- Cornucopia Magazine, Issue 48 (Sept 2012)
Destinations > Istanbul > Beyoğlu and the European City
Beyoğlu and the Historic European City
Art, entertainment, business and fashion are all based north of the Golden Horn. From bohemia in busy Beyoğlu to cosmopolitan cool in Cihangir, and from upmarket shopping in Nişantaşı to high-rise offices in Levent.
The hillside above the old quays, warehouses and banks lining the north shore of the entrance to the Golden Horn is where merchants and diplomats first created the European quarter. Beyoğlu is also Istanbul’s Left Bank. In the arcades and alleys leading off İstiklal Caddesi cafés are heaving round the clock. At one end is the Genoese Galata Tower, at the other Taksim Square.
Click any image to view more details
What you will see
Those who live, work and play in the European part of Istanbul can be forgiven occassional attacks of myopia. The area stretching North from the Golden Horn to the second Bosphorus bridge is a thriving metropolis in itself; anywhere across a body of water seems like another city altogether. Often crowded, hectic and loud, life moves quicker here than anywhere else in the city. This is the young, confident, creative Istanbul that you’ve been hearing about.
These days Beyoğlu is the real centre of Istanbul: they say two million people pass through the area every day. At some point nearly all of them will walk along Istiklal Caddesi - the pedestrianised main drag running from Taksim to Tünel. It was formerly known as Le Grande Rue de Pera, once memorably described as “as narrow as the comprehension of its inhabitants and as long as the tapeworm of its intrgigues.” No doubt horizons have broadened and intrigues shrunk since the Grande Rue days, and after a few more recent dodgy decades, Beyoğlu has been well and truly rehabilitated. No longer the seedy underbelly it was in the 70s and 80s, it is home to most of the city’s key art institutions, some of the best hotels and restaurants, and the most fun places to let your hair down.
At the lower end of the district, overlooking the mouth of the Golden Horn is Galata, with its iconic and eponymous Genoese watch tower. All around are music shops and venues such as Nardis, the best place for live Jazz in the city. It all feels very young and hip, but this is a surprisingly historical music quarter. It grew up around the Dervish lodge on the corner of Tünel Square, music being hugely important to the Mevlevis.
During the day you can spend hours in bookshops and museums. Espas, Eren, Pandora, Homer, Turkuaz, Denizler, Arkeopera, Kırımızı Kedi and Robinson Crusoe all have good selections of English-language books, and there are plenty of cafes to enjoy your purchases in over a glass of çay or a latté. Try Ara, Şimdi or one of the House Cafés.
The Pera Museum can be relied on for excellent exhibitions and have a wonderful collection of Orientalist art and Kutahya ceramics. For something more contemporary visit SALT Beyoğlu and Arter, both on Istiklal Caddesi.
Beyoğlu is a different place at night. For all shades of live music check out Babylon and Ghetto.
Walking from the Old City, the Tünel fenicular saves you from climbing the hill from the end of Galata Bridge. At the other end of Beyoğlu, another fenicular runs to Taksim from Kabataş, terminus of the modern tramway to the Old City. The metro stops at Taksim and Şişhane connect to the rest of the European City – Osmanbey (Nişantaşı), Şişli and Levent.
Georges, Adahan, Sub Hotel, The Edition, The House Hotels and Palazzo Donizetti hotels are all highly recommended places to stay and can be booked directly through the Cornucopia Hotels Collection (a welcome package of books and itineraries will be waiting for you).
There are metro stops in both Taksim Square and Şişhane, near Galata, which will connect you to Osmanbey for Niştantaşı, and stops in Mecidiyeköy, 4. Levent, İstinye and the Upper Bosphoros.
Reliable drivers can be found at Pera Taxi by the Pera Palace Hotel. Avoid the coast road during rush hour at all costs.