arnavut1When cruising along the Bosphorus it can sometimes be hard to tell the different suburbs apart. Arnavutköy (“Albanian Village”) is an exception, its lovely wooden houses a distinctive feature of the waterfront midway between Kuruçeşme and Bebek.

But behind Arnavutköy’s innocent name lies a story of compulsory resettlement. In the 19th century Sultan Abdülmecid brought men from Albania to help pave the city streets in an early burst of enthusiasm for easing the life of pedestrians. The men were settled in what is now Arnavutköy, hence its name. 

Some of İstanbul's finest Art Nouveau buildings are those that line the waterfront at Arnavutköy. Ironically these lovely houses that now look so individual appear to have been built using ready-made window and doorframes that could be fitted by local builders without the need for expensive architects.

Around Arnavutköy

This is not a suburb to visit in search of major sights. Instead it's a place to relax and amble around around the back streets admiring the old houses and dreaming of a more elegant past. 

As you approach from Kuruçeşme you will see the imposing, double-fronted Ali Vafi (Ayvaz Paşazade) Konaği on the inland side of the road. The road then splits in two, with the main coast road sadly passing between the water and an elegant row of yalıs (waterside mansions), most of them still in good condition.arnavut2

In the centre of the suburb a small square dominated by a monument to Atatürk is surrounded by yet more yalıs, most of them now reused as restaurants.

arnavut3"Come to me" says the inscription in GreekIf you head inland behind the square you will come to the enormous late 19th-century Greek Orthodox Church of Taksiarkis (the Archangels) with a belltower right over its gate. It's usually kept locked. The church stands over the site of an ayazma (sacred spring).

The church is still larger than the Tevfikiye Cami that was built in 1832 right beside an elegant police station.

Both stand at the northern end of Arnavutköy opposite the jutting promonotory known as Akıntıburnu (the Cape of the Current). The waters here flowed so strongly that small boats often had to be hauled round the cape with towropes. A nice story related by the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Gilles mentions that the stones lining the shore had been worn smooth by crabs that came ashore to walk round it rather then battle the current.

If you drive inland from Arnavutköy to Etiler, with all its restaurants, you will probably take Sekbanlar Sokak. A diversion along Körkadı Sokak would take you to a small cemetery facing the domed Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Elias (Elijah). If you find it locked look for the caretaker in the cemetery before giving up since the interior is very attractive.arnavut4


Villa Denise. Tel: 0212-287 5848

Transport info

Almost all the buses travelling up the Bosphorus from Kabataş and Beşiktaş pass through Arnavutköy. 

There is a ferry terminal here although services are quite limited (http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/timetable/cengelkoy-istinye-368.html). 

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