Below the impressive Bosphorus bridge, within the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, lays the lovely neighborhood of Ortaköy. One can easily see why in the 16th century, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent encouraged Turks to move here. Ortaköy is a sun-drenched stretch of sidewalk made for a day of meandering.
A Sunday brunch is a must at the waterside House Cafe. Enjoy a lovely meal with a perfect view of the blue on blue water of the bosphorus and the eponymously named Ortaköy, or Mecidiye Mosque. A beautiful ornate building in the neo-baroque style, the mosque was designed and built in 1854 by Garabet Amira Balyan and his son Nigoğayos Balyan. This duo was also responsable for the design of the Dolmabahçe palace. The Ortaköy is one of the most popular landmarks in all of sprawling Istanbul.
Arrive by ferry, the stop is just in front of the mosque. Then after bunch and a bit of people watching, take a stroll through the weekend flea market in the waterfront plaza and enjoy a hard candy made on the spot. If you happen to stay, at night, besides the medley of cafes and restaurants, Ortaköy hosts the flashiest super clubs along the embankment.
Built by Constantine and enlarged to its present form by Justinian, Yerebatan Sarnici is the largest of several hundred ancient underground cisterns. Created to irrigate the gardens of Constantinople and the Byzantine Palaces, it has the capacity to store 100,000 tons (23,965,000) gallons of water
The different styles of the columns suggests them to have been recycled from the ruins of older buildings brought to Constantinople from various parts of the empire.
Yerebatan Sarnici was forgotten for centuries. It was re-discovered in 1545 by Petrus Gyllius, a french topographer, sent to Constantinople by King Francis I with a mission to find ancient manuscripts.
It is fun to note that this forest of columns and brick vaults was featured in the Bond film “From Russia With Love.
The entrance is next to the Tourism Police station and is fairly nondescript. We recomend you bring your own music and headphones. The site is fantastic, but the tourist chatter that reverberates down the halls can take away the magic.
Column resembling the columns of the Triumphal Arch of Theodosius I from the 4th century (AD 379-395). Ancient texts suggest that the tears on the column pay tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Basilica Cistern.
Tucked behind the Yeni Mosque – adjacent to the Flower Market – one can discover the destination for plants, seeds, spices and birds You find yourself in one of the oldest covered bazaars in Istanbul; known as the Egyptian or Spice Bazaar. It was founded by the mother of Sultan Murat III, with the intention of creating some monetary assistance for the Yeni (New) Mosque during its construction and to help in it’s upkeep.
The Egyptian bazaar is well known for it’s natural medicines, spices, custom flower essences and traditional Turkish sweets. This was by far our favorite bazaar in Istanbul. Filled with beautiful stores; some very old and some very new all overflowing with ceramics, textiles, chess sets, beans & baubles.
A good tip for purchasing spices is to ask for vacuum packing. Most of the shops offer this service and you are sure to keep your powders dry and full of flavour on your journeys.
A special spot was the Cennet Turkish Paradise 48. There you can peruse lovely jewelry and embroidered textiles
Friendly note: Unless you really need to kill the curiosity or have need for cheap asian imports, don’t bother shopping to the Grand Bazaar.