Market: Sunday 

Gritty, rundown Tarlabaşı is a curiosity, a piece of prime real estate right in the heart of Beyoğlu, just minutes' walk away from İstiklal Caddesi. The history of the two areas is closely interwoven, yet has led to two very different situations.


İstiklal Caddesi was, as the Grand Rue de Pera, the street along which the 19th-century foreign embassies could be found and the buildings along it reflected their importance in their architecture which was grand, imposing and frequently highly decorative.

The people who worked in the embassies and associated businesses could hardly be expected to afford such expensive accommodation, so nearby in Tarlabaşı terraced houses were built for them on a more modest scale.

After the embassies were moved to Ankara, the new capital, in the 1930s Tarlabaşı, like İstiklal Caddesi, fell on hard times but whereas İstiklal pulled itself out of the doldrums in the 1990s to become fashionable all over again the empty houses of Tarlabaşı soon filled up with immigrants, mainly from the troubled southeast of the country who didn't actually own the properties. 

From the middle of the 2000s property developers started to eye up the area, especially as Cihangir on the opposite side of İstiklal grew in popularity. In 2012 highly controversial gentrification work started right in the middle of Tarlabaşı. As ever it required that the poorer locals be evicted. In 2014 work stalled amid legal claims and counter-claims. It looks as if the plan is to retain the facades of the old houses while rebuilding the rears. It remains to be seen how it will turn out. tarla2013Tarlabaşı, 2013

As with SoHo in New York and Hoxton in London, it was the artists and media folk who moved in first to be at the birth of the “new” Tarlabaşı. For the time being, washing hangs across child-filled streets which fall prey, after dark, to a mixed bag of drug dealers, prostitutes and transvestites. However, many of the old houses have now been abandoned as construction work rips through the narrow streets.

The best time to visit Tarlabaşı is probably when the colourful Sunday market is filling up Kurdele Sokağı and Serdar Ömer Paşa Sokağı. Visit soon since experience elsewhere suggests that the market will eventually be moved into purpose-built undercover facilities.


 Around Tarlabaşı

Tarlabaşı is separated from İstiklal Caddesi by busy Tarlabaşı Bulvarı which was sliced through the area in the 1980s. This is not an area full of major sights, although there are a few oldish churches and one small museum to look for. You are unlikely to be able to get inside any of them. 

Of the churches, the easiest to find is the sandstone Church of the Panagia (St Mary) in Karakurum Caddesi which is used by İstanbul's small Syrian Orthodox community. Although there has been a church on the site since at least 1844 the current building only dates back to 1963.

Near the area that is currently being redeveloped is the huge Greek Orthodox Church of Sts Constantine and Helena (open Wednesdays) built in 1861.

polishhouseOne house in Tarlabaşı was built on the site of the last home of Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), the Romantic poet who arrived in Istanbul in 1854 at the start of the Crimean War hoping to rally Polish forces to fight against Russia. He died during a cholera epidemic, and a symbolic tomb lurks in the basement of the building. It now serves as the small but interesting Adam Mickiewicz Museum. His remains have now been returned to Cracow in Poland.


There are now many small hotels and residences in Tarlabaşı. Some of them are smart and stylish. The problem is that the surrounding area remains rundown, grungy and rubbish-strewn.

For some visitors they represent a chance to experience the "real" İstanbul; for others this would be taking edginess a bit too far. 

Transport info

You can easily get to Tarlabaşı by taking the tram to Kabataş and the funicular to Taksim Square, then walking downhill along busy Tarlabaşı Bulvarı.
Alternatively, buses heading for Taksim from Eminönü pass along Tarlabaşı Bulvarı.
Nearby areas
perukDolapdere is famous for its mannequins, Tarlabaşı for its wigs (peruk)

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