Topkapı Palace (Europe)
Maiden’s Tower (mid-Bosphorus)
A 12th-century Byzantine fortress occupied the tiny islet where the 18th-century Kız Kulesi (also called Leander’s Tower) now stands. A tower here may have served as a customs post. Featured in the James Bond movie From Russia With Love, the tower now houses a restaurant.
The largest Asian district, directly across the Bosphorus from Istanbul and Beyoğlu, Üsküdar (Scutari) was once ByzantineChrysopolis, the “City of Gold.” Byzantine armies mustered here for expeditions into Asia along the fine Roman roads that started here. Ottoman armies did the same.
Üsküdar is now an important commercial and residential district of greater Istanbul. The large four-towered rectangular building south of Üsküdar is the Selimiye Barracks (1828, 1842-53) which served as a military hospital during the Crimean War (1855-56). It was here that Florence Nightingale worked to establish the practices of modern nursing and hospital care. More…
Dolmabahçe Palace (Europe)
Çirağan Palace (Europe)
Palace No. 3: Finished in 1874, the marble palace of Çirağan(CHEE-rah-AHN) has a tragic history. Sultan Abdül Aziz died here (1876) under suspicious circumstances a few days after he had been deposed. His nephew Murat V and family were imprisoned here in squalor by Abdül Hamit II. In 1910, when in use as the Ottoman parliament building, the palace was totally destroyed by fire. Fully restored, it now houses meeting rooms and suites for the neighboring Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel.
Yıldız Park & Palace(Europe)
Palace No. 4: The swath of green forest behind Çirağan is Yıldız (“Star”) Park. At the top of the hill, hidden in the trees, is the Şale (“chalet”) Kiosk, a 50-room alpine chalet favored by the secretive Sultan Abdül Hamit II. Smaller “kiosks” (small palaces) are set elsewhere in the forest. More…
Ortaköy & Mecidiye Mosque (Europe)
You’ve probably seen photos of the Mecidiye Mosque (1854), the graceful Ottoman baroque mosque standing by the western pylon of the Bosphorus Bridge. The quaint Bosphorus town of Ortaköy is now filled with chic galleries, cafés, boutiques, bars and clubs—a good place to stop for a drink or a meal if you tour the Bosphorus on land. More…
Ever since the Persian emperor Darius built his bridge of boats acoss the Bosphorus in 490 BC, rulers of Istanbul have dreamt of a bridge between Europe and Asia. It was opened in 1973 on the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic and put an end to decades of car-ferry traffic delays. Tolls paid for it in record time, and another bridge, the Fatih, was built to its north.
In 2017, a third bridge, the Yavuz Sultan Selim, was opened closer to the Black Sea. In 2016 the Eurasia Tunnel, a vehicular tunnel beneath the Bosphorus, connected Old Istanbul in Europe with Kadıköy on the Asian Shore.
Beylerbeyi Palace (Asia)
—by Tom Brosnahan