Galata was the medieval walled city of the Genoese and Venetian colonies, and in Ottoman times would have included Karaköy. It was in effect Istanbul’s European port city. For the purposes of this guide it is reduced to the district climbing the hill from the shipping tackle and hardware stores of Perşembe Pazarı, neighbouring Karaköy, on the banks of the Golden Horn, to the Galata Tower.
Two main streets make the steep climb: Bankalar Caddesi, lined, as its name suggests with banks, ends up in Şişhane; Yüksek Kaldırım, better suited to strong legs and seasoned ankles, than to cars, leads up past the Galata Tower itself and the old Mevlevi dervish hall, to İstiklal Caddesi. For those deterred by steepness there is the quaint but hugely useful two-station Tünel.
By the 1970s, Galata seemed irreversibly, if romantically, run-down – there was a particular odour emitting from the dark, vacant windows of its neglected palazzos, which old Istanbul hands will miss one of these days. But now a real buzz has returned, without becoming too artsy-fartsy. The old Ottoman Bank morphed into the Garanti Bank’s fantastic new arts and archival research centre, SALT Galata, and some of the streets around the Galata Tower itself are unthinkably chic without having lost one iota of charm.
Unsurprisingly this has become the place to buy a pied-a-terre with a view. And it has some of Istanbul’s most charming hotels, particularly the Georges and the Baylo Suites, both listed in the Cornucopia Hotels Collection.
Şişhane metro station, or by tram or vapur to Karaköy
On foot or by underground on the one-stop Tünel line.
Everything under the sun from chic and slow to fast and fabulous.