to grow. Bagcilar is located behind Bahcelievleron on the European side of the city, between the two major ring roads, the TEM and the E5.
This large middle class residential suburb of Istanbul is located on the European side of the city. Parts of Bahcelievler like Basin Sitesi and Yayla are well lit, with tree-lined avenues with attractive buildings and small parks, big shopping centres, cinemas and many small cafe s. Prominent landmarks include the Unverdi shopping centre (on the site of the old Unverdi cinema, in the centre of the district) and the Omur Patisserie/Cafe on the E5 at the entrance to Bahcelievler. The district is accessible from the E-5 Highway that runs from the Istanbul airport to the Asian side of the city. Bahcelievler covers 5% of Istanbul's land area and is home to over 570,000 people. Bahcelievler is the northern neighbour of Bakirkoy, with a similar area.
With wonderful views over the Bosphorous and the second Bosphorous bridge, Baltalimani is located in Sariyer on the European side. It boasts a Japanese garden and the Palace of Mediha Sultan, a blush-pink building originally designed for the grand vizier Mustafa Resid Pasa by Sarkis Balyan but later occupied by minor members of the imperial family.
Established for the middle-class, Atakoy in the Bakirkoy district is one of the largest and oldest residential block neighbourhoods in Istanbul. Located near the E5 main road and the Sea of Marmara coast, like its neighbouring districts it is populated by the middle classes, including merchants, bureaucrats, and government retirees.
Bakirkoy’s best known areas include:
Upmarket Atakoy has been transformed by the Atakoy Tourism Complex, a massive waterfront project integrating residential and commercial use. The 1000-slip Atakoy Marina, built in 1988, is Turkey’s first commercial marina and has been noted for its excellent facilities and services. The Yacht Club, completed in the same year, organises races and offers sailing classes.
Lovely Yesilkoy is famed for its wooden Art Nouveau houses built between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, as well as the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. It has a Marina - the Yesilkoy Burnu Marina - as well as a few sandy beaches popular with weekenders. Yesilkoy has a station for the suburban railway line (Banliyo Treni) between Sirkeci and Halkali. The first station was built in 1871, and contributed to the neighborhood's boom as a popular resort.
Basaksehir is the most developed region in the district. It plays an important part in the city’s history - one colourful fact is that gunpowder was manufactured here during the Ottoman era. Yarimburgaz Cave is another attraction in this district. Scientific exploration in Yarimburgaz Cave dates back to the mid-19th century.The double-mounted cave is the earliest evidence of human settlement in Turkey. The upper cave was strongly modified in Byzantine times when a church was carved into its walls and a monastery constructed outside the cave entrance. The biggest artificial lake is found here: Basaksehir Pond is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and playgrounds. Sular Vadisi (Water Valley) is another huge park located in the district. It has a four-kilometre walking-track, playgrounds and many thematic water attractions.
This suburban district of Istanbul’s European side has both industry and residential areas. The housing in Bayrampasa is generally poor quality and there are workshops and small factories even in the residential streets. Bayrampasa was once famous for its artichokes, but now although there is no production in the region its name is given to a variety of artichoke in Turkey. There is a large statue of an artichoke in the middle of the district which became a symbol of the region.
Located on the European shore of the Bosphorus, Besiktas became an important residential area after the Conquest of Constantinople. The Ottomans called the area as "Bestas" (five stones) probably derived from five columns piled into the coast to moore the ships. But Besiktas literally means "cradle stone" in Turkish and there are other stories about the origins of this name dating back to the Byzantine period. Besiktas includes many inland (and relatively expensive, upper-middle class) neighborhoods such as Levent and Etiler. Some of its other well-known neighborhoods include Yildiz, Kurucesme, Ortakoy, and Arnavutkoy Several museums and palaces are located within the boundaries of this large, 11,000 square metre district, including Dolmabahce Palace, Yildiz Palace, Ciragan Palace and Feriye.
Some notable Beskitas neighbourhoods:
Located between Orkatoy and Bebek, Arnavutkoy is known for its wooden Ottoman mansions and seafood restaurants. It’s also home to Robert College,the oldest American school outside the United States, which was established in 1863.
This affluent neighbourhood is very popular, with weekenders flocking to the waterfront cafes and shops. There is a good nightlife with plenty of bars, but it becomes congested at the weekends. The direct translation of the word "Bebek" from Turkish is "baby", which is a reference to the neighborhood's attractive positioning on the Bosphorus with its deep, sheltered bay and sweeping views in both directions along the waterway. The only remaining Ottoman architecture here is the Egyptian Consulate. This white art nouveau mansion was commissioned by Abbas Hilmi II,the last Khedive of Egypt and completed at the end of the 19th century.
Levent is famous for its shopping malls and mixed-use skyscrapers - including the tallest skyscraper in Turkey, the 54-floor Istanbul Sapphire. The district competes with nearby Maslak for business - and the most impressive skyscrapers. The neighbourhood has become very prosperous and is one of the driving forces of the city’s strong economy.
Close to the business districts of Levent and Maslak, Etiler is a favourite area of the elite, with many villas and private residences. Nispetiye Road is considered the core centre of Etiler, with cafes, restaurants and designer shops.Akmerkez is one of the best known shopping centres in Istanbul. It has all the major fashion brands, cafes and restaurants.
Yildiz is home to the famous palace and park of the same name. The biggest part of the palace gardens, some old pavilions and the famous porcelain workshops are open to the public in what is now called the Yildiz Park. The well-known pavilion in the complex, the sale Kosku or Chalet Pavilion, is accessed through the park. The turbe of Yahya Efendi, a 16th-century Islamic complex, attracts around a million local visitors each year. The turbe of Sheikh Zafir Efendi, built in 1886, is one of the best examples of the Art Nouveau style found in Istanbul.
This spot is popular with locals and tourists alike, with its art galleries, nightclubs, cafes, bars, and restaurants. In fact, Ortakoy also has some of Istanbul's best seashore night clubs. The European pylon of the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the two bridges that connect the European and Asian banks of Istanbul, is also situated in this neighbourhood, and at night, the lights on the mighty bridge change colour. The neighbourhood was a cosmopolitan area both during the Byzantine and Ottoman era, and Turks rub shoulders with Jews, Greeks and Americans. There are lots of cultural sites: the Neo-Baroque style Ortakoy Mosque is a beautifully ornate structure, while one of the oldest buildings of Ortakoy, the nearly 500-year old Turkish bath is found here. It was built by Ottoman star architect Mimar Sinan in 1556. The Ciragan Palace was built in Ortakoy in 1871 by Sultan Abdulaziz as his residence. Until a fire severely damaged the building in 1910 the palace served as the Ottoman Parliament. Today it is one of Istanbul's most luxurious hotels.
Beykoz is a district at the northern end of the Bosphorus on the Anatolian side. It’s home to some of the most expensive houses in the city, with many politicians and famous people living here. You can see huge, wooden Ottoman seaside houses called yali from Anadolu Hisari up to Beykoz. Large areas of forest parkland on hillside along much of this coast make the Beykoz waterfront a peaceful retreat from the city. Inland around and between Cumhuriyet Koyu, Ali Bahadir, Degirmendere, Akbaba, Dereseki and Polonezkoy are all popular retreats, and new roads are being put through to service the luxury housing that is going up in these places.
Beylikduzu is in the European suburbs. It’s close to Istanbul Ataturk airport, allowing for lots of transportation options, as well as close to Tuyap Exhibition Center, an important site for international trader shows. A botanical park is currently under construction here, between Adnan Kahveci and Cumhuriyet. Beylikduzu is located north of the Sea of Marmara and south of Esenyurt, east of Buyukcekmece, and west of Avcilar.
Istanbul’s version of Soho is on the north bank of the Golden Horn, from Karakoy (Galata) and the Galata Bridge to Taksim Square. The main thoroughfare is Istiklal Caddesi, running into the neighbourhood from Taksim Square, a pedestrianised mile-long street of shops, cafes, patisseries, restaurants, pubs, wine houses and clubs, as well as bookshops, theatres, cinemas and art galleries. Some of Istiklal has a 19th-century metropolitan character, and the avenue is lined with Neoclassical and Art Nouveau buildings. The nostalgic tram which runs on Istiklal Avenue, between Taksim Square and Tunel, was also reinstalled in the early 1990s with the aim of reviving the historic atmosphere of the district.
Beyoglu’s chief areas include:
Taksim is one of the busiest areas in the city, where the central metro and bus stops bring thousands of people in and out on a regular basis. Taksim encompasses Istiklal Caddesi, with its wide array of shopping opportunities, with everything available from men and women’s clothing, bookstores, fast food restaurants, and even a few night clubs whose thumping beat take over the street after a certain hour. During the day, Istiklal is also full of performers, ranging from didgeridoo musicians, to a full jazz band, to Turkish folk music, and even puppeteers and magicians.
Tunel and Asmalimescit
Tunel and Asmalimescit are made up of winding streets where every turn and twist reveals a new bar or restaurant worth exploring. There is a large selection of stores selling musical instruments on the slope from Tunel toward Galata, and graffiti and street art cover the walls. There’s always a steady flow of people through these streets no matter how late and you will always bump into someone you know on the way from one bar to the other.
This neighbourhood of bohemians, expats, and hipsters is a great place to sit back and watch the world go by. You’ll see a lot of tattoos, worn out leather jackets, and Vespas in this area where a lot of great bars, restaurants, boutiques, and cafes wait to be discovered. Cihangir is always lively, both day and night, especially on Sundays when a lot of the cafes offer brunch and the hungry crowds emerge. A lot of foreigners also live in this area, and because of that you will hear a lot of different languages being spoken in this neighbourhood.
This is where Istanbul’s antique stores have opened shop, attracting foreign and local enthusiasts hunting for a unique bargain. Among the many shops, items range from the largest piece of antique furniture to the smallest piece of antique jewellery that all require a bit of time and effort to be found. Cukurcuma also has a lot of vintage stores selling clothing, shoes, and accessories. Make sure to look up when you are wandering around to admire the beautiful architecture of the neoclassical building in their neighbourhood while you search for unique pieces that each carry history of their own.
Tepebasi is a touch more upscale than the rest of Beyoglu. This neighbourhood is not only home to hotels, including the historic Pera Palace, but also a lively restaurant and bar scene. During the day you can find art at the Pera Museum, while the later hours bring in the crowds who can be seen eating and conversing at restaurants that later turn into bars where the music escapes into the street.
Buyukcekmece is in the suburbs of European Istanbul, on the Sea of Marmara coast. Stroll in the seafront tea gardens and let your kids play while you loll on the grass with a picnic, enjoying the sea views. The Mimar Sinan Bridge is located in this area.
Cekmekoy is established on the southern side of Keciagili Hill which is located on the south-western part of Alemdag forests. It’s home to Ozyegin University and large housing estates with security favoured by families with children.
Esenler is on Istanbul’s European side. Esenler is mainly densely packed, working class residential in the midst of its industrial neighbouring districts of Gaziosmanpasa, Gungoren and Bagcilar. You can also find a huge inter-city bus terminal.
Esenyurt is located on the European side of Istanbul. With the construction boom of large residential complexes in the area in the past few years, Esenyurt benefited from a major development. Esenyurt is also an important cultural hub in the city. There are four cultural centres, as well as four sizeable parks, and some decent shopping centres. Esenyurt borders Avcilar and Kucukcekmece Lake on the east, Buyukcekmece on the west, Basaksehir, Arnavutkoy and TEM road on the north and Beylikduzu and E-5 motorway on the south.
This is city’s largest district and one of Turkey’s prime tourism sites, encompassing important historical sites such as the Byzantine walls and the Fatih Mosque. Fatih encompasses most of the peninsula and coincides with historic Constantinople, bordering the Golden Horn to the north and the Sea of Marmara to the south, while the Western border is demarked by the Theodosian wall. Fatih's southeastern-most point is the busy port of Yenikapi, departure point for sea buses to Bursa, the Marmara Islands, and the southern shores of the Marmara Sea. Yenikapi is the site of the construction of one of the metro stations for the in-progress Marmaray project, made famous by the extraordinary archaeological discoveries being made there.
Highlights of Fatih include Yedikule (literally, seven towers), a fortress constructed by Fatih Mehmet the Conqueror incorporating the earlier Theodosian land and sea walls. You can also see several of the defunct Byzantine defensive gates that continue to exert their influence on the surrounding neighborhoods that now bear these names: Edirnekapi, which is the gateway to the Church of Saint Savior in Chora or Kariye Camii; and Ayvansaray, which sits at the base of the Old Galata Bridge near the remains of the Blachernae Palace and sections of the land walls.
Notable areas include Aksaray, Findikzade, Capa, and Vatan Caddesi. These are middle-class neighborhoods and considered cosmopolitan. Aksaray is a convenient place for travellers as major roads pass through it; it has good transport links to other parts of Istanbul, with many hotels to choose from, from the characterless to the cosy and charming.
This large commercial district on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, connected by the M4 rapid transit line, was once occupied mostly by students and merchants, but the area’s fame is growing - along with its real estate prices. Kadikoy has some of the most attractive shopping areas in the city, from malls to street bazaars like the Sali Pazari Tuesday Market to Turkey’s biggest fresh market.
Bagdat Avenue is the high street: a one-way avenue with old plane trees flanked with shopping malls, department stores, fashion garment stores, restaurants of international and local cuisine, pubs and cafes, luxury car dealers and bank agencies. The Bahariye Caddesi pedestrian zone was transformed during the economic boom of the 1990s and many new bars and shops were opened.
Many houses from the Ottoman and some from Roman period are hidden in the district’s side streets. Some of them have been turned into cafes, pubs and restaurants, particularly serving seafood. Others await the inevitable restoration that will surely come as the area grows in popularity.
Notable areas include Moda and Fenerbahce, attractive, long-established residential areas with many restaurants, cafes and bars by the sea. There is a path here along the sea-front from Kadikoy; the tram to Moda stops there. Suadiye, Bagdat Caddesi, Kalamis, Kozyatagi, and Fenerbahce are upper middle-class neighbourhoods, with lots of trees and parks.
This traditional working class district inland from Etiler, built along a stream that runs into the Golden Horn, is now undergoing significant urban redevelopment and is part of a “green” movement with gardening and sustainability projects. Popular Sadabat Park is a large park/green space/recreational area popular with those who live in the area.
Located on Asian side on the coast of the Marmara between Maltepe and Pendik, the Kartal Urban City Project is under development- it will be built on an area which is currently an abandoned industrial site. Upon completion, Kartal will be the new centre of Asian Istanbul. It is intended that the new city will be the world's first fully green "city". The plan includes a central business district, luxury residential developments, cultural facilities such as concert halls, museums, and theatres, and leisure locations including a marina and hotels.
Kartal is the terminal station of Kartal - Kadikoy metro (M4). Haydarpasa-Gebze Line for commuter trains also pass through Kartal.With all these transport options Kartal is becoming heavily populated despite being far away from the centre of Istanbul. Luxury apartment complexes have been built on the coast, along with much more housing inland and this has attracted more shops and infrastructure.
There are a number of well-known private and state schools in the area, including the first German-language school. The park around Ayazma Fountain in Yakacik is a popular picnic spot.
This European side district is a rapidly growing suburb with a historic bridge designed by Ottoman architect Sinan crossing the mouth of the lagoon it surrounds. Most of the area has a high crime rate and the much of the housing is “Gecekondu” (shacks/illegally built homes).
This cheaper alternative to pricey Kadikoy is located between Kadikoy and Kartal on the Marmara sea. Maltepe has wonderful views of the coastline and the Princes Islands. Old Maltepe, on the seafront, is a pretty neighbourhood with small winding streets and quaint homes, as well as some decent restaurants and bars.
Tesvikiye is an affluent neighbourhood, home to many writers, including Orhan Pamuk (many of his novels are set there). The Macka Palas is the Rodeo Drive of Istanbul, with fancy designer stores. It’s also known for its Art Nouveau apartment blocks.
Pendik’s already known by Formula One fans due to its racetrack. This district, located on Istanbul’s Asian side between Kartal and Tuzla is a mix of working-class and expensive apartments with views of the coastline. It’s connected to the rest of the city by rail and by a high-speed boat across the Marmara Sea to Yalova for people travelling out of the city to Bursa and the Aegean.
Sariyer is the European side’s northernmost district and encompasses a large coastal and forested region. The famous Rumelihisari fortress is found in Sariyer. This huge structure on the Bosphorus was built during the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. In the summertime, Rumelihisari is the venue for a series of popular open-air concerts. The historic aqueducts of the Belgrad Forest is another important piece of historical architecture in the area, and the Rumeli Feneri, aka Turkeli Feneri is a historic lighthouse in the Rumelifeneri village.
Notable areas in Sariyer include:
This former retreat from the city is backed by a hillside and is still green despite the recent construction of villas within it. The area is named for the Ottoman lords (Emirs) that came here on excursions. There is a lovely square in the center, shaded by a huge plane tree, with a cafe in the middle. Emirgan is home to the Sakip Sabanci Museum.
This crowded district on the hill above Emirgan is full of attractive villas and lots of illegal gecekondu housing on a forested hillside. It’s the home of modern Istanbul Stock Exchange, Istanbul Technical University campus, and a large mall called Istinye Park.
This fishing port with a village and tea gardens by the sea is the site of the American Consulate.
Yenikoy has luxury villas on a hillside and a small area of tightly packed old houses near the sea. There is a longstanding Greek community here and as a result there are a few orthodox churches.
A classy neighbourhood, dominated by the once grand Tarabya Hotel. There are fish restaurants and 'taverna' featuring traditional Turkish music, drink, and atmosphere. Marmara University has a small site here, teaching French, housed in a villa built by Alexander Ypsilantis. Tarabya also is home to the German consulate. The name comes from the Greek Therapia, which harks back to the area's former use as a sanctuary from the city for the sick.
Formerly the Greek-Byzantine Vathys Kolpos District, ('the deep gulf' in Greek), Buyukdere was originally a quiet residential area composed mostly of old, quiet neighbourhoods. However, recent years have seen the construction of expensive apartments and condominiums. Home to a number of churches, the Spanish and Russian summer consulates and the Sadberk Hanim Museum. There are places to sit by the Bosphorus and sip tea.
Formerly the Byzantine Petra district, Bahcekoy is one of Sariyer’s northernmost villages. After Suleiman the Magnificent came back from Belgrade, he settled the Serbs in the nearby forest, which has since been known as the "Belgrade" Forest (Belgrad Ormani.) In the 19th century, the village was inside the Belgrad Forest but due to the latter's retreat before development, Bahcekoy now sits on the forest's edge. Ataturk Arboretum is in Bahcekoy.
Sisli is on the European side of the city, north of Taksim Square.. Although not by the sea, it's located at the exit from the Bosphorus Bridge that links Asia to Europe. Sisli is one of the most elite and established neighbourhoods in Istanbul and is a great example of the old-meets-new Istanbul that enchants so many. Here are many old mosques, Christian churches, and Jewish synagogues, and it’s also a centre for business, with high rises and modern shopping malls such as Cevahir Mall, one of the biggest in Europe.
There are the Lutfi Kirdar concert halls and exhibition centres as well as university facilities, a military museum, many theatres and cinemas.
This small town on the Black Sea about is about 70 km from Istanbul, at its northernmost point. There’s been a fishing village here since 700 BC and a lighthouse since the Ottoman period. Today, Sile is a beach resort, popular with people who want a resort atmosphere without having to go to the expense of travelling to the Mediterranean Sea. There is a small but sandy beach, a little harbour of fishing boats, dense forest behind and a quiet pleasant atmosphere during the week. Sile is also known for sile cloth, a crimped-looking, light, see-through cotton fabric, made on the coast and sold in many shops in the town and sent to the bazaars of Istanbul. There is a fair to promote sile cloth in the town held every summer.
Tuzla is located on the Asian side of the city beyond Kartal and Pendik, on a headland on the coast of the Marmara Sea, at the eastern limit of the city. It’s famous for its seafront and seafood restaurants and is a popular location for wealthy Istanbul residents or the retired to buy homes as it is far from the city, less crowded and still retains a 'small town feel' to it.
Zeytinburnu is located on the European side of on the shore of the Marmara Sea, just outside the walls of the ancient city beyond the fortress of Yedikule. This up-and-coming neighbourhood is undergoing infrastructure and transportation upgrades, as well as other projects that will undoubtedly transform the area. The district is known for its textile industry, especially leather making.
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Eight hidden Istanbul gems - exploring the city's outer areas.
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