Istinye: The safe port of the Bosphorus

In mythology, there is a tale about the Bosphorus involving Zeus, the god of gods, and a lovely maiden named Io. Zeus, in an illicit affair with Io, transforms her into a cow to conceal her from his wife Hera. However, Hera discovers the truth and sends a horsefly to afflict the cow. Fleeing from the fly, the cow plunges into the Marmara via the Black Sea, navigating the Bosphorus. Interestingly, as the cow shakes its horns to rid itself of the fly, it shatters a mountain, giving rise to the formation of the Golden Horn. This narrative lends the name "Golden Horn" to the inlet and "Bosphorus" to the strait. Now, regarding İstinye's connection to this story, it's believed that Io, in her beauty, might have tossed the horn onto the land in İstinye. When examining İstinye on a map, the sea extends into the land, resembling a horn. This association has led to İstinye being commonly referred to as the "Little Golden Horn" in various sources.

Thanks to this deep and sheltered recess, Istinye is one of the safest natural harbors on the Bosphorus. For this reason, many civilizations throughout history have kept their eyes on Istinye.

Argonauts, Russians, Byzantines, Ottomans... History of the neighborhood

The ancient name of Istinye was Leosthenion. Later it was called Lasthenes and in the middle ages Sosthenion. These names are thought to mean the safe bay of Goddess Athena. In the Byzantine period, the region took the names Stenos and Stenia.

Istinye holds significance in the legendary tale of Jason (Iasson) and the Argonauts. Following the Argonauts' triumph over the Bebrik king Amyknos, Jason and his companions erected a temple in Istinye. To provide context, Jason was the leader of 55 courageous Argonauts who embarked on a mythological journey to the Black Sea in pursuit of the golden fleece. It is likely that their adventure set sail from Istinye.

The temple constructed by the Argonauts underwent a transformation during the Byzantine era, evolving into the Church of Constantine. In that same period, Istinye witnessed the construction of the Michaelion Church and Monastery. While the original Michaelion Church no longer stands today, the Taksiarhi Greek Orthodox Church was erected in its place during subsequent times.

Throughout its history, Istinye has faced attacks from various forces, including Bulgarians, Huns, Russians, and Kazakhs. It has consistently held strategic significance as a crucial port for civilizations such as the Goths, Megarians, Genoese, Bebriks, Byzantines, and Ottomans. The presence of lime quarries in the area further contributed to its importance. The neighborhood experienced growth during the Ottoman era, marked by the construction of a külliye commissioned by Neslişah Sultan, the granddaughter of Bayezid II. By the 18th century, the coastline saw the emergence of mansions and palaces, adding to the historical tapestry of Istinye.

Istinye according to Evliya Çelebi

The 17th-century renowned explorer, Evliya Çelebi, noted the following about Istinye: "The expansive harbor accommodates a thousand ships. In the village situated on the west side of the port, comprising a thousand houses, residences of both Greek and Muslim inhabitants are interspersed. The locale features three mosques, seven masjids, a bathhouse, and twenty shops. Notably, there are no inns, madrasahs, or imarets, but the area boasts numerous vineyards and gardens. A significant portion of the less affluent residents are involved in viticulture, while others make a livelihood through fishing in the harbor."”

Istinye in the Republican period

In 1912, the Istinye Shipyard was inaugurated, marking Istinye's entry into the industrial landscape of Istanbul. Subsequently, during the Republican era, Istinye underwent industrialization, emerging as one of the city's industrial zones due to its proximity to the center of Istanbul. The Istinye valley saw the establishment of significant factories. Concurrently, this period witnessed unplanned urbanization, giving rise to informal settlements. Naturally, the makeshift dwellings constructed on state-owned land without proper authorization at the time have since transformed into apartment buildings through zoning amnesties. The impoverished workers from that era have now become affluent real estate owners in Istinye.

In the 1990s, industrial facilities were removed from the area and İstinye gained its current appearance.

The most authentic place in Istinye: Istinye Square

İstinye Square, situated at the entrance of Çayır Street, stands out as one of the most tranquil and authentic corners in İstinye. Resembling a quaint village square, it features the Ahmet Şemseddin Efendi Fountain beneath expansive plane trees, surrounded by various establishments including cafes, tea shops, kiosks, pharmacies, stationeries, and restaurants. The square opens onto İstinye Street, providing a picturesque view of the sea and the İstinye Boat Park. Amidst the bustling atmosphere of Istanbul, this small square serves as a remedy, offering a distinct ambiance akin to another facet of the city. Despite the consistent pedestrian traffic, given its proximity to the Istinye State Hospital on the main street, the square retains a serene atmosphere without causing inconvenience.

A short walk on the beach

Istinye beach stands out as a delightful location for a leisurely stroll. While the coastline may be shorter compared to other Bosphorus neighborhoods, the walk is particularly enjoyable, likely owing to the presence of the Boat Park. Additionally, the trees lining the shore offer welcome shade. With cafes and tea gardens dotting the roadside, you have the opportunity to sit by the sea, unwind, engage in a game of backgammon, and enjoy a drink along with a toast. The landscape, reminiscent of a forest in Emirgan Grove, adds a unique touch to the beach scenery.

Istinye- Çubuklu Car Ferry Line

A remarkable feature of İstinye is the ease of crossing to the Anatolian side via a car ferry. With the exception of Harem-Sirkeci, there is no other intra-city car ferry line in Istanbul. Utilizing this ferry offers a delightful experience, particularly on warm summer days, as it allows you to bypass bridge traffic and traverse the Bosphorus while enjoying the splendid view from the ferry terrace. The car ferry pier is located at Tokmak Burnu.

Important buildings and architectural works you should see in İstinye

Istinye diverges from its neighboring districts along the Bosphorus shore, notably functioning as a significant industrial hub. The area displays a somewhat less organized and more neglected character. As you stroll through the streets, the impact of swift informal settlements becomes apparent. Nevertheless, you will come across numerous historical artifacts, buildings, and charming places that are sure to delight discovery enthusiasts:

Neslişah Sultan Mosque

The Neslişah Sultan Mosque, positioned on Değirmen Street, merely a 5-minute walk from the İstinye-Çubuklu car ferry pier, stands as the inaugural mosque of Istinye. Constructed in 1540 by Neslişah Sultan, the granddaughter of Bayezid II, she was the daughter of Gevherimüluk Sultan, Bayezid II's daughter, and Dukakinoğlu Mehmed Pasha. Initially recognized as the Kurşunlu Mosque, this complex was the first establishment on the Bosphorus, featuring a mosque, school, fountain, shadervan, well, and harem. Unfortunately, in 1957, it was dismantled to make way for road construction. Subsequently rebuilt on the remaining land, it lost some of its architectural historical characteristics. Nevertheless, the mosque exudes a serene atmosphere that remains palpable when you visit.

There are only women's graves in the hazira (small cemetery) in the courtyard of the mosque. Neslişah Sultan's grave is also here. The mosque is also unusual in that it is the only temple in Istanbul where only women are buried in the cemetery.

Opposite the mosque is the İstinye Bath (Neslişah Sultan Bath) built by Gazi Semiz Ali Pasha. However, this bath is in such a neglected state that it hurts your heart.

The inscription positioned above the door arch of the mosque bears the inscription "Lillahi kane hayren (a source of charity for Allah) 947 (1540/1541)". Within the mosque, a detailed (foundation specification) is engraved on marble, elucidating that Neslişah Sultan was the builder, establishing a foundation to sustain the mosque's services, and outlining how the mosque's expenses would be covered through rental income generated by this foundation. This inscription holds significant value in elucidating the 16th-century foundation system.

Adjacent to the mosque's garden gate stands the Abdülhamit Han Fountain, constructed by Sultan Abdülhamit I in 1782. This fountain is also worthy of exploration and admiration.

Istinye Bath (Neslişah Sultan Bath)

Situated at the crossroads of Hamam Street and Değirmen Street, across from the Neslişah Sultan Mosque, the bath was constructed by Gazi Ali Pasha in 1460. Having served for over 600 years and withstanding the test of time, this historic edifice ceased its operations in 2019. The neglected hammam's dome and ancient stone walls are visible from the side facing Hamam Street. During the Ottoman era, this bath was frequently visited by beggars in the vicinity, earning it the colloquial name Dilenciler Hamamı "Beggars' Bath" among the locals.

Taksiarhi Greek Orthodox Church

Nestled within the residences along Çapari Street, this church has its origins dating back to the years 324-337, initially constructed by Byzantine Emperor Constantine I in honor of the archangel Michael. Originally named the Michaelion Church and Monastery, it underwent a reconstruction initiated by Russian sailors in 1820. However, due to various challenges, including wars, the project was delayed, and the church was only fully completed and consecrated for worship in 1938. Presently, the church, with a modest congregation, remains open to visitors.

Ahmet Şemseddin Efendi Fountain

Situated at the heart of İstinye Square, this fountain was constructed in 1767 by Ahmet Şemseddin Efendi. The fountain features four sides and a spacious overhang adorned with graceful motifs. Each side of the fountain bears a concise inscription. In 1926, Mrs. Trandil Şem'-i Nûr, a convert to Islam, undertook the restoration of the fountain.

Istinye Pier

Located on İskele Çıkmazı Street, the final lane leading towards the seaside just before the onset of Yeniköy Köybaşı Street when heading down İstinye Street, this pier is discreetly nestled amidst the trees of Ido Park. While the pier itself lacks historical importance, the panoramic view it offers is truly stunning.

Iskele Fountain

Situated across from the İstinye ferry pier, this fountain was initially erected in 1908 within a cemetery. In 1958, it was relocated from the cemetery to its current position on İskele Çıkmazı Street. The fountain, with an unknown builder, bears an inscription featuring a segment from the 21st verse of Surah al-Human: "Wa sekahüm Rabbüküm sharaben tahura (1326) / Their Lord has made them drink a pure drink."

Hacı Bayram Kaptan Fountain

Constructed in the year 1900, the fountain now stands at İstinye Street No. 84, positioned alongside the garden wall of the Lion Pavilion. Adorned with sun and branch motifs on its marble surfaces, the fountain bears a concise inscription in Arabic letters: "Rizeli Hacı Bayram Kaptan's benevolent contribution, al-fatiha for his soul."

Müşir Deli Fuat Pasha Mansion

Tokmakburnu, situated beneath Emirgan Grove and connected to Istinye, is a small coastal area. Along this coastline, you'll find the İstinye-Çubuklu ferry pier and the renowned Müşir Deli Fuat Paşa Mansion. To reach this distinguished mansion, take the last exit on Sabanci Avenue to the right while traveling from Emirgan to Istinye. However, from the land side, the mansion may not be visible as it currently serves as the Istanbul Representative Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requiring passage through a security gate for entry. Yet, from the seaside, the red-walled mansion, showcasing neo-classical architecture, will greet you with its grandeur and beauty.

Constructed in 1897 by the Iranian ambassador Muhsin Han, the mansion later changed hands several times. Billuri Mehmet Efendi, who served as the Minister of Post and Telegraph from 1855 to 1860, became the second owner. The third owner was Hussein, the Sheriff of Mecca, known for initiating the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire alongside Lawrence of Arabia. The final owner was Müşir Fuat Pasha, born in 1835 and passing away in 1931. Fuat Pasha, a valiant military leader, earned the nickname "mad" due to his habit of leading his soldiers from the front in various wars. The title "Müşir" translates to marshal, representing the highest rank attainable by a soldier. Pasha, respected by foes and cherished by the public, notably fought against the Russians and achieved victories during the Ottoman Empire's decline. He faced a death sentence during Abdülhamit II's reign but later received a pardon and returned to palace service. Despite having 18 children, Pasha, at the age of 77, returned to the front during the Balkan Wars, losing three sons in the conflicts within four years. In his later years, he experienced a descent into madness and eventually passed away in the mentioned mansion. His heirs sold the property to the Maritime Roads Administration, and subsequently, the building came under the possession of the treasury, currently serving as the Istanbul Representative Office for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That's why you can't see the mansion from the land side. However, if you want to watch this unique mansion, which stands alone in the forest overlooking the sea, and feel the spirit of those times, you can try the yacht charter option. The red-walled Müşir Deli Fuat Pasha Mansion with neo-classical architecture will greet you with all its majesty and beauty.

Recaizade Mansion

Pigeon, an engineer associated with the Paşabahçe glass factory, constructed this mansion near the İstinye Ferry pier. Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem acquired the property from Pigeon for 600 gold coins. Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem, known as the author of the first realist novel in Turkish literature, "Araba Sevdası," hailed from a well-established family. His father, Recaizade Mehmet Şakir Efendi, served as the Minister of the Calendar House and was a poet, calligrapher, and chronicler. Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem, who also worked as a literature teacher at Galatasaray Sultanisi and Mülkiye Mektebi, frequently convened with friends in this mansion, where the inception of Servet-i Fünun literature occurred, earning it the moniker "Writers' Mansion" in the early 20th century. Due to baseless accusations made against him to Abdülhamit II, Recaizade Mahmut found himself in a challenging situation and had to part with his mansion. Presently, the mansion is under the ownership of a private company.

Faik Bey and Pakize Hanım Mansion

Erected in the latter part of the 19th century, this mansion stands out as one of the most refined structures along the Bosphorus. Positioned at the entrance of Köybaşı Street on the route from İstinye to Emirgan, the mansion was originally constructed by Faik Bey, the Mutasarrıf of Gümüşhane, during the Ottoman era. Mutasarrıf denotes the administrator of regions known as sanjaks in the Ottoman period. Subsequently, the mansion was acquired by Pakize Hanım, leading to its current designation as Faik Bey and Pakize Hanım Mansion. The lower floor of the mansion features masonry, while the upper floors, initially entirely wooden, underwent conversion to reinforced concrete with a wooden covering. The top floor boasts a charming balcony extending towards the sea. The balcony's upper pediment bears the inscription "Ya Malik'el-mülk - God is the owner of the property" in Arabic letters. Today, the structure serves as an apartment building with a total of 6 apartments.

Aslanlı Mansion ( The South Africa Honorary Consulate)

The Aslanlı Mansion, where the once famous businessman Halis Toprak once lived, consists of a large garden of approximately 9000 m2 on İstinye Street and the mansion inside. Seized in 2009 by the SDIF, the Aslanlı Mansion changed hands in 2016. Today, the gate of the mansion reads "Honorary Consulate of South Africa".

Istinye Park Shopping Center

Situated on Katar Street atop the hills of Istinye, Istinye Park stands as one of the most upscale shopping centers not only in Istinye but also throughout Istanbul. Renowned for hosting luxury and exclusive brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermes, Rolex, Gucci, Cartier, and Fendi, this shopping destination attracts numerous visitors seeking high-end retail experiences. Many individuals specifically come to Istinye to explore this prestigious shopping center, and it's not uncommon to encounter well-known figures from the realms of art, sports, and the media during a visit.

Istinye and gastronomy

Istinye is a neighborhood that falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to its culinary scene. Unlike areas like Bebek or Arnavutköy, it doesn't boast a plethora of widely recognized restaurants. However, you won't find yourself hungry in this neighborhood, as it offers a diverse range of dining options to suit various preferences. İstinye Street and its side streets, particularly around İstinye Square, feature numerous artisanal eateries, kokoreç shops, börek shops, and pide shops. In the following list, we've gathered some noteworthy places for you to explore.

Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Istinye

There are many cafes and restaurants for every taste within İstinye Park Shopping Center such as Nusr-Et Steakhouse, Günaydın Steakhouse, Mezzaluna, Da Mario, Zuma, Far East.

Cafe Sadık stands out as one of the favored cafes in İstinye, offering patrons the option to enjoy an outdoor setting along the seaside with a picturesque view of Istinye Boat Park. Notably, tea and toast are among the most popular choices at this café.

Another notable establishment is IBB Istinye Social Facilities, a well-received café-restaurant in the area. This venue serves breakfast in the morning and presents a menu featuring Turkish and international dishes for lunch and dinner. Positioned with a view overlooking the Bosphorus and Emirgan Grove, the establishment is under the ownership of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, ensuring reasonable prices and maintaining high standards of hygiene and taste.

Marina Lounge, situated at İstinye Street No. 28, is a versatile establishment encompassing a café-bar and restaurant with an open-air garden providing a scenic sea view. The day kicks off with breakfast service, and the menu features a variety of popular dishes including burgers, wraps, pizza, tortellini, salads, fajitas, as well as an array of cocktails and alcoholic beverages. Some evenings are adorned with live music performances, and there are opportunities to catch match broadcasts.

Meanwhile, Liman Cafe Lounge, located at İstinye Street No. 6, adjacent to the Petrol Office, boasts a sea and Boat Park view like other establishments on the street. Beyond offering breakfast, burgers, pizza, pasta, and assorted delicacies, it also provides hookah service. Additionally, patrons can enjoy match broadcasts and games like okey at this venue.

Fishermen and taverns in Istinye

Palet Balıkçıl is a decent fish restaurant with a sea view at İstinye Street They also serve appetizers and alcohol. The fish kokoreci and fish soup are very popular.

As you can see, the food and beverage options in İstinye are really limited. However, there is another option where you can have a nice breakfast in the middle of the sea off the coast of İstinye, have a lunch or dinner prepared with meat and fish varieties, and even organize special celebrations; Yacht charter. Thus, you can experience the pleasure of seeing both the beauties of İstinye and the Bosphorus districts such as Emirgan, Yeniköy, Bebek and Kanlıca from the sea. Options such as hourly and daily yacht charters will give you and your loved ones unforgettable moments.

Transportation to Istinye

Not everyone's budget may be suitable for chartering a yacht on the Bosphorus. Therefore, we can say that another enjoyable means of transportation from the sea is the ferries of the City Lines. İstinye Ferry Pier is still actively working. You can check the schedules for various ferry lines such as Çengelköy-Istinye, Küçüksu-Istinye, Eminönü-Anadolu Kavağı, Rumeli Kavağı-Eminönü, and Kadıköy-Sarıyer at Additionally, the Istinye-Çubuklu Car Ferry Line provides another enjoyable option for reaching Istinye, whether with your private car or on foot, with services running from 07:00 in the morning until 21:00 in the evening.

Istinye is accessible via municipal buses (IETT), including routes such as 29Ş Şişli Istinye Dereiçi, 40T Istinye Dereiçi - Taksim, 22 Istinye Dereiçi - Kabataş, 25C Tarabyaüstü / Ferahevler - Istinye, 29T Tarabyaüstü / Darüşşafaka - Istinye, 59RH Rumeli Hisarüstü - Hacıosman Metro, 29M1 Hacıosman Metro - Ferahevler / İstinye, 29M2 Hacıosman Metro - İstinye / Ferahevler, 41C Ayazağa - Sarıyer, and 42 Bahçeköy / Ferahevler - Zincirlikuyu Metrobus lines. Additionally, you can reach Istinye by taking the metro to ITU Ayazaga Station and then using the buses departing from there.

Furthermore, all minibuses from Zincirlikuyu, Levent, and Tarabya that make stops at ITU Ayazaga station also pass through Istinye. If you prefer private transportation, the quickest route is to reach Maslak via Büyükdere Street and descend to the coast through Katar Street. Keep in mind that traffic may be slower along the coastal road.