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Istanbul: Beyoğlu and Beşiktaş

When in Istanbul last October, I stayed in Beyoğlu. Historically known as Pera (which means “beyond” in Greek), this was a predominantly Christian area surrounding the coastal town of Galata that faced Constantinople across the Golden Horn. It has become the entertainment and nightlife focal point of Istanbul in modern times, but its past “outsider” status contributed to the fact that it has way fewer must-see highlights than the old city.

Galata Tower stands practically alone in that. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of Istanbul and by far the most important architectural monument found on this side of the Golden Horn. In its current form, it dates from the mid-14th century.
Istanbul
The builders of the tower belonged to the Genoese colony that existed in the Galata area between the 13th century and the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The tower is one of the vestiges of the Genoese trading routes with a tentative entry on the WH list. It is also in the top five most popular tourist sights in all of the city, with the lines to ascend to its upper terrace hours-long at practically all times. My hotel was just around the corner from the tower but I never found a good time to beat the lines. While I haven’t set foot in the tower proper, it is a focal point of so many of my photographs that I certainly consider it a visited sight.

Here is a sequence of angles from near the mouth of the Golden Horn, the first of which includes the Galata Bridge in the foreground.
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
The other prominent high structure in the above perspectives is not really a point of interest – an Art Nouveau building that houses medical facilities.

You can actually find a number of Art Nouveau examples in Beyoğlu. One of the most well-known is the Kamondo Staircase.
Istanbul
Colorful stairs are nearby as well.
Istanbul
As are occasional murals, of which I only have this example moderately worthy of inclusion.
Istanbul
I had an inclination to spend one early morning in Istanbul specifically walking around Beyoğlu to photograph picturesque pockets in Galataport or around İstiklal, but never followed through on that. And I am rarely keen to take shots with my phone camera. So, despite spending hours on strolls in this part of Istanbul, I have limited output to present.

Nonetheless, two of my phone pictures. The first is roughly the same perspective as in the opening shot of this set but taken at night when the tower was lit in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the modern Turkish Republic.
Istanbul
The other features the historic tram whose route traverses İstiklal Street from the edge of Galata to Taksim Square.
Istanbul
Very popular and always jam-packed.

My evening photo session on the Galata Bridge that I mentioned in the Fatih post included a few shots of the Galata Tower as well. There is clearly no such thing as too many pictures of a great sight, is there?
Istanbul
Istanbul
The modern Golden Horn Metro Bridge as seen from the same vantage point.
Istanbul
You don’t have to climb up the Galata Tower for elevated views of Istanbul. Plenty of hotels and restaurants in the city have their own roof terraces with fantastic vistas. In fact, the hotel I was staying at had such a terrace, which I took advantage of both for breakfasts and for a bit of photography. Here is the wide perspective towards Fatih, with the Golden Horn Metro Bridge at the right of the frame.
Istanbul
That is far from the best of shots, but nonetheless, there is Hagia Sofia on the left, the cluster of Blue Mosque’s minarets to the right of it, the New Mosque by the waterfront in the middle-left part of the frame, Nuruosmaniye and Beyazıt Mosques further back on the ridge, Beyazıt fire-watch tower, Süleymaniye Mosque with its four minarets, and finally Şehzade Mosque on the very right. Here are a few close-ups.
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
And we certainly have not had enough of the Galata Tower, so here it is as seen from the hotel’s terrace.
Istanbul
To the northeast of Beyoğlu along the side of the Bosporus, lies the district of Beşiktaş, where I went to see a couple of specific points of interest. One was the Dolmabahçe Palace, a 19th-century Baroque/Neoclassical complex that feels as un-Ottoman as they come. There is no photography allowed inside the grand palace, so here is a selection of exterior and grounds pictures.
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
For another glimpse of Hagia Sofia, look closely at the left edge of the above frame.

Among the loveliest mosques in Istanbul is the deceptively named for its size Grand Mecidiye Mosque (also known as Ortaköy by the name of the seaside square that it sits upon).
Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul
The following couple of shots around Ortaköy Square are included to illustrate my overall impression that streets of Istanbul rarely raise to the level of truly picturesque. Outside of the main points of interest, the city is just ok, rather than visually impressive.
Istanbul
Istanbul
We’ll cross the Bosporus for a few more sights and perspectives in the next installment.