Istanbul’s bustling waterside neighborhood of Ortakoy buzzes with the energy of bars, restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs. The main sight here is the Ortakoy Mosque (Ortaköy Cami), a 19th-century structure featuring a blend of baroque and neoclassical influences. Behind it, the Bosphorus Bridge looms, connecting the old Istanbul with the new.
Historically, Ortakoy was home to a mix of Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish residents. Now the area is primarily Muslim, but churches and synagogues still dot the neighborhood. The mark of the Ottoman Empire remains in Ortakoy at the Ciragan Palace (Çırağan Sarayı), an exquisite building on the Bosphorus that currently houses a luxurious hotel.
Many small-group and private tours that include Bosphorus cruises call at Ortakoy. Tours to Ortakoy usually also visit Dolmabahce Palace, the Spice Bazaar, Anadolu Kavagi, Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisarı), and more.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ortakoy is a must-visit for architecture and history buffs.
- Wear comfortable shoes to stroll around the neighborhood.
- If you want to visit the synagogue in Ortakoy, you must obtain permission in advance from the head rabbi.
How to Get There
Ortakoy is on the European side of Istanbul, a short distance from the Besiktas ferry pier. You can walk or take a bus from there to Ortakoy. You can also take the tram to Kabatas and get a bus from there, or take a bus from/to Taksim Square. The neighborhood is located along the major shore road, and taxis are easy to find.
When to Get There
Ortakoy is calm and quiet in the morning. By the afternoon and evening, Ortakoy becomes much more active. To beat the crowds, arrive earlier in the day. Traffic to Ortakoy can get congested around rush hour from 5pm to 8pm, so if you are arriving in a vehicle, it’s best to set out before or after that time.
Kumpir in Ortakoy
Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood is famous for its waterside kumpir stands. Kumpir is a baked potato stuffed with cheese, vegetables, meze, meat, and whatever else you choose. As you select your fillings, the kumpir maker will construct your potato in front of you. Then head to a bench by the water and enjoy your tasty snack with a view.