Historical Districts and Neighborhoods of Istanbul

  • 02.07.2020
  • İstanbul

Historical Districts and Neighborhoods of Istanbul

Istanbul, a city with hundreds of thousands of years of history, hosted millions of people over the years. Historical and socio-cultural importance of İstanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world, is great. Different nations and people of many different religions have lived together in Istanbul throughout the history, and all of these nations have left their mark behind. In this content, we will tell you about the historical districts and neighborhoods that still bear the traces of the past and reflect the cultural diversity of the city.

Kuzguncuk (Üsküdar)

Kuzguncuk is a coastal district located in the north of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side. It is known that the old name of Kuzguncuk is “Hrisokeramos” which means “Golden Tile”. The most remarkable thing about Kuzguncuk is the fact that different religions coexist in this neighborhood over time. Kuzguncuk has a unique structure formed by Jewish, Armenian, Greek and Muslim people. The history of Jews, known as the first Jewish settlement in the Asian part, dates back to the 17th century in Kuzguncuk. With the arrival of Armenians and Greeks afterwards, the ethnic culture of the district increased even more. As we get closer to present days, innovations have been added to the cultural and architectural structure of Kuzguncuk as the Turks replaced the declining minority population. Üryanizade Mosque, Beth Yaakov Synagogue and the Ayios Yeorgios Greek Orthodox Church which are situated at the seaside are a very good proof that Kuzguncuk has cultural differences. Also Kuzguncuk is a place known for its historical mansions. Kuzguncuk houses with colorful bay windows have not been lost since they were restored to their original form. When you are on your way to the Anatolian side, we definitely recommend you to see Kuzguncuk, where the neighborhood culture still lives.

Balat - Fener (Fatih)

Fener, where Greeks and Jews lived during the Ottoman Period, and Balat, where Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain, are located on the Golden Horn coast of Fatih district. With their rich history and architecture, they have become one of the most remarkable districts of recent times and have become a preferred route for both domestic and foreign tourists. There are many historical buildings that can be seen in these districts. Some of the most important are: Aya Yorgi Patriarchate Church, Sveti Stefan Church, Kanlı Church and Fener Greek Boys High School. İn Aya Yorgi Patriarchate Church there are mosaics and sacred relics from the Byzantine period. The 5th century patriarch is just one of them. Sveti Stefan Church, also known as Demir Church, attracts attention with its exterior decorations. It is the only iron church in the world. The most important feature of the Bloody Church is that it was the only church in Istanbul that was not converted into a mosque during the Ottoman period and left for the worship of the Greeks. Finally, Fener Rum Boys High School is one of the most magnificent buildings of Istanbul with its architecture and it is a structure that attracts attention of both locals and foreigners. This high school, which is perhaps the most important structure of the region, is also known as “Red High School” because it was made with red bricks brought from France. These two districts that draw attention with their history attract the attention of tourists with their colorful streets, cafes, antiques and vintage shops. We recommend everyone who is visiting Istanbul to visit these two districts, see their historical buildings and take photographs on their colorful streets.

Beylerbeyi (Üsküdar)

Beylerbeyi is a district located on the Anatolian side, between Kuzguncuk and Çengelköy. Beylerbeyi, which is a coastal district, begins under Bosphorus Bridge on the Anatolian side and stretches along the coast. The history of Beylerbeyi goes back to the Byzantine period and is one of the most unique places of the Byzantine ruins in the Bosphorus. In the Byzantine period, due to the large cross erected by Konstantinos II., there was a grove known as the Cross Gardens here. During the Ottoman Empire, interest to this district continued, a lot of mansions were built here and the area was used as private garden of the sultans. The building, which is the symbol of Beylerbeyi, is Beylerbeyi Palace, which was completed in 1865 and built by Sultan Abdülaziz. Beylerbeyi Palace, where Neoclassical, Baroque and Renaissance art styles can be seen, is one of the palaces that draw attention with the decorations of Istanbul. You can have fun in Beylerbeyi, which attracts the attention of local and foreign tourists with its waterside, mansions, palace, boutique cafes and fish restaurants, or you can witness the history by visiting Beylerbeyi Palace, one of the important historical buildings of Istanbul.

Cihangir (Beyoğlu)

Cihangir is a neighborhood in Beyoğlu. It is especially known for its cafes and old buildings. There is not much information about Cihangir's pre-Ottoman history. However, ruins that are thought to belong to the Byzantine monastery were found in the region. One of the important buildings in the district is Cihangir Mosque. Upon the death of Cihangir, the son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hürrem Sultan, sultan built the Cihangir Mosque in 1560. The mosque built by Mimar Sinan was repeatedly destroyed by fires and earthquakes in 1889. Abdulhamid has renovated the mosque. Today, Cihangir is a very famous place with its boutique cafes.

Ortaköy (Beşiktaş)

Ortaköy is a neighborhood in Beşiktaş district on the European side. Ortaköy, which is famous for its magnificent location and view of Ortaköy Mosque, which has become the symbol of the neighborhood, is one of the most popular districts of Istanbul. It is said to be called Arkheion (Argion) in ancient times. The name “Ayios Fokas” in the Byzantine period was given after the Ayios Fokas monastery built here by the Byzantine Emperor Basileios I. The Turks settled in Ortaköy during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. It is said that in old times there were mansions that were seen along the coast in Ortaköy. However, these mansions could not survive due to the area allocated for the construction of Çırağan Palace. What is impressive about Ortaköy is that three important structures representing three religions are situated very close to each other. The coexistence of the three cultures has made the cultural structure of Ortaköy become the center of attention for all segments. These structures are Ortaköy Mosque, Ayios Fokas Church and Etz Ahayim Synagogue. Ortaköy Mosque was built in 1853 by Sultan Abdülmecid. This Baroque style building is located in one of the most beautiful spots of the Bosphorus. Ortaköy Mosque is the most eye-catching element of Ortaköy Square. In the square, which is a good example of Ottoman civil architecture, there are also another historical works such as Damat İbrahim Pasha Fountain built in 1723. Restaurants, bars, antique shops and puppeteers of the square are some of the factors that make Ortaköy Square popular. You should definitely see this square, one of the busiest places in Istanbul and try special meals there.

Çengelköy (Üsküdar)

With Bosphorus view, centennial plane trees and boutique cafes, Çengelköy, a district of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side is a very popular neighborhood. The history of Çengelköy dates back to quite old times. According to legend, Çengelköy was first called “Protos Diskos”. “Protos Diskos” means First Bay. Its name in the Byzantine period was “Sophianae”. While it was said that the majority of the population of Çengelköy was made up of Greeks in the 17th century, the Armenians started to settle in Çengelköy in the 18th century. This district, which has managed to attract attention in every period, at the same time has become one of the most popular hunting grounds of Sultan Murad IV. and Mehmet IV. Some of the buildings that reflect the history of the district today are: Çengelköy Greek Orthodox Aya Yorgi Church, Abdullah Aga Mansion and Sadullah Pasha Mansion. Çengelköy continues to be one of the favorite historical neighborhoods of Istanbul with its natural beauties, cafes at the edge of the Bosphorus and colorful streets. Do not forget to stop at Çengelköy, one of the important neighborhoods of Istanbul, sit and drink coffee in one of boutique cafes if you are at Anatolian side.

Ağva (Şile)

Ağva, which is 97 kilometers away from Istanbul, is a district that has witnessed many civilizations. Ağva is located between Göksu and Yeşilçay streams, and means “the village established between two streams” in Latin. Ruins dating back to the 7th century B.C. prove how old the history of Ağva is. According to the ruins found, it is thought that the Hittites and Phrygians lived in the region of Ağva during that period. Also Ağva entered the sovereignty of Rome, Genoese and Byzantine. Among the works of the region there are Romans' churches and tombstones, castle ruins on Hisar Tepe and similar ones. At the same time, the population of Ağva, which is one of the important holiday resorts of Istanbul, is around 3000 people, but in summer it is 10,000 or more. Hosting the ruins of many civilizations, Ağva has many natural beauties. Gelin Kayası, Kilimli Bay and Saklı Göl are some of them... Especially Saklı Göl is one of the first stops of visitors to Ağva. While coming to Ağva, you can also see the Gürlek Cave in Hacilli Village, the ruins of the castle and the mill. This small holiday town located near Istanbul is one of the places that should be visited by those who want to have a sea holiday besides seeing historical places in Istanbul.

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