With its odd name that seems to mean “Cutting the Bosphorus”, Boğazkesen is the steep and busy road that runs down from beside the Galatasaray Lisesi on İstiklal Caddesi to the Bosphorus at Tophane and the Galataport. The short upper stretch of it is called Yeni Çarşı Caddesi but I’m going to describe the two roads as if they were one – which is what it will feel like if you’re walking down them. 

If you turn down Yeni Çarsi from the midpoint of İstiklal Caddesi you will have, on your left, the wall of the Galatasaray Lisesi (high school). Although the school was founded in 1868 the current buildings only date back to 1907 (of an older school dating right back to the last years of the 15th century there is no  trace). Almost anyone who was anyone in the early years of the Republic will have had their education here, including the pop star Barış Manço. Framing the other side of Yeni Çarşı Caddesi is the small Galatasaray Meydanı (Square) adorned with a not particularly beautiful monument by Şadı Çalık to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1973. These days it’s hard to see it for the police and barriers that surround it.

On the right-hand side of road as you start walking down it is the fine Art Nouveau building housing the Goethe Institute. Built in 1895 as the Venilahi/Verudachi (Venetian) Apartments, it was designed by C.P. Kyriakidis and A.D Yenidunia. For the first twenty years of his life it was home to Mario Vitti (1926-2023), author of Doğduğun Şehir İstanbul. 

As you walk straight ahead down the street it widens out and a turning on the left leads to Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence (Closed Mondays, admission TL300, free to holders of ticket from back of novel). The museum forms a partner piece for the book of the same name and shows off items associated with the story in vitrines; only on the top floor where some of the original pages from the manuscript of the book are on display does it feel like a  normal museum. Will you enjoy it if you haven’t read the book? My feeling is probably not although others may disagree.

Continuing downhill along Boğazkesen proper you will come on the right to a flat, austere wall that blocks from view what was once the French St Jospeh Orphenilat (Orphanage) and used to house a plaster workshop. The grounds have now been tidied up, the chickens evicted, and tea and coffee facilities put in place as it mutates into the TophaneMekan.

The street then passes through an area which has been associated with the Italians since the late Middle Ages and today still boasts a “Little Italy” off to the right where the Tomtom Suites were created out of a convent for Franciscan nuns built in 1901 across the road from the Italian Consulate and the Italian School.

On  the left-hand side of the road where Kadiriler Yokuşu strikes up towards Cihangir a fine building with arcades at the bottom was emerging from behind wraps in 2024.

Further down, Defterdar Caddesi branches off on the left, offering a very steep climb up to Cihangir passing the abandoned Italian Hospital (1876). On the corner is a beautifully restored mansion block designed in 1905 by EG Ladopoulos who signed his name on it in stone.

On the other side of the road Karabaş Mektebi Sokak winds round to join Lüleci Hendek Sokak which leads back up to the Galata Tower.

You then arrive in Tophane with the actual Tophane (Arsenal) on the left, its lower part dating back to the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, its pretty multi-domed roofline an 1803 addition commissioned by Sultan Selim III. Tiny cannons carved on the corners of the building are a reminder of its original use even though an interior that once housed munitions is now used as temporary exhibition space. On the right is the small Kabataş Mustafa Ağa Cami  which dates back to the early 16th century but was effectively rebuilt in 1962. It operates a popular soup kitchen and always erects an iftar çadırı (iftar tent) on adjacent land during Ramazan.

Ahead of you on the right is the gorgeous Kılıç Ali Paşa Cami. Recently restored so that its cascade of lead-roofed domes is now much easier to appreciate, the mosque was a work of the great Ottoman architect Sinan and completed in 1580 by which time he was in his nineties. It was built for Admiral Kılıç Ali Paşa, the only captain who managed to lead his ships safely away from the naval debacle at Lepanto in 1571 that marked the end of Ottoman supremacy in the Mediterranean.

On the left is the magnificent Tophane Çeşmesi (Tophane Fountain), a marble fountain covered in carvings of fruit and flowers that was originally built for Sultan Mahmud I in 1732, then rebuilt in 1957. It stands on ground that was once a military parade ground and then a fruit and vegetable market. Behind it is the entrance to the Galataport.

Boğazkesen is  known for its small art galleries which host a range of temporary exhibitions so you may find other reasons to linger on the way down.

Eating and drinking

At the top of Yeni Çarşi  on the left-hand side tucked down an alley is Kafe Ara, the attractively decorated cafe created by the Turkish-Armenian photographer, Ara Güler (1928-2018) who used to be a fixture here in his later years. Tel: 0212-245 4105

A little further downhill and also on the right, steps up beside a car park lead to the delightful Reyhun Iranian restaurant which offers a true taste of Iranian cuisine in an inviting dining room that, in summer, spills out onto a spacious terrace with a view towards St Anthony’s Cathedral. No alcohol, of course, and not much for vegetarians either, but otherwise an excellent choice. Tel: 0212-245 1500

As you near Tophane on the right you’ll see the Archeo Cafe, a pleasant place to stop for a coffee with a hostel upstairs and so a cheery youthful vibe.

Transport info

No buses run along Boğazkesen. There is a stop on the T1 tramway at Tophane to get you back to Sultanahmet. At the İstiklal Caddesi end the nostalgic tram from Taksim Square has a stop in front of the Galatasaray Lisesi.




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