Village Bosphorus: the European shore

Andrew Finkel extols the charms of a trip up the western, European, shore of the Bosphorus, whether by water or by road

  • Dominating the waterfront in fashionable Bebek, this Belle Époque chateau with Art Nouveau trimmings was built by the mother of the last Egyptian khedive, Emine Valide-i Paşa

On paper, the road up the European shore would appear to be one of the great waterside drives. But in practice few ever attempt the 17 miles from downtown Karaköy to rural Rumelikavağı – the point where the road loops inland for another five miles to reach the entrance to the Black Sea.

One reason, apart from the traffic, is that Istanbul residents think of the Bosphorus as a series of disconnected communities rather than a joined-up whole. It is only since the Second World War that there has been a coastal road at all – the final stretch having been built in the 1980s as an embankment on pylons, a cheap artery through the city that did not require great sums to appropriate private land. In places such as Arnavutköy, on the European side, the road actually severs the shoreline houses from the water.

Another reason why few attempt the road trip, although there are lots of buses, is that for long stretches you can’t actually see the Bosphorus. Many yalıs, the stately summer homes of the Ottoman Empire, are tucked below the road, and others have high walls between the road and what was, after all, the servants’ entrance at the back.

Obviously, the best way to appreciate the Bosphorus is to travel by boat. The yalıs are themselves worth a detour, as they show their best face to the water. There are ample ways to do this, with companies running boats you can jump on and off like an inner-city bus.

Kuruçeşme to Rumelihisarı: Setting sail
The first half of our journey up the European shore takes in the villages between the two bridges. Setting out from Kuruçeşme, sadly bereft of its beautiful yalis, we head upstream via arty Arnavutköy and smart Bebek to the pavement buzz of Rumelihisari

Baltalimanı to Sarıyer: Bound for the Black Sea
From the genteel old-money districts of Baltalimani and Emirgan, head north for the stately yalis and café society of Yeniköy, then the faded grandeur of Tarabya and Büyükdere and the gritty trawler town of Sarıyer

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 52
  • City Bosphorus: The Anatolian Shore

    Over 56 pages, we cross the Bosphorus to explore the lower reaches of the Asian shore. Sailing past the ruins of stately Haydarpaşa Station, we land at the busy Kadıköy docks, wander round Moda’s old cosmopolitan backwaters and head upstream to the sparkling hilltop mosques of Üsküdar

  • Village Bosphorus: The Anatolian Shore

    Continuing our tour of Bosphorus villages, we cross back to a more untamed Asian shore. Heading upstream again, we start in Beylerbeyi and Çengelköy, with their grand views of the Old City, and make for the fortress of Anadoluhisari, where the Bosphorus narrows and the yalis are at their most captivating. Our journey ends on the hilltop of Anadolukavağı, with the Black Sea in our sights


  • Earthly Delights: the Humble Potato

    The potato was a latecomer to Turkish cookery, but today it is hard to imagine life without it. The humble spud, the ultimate in comfort food, is endlessly versatile,and also comes packed with goodness. Berrin Torolsan serves up some favourite dishes


  • City of Domes and Dames

    Üsküdar – its history shaped by three powerful queen mothers and a tireless English nurse – has surprises to offer behind its unprepossessing façade: dazzling mosques, villagey tranquillity and epic views…


  • Seeing and Believing

    Lovely churches, a lively market, enticing ice cream, shady cafés… and they called this the land of the blind. Andrew Finkel introduces Kadıköy, and Harriet Rix mooches around the district of Moda. Photographs by Monica Fritz

  • Memories light the corners of my mind

    Maureen Freely goes ‘Bosphorising’ with her father, John Freely, in search of her treasured childhood in Istanbul. Could it be that it was all so simple then?



  • City Bosphorus: the European shore

    Turn your back on the Old City and make for the water. Andrew Finkel takes a drive along the Bosphorus’s lower shore: from the half-abandoned docks of Karaköy, past mammoth cruise ships and hangars for modern art, to the palaces of Beşiktaş and Ortaköy

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Issue 52, Spring 2015 Istanbul Unwrapped: Bosphorus Requiem
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