Bebk1To take the pulse of Turkish high society at play you could do worse than head for Bebek, between Arnavutköy and Rumeli Hisarı, a suburb with a well-deserved reputation as a place to see and be seen. 

The coast road narrows as it makes its way through Bebek which slows the traffic down, making it easier to eye up a great choice of restaurants with something for everyone but mostly for the better off. 

A solid wedge of shops and restaurants blocks the view of the Bosphorus from the main stretch of Bebek high street, but as you come in from Kuruçeşme you will see a pleasant waterside park with plenty of benches where you can sit and watch the boats go by. Then at the Küçük Bebek end of the high street as it heads out towards Rumeli Hisarı the water side of the road turns into a delightful promenade where you can join the fishermen and sunbathers who crowd in in the summer. 

Bebek is home to Turkey's most prestigious university, Boğaziçi (Bosphorus) University, which hunkers down in buildings of Victorian sturdiness amid extensive grounds overlooking the strait.bebek5

Around Bebek

The small but pleasing waterside Türkan Sabancı Park comes equipped with exercise machines, a dog-walking pound, fountains that spurt from the ground, and a tree with mosaic embedded in its bark. A statue of the Iraqi-born poet Fuzuli (1480-1556) forms a somewhat surprising centrepiece but really this is a place to come to people-watch rather than to try and get inside the heads of the urban decision-makers. 

Overlooking the park on the Kuruçeşme side stands the magnificent Art Nouveau building that houses the Egyptian Consulate/Hıdiva Sarayı. Dating back to 1902 and recently completed renovated, it was designed originally for Emine Hanım, mother of the last Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi, who later had a summer house built for himself on the opposite side of the Bosphorus at Cubuklu. bebek4

As with the lavish Gümüşsu Palas on Gümüşsuyu Caddesi, it is not entirely clear whose eye lay behind the buidling's design. Although it's usually claimed for Raimodo d'Aronco, it's just as likely that it was designed by either of the two Austrian architects, Fabricius or Antonio Lasclac.
On the other side of the park, right by the water, stands the small and not especially exciting, heavy-domed Bebek (Hümayunbad) Cami, a work of the First National architect Kemalettin Bey and dating back to 1912. Its longer name commemorates a palace on the site built for Sultan Ahmed III and demolished in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdülmecid.
bebek2As you head out of Küçük Bebek you will see the gate that leads up to the Boğaziçi Üniversite campus with its impressive buildings set in grounds that will remind many British visitors of an Oxbridge College and American visitors of Ivy League campuses such as Harvard.
The university started life in 1863 as Robert College, the first American college to be set up outside the USA. Its founder wa Cyrus Hamlin (1811-1900). In 1971 when it was turned into a university the college relocated to Arnavutköy where a sister college for girls had opened.
Bebek's other attractions also lie on the steep slopes inland. It's worth looking for the Kavalyan Konağı, erected in 1751 and so one of the oldest - as well as largest - wooden buildings to survive in the city, albeit in a poor state of repair. bebek3Kavalyan Konağı, 2009
The back streets are also home to the Lazarist Church of Sacre Couer (1908) and to the Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Haralambos built in 1832 but only given a belltower in 1962.
The walk along the shore via Aşiyan to Rumali Hisarı is one of the great pleasures of the city. As you walk look out on the inland side of the road for the 17th-century Kayalar Mescidi and then for the rust-red Yılanlı Yalı (Snake Mansion), a reconstructed take on an 18th-century original which acquired its peculair name when an official tried to deflect Sultan Mahmud II's excessive interest in it by endowing it with tales of evil serpents.
Chain cafes and delightful one-off places to eat - Bebek is almost too full of delightful places to eat and drink. Some of my favourites incude (and I make no apologies for including Starbucks since this particular branch has a wonderful deck looking out onto the water):
Bebek Balıkçısı. Tel: 0212-263 3447
Happily Ever After. Tel: 0212-263 4138
Kitchenette. Tel: 0212-287 1161
Lucca. Tel: 0212-257 1255
Mangerie. Tel: 0212-263 5199
Poseidon. Tel: 0212-263 3823
Starbucks. Tel: 0212-287 4363
Bebek Hotel. Tel: 0212-358 2000
Transport info
Most of the buses running along the western shore of the Bosphorus pass through Bebek and Küçük Bebek. 
Commuter ferries to Eminönü and back leave from the Bebek ferry terminal (http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/timetable/to-bosphorus-from-bosphorus-365.html).
Nearby areas
bebek6Art Nouveau details on Egyptian Consulate

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