"In front of the Judge"

eminonuYeni Cami with the Beyazıt Tower in the backgroundWith its twin minarets and multiple domes the imposing Yeni Cami (New Mosque) dominates the busy waterfront at Eminönü, dwarving the unexpectedly petite Mısr Çarşısı (Egyptian or Spice Market) beside it.

Eminönü is also linked to trendy Karaköy by the Galata Bridge, a much rebuilt structure well-known for the anglers who can be seen danging their lines over its sides at all times of day or night. 

Much of the waterfront is backed by a large square that serves very little purpose but does at least make it possible for visitors to glimpse the battered old buildings that form part of the adjoining Tahtakale bazaar area.

The area in front of the Yeni Cami and the Spice Market is a popular place for feeding pigeons, birds much loved by many Muslims. 

yenicamiYeni Cami
Although it may not be especially obvious, the prominent Yeni Cami (New Mosque) actually forms part of a complex with the Mısr Çarşısı (Egyptian or Spice Market), the tomb of Hatice Turhan Sultan and the magnificent sebil  (public fountain) nearby.

It was a complex many years in the making. Sinan's pupil, Davud Ağa, originally began work on the mosque in 1597 but work quickly stopped when Mehmed IV died and the building was not completed until 1663 by which time the architect in charge was Mustafa Ağa.

A massive pile, the Yeni Cami follows a plan that will already be familiar if you've visited the Blue Mosque or the Süleymaniye. Steps lead up to the main entrance which opens onto a wonderful courtyard surrounded by porticoes and centred on a şadırvan (ablutions fountain) which in turn opens onto the mosque itself, a huge space beneath a soaring dome. To the rear men can usually be seen washing thier feet at a row of fountains beneath the son cemaat portico.

It's at the back that you'll also see the small mukavithane, the time-keeper's cottage where the precise times of prayer would be calculated. Here too you will see an ancillary building that slopes up towards the mosque, then turns left to connect with it providing an arch beneath which walkers can get to the shore. This was the hünkar kasrı where the sultan and his family could rest before and after visiting the mosque and the walls of the two lovely rooms and the corridors inside it are all covered with İznik tiles. It is sometimes open to visitors during Ramazan.hunkarkHünkar Kasrı

The large mausoleum now separated from the Yeni Cami (New Mosque) of which it was a part by a road was originally built for Hatice Turhan Sultan, the mother of Sultan Mehmed IV and the effective ruler of the country during his childhood (he became sultan when aged only seven).

The tombs of Sultans Mustafa II, Ahmed III, Mahmud I and Osman III can be seen beside that of Mehmed IV in a faded building that is currently under renovation.

Spice Market

Built in the 1660s as part of the New Mosque complex, the multi-domed Spice Market was called the Egyptian Market because it sat at the end of a trade route that brought goods from the Far East via Egypt to Turkey. Even today many of the small booths inside it still sell spices and herbs as well as dried fruit, caviar and a variety of flavoured teas although a growing number sell goods deliberately aimed at a tourist clientele. 

There are four entrances to the bazaar although most people enter through the one facing the Galata Bridge above which sits the Pandeli Restaurant.leechLeech anyone?

Locals tend to be more interested in the items on sale on either side of the building. On the Yeni Cami side booths sell plants, pets and leeches (used for medicinal purposes) while on the Tahtakale side they major on fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat. Behind the market yet more stalls sell kitchenware and a multitude of other mundane household items.

As you walk from Sirkeci towards the Yeni Cami you might pass the fine late 19th-century building that started life as a post office but became a branch of the Türkiye Iş Bankası. Today it houses the unexpectedly state-of-the-art Türkiye İş Bankası Museum (admission free, closed Mondays) which gives visitors a chance to admire its beautifully restored interior.

The main displays on banking history are of fairly specialist interest but children will love the basement where you pass through huge metal doors to get inside the bank vaults. Here streams of numbers flow like water down the corridor and the private cashboxes are open-sided to let visitors peep in on the sometimes surprising items that individuals valued highly enough to pay to protect.

Sultan Abdülhamid I's tomb
was built just up the road from the one containing so many of his ancestors opposite the Yeni Cami. Beautifully restored, it has been reopened to the public who will find the grave of Sultan Mustafa IV there too. The calligraphic tiles ringing the walls are especially beautiful, and the holy relics encased in the wall ensure a steady throughput of pilgrims.

Around Eminönü

A prominent landmark between Eminönü and Sirkeci is the Büyük Postane (Main Post Office), a magnificent building designed between 1905 and 1909 by Vedat Tek, one of the leading lights in the movement known as First National Architecture that brought together elements of Selçuk and Ottoman style to create something distinctively new.

Part of the post office houses a museum (admission free, closed Saturdays and Sundays) of rather specialist interest (philatelists will love it). A visit to it gives you a chance to appreciate the wonderful stairwells and ceilings that were designed for official buildings in the early 20th century.vlora

From the steps of the post office you can see to your right the lovely Vlora Han, an Art Nouveau masterpiece by an unknown architect that closely resembles the better known Casa Botter on İstiklal Caddesi, which was designed by the Italian architect Raimondo d'Aronco. Despite the all-encompassing grime you can hardly fail to be impressed by the delicate stone roses adorning it and by the elaborate wrought-iron windows and balconies.

Immediately facing the Büyük Postane another han has just been cleaned and reoccupied; turn down Hamidiye Türbesi Sokak beside it to see an arched entrance leading into an old-fashioned han courtyard that is currently being restored. A little further down Büyük Postane Caddesi the huge building that once housed the Sümer Bank has been cleaned up and now houses a cafe.

deutscheOn the corner diagonally across the road is an austere building designed in 1890 to house the Deutsche Bank by the German architect August Jasmund (1863-1915).

If you walk up Fındıkçı Remzi Sokak beside it you will see looming in front of you the Katırcıoğlu Hanı, a capacious building housing the Perdeciler Çarşısı (Curtain-Sellers Market) and decorated with long, colourful mosaics by Yusuf Gürün that tell the story of kilims right through from the sheep that provide the wool to the women working the looms to produce the final product.

If you walk through the han, emerge on the far side and turn left down the steps you will arrive in Aşırefendi Caddesi, which is lined with magnificent 19th-century hans by a mixture of Armenian and Greek architects including Konstantinos Kyriakidis (1881-1942). Most were designed in neoclassical style, and several are “signed” by the architects, and carry their names in Arabic and Latin lettering like their fellows over in Beyoğlu.

To find the most magnificent of all these Neoclassical hans walk to the far end of the street that opens onto Sultanhamam Square. Walk up Kaputcular Sokak and you'll see the spectacular Hamdi Bey Gecesi whose facade, with its elaborate columns and capitals, was surely modeled on the famous Library of Celsus at Ephesus.

vakifForeground: lovely Garanti Bankası building. Background: Legacy Ottoman Hotel/Fourth Vakıf HanıAlternatively, if you continue down Hamidiye Türbesi Sokak you will come out facing a stupendous building that now houses the Legacy Ottoman Hotel. Hard though it may be to believe it, this too started life as a humble han, the Fourth Vakıf Han, designed in the 1910s by Kemaleddin Bey, the second mover behind First National Architecture; his “signature” can be seen on the corner where the han joins the Sansaryan Hanı, designed in 1895 by the Armenian architect Hovzep Aznavour (1854--1935). It used to house the İstanbul courthouse that has now been moved to Çağlayan.

On Yalıköşkü Caddesi you will find the loveliest of the buildings that is yet to find new life, and that is the Liman Han, another work of Vedat Tek dating back to 1907, its facade papered with exquisite azure and turquoise tiles.

Unlike in Beyoğlu where European architectural styles remain supreme, in Eminönü you can see the indigenous Turkish First National style of architecture battling it out for supremacy with imported Neoclassicism and Art Nouveau.


Eminönü has long been known for the cheap mackerel sandwiches on sale along the waterfront. The sad truth is, though, that the fish is imported from northern Europe rather than being caught by the local fishermen.

These days everything is far better organized and far more "touristy" than it used to be, with waiters in faux Ottoman costumes and the boats on which the fish are fried lit up at night like the Blackpool Illuminations. Regardless, it's still a lot of fun to tuck into a sandwich, perhaps accompanied with some turşu (pickles) too. 

Facing the Ottoman Legacy Hotel you'll find two competing purveyors of Turkish delight: Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, which has been in the sweet business since 1777, and Hafız Mustafa, which has been selling it since 1864.

Pandeli. Tel: 0212-527 3909. Only open for lunch.


Legacy Ottoman Hotel. Tel: 0212-526 6767

Transport info

The waterfront at Eminönü is home to the piers for public ferries to Kadıköy and Üsküdar as well as up the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Most of the piers are obvious but the Golden Horn one is hidden away behind the Cafer Baba Tower on the western side of the Galata Bridge. Services are operated by Şehir Hatları. Timetables can be found on http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en

There are also a growing number of private cruises up the Bosphorus, some of them travelling only as far as the first Bosphorus Bridge at Ortaköy.

Nearby areas





Read more about Eminönü: http://www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/20-the-eminonu-back-doubles.html

Read more about Eminönü: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-231308-istanbuls-oriental-business-district-the-hans-of-19th-century-eminonu.html

limanhanBeautiful but neglected - the Liman Hanı



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