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CİHANGİR

firuzagaCihangir is to İstanbul's expats what Sultanahmet is to its tourists - the number one place to be.

At least it is the number one place to be for the footloose and fancy-free who love its proximity to the bright lights of İstiklal Caddesi and excellent transport connections. And it's the number one place to be with those with deep pockets, rents and property values having soared in recent years as its star rose ever higher (although one has to wonder whether the frequent episodes of tear-gassing over the last 18 months might start to knock the gloss of it a bit especially in light of the exorbitant rents).

To find Cihangir you head for Taksim Square, then take Sıraselviler Caddesi, the narrow, traffic-choked street that runs down towards the Bosphorus at an oblique angle to İstiklal Caddesi. The street is lined with hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and even the odd delicatessen although making your way along it can be a trial at busy times of day. 

There are no great sights to see in Cihangir, just the odd vaguely interesting mosque and museum. Instead this is a place to come to eat, drink and make merry in the company of friends paying passing attention as you do so to the fine 19th-century architecture of an area that once housed the better-off of the people employed along İstiklal Caddesi.bulldog

Around Cihangir

As you head down Sıraselviler you will have the huge dome and towers of Hagia Triada soaring up behind the kebab restaurants on your right. On the left is the Taksim Sahnesi, a dilapidated Giulio Mongeri buidling that once housed İstanbul's first cinema and is now undergoing belated renovation as gentrification sweeps the area.

Just past it is the soot-blackened building that used to house first the British Embassy and then the Romanian Consulate. Set back from the street the fine 19th-century Belgian Consulate was the work of a Greek architect named Kampanaki. 

To get to Hagia Triada you need to turn right along Meşelik Sokak which is home to two 19th-century schools that face each other across the street: the Greek Zappion and the Armenian Eseyan. The main entrance to the Greek Orthodox Church of Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) is at the end of the road on the right. you approach via an inviting garden. 

cihan2Hagia Triada stands in marked contrast to most of the churches off İstiklal Caddesi such as Santa Maria Draperis that were forced by law to keep a low profile. In the late 19th century the law prohibiting churches from having lofty towers and domes was scrapped and in 1880 Vasilaki Ioannidi designed it to feature one of the first conspicuous church domes since the collapse of Byzantium in 1453. 

Newly restored, the church is painted white and sky-blue although very often you will only be able to get into its icon-filled narthex.

If you continue down Sıraselviler Caddesi you will come to a road junction which is dominated by the green-painted Firuz Ağa Cami. The current building, a rebuild of a 15th-century mosque dating back to 1823, is raised up above a cluster of teahouses that are the main local meeting place, busy at all times of day.

If you turn left along Akarsu Caddesi that heads towards the Bosphorus you will come to the small and rarely visited Orhan Kemal Museum. This homage to an author (1914-70) some of whose books have been translated into English comes attached to a replica of the İkbal Kahvesi, once a popular literary hangout in Nurosmaniye near the Kapalı Çarşı which has since been torn down. It has recently been turned into a restaurant. 

The museum contains a complete set of first editions of Kemal's books, a mock-up of the room in which he used to work, and interesting photographs of the author with other literary greats including Nazım Hikmet with whom he spent time in prison in Bursa.

cihacamiCihangir's finest mosque is the Bosphorus-facing Cihangir Cami (Cihangir Yokuşu),  built in 1874 on the site of a long-lost Sinan work dating back to the 16th century. That had been built in memory of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent's son Cihangir who had died in 1553 not long after the murder of his half-brother Mustafa on the instructions of their father.

The current mosque looks so like the ones at Ortaköy and Dolmabahçe that one is tempted to assume that it too was designed by one of the prolific family of architects, the Balyans. However, the architect's name remains unknown. The view from the small garden is nothing short of breath-taking. 

Beyond the Firuz Ağa Caddesi Sıraselviler Caddesi turns into Defterdar Caddesi and continues all the way down to Tophane. On the opposite side to Akarsu Caddesi it runs into Çukurcuma, the popular antique-hunting neighbourhood. 

Eating

This is a particularly good area to come if you want a choice of places to east and drink.

Cuppa

Not, as you might think, a café focused on selling cups of British tea but rather a broad-brush café serving excellent fresh juices to go with good salads and pizzas in the sort of surroundings that encourage you to come with your laptop and stay all day. And "Cuppa"? The sound a Turkish kid makes when jumping into a swimming pool apparently.

Tel: 0212-249 57 23, www.cuppajuice.com, Yeni Yuva Sokak No. 26cihan1Typically grand 19th-century apartment block. Notice tiny birdhouses above windows.

Datlı Maya

Itinerant chef Dilara Erbay has made a new home for herself in this tiny bakery behind the Firuzağa Mosque where everything from the mini pizzas to the fresh brownies is a delight. The snag? The dining room is too small to cope with the demand.

Tel: 0212-292 90 56, www.datlimaya.com, Türkgücü Caddes No. 59/A

Demeti

Armenian meyhane in a great location overlooking the Bosphorus. Come here to tuck into mezes washed down with rakı without worrying too much about main courses - keep a vague eye on the bill though. The décor will remind you of your great aunt’s living room.

Tel: 0212-244 06 28, www.demeti.com.tr, Şimşirci Sokak No. 6/1

Erciyes Kitabevi & Café

Want to take the weight off your feet with coffee and cake in a room rather like a private library? Then this is the perfect place for you.

Tel: 0212-245 66 87, Sıraselviler Caddesi, Şen Apt No. 32/2

Journey

Playing to a well-travelled local clientele, this cheerful, open-fronted café serves beautifully cooked pizzas and other international staples in a room designed to evoke the wider world.

Tel: 0212-244 89 89, Akarsu Caddesi No. 21/A

Kahve 6

Currently my favourite place to go for an informal meal or just a quick coffee is this lovely little garden restaurant tucked away in a side street off Akarsu. It's colourful and inviting, and the food's great as is the service.

Tel: 0212-293 0849, Akarsu Caddesi, Anahtar Sokak No. 13/A

Pizza Trio

For times when nothing but a pizza will do head straight for this back-street take on a great little Italian pizzeria, marred only by lighting so low you won’t be able to read the menu. That won't matter in summer when you'll be shown to a rooftop terrace in a nearby building for great views to go with the pizza.

Tel: 0212-252 44 44, Sıraselviler Caddesi, Billurcu Sokak No. 5

Sleeping

Hotel Villa Zurich. Tel: 0212-293 0604

Lush Hotel. Tel: 0212-243 9595

Vardar Palace. Tel: 0212-252 2888

Transport info

The easest way to get to Cihangir from Sultanahmet is to take the tram/funicular combination to Kabataş and Taksim. You can then walk downhill along Sıraselviler Caddesi. If you get out of the tram at Tophane you can also walk up Defterdar Caddesi - but be warned that it's a steep climb.

Nearby areas

Çukurcuma

İstiklal Caddesi

Taksim Square

Talimhane

Tarlabaşı

Tophane

triadacatsCihangir is well known for its many well looked after street cats

 

 

 

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