This Besiktas area guide will highlight one of the oldest and most prominent districts of European Istanbul. Speak to any Turk about Besiktas, and straight away, they will talk about its football club, an iconic top league team since 1903. However, the area offers a lot more regardless of your age or social background. Peep under the surface to discover many reasons foreign tourists and expats in Istanbul love Besiktas.
Besiktas Area Guide: A Vibrant Historical Timeline
When the Byzantine empire ruled, its name was Diplokionion, but in those times, it sat outside of the city walls and was a dangerous place to live, so the local population amounted to nothing more than a small village.
Fast forward to Ottoman rule, and its shielded position from North winds became an ideal place for mooring boats. The name changed to Besiktas meaning cradle stones, but stories vary how this name came about.
Some say a pilgrim bought back a cradle stone used in Jesus’s baptism, while others report an Ottoman admiral called Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa erected five masts for mooring ships. There were five stones to hold the poles, and this translates into “Bes Tas.” Besiktas is a spin-off from that.
In years to follow, more Ottomans settled in the shoreline town, and built homes, while the wealthy built palaces, and hunting lodges. During the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire built and made Dolmabahce Palace, their administration centre from where they ruled their lands.
Over the decades, Besiktas grew to become a proud and prominent district. As a hub of finance, shopping, nightlife, education, arts and culture, it’s a desirable place to live in Istanbul.
7 Fun Things to Do in Besiktas
1: Market District and Bazaar
Turks love street markets and every Saturday, the community gears up for Besiktas’s version where everything and anything is for sale. Guardian Newspaper listed it in their top ten list of Istanbul markets, and said it was a good alternative to the more extensive, touristic Grand Bazaar. Find fruit and veg stalls on the first floor and everything else on the second.
2: Hang Out in Ortakoy
The main square is where it all happens in Ortakoy. Buy a jacket potato from potato alley, admire Bosphorus views and just hang out with friends. To step it up a notch, Ortakoy’s hip and vibrant nightlife scene attracts locals from all over Istanbul.
3: Dolmabahce Palace
A guided tour of Dolmabahce Palace takes visitors through the Selanik and harem sections to see how Ottoman royalty lived. When built, they spared no expense in its decor and design of crystal lined staircases, gold-leafed ceilings and pure silk carpets. It cost 35 tons of gold to build and decorate, which in today’s money, is over 1 billion USD.
4: Turkish Naval Museum of Istanbul
Opening its doors in 1961, visitors learn how the Turkish navy has evolved through the centuries. Displaying many maritime and military artefacts, it’s open every day except Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. An important object to see is the 1000-year-old chain used to hang across the Bosphorus to stop enemies entering the Golden Horn.
5: Churches and Mosques
13 churches and 28 mosques predate the 20th century and display religious diversity of the region. In Arnavutkoy, the impressive Taksiarhis Greek orthodox church still opens to the public despite undergoing many disasters and renovations over the years. The two minaret, 18th-century Ortakoy Mosque displays marvellous Baroque revival architecture and is an iconic landmark.
6: Art Galleries
Art lovers feel at home with 18 galleries to indulge their interest. Some sit within famous buildings like Dolmabahce Palace and Naval Museum while others like Sakip Sabanci Museum focus on calligraphy and paintings from the late Ottoman and early Republic eras.
7: Green Parks
Over 15 parks bring the area alive with colourful flower displays, walking paths, benches, statues, water displays, basketball courts, tennis courts, refreshment stands and much more. They open all year round, but during April, their natural beauty steps up a notch, when the municipality plants thousands of tulip bulbs to celebrate the annual tulip festival. Locals and tourists love Bebek and Yildiz Parks, of which the latter also has an Ottoman palace within the grounds. Sitting on the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list, it was where Sultan Abdulhamid the Second lived for 33 years.
Shopping Malls in Besiktas
As well as local street markets, shopping malls do a lot of business in Istanbul, and Besiktas has five for spenders who want to empty their wallets. Kanyon, open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. hosts 160 stores over four floors, but it also offers entertainment, fast food, gym, and a cinema under the same roof, making it a one-stop everything for locals. Other well-known shopping malls with entertainment and dining options include Akmerkez, Metro Park, Zorlu and Ozdilek Park.
Transport and Getting Around
A favourite method of travel in Istanbul is ferry services from many Bosphorus and Golden Horn towns and villages. The Besiktas to Kadikoy route offers some marvellous views to see along the way. Other routes head to Besiktas from Buyukada, part of the Princes islands, from Rumeli Kavagi to Eminonu with a stop at Besiktas, and from Bebek neighbourhood to Emirgan. The company running the routes is the Sehir Hatlari ferry line. Otherwise, IETT runs bus services, which are a cheap way of getting around but also the most crowded. The M2 Metro line passes through Levent and Gayrettepe neighbourhoods. Metered yellow taxis arrive quickly and get you to your destination in next to no time.
Neighbourhoods of Besiktas
Besiktas breaks down into 23 separate zones, each with their own characteristics and surprises. Some command respect for their upper-class lifestyles, while others still portray nostalgic traces from eras gone by.
Exploring each neighbourhood is a fantastic way to get to know Besiktas if you plan to buy property in Turkey. Lesser known areas include Abbasaga, Akatlar, Balmumcu, Cihannuma, Dikilitas, Gayrettepe, Konaklar, Kultur, Levazim, Mecidiye, Muradiye, Nisbetiye, Sinanpasa, and Turkali. Nine well known neighbourhoods have garnered reputations for several reasons and are worth getting to know better.
1 Arnavutkoy: This historical neighbourhood enjoys a population boost during summer and at weekends when day-trippers and Istanbul locals flock to admire old Ottoman architecture and eat delicious seafood and fish in renowned seaside restaurants.
2: Bebek: Sitting up the road from Arnavutkoy, Bebek’s upmarket reputation is seen in luxury houses, and cars lining the promenade. Some waterside mansion and apartments in Bebek often reach millions of pounds when they come up for sale on Istanbul’s real estate market.
3: Etiler: Sitting close to Levent and Maslak financial districts Etiler has become a favourite destination for blue-collar professionals, yet it keeps a family friendly residential feel. Maintaining an upmarket feel, its home to Akmerkez, one of Istanbul’s best shopping malls and the neighbourhood attracts up-and-coming people on Istanbul’s elite social scene.
4: Kurucesme: Sitting between the waterside villages of Ortakoy and Arnavutkoy, Kurucesme is home to the 17,000-seater open-air music venue and cinema Turkcell Arena. The annual Bosphorus continental swim also finishes here.
5: Levent: This bustling business district earns fame for tall skyscrapers like the 54 floor Sapphire tower dominating the skyline. It’s also home to three famous shopping malls, and residents have easy access to other areas via Levent and Gayrettepe metro stations.
6: Ortakoy: Many travel magazine and postcards of Istanbul feature a view of Ortakoy’s famous mosque backed by the Bosphorus Bridge. As well as having a reputation for a lively nightlife, Ortakoy’s esteemed reputation stretches to high profile education centres including Galatasaray University.
7: Visnezade: Many people visit Visnezade without releasing it, because the famous Dolmabahce Palace, mosque and clock attract visitors from all around. Sitting on the outskirts, a short walk takes residents into the bustling Beyoglu district, the best shopping and nightlife scene in Istanbul.
8: Yildiz: A population of 6000 people, makes this a busy neighbourhood. Landmark buildings and tourist attractions include Yildiz palace, a park, the 19th-century Ertugrul Tekke Mosque, and the tomb of Yahya Efendi.
9: Ulus: Until 1998, Ulus was part of Ortakoy but broke away because of a booming population. These days, a family friendly, residential feel attracts many expats to live and buy property there. Although it’s not a seaside location, the nostalgic and beautiful Ortakoy seaside neighbourhood is a short walk away.
Living and Buying Property in Besiktas
When choosing where to live and buy property in Istanbul, Besiktas ticks many boxes. In 2018, it ranked first on the Human Development Index, of Turkey for its education and income levels. They also belong to Cities 4 Europe, a campaign with a keen interest in environmental and social affairs and received an award from the European 12 Star Cities organisation which promotes and supports democratic participation at a local level.
Its high-level profile needs a lot of upkeep, but local councils don’t disappoint and continue to keep its esteemed reputation as a desirable district of Istanbul. Our portfolio of apartments and villas for sale in Besiktas highlights the real estate market and what you can expect to pay. For extra information on any home, call, email, or ring us and we will send additional photos, details and example of payment plans. Also extend what you’ve learned in this Besiktas area guide by contacting us to arrange a viewing trip to explore neighbourhoods, and what they offer regarding shopping, education, transport, bars, restaurants, and banks.
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