Sometimes you don’t have to go far, to find somewhere interesting. It can be waiting to be discovered right on your doorstep, especially if you are in Istanbul. Büyükçekmece is a district like that. It is in the suburbs of Istanbul, situated on the banks of the Büyükçekmece Lake, on the Marmara Sea coast on the European side, west of the city. The population of the district is approximately 240, 000.
At the beginning of the Ottoman period, the area of Büyükçekmece district was empty forest and farmland. In the early years of the Turkish Republic, it was still very rural. The area was a popular day or weekend trip destination, with a sandy shoreline and long seafront.
Until the 1960s, people came to Buyukcekmece for fishing, crabbing or a day on the beach. By the beginning of the 1960s, Büyükçekmece began to industrialize, over run with apartment buildings, and populated by migrants from Anatolia. Today, there are no more holidaymakers, they relocated further from the city when Büyükçekmece became the residential and industrial district of Istanbul.
Büyükçekmece is most famous for its sensational coastline, which spans 26 kilometers. Istanbul’s longest pedestrian path along the coastline is situated here and it is a major tourist attraction in the summer times. Along the coastline you can find a number of restaurants, tea gardens, pubs, and sport areas to spend time.
Büyükçekmece Lake is situated where the Karasu stream reaches the Sea of Marmara. The stream was dammed to create a drinking water reservoir and is the reason why there’s no connection with the lake and Sea of Marmara anymore. The area of the lake is almost 29 km2, it is 7 km long and 2 km wide. The lake has a maximum depth of 8.6 meters however for majority of the area, the water doesn’t pass over 50 cm. Today, Büyükçekmece Lake is largely surrounded by industrial and residential development.
Mimar Sinan’s famous bridge, one of his most loved pieces of work, is the symbol of Büyükçekmece. It was built between the Sea of Marmara and the Büyükçekmece Lake. The construction of the bridge began with the order of Suleyman the Magnificent before setting out for his Szigetvar campaign. Upon his orders Mimar Sinan started the construction with hundreds of carpenters and stonemasons in 1566. It was completed in 1567 since Sultan Selim II used it on his return to Istanbul as a new sultan. The bridge was called the “Four Brothers” and was formed by adding four separate bridges of different sizes and lengths to togethr. The masterpiece of engineering is 635 meters long and 7 meters wide. The poetical text on the inscription of the bridge belongs to the Poet Hüdai. The original signature of Sinan on the bridge was stolen. During the restoration in 1970 a similar signature was formed in place of the original.
Mimar Sinan’s works of the historic bridge, caravanserai, mosques and fountain are located within the Kulturpark that was built on an area of 200.000 m2. The park was originally designed for the 700th foundation anniversary celebrations of the Ottoman Empire and has since turned into a place where culture and art activities are performed. Apart from historical structures within the complex, you might expect to find a museum, an amphitheatre with a capacity of five thousand, sports facilities, living areas, cafes and restaurants. Around the area there are little regional houses (yöresel evler), which offer traditional food of the region. House of Mersin, Zigana and Kıbrıs are popular among them.
Büyükçekmece is also home to well-known function halls in Turkey such as Atatürk Culture Center and Tüyap Fair and Congress Center. Atatürk Culture Center is the biggest cultural complex of Turkey and satisfies a large part of the cultural needs of Istanbul. Tüyap Fair and Congress Center are the main center for all important events such as trade shows, exhibitions, congresses and seminars. The complex offers around 42,000 m2 of exhibition space spread across 10 halls, 11 meeting halls of different sizes with a total area of 8,000 m2. In addition, there are large convertible halls, utility infrastructure as per global standarts, wi-fi and internet facilities, social area of 10,000 m2, full air-conditioning, 7 cafeterias & restaurants, catering facilities and many more unique features.
You can get to Buyukcekmece by public transport but will require several changes along the way. You can take the tram to Zeytinburnu, change to the metro and get out at Yenibosna, where you can pick up a minibus to Büyükçekmece. You can take the tram to Cevizlibag and change to the metrobus for Avcilar. Then, you can pick up a minibus on to Büyükçekmece. It is easy to connect from Büyükçekmece to Yenibosna or Bakırköy via buses and “dolmuş”. Ferries operate during summer times connecting Büyükçekmece to Bostancı, Sirkeci, Bakırköy or Avcılar districts.