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BEŞİKTAŞ

besik1Market: Saturday (Nüzhetiye Caddesi)

Overlooked by most visitors to İstanbul, Beşiktaş ("Cradle Stone" in Turkish in allusion to a story that a piece of Jesus' cradle was brought here from Jerusalem) is a busy shopping area with a lively student vibe and a strong allegiance to the eponymouse Beşiktaş football team, nicknamed "the Black Eagles". It's also an important transport interchange with lots of buses passing through on their way up the Bosphorus and ferries ploughing across the strait to Üsküdar and Kadıköy.besik4

The main attraction here is the splendid Deniz Müzesi (Naval Museum) which has just reopened after a lengthy rebuild. However, there are also a number of interesting mosques and churches as well as the small Ihlamur Kasrı, a late Ottoman pavilion in pretty gardens.

Several upmarket hotels have taken root in Beşiktaş recently and there are eating options to suit all tastes (including vegan) and budgets. 

besik6Around Beşiktaş 

Heart of Beşiktaş is the sprawling Barbaros Meydanı that rolls back from the terminal for ferries to Üsküdar. It is dominated by a statue of Barbaros Hayreddin (c.1478-1546), the admiral better known to the west as Barbarossa (Redbeard) who managed to establish Ottoman control of the Mediterranean during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. He is buried in the two-storey octagonal tomb on the far side of the square that was designed by Sinan in 1541.

The Deniz Müsezi (Naval Museum, closed Mondays  and Tuesdays) is right beside the square and is home to a magnificent collection of the wooden caiques that were once used to row the sultans around the Bosphorus. 

Across the road from the square is the Sinanpaşa Cami, a solid stripy structure, newly restored, that was commissioned from Sinan by another admiral, Sinan Paşa in 1555.

Beside the mosque Barbaros Bulvarı starts its busy way uphill to Yıldız. Tucked away to its south is Abbasağa Park, a rather conventional municipal park but a handy place to take a quick break after visiting the Naval Museum. For democrats, its one great drawcard is a cluster of statues commemorating those men (and one woman) who gave their lives in the struggle to bring greater freedom to Turkey, amongst them the journalists Uğur Mumcu and Abdi İpekçi.

Recently the park has acquired a more contemporary memorial, albeit less permanent, to the half-dozen young men lost during the course of  the troubles that took place in the city in the summer of 2013. 

Near the park is the pretty little Abbasağa Cami (Abbasağa Cami Sokak), rebuilt in 1835 with a wooden ceiling and galleries that stand in homely contrast to the grandeur of the Sinanpaşa Cami. Near it is much larger stone-built Surp Asdvadzadzin (St Mary), a newly restored Armenian church built in 1838 by Garabet Balyan with a school facing it across the street. If it's unlocked (unlikely) you should pop in to see the concealed dome designed to comply with the law that at that time forbade churches to have visible towers and domes. besik5

On the oposite side of Barbaros Bulvarı is the unqiue shrine to Şeyh Muhammed Zafir, the spiritual advisor to Sultan Abdülhamid II, in which a library, fountain and dervish lodge pool elements of Art Nouveau and Ottoman Revival architecture. It was designed by Raimondo d'Aronco. Up the steps behind it the Ertuğrul Tekke Cami is far more conventional in design. 

Returning to the coast road you might want to divert briefly towards Ortaköy in search of the 19th-century Greek Orthodox Church of St Mary which is rather hard to spot amongst the shops on the inland side of the street. Its doors are very rarely unlocked anyway. 

besik2Heading back towards Dolmabahçe you should turn down Ortabahçe Caddesi to find the Ihlamur Kasrı (closed Mondays and Thursdays, small admission fee). This was built for Sultan Abdülmecid I (r. 1839-61), who wanted a lodge where he could break the journey between Dolmabahçe Sarayı and the Golden Horn shipyards at Kasımpaşa.

The sultan commissioned Nikogos Balyan, who had worked on the Dolmabahçe, to come up with the design, and the end result was a pair of pavilions in a small landscaped park, one of which, the Mabeyn Köşkü, would host the sultan and his guests, while the other, the Maiyet Köşkü, would host his harem.

Like the slightly larger Küçüksu Kasrı, the Mabeyn Köşkü is thickly festooned with baroque carvings on the outside. Inside, however, it has only eight small rooms, each of them adorned with lovely parquet floors, porcelain fireplaces and indigo-colored glass. As at Küçüksu, there are no bedrooms since the sultan rarely spent the night at Ihlamur.

Today, the steps leading up to the pavilion form the backdrop for myriad wedding photos since the Beşiktaş Registry Office is just across the road.besik3

Facing Ihlamur Kasrı is a small hillside peace park full of somewhat neglected sculptures. Walk up the slope to find the Suslu Karakol (Decorated Police Station, 1866), built on high during the resign of Sultan Abdülaziz to make it easier to keep an eye on things. It now houses a kebap restaurant.

Back on the main coast road if you turn right and walk towards Dolmabahçe you will come on the right to Şair Nedim Caddesi which leads up to Akaretler and the W Hotel created out of what were once terraced houses built to accommodate the workers from the Dolmabahçe Palace by Sarkis Balyan. On the corner of Şair Nedim the HSBC Bank is housed in a minor work of the First National architect Vedat Tek that once housed the mational estate agency. 

On the opposite side of the road it would be good to suggest that you should visit the İstanbul Resim ve Heykel Müzesi (İstanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum) which proved a great inpsiration to the youthful Orhan Pamuk. Housed in a palace used by the late Ottoman crown princes, it had been closed for so long that one had to wonder whether the public would ever be able to see its fine collection of 19th and early 20th-century again. These are now to be rehoused in a new gallery beside the İstanbul Modern. 

Walking back to the bus stop in Barbaros Square you will pass a brick builidng that was an annexe to the Dolmabahçe Palace. Today it's a glorified shop that does still manage to stage some temporary exhibitions too. Nearby is the Shangri-La Hotel housed in what started life in the 1930s as a tobacco warehouse.

Eating

The area around Beşiktaş market is great for eating out, particularly if you're on a fairly tight budget. You'll find everything here, from long-lived bakeries and köfte shops, to a cluster of lively meyhanes in the Nevizade-style around the fish market, to a Bulgarian-run breakfast shop whose most popular offering is balkaymak, the honey and cream treat that is so popular in eastern Turkey. 

Beşiktaş is also home to Loving Hut (Tel: 0212-236 9358, Ihlamurdere Caddesi, Şair Beysi Sokak No. 4/B), a rare if not the only true vegan restaurant in İstanbul.

Sleeping

Conrad İstanbul Hotel. Tel: 0212-227 3000

Four Seasons İstanbul at the Bosphorus. Tel: 0212-381 4000

Shangri-La Bosphorus. Tel: 0212-275 8888

W Hotel

Transport info

You can pick up a bus to Beşiktaş from Kabataş.

Dolmuşes from Taksim to Beşiktaş run from the top of Gümüşsuyu Caddesi.

Ferries from Beşiktaş cross to Üsküdar and Kadıköy (http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/timetable/timetables-338.html). If sailing to Üsküdar you might want to note the cute, tiled ferry terminal designed in 1911 by First National architect Ali Takat Bey. The Kadıköy terminal is brand-new although nicely designed. 

Nearby areas

Çırağan

Dolmabahçe

Maçka

Ortaköy

Yıldız

Read more about Beşiktaş: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-331501-besiktas-unfolding.html

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