Bebek: The lovely yet pampered offspring of the Bosphorus
Bebek acts as a time capsule, preserving the secrets of bygone eras and narratives imbued with the fragrance of history. Despite its considerable transformation in the present day, one can still sense the enchantment of the Ottoman Empire by simply shutting their eyes.
Beşiktaş district, maintaining its timeless allure for centuries, is positioned along the Bosphorus coastline between Arnavutköy and Aşiyan-Rumelihisarı. The northern section, adjacent to Rumelihisarı, is recognized as Büyük Bebek, while the area near Arnavutköy is referred to as Küçük Bebek. It is wonderful to take a walk on the wide and long walkway on the beach, sit on the benches and watch the Bosphorus view and the beautiful rental yachts lined up in rows. Yet, beyond the scenic coastal view lies a wealth of hidden treasures in this neighborhood.
Are you prepared to uncover them?
History of Bebek
The origins of this district, situated adjacent to Etiler, another upscale area in Beşiktaş, trace back to pre-Christian eras. In more contemporary history, the region was under Byzantine rule, but the Byzantines, facing mounting pressure from the Ottomans, progressively ceded control of this area. Even prior to the conquest of Istanbul, the Galatians held sway over the settlements in this vicinity.
Where does the Bebek name come from?
Bebek has a natural indentation inland, forming a bay where fishermen used to reside. In the past, it was known by the name "Hallai," believed to originate from "Skallai," meaning pier. Legend has it that a temple and altar dedicated to the goddess Diana, the protector of the moon and hunters in Roman mythology, once stood here. Byzantine-era churches are also known to have existed.
The name Bebek has two rumored origins. One suggests the neighborhood is named for its beauty, likened to that of a baby. The more plausible tale relates to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, who, before the conquest of Istanbul, granted control of this predominantly Greek and Armenian area to a notable named Mustafa Çelebi. Mustafa Çelebi, renowned for his good looks, built a house and a spacious garden, earning him the moniker "Bebek Çelebi." Following his passing, the region came to be known as Bebek.
The rise of Bebek and the Tulip Period
Following the conquest of Istanbul, Bebek remained tranquil for around 200 years. Initially, being a densely wooded area, it served as hideouts for thieves who carved paths through its nooks and crannies. Towards the late 1600s, Bebek's dubious reputation began to wane, gaining fame as a retreat for Ottoman sultans, particularly during the reign of Ahmed III (1703- 1730) and Damat İbrahim Pasha. Ahmed III had the Hümayün-u Abad Pavilion, a coastal palace located where Bebek Park stands today, constructed. This marked the Tulip period, an era of heightened pleasure and enjoyment, during which Bebek opened up for settlement. The region officially underwent urbanization, witnessing the construction of mosques, fountains, schools, baths, and mills. While the coast was reserved for state dignitaries, the land extending to the slopes was sold to the public piece by piece. Mansions adorned the left and right sides of the Hümayün-u Abad Pavilion. Sultan Abdülmecit demolished the pavilion in 1841, transforming it into a park. Bebek's cosmopolitan life flourished as Turkish, Armenian, Jewish, and Greek communities built mansions. In the 19th century, tram and ferry services commenced, shifting Bebek from being a summer resort to a year-round residential area. Just as today, living in Bebek in those times signaled a sense of elitism.
From caulkers to motor yachts... Bebek Bay
When observed from a bird's eye perspective, Bebek reveals a small recess along the Bosphorus a natural bay that once played a crucial role as a haven in the strong currents of the Bosphorus, particularly in times predating motor and steamship advancements. Boats, both large and small, sought refuge in this bay during inclement weather. As a frequent stop for boats, skilled craftsmen practiced the nearly forgotten art of caulking. These craftsmen filled gaps between the wooden planks and floorboards of boats with hemp fibers or leftover cotton threads called toppings. They then enhanced the boat's water resistance by applying boiled tar to the top, a process known as caulking, and the practitioners were referred to as caulkers. Today, the Bebek Bay no longer bears any traces of caulkers and wooden boats. Today, this place has turned into a bay where luxury motor yachts anchor. In fact, we can say that Bebek has become the center of the industry yacht charter in Istanbul
. On a day when you want to pamper yourself, you can rent a yacht from here hourly or daily, take a Bosphorus tour, have a breakfast or dinner on the sea, and even celebrate your special days.
Preferred by famous names
Bebek is home to around 5,000 residents, but during evenings and weekends, the cafes, restaurants, beach, and park are so bustling that it feels incredibly crowded. A casual stroll in Bebek might lead you to encounter numerous individuals who've made appearances in society and magazine features.
Bebek's world famous marzipan
When people think of Bebek, marzipan often comes to mind. For more than 120 years, a small shop in this area has been crafting what is arguably the most delightful marzipan in Turkey.
The renowned Bebek Marzipan shop, established in 1904 by Mehmet Halil Bey from Mudanya and Miss Anastasia, has a sweet yet poignant origin. Mehmet Halil Bey, who moved to Istanbul for studies, fell in love with Anastasia from Arnavutköy, who was studying at Fener Greek High School. Anastasia's family agreed to their marriage under the condition that the couple reside in Istanbul, and Mehmet Halil secures employment. Learning the trade from his father, a sweet maker in Mudanya, Mehmet Halil opened a shop in Bebek, selling treats like marzipan, candied almonds, bitter almond cookies, and sponge cake. Sadly, a year and a half after the birth of their daughter Sevim, Mehmet Halil passed away from a heart attack. Widowed at just 30, Anastasia persevered, managing the shop alone. Despite an attack during the events of September 6-7 that damaged antique jars and furniture, they persisted. After Anastasia's passing, her daughters Sevim and Sema continued the legacy, turning Bebek Marzipan into a global sensation. Sema passed away in 2003, and Sevim in 2019. Today, the new generations of the family uphold the tradition, running the shop on Cevdet Paşa Street.
The oldest surviving house in Istanbul is in Bebek
Constructed during the rule of Sultan Mahmut I (1730 - 1754) in the 18th century, the exact date of this mansion's establishment remains uncertain. It likely came into existence approximately two decades after the conclusion of the Tulip Period, possibly around 1751. Regarded as Istanbul's oldest standing traditional residence, this structure is recognized as a trailblazer in Bosphorus architectural heritage. (Amcazade Mansion in Anadoluhisarı, constructed in 1699, has not been maintained in its original state and has lost its overall integrity, with only the divanhane section remaining. ) The interior of the building features landscape paintings and decorations on the walls and ceilings. The Kavafyan family, the last occupants, resided in the house until 1998. Unfortunately, restoration efforts have not commenced, raising concerns about the potential demolition of the historic structure.
Important buildings and architectural monuments you should see in Bebek
The narrow lanes branching off from the Bosphorus to Beşiktaş and Sarıyer, as well as the side streets of Bebek, hold surprises akin to the main avenues. Often considered the most beautiful neighborhood in Istanbul, Bebek boasts a lengthy beachside promenade and charming narrow streets. These lanes are lined with wooden mansions, gardens adorned with pink magnolia trees, and shops seamlessly blending art, history, and culture at every turn. Here are some key structures and places in Bebek that you shouldn't miss:
The lines above share the tale of the mansion that stands resilient on Yoğurtçu Zülfü Street, defying the passage of time. Our utmost desire is to witness the prompt restoration and preservation of this 300-year-old mansion, offering insights into life in historic Istanbul.
Bebek (Hümayun-u Abad) Mosque
In narrating Bebek's history, we highlighted the era when the region flourished, known as the Tulip Period (1718-1730), during the reign of Sultan Ahmet III. Ahmet III erected a grand pavilion on the beach during this time, alongside which a mosque named Hümayun-u Abad was constructed in 1726, also in his honor. The pavilion was dismantled in 1841, and its grounds transformed into what is now Bebek Park. In 1913, Architect Kemalettin, a highly skilled architect of that period, reconstructed the mosque with cut stone, altering its architectural style. The mosque stands as a significant example of the I. National Architecture movement, influencing the design of many subsequent mosques.
Egyptian Consulate (Emine Valide Pasha Mansion)
Ranked among the top three most beautiful and splendid mansions along the Bosphorus is the Emine Valide Pasha Mansion, presently serving as the Egyptian Consulate. Situated on Cevdet Pasha Street, the structure is also recognized by alternate names such as Hidiva Palace and Hidiv Ismail Pasha Mansion.
Constructed in 1902 in the Art Nouveau architectural style by the renowned architect Raimondo D'Aronco, the mansion was commissioned by Emine Valide Pasha, born in 1858. Emine Valide Pasha was the daughter of Abbas Hilmi Pasha I, who was in turn the son of the Egyptian Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha and Münire Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Abdülmecid. Additionally, she was the mother of Abbas Hilmi Pasha II, the final khedive of Egypt. Notably, she holds the distinction of being the only woman in Ottoman history to bear the title of "pasha."
After the establishment of the republic, Emine Valide Pasha intended to present the mansion, covering a total area of 4000 m2, as a gift to the Turkish state. However, due to dissatisfaction with the Turkish government's omission of the Ottoman title of "pasha" in official communications, she opted to donate the building to the Egyptian state. The condition was that it would serve as a consulate. Following a successful restoration, the mansion officially became the Egyptian Consulate in 2011.
While strolling along the coastal road from Bebek to Rumelihisarı, you'll come across a sizable wooden mansion atop tall stone walls on the left side. This structure is none other than the renowned Yılanlı Köşk of the Bosphorus, perched on the rocks. Constructed in the late 1700s by Reisülküttab Mustafa Efendi, the foreign minister of Selim III, the mansion changed owners frequently over time. However, what truly distinguishes the mansion, apart from its architecture and beauty, is the intriguing story behind its name. Sultan Mahmut II, captivated by the mansion during a Bosphorus stroll, expressed interest in buying it. Yet, Sait Effendi, an advisor to Mahmut II, also coveted the mansion. To dissuade the Sultan, he fabricated a tale about snakes frequenting the rocks surrounding the mansion. Despite being deceived, the Sultan was convinced, and the mansion retained the name Yılanlı Köşk. Ironically, Sait Efendi couldn't acquire the mansion either.
Walking from Bebek, you'll reach Aşiyan before Rumelihisarı. Aşiyan, the greenest part of Bebek, is surrounded by Aşiyan Cemetery and Rumelihisarı to the north, and Boğaziçi University to the west and south. Aşiyan Park lies along the eastern ridge facing the sea. At the upper part of this historic neighborhood, below the South Campus of Boğaziçi University, stands the Aşiyan Museum, once the garden of the Yılanlı Köşk. This house served as the residence of the renowned poet, writer, and teacher Tevfik Fikret from 1906 to 1915. As a key figure in the Literary Cedide society, Tevfik Fikret significantly influenced Turkish intellectual life. Personally designing the house and naming it Aşiyan, meaning "bird's nest," Tevfik Fikret's choice inspired the neighborhood's name as well. After Tevfik Fikret's passing, the house, offering a splendid view, was acquired by IMM and transformed into the Museum of Literature and Cedide in 1945. Initially Turkey's first literature museum, it was later renamed Aşiyan Museum when Tevfik Fikret's grave was relocated to its garden. The museum, featuring 9 sections, showcases Tevfik Fikret's personal items, paintings by the poet, works by Prince Abdülmecit Efendi, belongings of Abdülhak Hamit Tarhan (another famed poet known for his poem "Makber"), and various artworks. Open daily from 09:00 to 16:00, except on Mondays, admission to the museum is free of charge.
This historic cemetery, situated with a view of the Bosphorus, serves as the final resting place for numerous esteemed individuals. From Orhan Veli Kanık to Atilla İlhan, and from Doğan Cüceloğlu to Turgut Uyar, many notable figures rest in peace within its grounds.
At the heart of Bebek, located at the beginning of Küçük Bebek Street, stands an ancient square-shaped stone structure. Originally a cistern, this building underwent restoration by IBB in 2021 and now functions as an art gallery. Admission is free, and it is open for visits every day except Monday from 12:00 to 20:00.
Beyhan Sultan Fountain
Constructed in the baroque style and adorned entirely with marble, this fountain was commissioned by Beyhan Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Mehmed III and sister to Selim III. As part of street expansion efforts, the fountain underwent complete disassembly, later in 2022, it was reassembled and now stands along the coastal road between Arnavutköy and Bebek.
Türkan Sabancı Bebek Park
Bebek Park, spanning 38,000 m2, acts as a lush oasis nestled between Cevdet Paşa Street and the sea in Bebek Bay. It serves as a green haven, reminiscent of Bebek's historical charm, boasting centuries-old majestic trees and a splendid Bosphorus view. Originally the garden of the Hümayun-u Abad Pavilion, which was dismantled in 1841, the area was transformed into a park in 1908. Adjacent to the park are the Bebek Hümayun-u Abad Mosque and the renowned Bebek Coffee House. In 2008, the Sabancı Foundation revitalized the park, and it is now known as Türkan Sabancı Bebek Park.
Lazarist Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Church
As you venture into İnşirah Street from Cevdet Paşa Street towards Bebek Slope, the second left turn leads to Mektep Street. Along this street stands a church constructed in 1910. The bell tower, once an integral part of a complex including the Lazarist School and the adjacent French orphanage, has been removed. Currently, the church is overseen by the Istanbul Syriac Catholic Church Foundation, while the school is leased to a private educational institution.
Situated across from the Lazarist Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Church, this apartment complex constitutes the final component of a compound that includes the church, school, and orphanage. It is aptly named in honor of the church's clergy, and reportedly, the last Greek residents of the building relocated to Athens.
Aya Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church
Situated along İnşirah Street, Tevfik Fikret High School lacks historical significance beyond its name. However, on the opposite corner stands the Aya Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church, constructed in 1830 and later enhanced with a bell tower in 1962. Although the stone church remains in operation, it currently has a limited number of parishioners.
Situated along Cevdet Paşa Street and offering a picturesque sea view, this small mosque boasts refined architecture that traces back to the 17th century. Constructed by Nişancıbaşı Sıdkı Ahmet Pasha, who held the position of Reis'ul Küttâb (foreign affairs minister) during the rule of Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-1687), the mosque reflects an elegant legacy from that era.
Boğaziçi University and Robert College
If possible, a visit to Boğaziçi University's campus is highly recommended. Recognized as one of Turkey's top universities, the institution, originally established in 1863 as Robert College, underwent a transition to the Ministry of National Education in 1971 and was subsequently renamed Boğaziçi University. To explore the campus hub, one can enter through the Aşiyan gate and ascend through a charming grove.
While strolling through the streets of Bebek, you'll encounter numerous impressive mansions that are sure to capture your admiration. Additionally, in the adjacent lanes, you'll discover charming one or two-story structures adorned with wood, some of which have been reconstructed to closely resemble the originals. Given the overall lack of aesthetic appeal in many urban buildings, even the newly reconstructed mansions, designed in harmony with the original styles, are bound to be visually pleasing to you.
Bebek and gastronomy
Bebek boasts a lavish food and entertainment culture, standing in stark contrast to modest offerings. Over the last three centuries, it has consistently held its status as one of Istanbul's most prestigious residential areas, with a tradition of opulence and affluence dating back to the tulip era. Consequently, Bebek is presently adorned with upscale stores featuring high-quality products, art galleries, and, unsurprisingly, an abundance of gastronomic establishments. Here are a few examples:
Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Bebek
A visit to the globally acclaimed Bebek Badem Ezmecisi
is highly recommended. While the prices at this establishment, detailed in the preceding lines, may be somewhat high, the delectable flavors on offer are truly tantalizing.
is a place identified with the neighborhood. Situated beside the Bebek Mosque along the seaside, it provides a laid-back atmosphere for leisurely gatherings and offers a variety of snacks, including breakfast. Here, you can linger, sipping tea or coffee throughout the day and engage in games like backgammon, alongside well-known individuals who are regulars at the café.
On the other hand, Bebek Koru Kahvesi
also offers a sea view but exudes a more upscale ambiance. It's an ideal setting for extended and enjoyable conversations.
stands as the enduring ice cream shop in Bebek since 1968, situated on Cevdet Pasha Street alongside Bebek Hotel. Renowned for its Güllü ice cream, it has become a Bebek tradition over the years to indulge in waffles.
Notably, Ab'bas Waffle
and Bebek Waffle
have excelled in this culinary domain. Of particular note is Ab'bas Waffle, which has maintained its presence at the same Bebek address since 1983.
Lucca Bistro Bar
stands out as a premier establishment in Bebek, known for its extensive menu, delightful cocktails, and a clientele of notable patrons. The venue is consistently bustling and vibrant.
Divan Brasserie Bebek
has upheld the enduring Divan quality in Bebek for an extended period. With a well-stocked wine cellar and exceptional flavors, the brasserie also features its own pier, allowing for convenient access from the sea.
is the secret garden of Bebek regulars. Serving since 2017, the establishment offers quality coffees and a menu that is both wholesome and delectable. Transformed from an aged single-story house into a restaurant, Hidden House has a calming effect, almost providing solace to the soul.
is the Bebek counterpart of Taps, a familiar name from Nişantaşı. It stands out as one of the most delightful rendezvous spots in Bebek, offering a diverse selection of specialty beers, cocktails, and a delectable menu spanning from burgers to pizzas.
is a place that not only serves breakfast until 15:00 PM but also provides an extensive menu for dinner, along with cocktails and wine. The terrace offers an especially delightful view.
Situated at the heart of Bebek, Bebek Hotel
stands as a pivotal gastronomic destination in the area. The top-floor Bebek Roof Bar
at the hotel offers a stunning panoramic view of the Bosphorus. The ground floor houses both the Terrace Restaurant
and Dragon Restaurant
, seamlessly integrated with the scenic view and the sea. On the third floor, Sankai by Nagaya
, a collaboration with Chef Yoshizumi Nagaya, renowned for his three Michelin-starred restaurants, adds to the hotel's culinary allure.
The delectable journeys of the Tarihi Kuzguncuk Fırını
did not originate in Bebek. However, both establishments offer delightful flavors. It is highly recommended to indulge in Baylan's kup griye.
In Bebek, you'll find a variety of coffee brands like Kahve Dünyası
, Caffè Nero
, Espresso Lab
, as well as fast-food options such as McDonald's
and numerous other eateries. We assure you that your visit will leave you satisfied and never disappointed in terms of dining options.
Fishmongers and taverns in Bebek
Since 1974, Bebek Balıkçısı
has held the status of an Istanbul classic, offering a stunning view.
& Bebek Kasap
stands out with its abundance of appetizers and meat dishes, representing a modern tavern. It's worth giving it a try. Nevertheless, it's fair to say that Bebek doesn't provide numerous options when it comes to taverns in general.
Transportation to Bebek
Bebek features two piers: Bebek Pier and Aşiyan Pier. Aşiyan Pier offers regular ferry services to Üsküdar. Additionally, Bebek Pier is a stop on the Bosphorus Line, where ferries from Eminönü to Anadolu Kavağı make calls. Bebek Pier is also served by various ferry lines, including Çengelköy-İstinye, Rumelikavağı-Eminönü, and Bebek-Emirgan. For the current schedule, you can refer to www.sehirhatlari.istanbul
For those opting for municipal buses (IETT), you can choose from various bus numbers, including 22, 22B, 22 RE, 25 E, 40, 40 T, and 42 T, all operating along the Bosphorus line. Another option is to utilize the yellow minibuses departing from Beşiktaş pier to Etiler. These minibuses, which stop at stations like Beşiktaş, Ortaköy, Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, and Bebek, ultimately reach Etiler via Bebek Yokuşu.
For those opting to travel by private car, you can choose either the coastal road from Beşiktaş or descend to the coast via Yıldız or Etiler. Another recently introduced transportation alternative to Bebek is the F4 Boğaziçi University/Hisarüstü-Aşiyan Funicular Line. Accessible by taking the M6 subway from Levent, you can effortlessly reach Aşiyan-Bebek beach using this funicular line.