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Bosphorus Tour Guide – European Side





Going on a Bosphorus tour (either Bosphorus cruise tour or Bosphorus walking tour) is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

Check out Bosphorus tour guide (European side) for tourists who join either Bosphorus walking tours or Bosphorus cruise tours.

Towns & neighborhoods along the Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul (from the South to the North) are: Sirkeci, Karaköy, Tophane, Kabatas, Besiktas, Ortaköy, Kurucesme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, Rumelihisari, Baltalimani, Emirgan, Istinye, Tarabya, Sariyer, Rumelikavagi.

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SIRKECI & EMINONU
Sirkeci or Eminönü is the other end of the Galata Bridge where there are ferry and train staions as well as some of the biggest mosques and Egyptian market.

Sirkeci Gari
Sirkeci Train Staion is one of the two terminus in Istanbul. It was built by the German architect August Jachmund during the reign of Abdülhamit II in 1890. Orient Express departing from Paris carried passengers to Sirkeci for a long time from 1893 to 1977 and also the station took place in the famous book, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Visit Yeni Camii and Egyptian Market.
  • Walk around Tahtakale, one of the oldest shopping areas.
  • Have a raki-balik meal at the Galata Bridge restaurants.
  • Buy a balik-ekmek from the boats.
  • Go on a Bosphorus tour from the ferry station.

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KARAKÖY
Karaköy is one of the oldest and historical parts of the city on the European side, facing Eminönü. The name Karaköy comes from a Jewish Turkish community called Karai, Karaim or Karay Turks who settled around the area after the conquest of Constantinople. The name was mutated and is used as Karaköy today. There is still a Karay sinagog and cemetery in Karaköy.

Karaköy was called Galata (also used today) and has been a very important harbour and trade center since the ancient times. Genoa, Venice and Catalan states were given the permission to trade during the Eastern Rome and Ottoman Empire periods, therefore the town looked like a European city for centuries. Karaköy is still a very important harbour for the cruise ships running between the Black Sea and Mediterrenen Sea.

Karaköy today is a very cosmopolit area with all the German, Greek, French, Austrian and Italian schools, churces, sinagogs, mosques and the monuments that were made by European communities.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Have a lovely dinner in one of the restaurants at the Galata Bridge.
  • Walk up the Camondo stairs (in baroque style) to the upper streets that were made by a banker called Abraham Camondo.
  • Take your camera with you and go to Galata Tower where Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi, the first person to attemp to fly, jumped off with the wings he made.
  • Take the old metro from Tünel to Taksim.
  • Walk around in the Bankalar Street left from the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Visit the Turkey Hebrew Museum and Ottoman Bank Museum.

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TOPHANE
Tophane is a town by the Bosphorus on the European side between Kabataş and Karaköy. Tophane, named after the cannon factory, was the oldest industrial area during the Ottoman Empire. Today the factory is serving as Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Faculty, Cultural Centre.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Sit one of the cafes and have a nargile.
  • Visit Istanbul Modern Museum.

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KABATAS
Kabatas is a town by the Bosphorus on the European side between Besiktas in the North and Tophane and Karaköy in the South. The old names of Kabataş were Aiantion, Petra Thermatis and Butharion. The name Kabatas is believed to come from a huge rock in the area. Kabatas port was built in the 19th century and a column (Hadika) was built by the Sultan Abdülmecid. Kabatas also has the famous Dolmabahce Palace. Before the palace was built, there was a cove in the area and people going to Beşiktaş had to take a boat at the Arap Iskelesi to get to the other side. Then the cove was filled and the palace was built on the cove.

Kabatas is a central station for sea transportation. From Kabatas, you can get to Üsküdar by ferry, boat and arabalı vapur, to the islands by ferry and to Yalova and Cinarcik by seabus. It is also one of the starting points to start a Bosphorus tour.

Did you know?

  • The first ferry journey was made in Kabatas and the ferryboats invented by Hüseyin Haki Efendi, the manager of the ferry company, carried horse carriages between Kabatas and Harem.
  • The first theatre in Turkey, Saray Tiyatrosu, was built in Kabatas in the reign of the Sultan Abdülmecid in the 19th century. The first performance was “Belle Helene” operet by an Austrian troupe.

Places to see & Things to do
Visit the Dolmabahce Palace.

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BESIKTAS
Besiktas is a district on the European side between Kabatas and Ortaköy, opposite is Üsküdar on the Asian side. Beşiktas and Üsküdar are central parts of the city for transportation. It is possible to take buses, dolmus or boats to the northern and southern parts of the Bosphorus.

Besiktas literally means “cradle-stone” in Turkish. There are two theories for the origin of the name Besiktas. The first theory is that there are Byzantine records of a church that the area was called Kounopetra (cradle-stone) which was built in honour of a relic taken from the stable in Nazareth where Jesus was born. The stone was then removed to Hagia Sophia and disappeared during the Fourth Crusade. Another theory is that the name Besiktas was mutated from beştaş (five stones) referring to the pillars to which ships were moored in the time of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, the famous admiral of the Ottoman Navy in the 16th century.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Walk around at the fish market.
  • Visit the Naval Museum.
  • Have a cup of Turkish coffee at the cafes by the sea.
  • Have a drink at the Akaretler, old blocks of houses that were once part of the Dolmabahce Palace.
  • Walk to Ortakoy along the Ciragan Street.

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ORTAKÖY
Ortaköy is a town on the European side between Besiktas and Kurusesme in Besiktas district, where the Bosphorus Bridge is built on the European side. Ortaköy was a village and a summer resort during the Ottoman Empire. Today it is a cultural seaside avenue with bars, cafes, restaurants, street artist and artisans, and souvenir shops. Ortaköy is also one of the towns in Istanbul where a mosque, sinagog and church are built in the same place.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Have a cup of coffee and play backgammon by the sea.
  • Have a kumpir, baked potato.
  • See the artisans on the backstreets.

Did you know?
Büyük Mecidiye Camii or Ortaköy Camii, built by the Armenian architect Nigoğos Balyan in 1853, was designed in Neo baroque style.

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KURUCESME
Kurucesme is a small town by the Bosphorus on the European side located between Ortaköy and Arnavutköy. It was called Bithias, Kalamos, Amopolos in ancient times. Kuruçeşme comes from Koruçeşme mutated as Kurucesme (Dried Fountain) in time. Today it is famous for the night life with the clubs along the street.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Go to a concert at the Turkcell Arena.
  • Go to the most popular night clubs, Sortie, Suada Club, Mojito etc.

ARNAVUTKÖY
Arnavutköy is a town located between Ortaköy and Bebek on the European shore of the Bosphorus. Opposite Arnavutköy on the Asian side are Kandilli and Vaniköy. Arnavutköy is believed to be named after the Albanian people that were brought to this town from Albania after Mehmet II, Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Albania in 1468. It remained Arnavutköy even after the Albanian people left the area. Before the Ottoman period it was called Hestai, Promotos, Anaplous, Horasmoto (Village of Angels) Asomaton, Megalu Revmatus (Big Current) or Diabolugue Revma (Diabolic Current).

Places to see & Things to do

  • Walk along the seaside to see the old houses
  • Have a köfte meal at the Ali Baba.
  • Have a fish meal at the Adem Baba.

Did you know?
Until the end of 18th century there were many vineyards around the town. At that time, thanks to the Ipsilantis family the vineyards were replaced with stawberry fields and the peculiar kind of strawberry they grew was called the Arnavutköy or Ottoman strawberry.

BEBEK
Bebek is a town by the Bosphorus in Beşiktaş on the European side between Arnavutköy and Rumelihisarı. The earliest name of Bebek is thought to be Hallai or the different versions of the word Challe, Chilai, Khile, Skallia meaning pier. The name today, Bebek, is given after a commander who was in charge of guarding Rumelihisarı in the siege of Constantinople. Bebek cove that was a harbour where the boats took shelter in the past, now is a small marina where yachts and boats are anchored. Bebek has a nice shore for going for walks, having a nice cup of tea or coffee and Sunday breakfasts at the cafes.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Have breakfast at one of the cafes.
  • Have a waffle from Abbas.
  • Walk along the marina anjoy the Bosphorus.

RUMELIHISARI
Rumelihisarı is the fortress and the town in Sarıyer between Bebek and İstinye on the European side. Rumelihisarı facing Anadoluhisarı on the Asian side is located between two bridges. Rumelihisarı was built by Mehmet II (The Conquerer) in 1452 before the conquest of Constantinople to prevent aid from the Black Sea, particularly Genoese colonies Caffa, Sinop and Amasra. After the fall of Constantinople, the fortress used as customs checkpoint. The fortresses on both sides lost their strategic importance when a second pair of fortresses were built further up the Bosphorus. In the 19th century a residential neighborhood was formed inside the fortress until it was renovated in the late 1950’s as a museum an open-air theatre, which hosts concerts and festivals during the summer.

Did you know?
Rumelihisarı and Anadoluhsarı were built in the narrowest part of the Bosphorus with 660 meters? Mehmet II (Fatih, the Conquerer) worked in the construction and built the fortress in the shape of his own tuğra (sultan’s signature)?

Places to see & Things to do

  • Have breakfast at one of the cafes.
  • Visit the Rumelihisari Museum.
  • Go to an open-air concert (July – August) at the Rumelihisari Fortress.

EMİRGAN
Emirgan is a town on the European side of the Bosphorus located between İstinye and Baltalimanı. Emirgan is a beautiful town with a nice view of the Bosphorus, streets with old İstanbul houses and Emirgan Korusu, a park where you can go for a walk, have a tea or take nice photos of the Bosphorus. As well as the park and scenery, a nice breakfast at the Çınaraltı cafes or Emirgan Sütiş is one of the best things to do by the Bosphorus before you visit Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

Breakfast In Emirgan
A typical Bosphorus breakfast in Emirgan is made of cheese, olives, tomato and cucumber in olive oil, balkaymak (honey and clotted cream) menemen (a kind of omlette with tomatoe and pepper) börek, eggs with sucuk and of course a nice cup of tea.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Have a nice breakfast or Turkish coffee at the Cinaralti cafe.
  • Go for a walk in Emirgan Korusu (woods) and have a glass of tea at the Sari Kosk.
  • See an exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum.

ISTINYE
İstinye is a town by the Bosphorus on the European side between Yeniköy in the North and Emirgan in the South. Istinye, or Stenia in the Roman period, is one of the coves of the Bosphorus. There was a shipyard, İstinye Tersanesi that was built in 1912 and closed in 1991. Today there is a marina project in İstinye.

TARABYA
Tarabya is a town by the Bosphorus on the European side between Yeniköy in the South and Sarıyer in the North. The word Tarabya comes from the Greek word Therapia meaning “therapy”. The name of the town indicates that the area was used as a sanctuary from the city for the sick people. Tarabya is also the town where the foreign consulates (German, French, Italian) were located in the mansions along the sea.

Places to see & Things to do

  • Walk along the Bosphorus.
  • Have a raki-balik meal and listen to tavern music.
  • Visit Urala Ataman Classic Car Museum www.atamanmuseum.com

SARIYER
Sarıyer is a district on the European side in the North of the Bosphorus opposite Beykoz. Sarıyer means “yellow place, ground” in Turkish. There are three stories for the name of Sarıyer. The first is the yellowish colour of the earth around Maden (meaning mine) neighborhood before Sarıyer became a dense settlement. The second is that Sarı Saltuk, a legendary dervish, lived in Sarıyer during the reign of Mehmet II (Fatih) and the area called Sarı Er that was mutated to Sarıyer in time. The third one is that the area relatively turns yellow in the spring when a flower, broom, blooms.

The seaside by the Bosphorus and the beaches in Kilyos by the Black Sea makes Sarıyer a touristic town in the summer time. It is also a historical town with the mansions and kiosks by the Bosphorus, churches, Roman aqueducts, Genoa fortress near Rumeli Feneri and so on.

Tarihi Sarıyer Börekçisi
Sarıyer is famous for Sarıyer böreği which is a kind of rolled börek made with minced meat, onions, pine nut, currant and spices. It is also served with cheese, potato, spinach and sugar. It is no doubt one of the most favourable breakfast foods that İstanbullu prefer most. This historical börek shop was founded by Mehmet Ali Bey in 1895 and located in a three-floored building in Sarıyer, Yeni Mahalle Cad. No: 50 meshursariyerborekcisi.net Sarıyer Belediyesi sariyer.bel.tr Sarıyer Manşet (online journal) sariyermanset.com Sarıyerliler sariyerliler.com

RUMELIKAVAGI
Rumelikavağı is a fishing town in the very north of the Bosphorus between Sarıyer and Rumelifeneri (Rumeli Lighthouse) on the European side facing Anadolukavağı on the Asian side. Rumelikavağı is a nice, quiet fishing town famous for fish and mussel restaurants. It is known as the homeland of mussels. There are also four nice beaches in Rumelikavağı. You can get to Rumelikavağı by bus from 4. Levent (bus 25A) after getting off the metro from Taksim. You can also take a ferry from Bosphorus ferry station in Eminönü.

Just like Anadolukavağı on the Asian side, the best thing to do is to take a ferry to Rumelikavağı and have a rakı-balık at the restaurants in Rumelikavağı. Afiyet olsun!

We hope you enjoyed your Bosphorus tour!

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