Ortaköy, Bosphorus, Istanbul

Ortaköy, once literally “the village in the middle” (orta) of the European Bosphorus shore 8 km (5 miles) northeast of Sultanahmet (map), is now among Istanbul‘s coolest, chic-est, most artsy neighborhoods, with trendy boutiques, atmospheric cafés and bistrots, and crowds of young, sophisticated residents and visitors.

It’s a good place to stop for tea or coffee, a snack or a meal, a stroll, some boutique window-shopping or a rest, particularly if you’ve spent the morning on a Bosphorus cruise north to Sariyer.

If it’s a Sunday, expect an impromptu street marketof artists displaying their wares for admiration and (they hope) sale.

It doesn’t jump out at you, but Ortaköy has a lot of history.

If you descend from a bus or minibus at Osmanzade Sokak, you’re right near the Etz Ahayim Synagogue, with the steeple and bell tower of a small Orthodox church not far away.

Walk east on Osmanzade to get to the Bosphorus shore and Ortaköy’s most famous landmark: the Büyük Mecidiye Camii (Grand Imperial Mosque of Sultan Abdülmecid I), usually called simply the Ortaköy Camii(Ortaköy Mosque), almost in the water on the BosphorusEuropean shore, a late example of Istanbul’s imperial mosques.

The eclectic-Baroque mosque (1854) is the work of architect Nikogos Balyan, the designer of Dolmabahçe Palace, a scion of the famous Armenian family of imperial architects. Within the mosque hang several masterful examples of Arabic calligraphy executed by Sultan Abdülmecid I (1839-1861) himself, who was an accomplished calligrapher.

In June 2014, the restoration work on the Ortaköy Mosque was completed and it was again opened to worshippers and the public.

Coffeehouses and tea terraces overlooking the water fill the seaside next to the mosque now as they have for decades—perhaps centuries—and are one of Ortaköy‘s prime attractions.

On weekends, vehicular traffic along the Bosphorus shore road can be extremely heavy and slow, so midday on weekdays is the best time to visit Ortaköy.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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