A cruise on the Bosphorus is probably the most overlooked Istanbul tourist attraction in the abundance of historical sightseeing spots. However, this is the only city in the world that stands astride two continents; Europe and Asia. The private yachts of Nar Boats take you from Bebek for a couple of hours and cruises along the Bosphorus passing two bridges and discovering the beautiful waterfront mansions (yalis), Ottoman palaces and castles with the ageless beauty of Istanbul at the background.
Şahkulu Mh., Şahkulu Sok, No.20, Beyoğlu, (0850) 360 1627.
Although Genoese were forbidden, under the Byzantine rule, to fortify the colony, they enclosed portions of the neighbourhoods behind thick crenelated walls. Galata Tower is the landmark in these walls. Originally known as the Tower of Christ, it was built in 1348 with walls almost 4 m. thick as the apex of the fortifications of Genoese Galata. Thoroughly rebuilt several times in the history, the tower was opened to the public in 1967. Today it has a café/restaurant on its upper floor with panoramic view of Istanbul.
Bereketzade Mh., Galata Kulesi, Beyoğlu, Open daily 8am-9pm. (0212) 244 7736.
The “Arap Camii,” which is situated on Nafe Sokak, was originally a Roman Catholic Church erected in the 13th century by the friars of the Dominican Order dedicated to Saint Paul in 1233. Although the structure was altered and converted into a mosque during the Ottoman period, it is the only example of medieval religious Gothic architecture remaining in Istanbul. Recently, it was uncovered that the building was originally decorated with frescoes illustrating Biblical depictions. Now they were plastered over.
Arap Cami Mh., Galata Mahkemesi Sok., Beyoğlu
A short way down the Galip Dede Street, it is Mevlevi Lodge (Galata Mevlevihanesi). Built in 1492 by a direct descendant of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi -also known as Mevlana- the place was called historically as a tekke, a lodge of the mystical brotherhood. Banned and abandoned early in secular Turkish republic, Galata Mevlevihanesi re opened its doors in 1975 this time as a museum and a library, devoted to the mystical writings of the Sufi poets and dervishes. Performances are given by whirling Mevlevi dervishes in three Sunday a month.
Şahkulu Mh. Galip Dede Caddesi, No: 15, Tünel. Open 9am-7pm (at summer time) and 9am-4:30pm (at winter time). Closed on Mondays. (0212) 245 4141
One of the oldest buildings along the Golden Horn from the Ottoman era. This 17th century han - once adjacent to the medieval walls- was the centre of sailcloth manufacturing in the Ottoman times. Though discontinued the marine supplies production long ago, it still is working.
Arap Camii Mahallesi, Yemeniciler Cad., Kurtçu Hamam Sok., Beyoğlu.
Rüstem Pasha Caravanserai
Built by Sinan for the grand vizier Rüstem Pasha in the mid-16th century as an eight-domed caravanserai, Rüstem Pasha Han (or Kurşunlu Han) is still a working han. Don’t miss the Corinthian cap on the left at the entrance. It was probably taken from a church that was turned down when the han was built, and pressed into service as part of a water pump.
Arap Camii Mahallesi. Tersane Caddesi, Kürekçiler Kapısı Sokak. No: 47, Beyoğlu.
Perşembe Pazarı Caddesi
If you are looking for a vivid portrait of a way of work that is unlikely to last very long, go to the Perşembe Pazarı Caddesi. It is a narrow street -between Tersane Caddesi and Bankalar Caddesi- lined with very picturesque 18th century houses and hans (Serpuş Han etc.) whose upper stories zigzag decoratively and look very medieval. Don’t miss the painting of Galileo, on the ceiling of a room in Serpuş Han, which was built upon the foundations of a Genoese structure. The three-story han full of craftsmen working on various hardware essentials, housed booksellers in the 18th-century.
The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, which the New York Times called “the changing face of Turkey,” is the most prominent of Istanbul’s contemporary galleries. Founded in 2004 in the huge former warehouse on the shores of the Bosphorus, the museum displays everything from the masters of modern Turkish art to international shows. Although its restaurant is not the main attraction, for many visitors
Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque
One of Architect Sinan’s most important 16th century works, with a plan similar to Ayasofya. Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque was commissioned by the Italian-born Giovanni Dionigi Galeni, who was captured and made slave by Mediterranean pirates on his way to Naples to study for the priesthood. Giovanni ended up in the service of the sultan, finally being made an Ottoman grand admiral. That’s how he took the name “Kılıç Ali Pasha.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mh., Tophane İskele Cad., Beyoğlu
Built in 1732-1733 for the Valide Sultan Saliha, mother of Sultan Mahmud I, Azapkapı Fountain is perhaps the most attractive 18th century baroque fountain in Istanbul. The facades are covered with floral motifs and fruit trees in low relief.
Tersane Caddesi, Azapkapı, Beyoğlu.
Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque
Beyond the fountain, one may see interesting seaside mosque of Sokullu Mehmet Pasha, known as Azapkapı Mosque as well. Built by Chief Architect Sinan in 1577-8 for the Grand Vizier, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha, the mosque has gone under several restorations till today.
Cevahir Çıkmazı, Azapkapı, Beyoğlu
Located between Nusretiye Mosque and Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque in the square of Tophane neighbourhood, Tophane Fountain (Çeşmesi) is an 18th-century public water fountain commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I. It was built in the Ottoman rococo architecture in an era that great importance was attached to the construction of many reservoirs and public fountains in İstanbul. Its marble walls with floral design are beautiful. The name of the neighbourhood was derived from the imperial cannon foundry, known as Tophane-i Amire.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mh., Tophane İskele Cad., Beyoğlu.
This is the only mosque in the world where you step down the stairs to enter into a series of low-vaulted corridors. This 8th century structure was once the dungeons of the Galata Castle, where Byzantines stretched a chain across the Golden Horn to deter possible invaders. The place was converted into a mosque after the Conquest of 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mh., Kemankeş Cad., Beyoğlu
Located in the historic Anglo-French Ottoman Bank on Bankalar Caddesi (formerly known as Voyvoda Street), this cutting-edge institution houses an exhibition space, arts research library, an auditorium and an Open Archive of books, magazines, articles, CD/DVDs and theses. It is worthwhile just to see the building that is designed in 1892 by the Levantine architect Alexandre Vallaury. There is a cafe in the first floor and a restaurant on the roof.
Bankalar Caddesi 11, Karaköy. Tue-Sat 12-8pm; Sun 12-6pm. (0212) 334 2200.
Located not far from the Karaköy entrance of the Tünel (one stop underground line), the Jewish Museum displays the rich legacy of Turkish Jewry in a building, which functioned as a synagogue from 1671 to late 20th century. However the actual building was re-erected over its original foundations in the early 19th century. Because 1992 marked the five hundredth anniversary of this most gracious welcome of the Sephardim to Turkish lands, the synagogue was assigned that particular year by its owner to The Quincentennial Foundation to convert the building into a museum. Inaugurated in 2001, the Jewish Museum has a permanent exhibition that tells the unfolding story of Jewish culture and identity through hundred of works of art, archaeology, ceremonial objects, documents and photographs etc.
Arap Cami Mh., Perçemli Sokak No. 1, Karaköy, (0212) 292 6333