"With a Tulip"

laleli1West of Sultanahmet on Ordu Caddesi, the continuation of Divan Yolu, Laleli is a frantically busy commercial neighbourhood with a sprinkling of tourist activity mixed in with a great deal more retailing of clothes. It's a popular area in particular with Russians and Iranians but one most visitors whiz through on the tram without thinking of getting out to explore despite the attraction of the huge Laleli Cami complex.edebiyat

If you walk to Laleli from Beyazıt you will pass, on the right, the austere pink-and-grey building that houses İstanbul University's Literature Faculty. While most people will not find it especially attractive it is nonetheless an example of the work of the award-winning architect Sedat Hakkı Eldem, proponent of a style of architecture labelled Second National. He designed it with Emin Onat in 1942-44.

Laleli Cami

In 1759 it was Sultan Mustafa III who commissioned the architect Mehmed Tahir Ağa to build the brick-and-stone Laleli Cami where he was later buried with his son, Sultan Selim III. Completed in 1763,  it was one of the last great mosque complexes to go up in the city and now completely dominates Laleli, not least because it was built on a platform that raises it up above the shops in front of it. 

The sultans' elegant tomb with its wrought-itron grilles juts out onto the pavement, its facade decorated with small birdhouses. Mirroring it on the other side of the gateway leading into the mosque is a fine sebil (water dispensary), now used as a small shop selling olive-oil products.

The gateway opens onto a flight of steps leading up to the mosque on its wide platform. To the left of the steps stands the imaret (soup kitchen) of the mosque complex.tashan

Just round the corner from the mosque in Fethi Bey Caddesi, the restored Büyük Taş Han (Big Stone Han), originally called the Çukur Çeşme Hanı (Sunken Fountain Han), may have been attached to the mosque at one time. It houses a teahouse and a restaurant in underground stables that started life as a cistern, and supposedly stands on the site of the brothel where the Emperor Justininan's wife, Theodora, started her working life. 

bodrumcamiByzantine-era Bodrum Cami lost in its desolate surroundingsAround Laleli

Across the road from the mosque Mehmed Tahir Ağa also designed a library for Sultan Mustafa III's grand vizier Koca Ragıp Paşa in 1762. Long inaccessible to visitors who could only gaze wistfully at the magnificent caligraphy over its sunken gateway, the complex is now being comprehensively renovated which should mean that we can see inside it again soon. 

Laleli's other gem of a building is tucked away amid the cheap clothing emporia in the back streets on the other side of Ordu Caddesi where few visitors ever see it. The cute little red-brick Church of the Myrelaion (Bodrum Cami) originally stood near the palace of the Emperor Romanos Lecapenos I, the circular shape of which is marked out on the ground beside it. Unusually the church was built on two stories, a feature which may have been intended to raise it to the same height as the palace (the existence of the basement explains why when it was converted into a mosque in the 15th century it was renamed the Bodrum - Basement - Cami). To find it head south along Koska Caddesi opposite Lalei Cami and then turn left.

The only other building of specific note in Laleli faces the big mosque across Fethi Bey Caddesi. Now converted to house the Crowne Plaza Hotel, it started life as the Tayyare Apartment (Harikzedegan Apartment) block, designed by Kemaleddin Bey to house those made homeless by a fire in Fatih in 1918.


Crowne Plaza İstanbul. Tel: 0212-444 9333

Hotel Polatdemir. Tel: 0212-518 5540

Transport info

There is a tram stop at Laleli/Üniversite although it's only a short walk here from Beyazıt and the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar).

Nearby areas





Divan Yolu


Grand Bazaar


Read more about Laleli: http://www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/14-strolling-down-army-street.html



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