The Beyoglu district of Istanbul is just as crucial to the city as the historical old Sultanahmet part. While most travel magazines mention Istanbul’s UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, some neglect to mention Beyoglu. Yet if you plan to buy a home or genuinely want to get to know Istanbul like locals, Beyoglu should be on your list. After all, with a population of 15 million, it stands to reason that there is more to Istanbul than the tourist areas. However, while Beyoglu excels in nightlife and shopping, also expect oodles of nostalgia and bygone days. Additionally, Beyoglu does culture and art with finesse and style. So, you just need to know where to look.
About Beyoglu in Istanbul – Turkey
1: Where is Beyoglu in Istanbul?
Beyoglu sits in European Istanbul, across the Golden Horn from the Sultanahmet district. The district includes the neighbourhoods of Karakoy, Cihangir, Tophane, Sishane, Tarlabasi, Tepebasi, Kasimpasa and Dolapdere. In addition, you may hear the name Taksim, which refers to the area at the top end of Istiklal avenue, which is home to the famous Taksim Independence monument.
2: Days of Pera
Although Istanbul's history stretches back to Byzantine days, Beyoglu is mainly known for its 19th-century influence. Foreign embassies set up on the Grand Rue de Pera, known today as Istiklal avenue. Additionally, European traders called Levantines set up home here. Such were their global connections; Pera excelled in modern living and was the first area to have telephone lines and electricity. This was the beginning of entertainment and nightlife social scenes, with cafes and theatres opening their doors to elite members of society. Such was the influence of this era; Ottoman sultan Abdulmecid abandoned the famous Topkapi palace to build Dolmabahce Palace nearby. After the Ottoman empire collapsed, Pera's name changed to Beyoglu.
3: Current Times
Unfortunately, this is when Beyoglu lost its prestigious status. Greek communities left, and political problems ensured the area became less desirable. By the 1980s, Beyoglu was a shadow of its former glory, but thankfully, the council heavily invested in the area at the turn of this century. These days, Beyoglu excels in art, culture, food, nightlife, and entertainment but still keeps nostalgic vibes from over 100 years ago.
4: About Istiklal Avenue in Beyoglu
Although Beyoglu has quaint back street secrets, Istiklal Avenue always stands out. Running for 1 mile, Istiklal is most notably famous for the red tram that runs up and down. Everything and anything is on this street, walked by millions of people every day—bars, restaurants, patisseries, cafes, fast food outlets and international brand name line on either side. Don't just think leisure and pleasure, though. Note the Neoclassical architecture of older buildings to imagine those nostalgic days. Significant landmarks to visit on Istiklal Avenue include….
Cicek Pasaj: This 19th century building was originally a theatre, then a Winehouse. During the Russian revolution, during which Russians flocked to Istanbul, women opened shops here and sold flowers, hence the current name of Flower Passage. These days, the L-shaped building houses bars and eateries, but look up when visiting to see bygone portraits of people on the upper level.
Saint Anthony of Padua Church: As a fully functioning place of worship, be respectful when visiting this church where Pope John XXIII preached for ten years. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the church with Venetian Neo-Gothic style architecture sits back from Istiklal avenue at the end of a courtyard. This is Istanbul's largest Roman Catholic church and is of utmost importance to the local population who aren't Muslim.
Mevlevi Museum: Sitting at the opposite end of Istiklal Avenue, this museum is a former place of residence for whirling dervishes. Many people have seen them and think they are tourist attractions. They perform the SEMA ritual dance, where they go around in circles to attempt to be at one with God. Yet, this is a sect of Islam made famous by the poet Rumi.
Misir Apartment: This historic building is known for its exceptional architecture dating from 1910. Over time, the building has hosted famous Turkish people, but these days earns fame as home to an art gallery. Other art galleries on Istiklal avenue include Yapi Kredi, Beyoglu Sanat, Akbank, SALT and Mesher.
Madame Tussauds: So, we don't have to go to London to visit the famous Madame Tussauds because Istanbul has its version. Prominent figures within the exhibition include Brad Pitt and Julie Roberts. But for historical figures, keep an eye out for Mehmed, the conqueror who famously invaded Constantinople in 1453 and forever changed the course of history.
Galata High School: This school opened in the 15th century and is society's crème de la crème. Compare the school to the likes of the UK's Eton college. Many ministers, writers, and influential figures in Turkish culture attended this school. Although not open for public viewing, you will most likely pass the gates.
5: About the Hotel Pera Palace in Beyoglu
Sitting a couple of streets back from Istiklal avenue, on Mesrutiyet Caddesi in the Tepebasi neighbourhood, the story of Pera Palace Hotel is interesting. First opening its door in 1892, the hotel stayed open through the reign of three Ottoman sultans, the Ottoman empire collapse, and the formation of modern Turkey. Originally built to host passengers from the Orient Express, famous people to have stayed there include Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ernest Hemmingway, and Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel in room 411. She stayed here when she mysteriously disappeared for eleven days. Although the hotel is expensive for overnight stays, they have a bar where you can nip in to admire lavish and timeless decor.
6: Explore the Cihangir Neighbourhood
Ah, now this is about really getting to know Beyoglu. This neighbourhood attracts artisans, writers, and collective forward thinkers who challenge the status quo in life. Noted for the bohemian ambience, the community is also home to expats who bought homes in Beyoglu. Think street cafes and vibes that encourage individualistic living. In 2012, the British Guardian newspaper listed Cihangir as an ideal place to live in Istanbul. Turkey's most famous male author, Orhan Pamuk, lived in Cihangir.
7: Cukurcuma Neighbourhood
From bohemian to antiques, in recent years, the Cukurcuma neighbourhood of Beyoglu has attracted more travellers who seek to get away from mainstream tourist attractions. However, for Istanbul locals who like to adorn their houses with antiques, Cukurcuma delivers in abundance and more. Find Ottoman antiques in A La Turca, vintage clothing in Pied de Poule, and antiques from around the world.
8: Other Notable Landmarks of Beyoglu - Istanbul
Pera Museum: Also sitting in the Tepebasi quarter of Beyoglu, this museum is within a building dating from 1893, which displays exceptional architecture but is not the reason for its fame. The museum is home to the Tortoise Trainer, a painting by Osman Hamdi Bey, the most famous Ottoman artist that, in 2004, sold for 3.5 million dollars making the piece the most expensive painting in Turkey.
Jewish Museum: Many people are surprised to learn Istanbul has a significant Jewish history, having hosted large Jewish communities in the Galata district for over 100 years. These days, their story is told at the Jewish Museum of Turkey. Visitors must show identification and pass security checks.
Museum of Innocence: Orhan Pamuk wrote a bestselling book called the Museum of Innocence and opened a museum of the same name. The novel and museum tell the story of two Istanbul families, one was middle class, and one was rich. The museum holds various artefacts depicting the characters' lives. (Top 8 museums of Istanbul.)
Galata Tower: Do visit the Galata tower. Be warned there are long queues in summer. However, get on the escalator and head to the top for a fantastic bird's eye view over Istanbul. At night times, they host Turkish nights depicting the famous village dances of Turkey and serve famous Turkish food.
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam: So, after sightseeing, you might like pampering and what better place than an authentic Ottoman hamam. This Turkish bath that first opened in 1580 originally served marine forces in the Ottoman navy but, these days is popular with tourists and locals of Beyoglu.
French Street: For a delightful place to sip wine and enjoy fine food while listening to live music, check out the quirky French street in Beyoglu. Granted, the vibe isn't so much French. Still, during summer evenings when al fresco style dining is popular, French street comes alive with visitors eager to sample low-key entertainment in Istanbul.
9: About Investing in Beyoglu – Istanbul
So, as you can see, vibrant Beyoglu offers much to tourists and people living in Istanbul. So naturally, with high demand and low supply, prices per square metre make Beyoglu an expensive place in Istanbul to invest in real estate, and this boosts its reputation even more. So, if you want to buy real estate in Istanbul and Beyoglu looks like your perfect neighbourhood, call us today to chat with an agent and arrange viewings. Otherwise, see our portfolio of property in Beyoglu here, and use the contact details to find out more via email or telephone.
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