Emirgan: Bosphorus, history and nature arm in arm
Welcome to Emirgan,a sophisticated district within the Sarıyer area. Positioned on the Bosphorus, nestled between Baltalimanı and Istinye, Emirgan is a charming neighborhood often likened to a fairy tale setting. On its western side, the land area abuts the ITU Campus and Borsa Istanbul land. Across the shore lies Kanlıca, a gem on the Anatolian side.
Observing Emirgan from the sea reveals a verdant community, owing to the abundance of green spaces like Emirgan Grove, Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Reşitpaşa Cemetery, and Boyacıköy Greek Cemetery. Emirgan Grove, in particular, stands out as a paradise-like garden.
Nevertheless, due to the haphazard settlement, one can't escape the sensation that the hillsides are teeming with residences.
In a city as populous as Istanbul, exceeding 16 million people, locales akin to Emirgan are a rarity. Perhaps, on the Asian side, only places like Kanlıca and Anadoluhisarı share a similar charm. Therefore, make it a habit to frequent Emirgan. Explore the historic squares of the neighborhood, enjoy a cup of tea beneath the centuries-old plane trees, dedicate ample time to its museums, and stroll through Emirgan Korusu, especially during the tulip season. In fact, if you have the opportunity to yacht charter, anchor off the coast of Emirgan and enjoy it for a long time, breathe in the exquisite air of the Bosphorus and the grove. You won't be disappointed.
Emirgan's origins as a habitation trace back to the Byzantine era. In those times, the region was named Kyparades, owing to the predominant presence of cypress trees in the landscape. Following the conquest of Istanbul, the land was bestowed upon Nişancı Feridun Bey in the 16th century, becoming widely recognized as Feridun Gardens among the local populace. Nevertheless, a pivotal turning point occurred during the reign of Murad IV.
Murad IV, who governed the global empire from 1623 to 1640 and elicited both admiration and disdain for his stringent policies, stood as one of the formidable sultans credited with the conquests of Baghdad and Revan (Yerevan). In 1635, he led a formidable army of 200,000 soldiers in the Revan campaign. The Iranian dignitary ruling Revan, Emirgüneoğlu Tahmasb Kulu Khan (later renamed Yusuf Pasha), capitulated to the Ottoman forces after an 11-day siege, preventing the city's destruction and any civilian casualties. This act pleased Murad IV, leading to the bestowal of Feridun Gardens on the Bosphorus to Emir Günoğlu Tahmasb Kulu Khan as a gift. Initially named Emir Güne Bahçesi (Emir Güne Garden), the appellation evolved over time, eventually transforming into Emirgan, encompassing the entire neighborhood, including the grove.
Emirgan's area was made available for habitation around 150 years subsequent to the era of Murad IV, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit I. Following Abdülhamit I, who governed from 1774 to 1789, Sultan Selim III succeeded him, making significant contributions to the establishment of Boyacıköy, the historical district within Emirgan. Further details are provided below.
Emirgan Grove: An oasis in the city
The parcel granted by Sultan Murad IV to Yusuf Pasha, the offspring of Emirgüne, nearly four centuries ago, has transformed into an expansive 470,000 m2 grove today. Within this expanse, extending from the waterfront to the elevated ridges and slopes, one can find historic mansions, ponds, waterfalls, and an abundance of trees.
Following Emirgüneoğlu Yusuf Pasha, the grove underwent several changes in ownership. Its final proprietor was the Egyptian Khedive Ismail Pasha. Ismail Pasha enlisted the renowned architect Sarkis Balyan to construct the well-known trio of mansions within the grove: Sarı Mansion, Pembe Mansion, and Beyaz Mansion. Additionally, Pasha erected a splendid mansion along the beach. After the British occupation of Egypt, Pasha spent his final days in the Emirgan mansions. The grove's ultimate owner was Satvet Lütfi Tozan, recognized as the Turkish James Bond. Mayor Lütfi Kırdar expropriated the grove in 1940, making it accessible to the public in 1943. Presently, Beltur, an Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality company, manages and operates the mansions in the grove, transforming them into cafes and restaurants.
There are thousands of trees of 120 different species and various flower gardens, especially tulips. These include rare trees such as Colorado silvery fir, Chinese sanctuary tree, alabaster tree, California water cedar, coast redwood, and kufur tree, as well as spruce and cedar varieties, coastal pine, pistachio pine, weeping pine, red pine, veymut pine, Japanese velvet pine, Aleppo pine, London pine, soap tree, ash, weeping willow, beech, and Hungarian oak.
This exceptionally beautiful grove offers a melancholic romance during the autumn and winter months, while providing a revitalizing coolness and vibrant energy in the summertime. Strolling beneath centuries-old trees, immersing oneself in a book beside the ponds, observing playful birds in the water with their melodic sounds, gazing at Kanlıca on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, reclining on a bench and contemplating the sky, sitting within one of the historic mansions, savoring a cup of salep in winter, and indulging in an ice cream treat during summer constitute some of the utmost pleasures to be experienced in Istanbul.
One can also partake in sports activities and enjoy a picnic at Emirgan Grove. The area offers amenities like children's playgrounds, running tracks, and picnic tables. Pedestrian entry is free, but there are parking charges for vehicles like cars, minibusses, and motorcycles. Managed by İspark, don't be intimidated by the parking fees; they are reasonable, and the parking facilities are secure.
Emirgan Tulip Festival
The most stunning period for tulips in Istanbul is during the second and third weeks of April. Emirgan Grove, a key location in the annual tulip festival of Istanbul recognized as the city that brought tulips to the World is embellished with lively tulip fields, creating a breathtaking sight. The 2023 festival took place from March 23 to May 14, and it is anticipated to be organized around similar dates in the coming years. It's worth noting that the tulip festival tends to attract large crowds, particularly on weekends.
Boyacıköy stands out as one of Emirgan's most picturesque neighborhoods, and its name is rooted in history. The neighborhood, positioned between Baltalimanı and Emirgan, has a fascinating tale dating back to the rule of Sultan III. Selim. At that time, a skilled family of 40 fabric-dyeing artisans was brought from Rumelia (modern-day Kırklareli, formerly known as Kırk Kilise) to this location. This decision was prompted by the increasing popularity of the Ottoman fez during that period. Given that fezzes also served as symbols of social status, the choice of colors held significant meaning. Individuals in governmental and influential roles favored cherry red, while those with less prominent occupations opted for colors like purple and black. The adept artisans placed in Boyacıköy were entrusted with the expert production of these colors. Notably, during the reign of Sultan II. Mahmut, who succeeded Sultan III. Selim a year later, the fez became the official headwear of the Ottoman Empire. In 1835, the opening of Feshane on the Golden Horn marked a transition to mass production.
While affluent families reside along the seaside, the hilly areas are inhabited by Greek and Armenian families, with Turkish families settling along the Kanlıkavak stream in between.
Presently, Boyacıköy stands as one of the most enchanting neighborhoods along the Bosphorus. Roaming through narrow, hilly streets adorned with aged houses imparts a sense of time travel. Nearly every street offers glimpses of the sea, with some featuring cobblestone pavement. The houses vary from modest to luxurious, with mansions boasting garages and gardens. The surroundings may seem familiar as many TV series, such as "Geniş Aile," "Baba Evi," and "Uzaylı Zekiye," were shot here. Nowadays, waterfront mansions in Boyacıköy are scarce, and the Boyacıköy Pier, which once hosted ferry services until 1930, is no more. In its place, a spacious coastal road invites leisurely strolls by the sea. Walking alongside the Bosphorus, sitting on benches, and relishing the sight of ships and fishermen is a delightful experience.
Our suggestion is, when you visit Emirgan, don't confine yourself to the seaside; be sure to explore the charming back streets of Boyacıköy ,you're bound to fall in love with them.
As you stroll through the narrow streets of Emirgan and Boyacıköy, you'll encounter many fountains that once were supplied with the neighborhood's natural spring water called Kanlıkavak water. The inscription on the Hamid-i Evvel Fountain still indicates that it once dispensed Kanlıkavak spring water. Historical records suggest the water was thought to have diuretic properties. Nevertheless, these fountains are presently linked to the municipal water system, eliminating the necessity for you to sample the natural spring water.
The important buildings and architectural works you should see in Emirgan
While touring Emirgan, Emirgan Grove, and Boyacıköy, you'll encounter various mansions and historical structures. Here are some notable buildings and places you should visit:
A graceful, unassuming, sophisticated, and welcoming square. It is not crowded or noisy, and with the recent renovation in Istanbul's Büyükşehir Square, it has eliminated unattractive prefabricated structures. Some argue that this modification has taken away the square's essence, but pay no heed to them. The square's beauty has been accentuated. Those looking to relax with tea, coffee, or a meal can take advantage of the establishments along the street. Yet, the unique experience of admiring the well-maintained fountain at the center and sitting freely beneath the age-old plane trees is incomparable. At the square's entrance, you will also discover the Muvakkithane and the Fountain of Sultan Abdulhamid I.
Muvakkithane, as its name implies, is a place where the prayer times are determined. Typically located near large mosques, these small structures, comprising one or two rooms, have their prayer times regulated by the mosque's timekeepers. Emirgan Muvakkithane, situated on Doğru Muvakkithane Street, stands opposite the Hamid-i Evvel Mosque. Constructed in 1844 by Ağa Hüseyin Pasha, the building features the imperial seal of Sultan Abdülmecid I and a six-verse inscription dedicated to Sadık Ziver Pasha on its entrance. Following the architectural style of the mosque, the Muvakkithane is presently utilized as a branch of a coffee chain in Emirgan. Upon entering the premises, you can admire how seamlessly historical structures integrate into daily life, though simultaneously harboring concerns about potential harm to the building.
Hamid-i Evvel Mosque (Emirgan Mosque)
Situated at the intersection of Doğru Muvakkithane Street, on the grounds of this mosque that has overlooked the Bosphorus for centuries, once stood the residence of Emirgüneoğlu Yusuf Pasha, the namesake of Emirgan. However, as the mansion fell into disrepair over time, Abdülhamit I ordered its demolition in 1781, replacing it with the construction of this mosque dedicated to his wife, Hümaşah Hatun, and Şehzade Mehmet. Crafted from cut stone with a roof made of wooden materials, the mosque boasts a luminous and airy interior thanks to its double row of tall windows. Having endured two fires, the mosque underwent restoration by Mahmud II in 1838, followed by another restoration in 2009. Adjacent to the mosque stands the Hünkâr Palace, providing a space for sultans to rest before and after prayers or to meet with dignitaries.
Abdülhamit I Fountain
A proud octagonal fountain awaits visitors beneath the ancient plane trees in the square in front of Emirgan Mosque (Hamid-i Evvel), exuding a dignified expression. Erected in 1781 alongside the Emirgan Mosque for Hümaşah Hatun, the wife of Abdülhamit I, and Şehzade Mehmet, the fountain features eight marble-covered facades, with only four having troughs and faucet seats. Sheltered by a broad canopy, the baroque-style fountain is adorned with reliefs and ornaments. The surfaces of the fountain showcase the monograms of Abdülhamit I, verses from the Holy Qur'an, and four-line inscriptions.
Mahmut II Square Fountain
Constructed during the 19th century, the Mahmud II Square Fountain is situated on Emin Ata Street, rising from the Emirgan coast, positioned between Saf Saf Street and Eşkinci Street. Displaying the tughra of Mahmud II and his epithet "Adil," the fountain features military motifs around the tughra—a departure from the usual motifs seen in Istanbul fountains. Furthermore, the inscription of the fountain showcases verses of praise composed by the poet Akif Mehmed Pasha in honor of Sultan Mahmud II. Adjacent cafes in the neighborhood have provided tables and chairs in front of the fountain, offering a pleasant spot to sit and relax. In 2008, Türkan Sabancı undertook the restoration of the fountain.
Boyacıköy Panayia Evangelistria Greek Orthodox Church
Erected in 1834, this church stands at the crossroads of Fırın Street and Sezai Bey Street, alternatively recognized as Emirgan Greek Orthodox Church. What sets this church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, apart from others is the bell tower positioned above the entrance door on the north facade, prominently displaying the year 1950 on the bell. Additionally, the garden hosts a well, though it currently lacks water.
Boyacikoy Surp Yerits Mangant Church
Situated between Yaver Selahattin Street and Aktar Abdi Street, the church was originally constructed in 1840 by Misak Amira Misakyan to serve the Armenian community in the neighborhood. Subsequently rebuilt in 1885, the church underwent two restorations, with the most recent one in 2004. Translating to "three holy children," the church, as mentioned earlier, benefits from Boyacıköy's abundant water resources. This humble church features its own sacred spring (ayazma) in the lower part and a well in its garden. Within the spacious stone-walled courtyard, you can find the grave of Misak Amira Misakian. Despite a decline in the congregation, the church remains active.
Emirgan Primary School
Constructed in 1871, this edifice, originally established as a religious school, was commissioned by Hidiv Ismail Pasha, one of the last proprietors of Emirgan Grove. In 1881, it transitioned to serve as Mirgün'i Mektebi Rüştiye, Emirgan Boys' Secondary School, and later in 1934, it was converted into a primary school. Despite undergoing restoration in 2014, the three-story building, located at Saf Saf Street number 41 and spanning an area of 1173 m2, retains the lingering scent of history within its corridors. The classrooms boast marble floors, tall windows, and adorned ceilings, instilling a wish that all our schools could possess such charm.
Emirgan Greek Primary School
At the juncture of Hurşit Efendi and Fırın Street, a white-gray structure situated within a garden behind barbed wire catches the eye. Constructed in 1905, this is the Emirgan Greek Primary School. Amidst the aged wooden houses, this stone building stands silent, devoid of students. It is a wish that the school had students, as Emirgan originated as a cosmopolitan neighborhood. The absence of Greek and Armenian neighbors has diminished a certain essence from the neighborhood's spirit.
Situated on Sakıp Sabancı Street along the sea, adjacent to the Hamid-i Evvel Mosque (Emirgan Mosque), stands a two-story white mansion known as the Şerifler Mansion. Notably, the Emirgan Mosque was erected on the grounds where the mansion of Yusuf Pasha, Emirgüneoğlu, once stood. The Şerifler Mansion, estimated to have been built around 1782, replaced the divanhane of the original mansion, and it underwent reconstruction circa 1850. Exhibiting characteristics of Ottoman baroque style, this building is recognized as one of the finest examples of civil architecture along the Bosphorus. Regrettably, the three-story harem section of the structure was demolished in the 1940s during the construction of the coastal road. The mansion earned its name, Şerifler Mansion, after being acquired by Abdullah Pasha (1845-1908), the Sheriff of Mecca. Abdullah Pasha, also the uncle of Sharif Hussein, played a role in the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, collaborated with the British agent Lawrence, betrayed the Ottoman army, and later declared himself caliph. Presently, the Şerifler Mansion serves as the headquarters for the Union of Historical Cities.
Atlı Mansion and Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Sakıp Sabancı Street, the primary thoroughfare along the seaside in Emirgan, is named in honor of Sakıp Sabancı, a highly esteemed Turkish businessman, and his family. They resided in Emirgan for an extended period in their residence known as the Atlı Mansion.
The Atlı Mansion, synonymous with Emirgan and once the residence of the Sabancı family, is situated in an expansive garden at the most picturesque section of Sakıp Sabancı Street, at No 42. Today, this mansion has been repurposed as the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, hosting significant temporary exhibitions and the family's permanent collections. Originally built in 1925 by the Italian architect Edouard De Nari, the mansion served as a country house for the Egyptian Khedive family. Following a brief period as the Embassy of Montenegro, Hacı Ömer Sabancı, the father of Sakıp Sabancı, acquired the building in 1950. The Sabancı family resided in the mansion until 1998, after which they generously donated it to Sabancı University. In 2002, the mansion underwent a transformation into the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, showcasing its remarkable art collections.
As per Sakıp Sabancı, the mansion's garden spans 22,000 m2. Positioned atop the sloping garden, measuring 6,500 m2, is the mansion-turned-museum. The northern and western boundaries of the garden are contiguous with Emirgan Grove. Abundant in vegetation, the Atlı Mansion's garden is remarkably lush. Within the garden, there are picturesque terraces that offer stunning views of the Bosphorus.
The mansion derives its name from the two equine statues situated in the garden. One of these statues, created in 1864 by the French sculptor Louis Doumas, was installed in the garden in 1950. The second statue was a generous gift from an Italian businessman engaged in transactions with the Sabancı family. This particular statue is a molded reproduction of one of the four horses that the Crusader army removed from Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul during the 4th Crusade in 1204. The horses were subsequently positioned in front of the church of San Marco in Venice.
To access the museum, visitors must enter through the main gate on the beach side, purchase a ticket, and then leisurely stroll beneath the trees and up the hill, leaving the Bosphorus behind. At the hill's summit, a splendid observation terrace awaits. Prior to entering the museum, you may opt to enjoy a beverage at the entrance cafe, where you'll be greeted by a wealth of valuable items such as furniture, decorative pieces like Hereke carpets, Bohemian crystal chandeliers, vases, and candlesticks. Inside, the museum houses an extensive and affluent family's lifelong collections, including works of art and priceless items (like paintings, archaeological artifacts, book arts, calligraphy, and manuscripts.) If fortunate, visitors may even catch one of the renowned temporary exhibitions that the museum has previously hosted, featuring works by artists such as Rodin and Picasso.
The museum is closed on Mondays. Other days it is open between 10.00-18:00. Entrance is free on Tuesdays. The museum has a parking lot for 30 cars, but if it is full, you can use the Ispark parking lots on the coastal road.
Emirgan and gastronomy
Emirgan is generally recognized for its serene and tranquil ambiance, making it an unsuitable destination for those seeking vibrant nightlife and entertainment. Consequently, the dining and drinking establishments in the area tend to exude a calm and unassuming atmosphere. You have already heard many recommendations about the neighborhood such as "Don't return without having tea at Çınaraltı". One highly suggested experience is to spend approximately half an hour at the establishments lining the street of the Hamid-i Evvel Mosque (Emirgan Mosque), indulging in a cup of tea or coffee. While you may have already come across the popular recommendation to enjoy tea at Çınaraltı, there are numerous other quiet cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants tucked away in the neighborhood's side streets.
Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in EmirganSarı Mansion, Beyaz Mansion, and Pembe Mansion. Operated by Beltur, these mansions have a charming resemblance to Swiss chalets. Sarı Mansion functions as a restaurant and café, while the other two serve as cafés. Maintaining Beltur's standard of quality, cleanliness, and organization, these establishments offer a reasonable pricing structure, no alcohol, and the option for breakfast. While the culinary offerings may not be the most exquisite, the ambiance, fresh air, and scenic views of the grove are more than sufficient for a delightful experience.
At the entrance of Atlı Mansion, within the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, you'll find the restaurant of the Culinary Arts Academy, renowned as one of the world's best culinary schools, named MSA's Restaurant. Indulging in a meal here provides a unique pleasure, allowing you to enjoy breakfast, savor MSA's diverse world cuisine, and refresh yourself with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails and beverages.
Emirgan Sütiş stands as a longstanding classic in Emirgan, having been in operation since 1986. Situated on Sakıp Sabancı Street, nestled between the museum and Emirgan Mosque, the establishment offers a variety of breakfast dishes such as honey clotted cream, brioche, and fried eggs. Additionally, Sütiş presents a diverse menu featuring Turkish pastries, burgers, meatballs, and chicken pilaf.
For those seeking street flavors in Emirgan, Çınar Buffet remains a consistent choice. Located at the entrance of Hekim Ata Street, the buffet provides options like menemen and various toasts. With a splendid Bosphorus view and friendly owners, Çınar Buffet embodies a welcoming family business atmosphere.
Cafe Boyacıköy is a stylish coffee and food and beverage place between 2-3 storey buildings on Fırın Street No 36. It has a calm and peaceful atmosphere and a menu prepared with natural products. In addition to snacks such as cookies, sandwiches and cheesecakes, it also serves pizza, pasta and salads.
Beam Bakes stands as Emirgan's café specializing in gluten-free, sugar-free, and health-conscious flavors, predominantly featuring cakes and sweet snacks.
Situated on Muvakkithane Street in Çınaraltı, Filia Emirgan Köftecisi is a modest meatball restaurant celebrated for its delicious meatballs and pickles, despite having a limited menu.
Moving on to Kardeşim Mantı in Çınaraltı, the establishment boasts an antique shop-inspired interior, offering delightful mantı (Turkish dumplings) and maintaining a friendly staff.
Zeyta, located on Emirgan Mektebi Street, started as an olive oil and wine house, evolving into a bar-restaurant that now serves breakfast, pizza, cheese plates, hosts wine tastings, and features jazz concerts.
For a more upscale experience, La Boom is an elegant restaurant positioned at No 14 Sakıp Sabancı Street, offering a picturesque view of the Bosphorus. Serving classic dishes and cocktails, it provides a sophisticated dining atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Taş Kahve, situated directly across from the Emirgan pier, opens early in the morning for breakfast, boasting an exquisite view and serving a diverse selection of world cuisine, including the option of hookah for enthusiasts.
Fishermen and taverns in Emirgan
Angel Blue is a seafood restaurant situated at No. 5 Sakıp Sabancı Street, right by the sea. At this location, you practically have the Bosphorus at your feet. Furthermore, the restaurant features a spacious garden with well-spaced and comfortable tables, making it a fully-fledged seafood establishment offering delectable appetizers and a selection of alcoholic beverages.
Transportation to Emirgan
In earlier times, Emirgan was exclusively accessible by boat due to the absence of roads. However, nowadays, reaching Emirgan is feasible both by sea and land. Apart from the Bosphorus Line, various ferry routes such as Bebek-Emirgan Line, Çengelköy-İstinye Line, and Rumelikavağı-Eminönü Line have stops at Emirgan. The current schedule can be verified at www.sehirhatlari.istanbul.
If you opt for IETT Municipality buses as your mode of transportation, alighting at the Emirgan-Çınaraltı stop is recommended. The bus lines consistently servicing this stop include 22RE Kabataş-Reşitpaşa, 25E Kabataş-Sarıyer, 22 Kabataş-İstinye Dereiçi, 40 Taksim-Sarıyer, 40T Taksim-İstinye Dereiçi, and 42T Taksim-Bahçeköy. Additionally, you have the option to utilize the 59RH Rumeli Hisarüstü-İstinye line, which passes through Hacıosman Metro, as well as the EL1 and EL2 lines providing 4th Levent Metro ring services.
If you walk to Istinye Bayırı intersection, you can find buses to Mecidiyeköy and minibuses to 4th Levent Metro station.
If you want to come by private car, you can take the coastal road from Beşiktaş or the Istinye road (Katar Street) from Maslak.
There is another unusual but very enjoyable way to reach Emirgan; It is also boat rental. It is possible to rent hourly among the charter yachts anchored in Bebek, Kuruçeşme or Arnavutköy. You can get on your yacht that you rented from here, you can take a Bosphorus tour for 2 hours or all day, you can choose Emirgan as your last stop and explore the district by land.