As I mentioned in my previous post about Istanbul, the city of 14 million people is split into three by the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Strait. The old city or the Sultanahmet district is to the south, the Asian side is to the east and the New Town called Beyoĝlu or the European Quarter is to the north.
The old city definitely features the most the sites, but Beyoĝlu also has many. Below is a list of sites to see in Beyoĝlu. Begin just north of the Beyoĝlu region on the Bosphorus Coast at the Dolmabahçe Palace.
Sites in Beyoĝlu
How to Get There
It is very easy to get from the touristy Sultanahmet district where many visitors stay to the Dolmabahçe Palace. Just hop on the tram for 3.50TL with Instanbul Kart and take it to the Kabatas station. Exit and walk northeast past the Dolmabahçe Mosque to the palace entrance which is the exit as well.
Don’t make my mistake. From a distance, I saw a sign that pointed to the left marked “entrance” so I walked part way around the palace grounds to the next gate, only to realize that the entrance was on the left and the exit was on the right at the first gate reached from the tram station.
There are a variety of entrance fees to the Palace based on seeing limited attractions or all of them. I arrived at the ticket window at 9am where I purchased the full price ticket for 90TL which includes a free audio guide. During shoulder season, tension with Syria, and the beginning of COVID_19, the usual crowds were non-existent. I walked right in though midday proved different with a long line at security.
Sultan Abdülmecid I ordered the Dolmabahçe Palace be built in 1843 as he wished for a more extravagant structure similar to European palaces. As a result, he spent over $1.5 billion in today’s dollars for the construction which ultimately contributed to the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
Upon completion of the palace in 1856, the Sultan moved here from Topkapi Palace and future Sultan’s followed suit. While there are a variety of buildings on the lovely grounds, the palace for public use called Selamlik and the harem for private use by the Sultans’ families are the main attractions.
After passing through the Gate of the Sultan, visitors enter the Palace which is largely decorated with gold and crystal. In fact, the palace with 285 rooms, has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world. The crystal staircase is spectacular and the music room and library in this vicinity of the palace are the most interesting.
Some of the hallways can be a bit drab, but eventually they lead visitors to the Ceremonial Hall with the world’s largest Bohemian chandelier. It has 750 bulbs and weighs 4.5 tons! I was so pleased to have this room and for that matter most of the palace all to myself.
After exiting the palace, visitors may stroll through the gardens along the Bosphorus before looping around to the other side to visit the harem full of baths, halls, and bedrooms. One bedroom is where the beloved Atatürk (the first president of the Republic of Turkey) stayed the last few days of his life.
There are some additional buildings such as an aviary and the clock tower scattered around the grounds as well. The clock tower, whose four stories are differently sized and decorated, was ordered and erected by Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1890.
After visiting the palace, head southwest to see other attractions in the Beyoĝlu which include Taksim Square, Istiklala Caddesi, Cicek Pasaji, the Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum, and the Galata Tower.
Taksim Square is in the heart of modern Istanbul and in its center is the Republic Monument. It commemorates the 5th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey which was founded in 1923 following the Turkish War of Independence. The monument depicts the founders of Turkey as soldiers on one side and statemen on the other.
The popular pedestrian street, Istiklala Caddesi, begins at Taksim Square and leads visitors to Galata Tower. The street is lined with stores, restaurants, clubs and the like. I found the smaller side streets more inviting, so be sure to detour occasionally. Though most of the stores are modern day style, there are a few historic sites peppered into the mix.
Cicek Pasaji is one of the historic sites. The arcade, which was once one of the most posh places in the city, dates back to 1876. The shopping arcade and apartments became flower shops by the 1940’s, and now the restored passage includes several restaurants. Stop in for a beer and check out the glass roof and old signs.
Galata Mevlevi Lodge and Museum
At the end of Istiklala Caddesi is the Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum which is on the Museum Pass. This is a place I would have walked by had I not purchased the pass which certainly paid its way with the many attractions I visited in Sultanahmet.
The Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum, constructed in 1941, was the first Malawi Lodge in Istanbul. The lodge was used by the followers of the Mevlevi Sufi Islam Sect led by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. Mevlana preached love, tolerance and charity through meditation, music and dance.
The worship was through sema dancing also known as the whirling dervishes. This sect of religion was banned in Turkey in 1925, thus the lodge closed, but it is now open as a museum. The downstairs dervish cells display items and stories about the practice, while the upstairs is the sema area for dances. It was very interesting to learn about the culture and tradition of the Malawi.
Just a few blocks south of the museum in the heart of Beyoĝlu is the Galata Tower. By the time I reached the tower in mid-afternoon a line to enter circled around its base. It didn’t seem worth waiting, so I returned the following morning and enjoyed the 360⁰ view of Istanbul with only a few others. Check out this 13 second video for the view.
Galata Tower, standing at 219.5 feet, was the tallest building in Istanbul when it was constructed in 1348. It offers lovely views along the outdoor balcony which circles the tower as well as inside at one of its restaurants. To stay up there longer than the few minutes it takes to circle the tower, plan for a coffee, tea or meal.
There is a nearby tram station for riding back to the Sultanahmet District or a walk is plausible. Regardless of transportation, be sure to check out the locals fishing off the bridge first. I love seeing different customs and traditions.
Beyoĝlu feels far more modern than the Sultanahmet District south of the Gold Horn, but it was great to explore the European Quarter for a day. ETB
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