As the sun sets in Istanbul, its yellow light blazes on the waters of the Golden Horn, giving this freshwater estuary its romantic name…we think. (The name in English is a direct translation of the Byzantine name Chrysokeras.)
“Golden Horn” is its Western name. Its Turkish name, Haliç, (hah-LEECH, from Arabic) has nothing to do with gold or horns. Haliç, short for Haliç-i Dersaadet, means “The Bay of Istanbul.”
The Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn at its mouth, connecting Eminönü and Sirkeci in Old Istanbul(centered on Sultanahmet) to the south with Karaköy(Galata) and Beyoğlu (Pera) to the north. (You can get a great fish sandwich here.) More…
Although the new M2 Metro bridge blocks distant views up the Golden Horn from the Galata Bridge, it also affords wonderful views of historic Istanbul that were never seen before, its great buildings in new configurations and juxtapositions.
The Atatürk Bridge spans the Golden Horn farther to the west, as does the elevated expressway bridge(Haliç Köprüsü) yet farther west.
A Bit of History
This short river/estuary may have gotten its romantic “golden” name because it was the commercial heart of the city, serving as the principal harbor of Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul for 2000 years, until the mid-20th century. Markets still abound here, and the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce has its offices here.
View Golden Horn (Haliç), Istanbul, Turkey in a larger map
In Byzantine times, Italian city-states had colonies on its shores, and the southern end of the Galata Bridge at Eminönü was a Karaite Jewish quarter. In later times, Rüstem Pasha, grand vezir to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, built his exquisite small mosque here.
In Ottoman times, Sephardic Jews fleeing the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition were welcomed into the empire and settled at Balat and Hasköy on the Golden Horn. (For more, see Jewish Sites in Turkey.)
European trains to Istanbul no longer arrive at Sirkeci Station, but international cruise ships and ferries still arrive at the Yolcu Salonu in Karaköy (Galata) to the north across the mouth of the Golden Horn.
—by Tom Brosnahan