Like Istanbul’s old city, the Golden Horn has a long, fascinating history. It’s full of historical monuments, Ottoman houses and rich with a cultural heritage distilled from Europe and the Middle East. However, unlike the old city, tourists avoid this part of town: its reputation for rundown, depressed suburbs has meant visitors tend to stick to the well-trodden paths within Istanbul’s walled city.
This is set to change. As progress marches through Istanbul’s city suburbs, the neighbourhoods along the Golden Horn, Istanbul are transforming from tired areas into modern centres worthy of a 21st century city, while preserving the history and atmosphere of the area. The Golden Horn is set to become a new capital of culture, full of cutting-edge art galleries, unique stores, fashionable restaurants and craft studios - with a flavour that’s uniquely apart and all its own.
The Golden Horn is a channel that branches off the Bosphorus to split the city of Istanbul into old and new. The old city is the one tourists are most familiar with, housing Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and bustling Sultanahmet. The other side is considered the “new” Istanbul. Also known as Halic, the horn-shaped estuary has sheltered ships for thousands of years, and people have lived here for almost ten millenia.
Property investment potential
As neighbourhoods change, fortunes are made, explains Property Turkey director Cameron Deggin.
“As we can see from suburbs that have already regenerated - Bomonti is a prime example - investors can make large gains from entering these markets while development is in its infancy.”
Deggin, who has invested in several regeneration projects himself, says Istanbul’s trajectory continues unabated: between 2011 and 2016 city property increased in value by 42 percent. This is due to a number of factors, including low supply, high demand and a dynamic young workforce with money in their pockets.
“Young professionals are in the market for high quality apartments in Istanbul's central or accessible areas with excellent facilities,” he says. “This characterises the type of property you’ll find in The Golden Horn to a T.” The area’s new developments are connected to central Istanbul by way of new metro stations and faster highways, cutting travel distances and opening up formerly unconnected areas.
A year ago, Deggin predicted prices in the Golden Horn would double within five years. Does this still stand? “Absolutely,” he says. “We’re right on track, and there are still opportunities for our investors. The Golden Horn’s on the cusp of something very exciting.”
- Property prices to double in Golden Horn neighbourhoods
- Why regeneration property is ideal for first-time investors
Let's explore some of the suburbs to watch as the Golden Horn begins its transformation.
GaziosmanpasaGaziosmanpasa from a quiet suburb into a bustling city hub of around a million residents. The influx of people brought culture and diversity to the area, with migrants from all over Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Gaziosmanpasa’s reputation has been less than stellar: its shanty towns earned it a name for crime and drugs. However, as regeneration marches its way across the city, this is changing.
The Istanbul municipality is plowing millions of dollars into Gaziosmanpasa, building sports facilities, shopping malls, metro stations and of course, housing developments in the area. Its illegally-built dwellings are making way for the high-quality, family-friendly constructions designed to house the city's professional workers, and prospects for a buy-to-let investment here are excellent for first-time investors. Property values increased by 46 percent in Gaziosmanpasa in the five years to 2016, and rental yield sits around 5.6 percent, higher than the city average.
EyupEyup rose in prominence in the 16th century, during Sultan Suleyman’s rule. The neighbourhood experienced a wave of development, with mosques, schools, fountains, hamams and mansions appearing all over the neighbourhood. The Tomb of Eyup el-Ensari became a place of Islamic pilgrimage, and the Ottoman desire to be buried close to the saint is behind the number of cemeteries found in the area. The 19th century saw the rise of industry, with factories spewing out smoke over the city. Today, the sprawling neighbourhood is undergoing huge transformation. Factories have closed or smartened up, slums are disappearing, and money is pouring into
The development changing the face of Eyup is encompassing its cultural and historical artefacts, and the area is being rediscovered as tourists and locals begin to take an interest in its landmarks, like the district’s cemeteries, with their beautiful tombstones. Eyup Sultan Tomb also draws large crowds on religious holidays, and at the weekends markets and a military marching band give the area around the mosque a party atmosphere, especially on Ramadan evenings. Cafe Pierre Loti, a cafe once frequented by French writer Pierre Loti, is the centre of a hilltop neighbourhood overlooking the Golden Horn.
As for property investment, prices in this suburb rose by 53 percent between 2011 and 2016, which means it’s already on investors’ radars. However, development here is in its early stages, allowing further potential for canny property investors.
This working class area has traditionally housed Albanians and Bosniaks, and is characterised by poor, substandard housing set among factories and workshops. Today, Bayrampasa’s illegal dwellings and factories are being torn down or repurposed, making way for smart residential projects and leisure facilities, attracting local and international investment.
Rubbing shoulders with wealthy Beyoglu, Bayrampasa’s star is set to rise as investors seek alternatives to expensive Beyoglu property. Between 2011 and 2016, investors with vision made gains, with property here rising by 35 percent. Bayrampasa’s development is still underway, with money continuing to pour into its developments and lifestyle infrastructure. Rental yields are high here, at 5.6 percent, making Bayrampasa property a solid option for any property investment portfolio.
Fener is dominated by Rum Lisesi, the Greek Orthodox College that presides over the labyrinthine streets of the historic neighbourhood. The neighbourhood’s steep, winding streets are becoming a cool city hangout as its reputation as a centre for design and art grows.
Fener’s old Ottoman houses are painted in bright colours, giving the area a cheerful feel. The suburb was once home to a thriving Greek community, but they left after the Cyprus dispute of the 1960s. With them went a piece of the community’s heart. Now, people - especially young people, drawn to the area’s colour and dilapidated chic - are returning, and the area is thriving once again. It’s inevitable that an area with this much cool will attract interest, and property investors looking for a location similar to London’s Soho or New York’s East Village will love Fener.
Fener's neighbour Balat has housed Istanbul’s Jewish quarter since the Byzantine era. Although many people left the area in the mid 20th century, leaving the beautiful Ottoman homes to fall into disrepair and the area designated a poor area, they’ve started to return as the city’s fortunes have grown. A UNESCO-sponsored redevelopment project has put the neighbourhood on the map, and the municipality has begun to renovate the old buildings turning Balat Istanbul into the cutural hub it was in its heyday. As with many dilapidated areas, the first to move in are the artists. The result is a community of designers and innovators who are opening studios and galleries in the area: leather and glass and craft workshops, just as the area would’ve housed in Byzantine times. It’s also rich in places to eat, with restaurants serving up food from all over Turkey and the wider region.
Along with Fener, Balat is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. It’s inevitable that tourists and investors will move into this trendy part of the city.
Historic Galata is presided over by the fourteenth century Galata Tower, one of the city’s most recognisable monuments. In the 11th century, the area was home to the city’s Jewish population before becoming a Genoese enclave. For much of the twentieth century, Galata was a downtrodden suburb, its streets shunned once the sun went down. Today, Galata is changing. The tower overlooks a square with restaurants and music shops, and quaint cobblestone streets bursting with eateries, boutique stores and bars. The wider area is known for its antiques and vintage stores, and gentrification is spreading, and with it, the potential to invest in one of Istanbul’s most historic areas.
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