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Districts of Istanbuls

A vibrant, bustling city, Istanbul, has drawn crowds throughout history. There’s no limit to what you can discover, as every district is a unique melting pot of culture.

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The districts of Istanbul are full of tales and adventures, from fashion, to culture and art. Straddling both the European and Asian continents, we have compiled a list of the most beautiful districts in Istanbul for you to explore.

Emirgân



Mehmed Pasha, and for a time the area was known as Feridun Bey Gardens (Feridun Bey Bahçeleri). Named after Castellan Emir Güne who aided the Ottomans during the sieges of Erivan, Emirgan, is located on the Bosphorus and has many historical buildings, tea gardens and lush green scenery for you to enjoy. Between the districts of Emirgan and İstinye you'll find Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu) which was opened to the public in 1940. It contains three mansions - Yellow Mansion (Sarı Köşk), Pink Mansion (Pembe Köşk) and White Mansion (Beyaz Köşk), and they're the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely breakfast among the stunning surroundings of the park. After taking a stroll through Emirgan Park, which is particularly delightful in April and May. When the annual Tulip Festival is in full swing, head down to the Bosphorus shore, where you can enjoy a glass of tea in one of the many tea gardens. Some other must-see historical spots in Emirgân are Hamid Evvel mosque, Surp Yerits Mangants Armenian Church ve Şerifler Yalı.

Beyoğlu



For centuries, Beyoğlu has been one of the liveliest districts in Istanbul and all of Europe. A vibrant hub of places to eat, entertainment and shops, Beyoğlu, bustles with locals and tourists around the clock. Stretching from Taksim Square to Karaköy, Beyoğlu is a cosmopolitan district that is steeped in history. The district of Beyoğlu initially developed in the 19th century as a place where the Western population of the city lived and was known for its vineyard and gardens. Soon, the district of Galata began to spread out. Today, there are plenty of mosques, churches and historical structures that are still in use. Cihangir Mosque, Firuz Ağa Mosque and Ağa Mosque line the road that leds from Cihangir to Galata. Some of the most famous churches in the district are Aya Triada Church, Ermeni Üç Horan Church, St. Antuan Church, Santa Maria Church, Kırım (Anglican Church), Aziz Peter ve Paul Church. In the neighborhood, Dolapdere, visit Meryem Ana Kilisesi, Ayios Konstantinos ve Ayia Eleni Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi ve Panayia Evangelistria Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi. From Gümuşsuyu all the way to Galata history lines the streets, starting with Gümüşsuyu Palas apartment, leading to Çiçek Passage, Galatasaray Hamam, Mısır Apartment, Doğan Apartment, Istanbul Tunnel all the way up to Galata Tower. Fransız Street, the Fish Market, and Nevizade Street, are the liveliest parts of the district and well worth a visit. Those looking to step back in time can get a tram ride that scales all of Beyoğlu. This nostalgic tramway was built in 1875, has two wagons and is painted with signature colors, red and white.

Nişantaşı



Nişantaşı dazzles with luxury restaurants and chic restaurants. If you are looking to shop at stores of world-famous brands, then Nişantaşı is the place for you. Take a break at one of the many pretty cafes that line the streets then stop by a gallery. Some of the most popular spots in Nişantaşı are Teşvikiye Street, Abdi İpekçi Street ve Vali Konağı Street. Stop by Teşvikiye Mosque, one of the most remarkable buildings in Nişantaşı. While the mosque was originally commissioned by Sultan Selim III, most of it was completed in 1854 during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit I as the neighborhood as a whole was developing. Some other fascinating buildings are Maçka Palas and the Maçka artillery barracks. Alternatively, you can opt to have a nice rest in Maçka Democracy Park.

Kadıköy



The Kadıköy district is the center of the Anatolian side of the city, and it's also one of its oldest districts in Istanbul. One of Kadıköy's modern neighborhoods is Fikirtepe, and excavations indicated that it was a settlement area as far back as 3,000 B.C. Even then name Kadıköy comes from Chalcedon, a Phoenician word meaning, ironically, "new city". While Kadıköy is in fact one of the oldest districts in Istanbul, it nonetheless only grew in popularity towards the end of the Ottoman Empire. The neighborhood is home to many historical buildings, such as Haydarpaşa Train Station and Marmara University. Selimiye Mosque, Osman Aga Mosque, Zuhtu Pasha Mosque and Iskele Mosque are among the iconic mosques of Kadikoy. Ayia Efimia Greek Orthodox Church, Armenian Surp Takavor Church, Surp Levon Armenian Catholic Church, Ayios Ioanni Hrisostomos and Aya Triada Greek Church are full of history just waiting to be discovered. Hemdat Israel stands out as the only synagogue of the district. Originally neighborhoods like Moda, Fenerbahçe, Caddebostan and Suadiye in Kadıköy were thought of as holiday spots rather than the city spots, and it wasn't until after the 1950s and the rapid growth of the city that Kadıköy was swallowed up into the modern metropolis. Today it's one of the city's biggest commercial and cultural hubs. There's movement and activity 24 hours of the day in Kadıköy, and its restaurants, cafés, galleries, bookstores and antique shops are some of the best in the city. Visit the historical Salı bazaar, take a nice walk on the shore in Caddebostan or admire the boats floating along at Kalamış Marina. There are also plenty of parks to enjoy, such as Özgürlük Park, Fenerbahçe Park ve Göztepe Park.

Ortaköy



Ortaköy sits right next to Beşiktaş on the European side of the Bosphorus and is one of the oldest fishing villages in the city. In the spring and summer, this neighborhood is packed with tourists. Ortaköy is one of the most picturesque parts of Istanbul, and indeed the Ortaköy Mosque and Çırağan Palace have become icons of the city. Ortaköy is a lively neighborhood, with stalls selling handmade jewelry, quaint little cafés and some excellent restaurants, all looking out over one of the best views of the Bosphorus in the city. One of the specialties of Ortaköy in particular is a jacket potato called “kumpir”. You can choose which variety of ingredients to stuff it with, and the choices are just about endless. After you've finished wandering the pretty streets around Ortaköy, continue on to some of the nearby neighborhoods along the Bosphorus like Arnavutköy and Bebek, and enjoy the fresh sea air and stunning views. Hidden amongst the quaint shop you can find Ayios fokas Greek Orthodox Church, Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Armenian Church and the Etz Ahayim Synagogue. Esma Sultan Mansion, Fehime Sultan Mansion and Hatice Sultan Mansion are other places to explore. Get some fresh air after exploring Ortaköy, by taking a refreshing walk up the Bosphorus, on the sidewalk that stretches from Arvanutköy to Bebek.

Balat



This charming district on the shores of the Golden Horn reflects the very best of Istanbul's historic architecture and culture. Balat was first settled in during the period of the Spanish Inquisition, when Jews fled Europe to Istanbul at the invitation of Sultan Bayezid II. The district later became more cosmopolitan, with Greek, Armenian, and Muslim residents coming to live here. While each culture left its mark on the neighborhood, the homes retain the feel left by the Spanish Jews. This includes timber houses bursting with color, narrow cobbled streets and a fairytale atmosphere that makes Balat one of the prettiest districts to wander through in the city, all the more so after recent renovation work to preserve the area’s original charm. Check out some of the antiques dealers and buy some souvenirs for loved ones in the district or drink a cup of Turkish coffee in one of the cute little cafés. An inspiring location for any that enjoy taking photos, Balat is a world away from the rest of Istanbul, with local children playing in streets packed with synagogues, churches, mosques, fortune tellers, and street vendors. The Balat Bazaar, Vodina Street are some must-see places, along with Feruh Kethuda Mosque, Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Fener Greek Erkek Highschool, Sveti Stefan Church, Ayios Dimitrios Church, Kanlı Church, Vaftizci Yahya (Aya Yani) Church, Surp Hreşdagabed Church, Ahrida Synagogue and Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamam.

Cihangir



Cihangir is an old district of Istanbul, and in recent years it's become a bohemian part of the city where artists and creative types spend their days working and living. As a result, the social life of Cihangir is particularly colorful, and the restaurants and cafés in the neighborhood cater for a crowd that’s a little bit out of the ordinary. Cihangir is also a place where people escape from the busy İstiklal Avenue, but don’t want to stray too far from the vibrancy of Beyoğlu. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite to eat at a nice restaurant. Lately, it's become a little more gentrified and cosmopolitan as many of the foreign residents of the city inhabit there. At the heart of the city, Cihangir is a symbol of bohemian life and a highly social place. As you stroll through the streets of Cihangir, take note of the old, elegant apartment blocks, quaint little cafés and the well-fed, friendly street cats!

Karaköy



Nowadays, Karaköy is packed with people pretty much every hour of the day. Karaköy was an important harbor front located at the bottom of the Galata Tower on the shores of the Golden Horn and was used for both public and commercial transportation. At the turn of the century, the districts of Pera and Galata just above Karaköy began to flourish as Western Levantines moved to that part of the city. As foreign dignitaries moved there, so did the minority residents of the city, most notably the Jewish population, the Greek population, the Circassian population and White Russians fleeing the October Revolution. Karaköy was a center of trade at the bottom of the residential neighborhoods those communities had created for themselves, and now it's one of the most popular parts of the city. In spite of the tourism and trades that takes place, Karaköy, is still one of the most authentic places in Istanbul. Arap Mosque, Yeraltı Mosque, Azapkapı Mosque, Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church, Türk Orthodox Patriarchate, are religious centers of the district. Kamondo Stairs, Deniz Yolları Building, Hristos Krematos Monastery, Karaköy Hanları, Perşembe Market, Bankalar Street and Yüksek Kaldırım are just waiting to be explored. Some of the best cafés and restaurants in the city are located in Karaköy, so after you've taken the time to see the whole district you can sit back and relax with a glass of tea or a delicious bite to eat. Try to stay until sundown, and enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant, where you'll be provided with excellent views of the sun setting over Topkapı Palace.

Kuzguncuk



The popular district of Kuzguncuk is located on the Analoian side of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and lies between distrcts Paşalimanı and Beylerbeyi. Journey back in time and take in the beautifully restored wooden houses with beautiful bay windows that line the streets. Admire the visible traces of the different cultures that passed through Kuzguncuk at the many mosques, synangoues and churches. Kuzguncuk is home to Beth Ya’akov Synagogu, Kal de Ariva Synagogue as well as Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church and Ayios Panteleimon Greek Orthodox Church. Üryanizade Mosque and Kuzguncuk Mosque are some moques just waiting to be explored. Abdülmecid Efendi Mansion, Cemil Molla Mansion and Fethi Ahmed seaside mansion are some other historical places for you to get lost in, where lush green beauty and history of Istanbul and is well still thriving. It's actually one of the older spots in the city and has been a great place to escape the hustle and bustle for centuries. Of course, the views over the Bosphorus have been much of the reason for this, and they've provided inspiration to many artists. If you want to take a Bosphorus boat tour, Kuzguncuk is the perfect place to start, though be sure to spend some time getting to know the neighborhood itself. Get lost in the little side streets as you wander past the historic homes and enjoy a full Turkish breakfast under the sycamore trees or in Icadiye Avenue's boutique cafés. There are restaurants, boutique bookstores and designer shops on most of the side streets in Kuzguncuk, so there’s definitely plenty to discover.

Moda



You can watch the best sunsets of Istanbul from this district. Having a long-established way of life, Moda, with its modern and chilled-out vibe is an icon of Bohemian culture in İstanbul. Located right next to Kadıköy, Moda has always been one of the most peaceful and popular districts of Istanbul. With new café’s popping up all around, Moda has provided a new layer in Istanbul’s Bohemian life. Archeological records indicate that Moda is one of the oldest settlements in Istanbul, though it only started gaining its current identity around the 19th century. With the influx of Westerners such as the British and the French, the already home of Istanbulite minorities, Moda achieved a cosmopolitan status in the Ottoman period. It is still a popular choice among foreigners who come to Istanbul for work or study. Even though a relatively newer district among Istanbul’s other districts, with its handful of buildings reflecting the late Ottoman period, Moda does not fail to take its visitors onto a historic journey. Among them, the Church of Assumption, the Church of All Saints, the Moda Pier and historic mansions could be seen. Another place to visit is the house, now a museum, of the famous Turkish rock musician Barış Manço. The nostalgic tram transports the passengers arriving at the Kadıköy Pier all the way to Moda. Many of Moda’s residents have lived in their homes for generations and recently, like Ortaköy or Cihangir it has become the choice of people from the culture and entertainment sector. As a result, the district is home to organic stores, promoting an alternative lifestyle. With its tea gardens overlooking the sea and chic venues, the Kadıköy-Moda route has become an alternative to Taksim.

Beşiktaş



One of the oldest districts of Istanbul, Beşiktaş, is located on the Rumeli side of the Istanbul Bosphorus and lies between Tophane and Ortaköy. Beşiktaş experienced a population increase after it expanded into the Abbasağa and Vişnezade neighborhoods after the 17th century. Beşiktaş has it all, a vibrant trade cnter filled with workplaces, museums, art centers, universitys, banks, businesses and establishments. With a beautiful location on the Bosphorus, and plenty of fascinating historical buildings, Beşiktaş is understandbly a touristic place. Çırağan Palace, Yıldız Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Feriye Palaces and Ihlamur Kasrı should be on your must-see list. Beşiktaş is also home to some great musuems, such as Istanbul Naval Museum and National Palaces Painting Museum. Sinan Paşa Mosque, Hamidiye Mosque, Küçük Mecidiye Mosque are a handful of beautiful mosques you can discover in Beşiktaş. Take refuge in some beautiful parks: Yıldız Park, Abbasağa Park and Ihlamur Kasrı. An inflow of thriving youthful population has resulted in an increase of attractive cafes and restaurants, making Beşiktaş a center of entertainment in Istanbul, especially around Beşiktaş Square and the district of Akaretler. Beşiktaş is one of the main places you can catch a ferry and enjoy the sea views on the way to the Princes Islands, Kadıköy and Üsküdar. Make sure to drop by the famous neighborhoods of Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy and Bebek on the outskirts of Beşiktaş, where you can find both recreational spaces and lush greenery, all easy to reach on the Bosphorus ferry line. Visit the historic Tezkireci Osman Efendi Mosque, Tevfikiye Mosque, Arnavutköy Mosque, Bebek Mosque, Surp Haç Armenian Church, Ayios Dimitrios Church, Ioannes Prodromos Church, Taksiarhis Church, Lazarist Sacre Coeur Church in these districts. There are also some beautiful seaside mansions, such as the Pembe Manolyalı Köşk, Kavafyan Konağı, Kırmızı Yalı, Yılanlı Yalı waiting to be explored.

Üsküdar



One of the oldest settlements on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, Üsküdar, is a cradle of civilisation, and a melting pot of cultures, where the streets are awash with history. Soak in the beautiful Istanbul’s from the Çamlıca Hill or explore the beautiful mosques. Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Yeni Mosque, Şemsi Paşa Mosque, Rum Mehmet Paşa Mosque, Ayazma Mosque, Ahmediye Mosque, Atik Valide Mosque, Çinili Mosque, Şakirin Mosque are just a few… Amongst the historic buildings of Üsküdar, you can visit Fethi Paşa Grove, Abdülaziz Av Mansion and Çamlıca Kız Highschool. Salacak sahilinde Boğaz havası eşliğinde yürüyüş yaptıktan sonra Kız Kulesi'ne geçebilirsiniz. Those looking to explore the districts Beylerbeyi, Kuzguncuk, Çengelköy, Kandilli, Anadolu Hisarı on the outskirts of Üsküdar, can visit the Beylerbeyi Palace and enjoy the stunning Bosphorus seaviews during the ferry ride, or catch the ferry between Üsküdar-Beşiktaş.

With a surprise on every corner, book a flight a Istanbul, to explore the districts of Istanbul.