On the European shore of the Bosporus, northeast of Taksim, the district Beşiktaş can be found. It is one of the oldest districts of the city and a major metropolitan area and transportation hub. In addition, it houses Istanbul’s skyscraper-filled business district.
It is said that the name of the area originates from the Ottoman period. Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa, the most famous admiral of Ottoman Empire, built five stone pillars in the district to do service as ship moorings. These ship moorings are called Beştaş and over time, the name of the districted turned into Beşiktaş.
Although Beşiktaş is one of the oldest areas in Istanbul, it only became a settlement when the Ottomans started to rule Istanbul. Before the Ottomans, Black Sea rebels roamed the shores of the Bosporus outside of the city walls, so most people tried to stay away from the place. When the Ottomans gained control over Istanbul they established secured settlements in the previously dangerous areas outside the city walls, and more and more people started to flock to the Bosporus shore. In the early days of the Ottoman Empire, Admiral Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa used the Beşiktaş shore as a port for Empirical Navy. In addition, he built himself a palace and settled down in Beşiktaş. In the 17th century, the shoreline had been built completely and the area turned into a place where the Ottoman Sultans went to relax and enjoy entertainment. Most of the palaces in Beşiktaş were built in this period. After the Turkish Republic was founded, Beşiktaş kept its importance due to the presence of Atatürk. Whenever he was in Istanbul he usually stayed in Dolmabahçe Palace, located in Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş officially became a district in 1930. In the time before that it was a neighbourhood of Beyoğlu.
Overview of the district
Beşiktaş, Yıldız, Bebek, Arnavutköy and Ortaköy are the historical neighbourhoods of Beşiktaş. The rest of neighbourhoods, such as Levent Etiler, and Akatlar were founded after 1950s. Beşiktaş, the central neighbourhood of the district, is one of the oldest neighbourhood of the city, its main attraction being the Beşiktaş. It is a place where you can buy cheap clothing, get your fresh vegetables and fish or have a meal at one of the many restaurants. The district is also home to the Istanbul Naval Museum, one of the most important naval museums in Turkey with an impressive collection of Ottoman Navy items. The Sinan Paşa Mosque, built by famous Ottoman architect Sinan is another impressive historical building located in the area. Apart from the buildings and the Bazaar, Beşiktaş is also the main transportation nexus. You can easily catch a ferry to the Asian side and many buses to other districts leave from the main bus station.
When writing about Beşiktaş it is impossible not to write about the Beşiktaş football. In the middle of bazaar mentioned earlier, you can find a big statue of an eagle, the is symbol of the Beşiktaş football team. Beşiktaş supporters are famous not only for their unconditional support of the team, but also their political stance. During the Gezi Parkı protests, Beşiktaş supporters won the hearts of the protesters and resisted the police violence from start to end. In the end, the government arrested the head of the Beşiktaş fans.
Arnavutköy, located between Ortaköy and Bebek, is another famous neighbourhood of Beşiktaş district. It is the nicest area along Bosporus, and has very rich culture and a colourful population. Until the 19th century, mostly Jews and Greek lived in the area. The architectural significance of the area is as important as its culture. With its seaside residence and narrow streets, Arnavutköy is one of the nicest areas of Istanbul to walk around in. On Tuesdays, there is an open bazaar in Arnavutköy, located near Oğul Sokak. It is smaller than a lot of the other bazaars but it is worth checking it out.
Bebek, meaning baby in Turkish, is one of the most expensive and luxurious neighbourhoods of Istanbul, and it is located along the Bosporus. It is full of expensive waterside apartments, there is a small bay where personal yachts can be anchored, and there are fancy restaurants and cafes. The Egyptian Consulate, located in the Valide Pasha Mansion is a large waterside building which was built by an Italian architect in 1902. In the time that Istanbul was still the capital of the Ottoman Empire, it was sold and it became the home of the Egyptian consulate. Another important building in Bebek belongs to Boğaziçi University, the best university in Turkey.
Ortaköy, middle village in Turkish, can be found right under the first Bosporus Bridge. Back in the day it was a small village and a resort for Ottomans dignitaries, and now it is a popular place among both locals and visitors. Ortaköy square and the neighbouring streets, situated within a triangle consisting of a mosque, a church and synagogue, is a natural meeting place for people. There are plenty of cafeterias, tea houses, restaurants, pubs and a bazaar which is open on Sundays. Sometimes you can also enjoy street concerts and shows. Most tourists identify Ortaköy with baked potato and gözleme, which is not necessarily true. Even so, some people go to Ortaköy just to get their hands on some of this food. The only real problem of area is traffic jam, but if you take a ferry from the Asian side the traffic will not be a problem. Besides food and a lively square, Ortaköy also houses world-class night clubs and Galatasaray University.
Yıldız, literally “star” in Turkish, is a neighbourhood located very close to the centre of Beşiktaş. It comprises some of Istanbul’s most historical places, such as Yıldız Park and Yıldız Palace. Sultan Süleyman first started using the area as his personal hunting grounds, but in the last 30 years of The Ottoman Empire the area was used as an administration centre. As mentioned before, Yıldız houses the ancient palace complex Yıldız Park, Yıldız Mosque and the Yıldız Clock Tower. Next to the clock tower you can find the Hamidiye Mosque, as well as Yıldız Technical University.
Finally, Levent is main business area of Istanbul. Levent hosts many skyscrapers including the tallest in Turkey, Istanbul Sapphire. It is just next to Kanyon Shopping Mall, but it is well hidden so that it doesn’t disturb the otherwise historical feel of this old District.