Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, is as diverse as it is intriguing. As the central hub of business, transport, finance, education, and tourism in the country, it has many facades, ranging from the cosmopolitan to the traditional. It is both bohemian as it is conservative. It is the place where historical, cultural, and trendy influences come together as one.
The extraordinary diversity is most evident in the neighbourhoods, but interest mostly focuses on the influential and upmarket districts. This is where it is all happening. This is where vast sums of money flow freely, and fashion trends are a hot topic, whether they be for work, play or personal gratification. Some travel guides call them the hip neighbourhoods, while others say define them as tight-knit circles. Property in Istanbul is already the most expensive place to live in Turkey, the upmarket suburbs are a portrayal of Turkey’s wealth.
The shores of various communities lining the Bosphorus hold approximately 260 Yali houses. Being an owner of a Yali mansion in any of the shorelines districts, automatically gains you entrance into Turkey’s elite social scene. These old houses displaying unique architecture and often decorated in old Ottoman decor or modern furnishings are a prestigious purchase, with the most expensive having sold for 115 million USD. They are a status symbol of wealth, power, and influence. However, if your budget is considerably, lower or you just want a glimpse at the upmarket facade of Istanbul; other places will do exactly that.
Exploring the Upmarket Districts of Istanbul
Nisanti in the Sisli District (European Side of Istanbul)
This affluent area is home to secular residents who have everything their glitzy lifestyle demands through stylish roadside cafes, bars, upmarket restaurants and of course, Abdi Ipekci Avenue. Think of the Turkish equivalent of Rodeo drive to understand it is the fashion centre of Istanbul. Brand name designers readily pay the highest rent prices in the country to open their boutique shops to everyone who wants to part with lots of cash on upmarket brand name clothes. Gucci, Dior, Hugo Boss, and Cartier are just a few of the select names gracing the pavements. The neighbourhood has also garnered admiration from expats, who like the laid back, carefree lifestyle.
Sariyer District: Yenikoy, Tarabya, and Zekeriyakoy
Some of the finest Yali mansions are in the Yenikoy neighbourhood of the Sariyer district on the European side. This shorefront area of the Bosphorus strait of water is home to some of Istanbul’s wealthiest residents and real estate prices easily reach millions of USD if they feature the latest architecture and design trends.
The district is also close to Tarabya that was once a small, rural fishing village and home to several countries consulates. The famous travel guide writer Rick Steves says in his book that shoreline property in this area resembles the riverside mansions of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, getting to see them is hard because most are behind big garden walls with large, private gardens.
The luxury villa theme contains into the neighbourhood district of Zekeriyakoy, often called the “quiet village” by locals. Anyone looking to break into the elite real estate market of Istanbul would do well to look at Zekeriyakoy because new build villas with modern and state-of-the-art architecture are surprisingly cheap considering their upmarket location.
Besiktas District: Bebek and Arnavutkoy
Sitting close to the Sariyer and SislI districts, Besiktas is home to many expensive, upper-class neighbourhoods. Bebek enjoys focal attention for its seaside promenade, which in summer, is the place to hang out if you want to show off your wealth. Its affluent status is not something new because even during the Ottoman times, the aristocrats spent the summer holidaying in the area. The best example of the former, historical mansions is the old Egyptian consulate also known as khedive pavilion. After lying in ruins for many years, extensive restoration in the 1980s restored it to much of its former glory.
Famous faces party the night away in Bebek that has also attracted admiration for its fish restaurants, although others do prefer the less intrusive neighbouring area of Arnavutkoy promoting a nostalgic ambience with impressive wooden Ottoman mansions. With a history steeped in multi-cultural connections, Arnavutkoy is an ideal place to stroll around because the traditional architecture of the houses is on full show. Aside from that, tourists will enjoy seeing the old churches and ruined synagogue reflecting its ancient Jewish and Greek historical timeline.
Besiktas District: Etiler and Levent
Staying in the Besiktas district, the wealth has spread to other neighbourhoods including Etiler, a mecca of swish cafes, pubs, nightclubs, and gyms for the body conscious socialite. The most famous landmark, however, is Akmerkez, one of the best shopping malls in Istanbul. Known as an award-winning business for its shareholders, it also uniquely offers a concierge shopping experience.
Meanwhile, nearby Levent boasts about its wealth through a mass collection of skyscrapers including the tallest in Turkey. It is here where thousands of deals and transactions happen every day securing its position as a central business hub of Istanbul. The revolving atmosphere and skyscraper projects also ensure Levent stays on top of modern architecture trends and new build properties are as impressive as they are stunning.
Also called Bagdad Avenue but with no connection to the place, another prestigious place to shop and be seen is the 14-kilometre Bagdat Avenue. The one-way street enjoys importance as the best shopping district in this side of the city, hosting shopping malls, and top fashion labels. Such is its social significance, at New Year, or Republic day, this is where everyone gathers to celebrate. Certain stretches of the avenue focus on high-cost purchases but the back streets cater for all budgets.
Further Reading: Many wealthy citizens of Istanbul spend the summer on the Aegean peninsula of Bodrum, that has a small, discreet splattering of luxury, upmarket holiday resorts. Find out why, in our article about luxury living on the Bodrum peninsula.
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