ortak1Market day: Sunday

One of İstanbul's liveliest and trendiest Bosphorus suburbs, Ortaköy boasts a rather odd name which means  "Middle Village" in Turkish although these days you'd be hard pressed to work out what it is meant to be in the middle of.

Ortaköy is best known for its colourful Sunday arts and crafts market and for the string of high-society nightclubs - Reina, Sortie, Anjelique, Blackk, etc - that stretch from here to Kuruçeşme and account for most of the weekend traffic congestion. In the past though this was a very multicultural area so it's one of the parts of Turkey where you can find mosques, churches and even an old synagogue very close together.

For visitors the main centre of attraction is the waterfront square with the lovely Ortaköy Cami standing on Defterdarburnu, the small promontory that juts out into the water under the Bosphorus Bridge.

The labyrinth of narrow streets behind the square is full of shops and restaurants aimed at the tourist trade. To find where the Ortaköylüs shop you need to head inland along Muallim Hacı Caddesi.ortak2

In summer many night-time cruises depart from the pier at Ortaköy. 

Around Ortaköy

The most conspicuous historic monument in Ortaköy is the delightful Ortaköy Cami built in 1855 by Nikoğayos Balyan for Sultan Abdülmecid. With its hugee arched windows that let silvery Bosphorus light flood the interior, it closely resembles the Dolmabahçe Cami which was being built at the exact same time by his father, Garabet. The mosque was designed with a two-storey "box" for the sultan at the back that allowed him to step straight from his caique and into the mosque. 

ortak3Some of the calligraphy inside the mosque was done by Sultan Abdülmecid. 

The mosque stands on the site of an earlier mosque that would have been there when Sultan Ahmed III's grand vizier, Damat İbrahim Paşa, commissioned an elegant free-standing fountain that can still be seen amid the shops and restaurants. 

Given the enormous role the Balyan family played in the development of this part of the Bosphorus shore it won't come as much of a surprise to find that The House Hotel has been created out of what was once the home of Nikoğayos' brother Simon. 

As for the dubious attraction of the Bosphorus Bridge which passes over Ortaköy and Beylerbeyi, this was erected in 1973 when as little regard appears to have been paid to the environmental costs as is being paid to the damage being done by the third bridge that is being built now.

If you head back to the coast road you will see, on the sea side of the road, the large Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Fokas that was built in 1856 and the much smaller Etz Ahayim (Tree of Life) synagogue built in 1813 and restored in 1941. Neither is likely to be open to casual visitors.

Stranded on a traffic island just where the worst bottlenecks tend to occur is a 16th-century hamam believed to have been designed by Sinan. It is currently occupied by a design studio.

As you head out of Ortaköy towards Kururçeşme you will see a string of old yalıs (waterside mansions). The first, the Esma Sultan Yalı beside the Ortaköy Cami, is now just the shell of a stone building left after a fire in 1975. Originally built in the early 19th century for Sultan Mahmud II's sister Esma Sultan, its history reflects the slow fall from grace of such mansions. First it became a school. Then it became a tobacco warehouse. Then it became a coal depot. The tide finally turned in the 1990s when The Marmara group bought it to serve as an entertainments venue despite its ruinous condition.

For the time being the adjoining wooden Fehime Sultan and Hatice Sultan Yalıs are blocked from view by an enormous advertising hoarding while they are being turned into a new hotel. 


Kırçiçeği (Wildflower)

Branch of one of the new-look chain restaurants that focus firmly on providing clean, bright, cheerful places to eat suitable for Turkish families. The menus offer all the Turkish favourites from soups through kebabs. Prices are not rock-bottom but nor are they inflated to suit the Ortaköy location either.

Tel: 0212-260 3535, www.kircicegi.com.tr, Muallim Naci Caddesi No. 41


Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel. Tel: 0212-310 1500

The House Hotel Bosphorus

Dating from the mid-19th century, this 26-room hotel was once the home of Simon Kalfa, a member of the famous family of architects, the Balyans. During the early years of the Republic, it operated as the ‘Jardin Gazinosu’ where Atatürk’s favorite singer, Safiye Ayla, would give unforgettable performances. Today the rooms are small but stylish, and the terrace offers stunning Bosphorus views. The popular House Café is on the ground floor.ortak4

Tel: 0212-327 7787, www.thehousehotel.com. Salhane Sokak No. 1/A

Transport info

Most of the buses heading along the Bosphorus from Kabataş and Beşiktaş pass through Ortaköy, a notorious travel bottleneck, especially at weekends and during the rush hours.

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