Once home to itinerant sailors, in recent years Karaköy has been attracting a lot of attention. The section east of Galata Bridge already boasts an eclectic collection of cafes, bars and galleries. However I prefer the area to the west of the bridge. There among the iron mongers and hardware sellers an older Istanbul waits to be discovered.
Here a wonderful rabbit warren of lively backstreets is bounded by the majesty of Bankalar Caddesi, the street of banks, and Tersane Caddesi, shipyard street. Behind you are the shores of the Golden Horn, in front set on the hill are grand Ottoman style late 19th and early 20th century bank buildings. At their base, tucked behind ramshackle shops sits the Arab Mosque, so called because it was taken over by a colony of Moors expelled from Spain in the 16th century. The building was believed to have originally been built in 1323-1337 by the Dominicans and dedicated to St Dominic. Built on the site of a chapel dedicated to St Paul it has an imposing tall square tower with pyramid roof. If you have the opportunity, go on Friday after midday prayers. The courtyard comes alive with worshipers and afterwards you can explore the simple rectangular interior in silent contemplation.
A few streets along you come to Perşembe Pazar Sokağı. The name most likely refers to a street market that would have been held here every Thursday. These days it is worth the visit to see the old stone houses dating back to the 18th century. Grotty and grimy and rather worse for wear they are still in use. Take the time to stand on a corner and soak up the industry, but make sure you keep out of the way of the trucks, porters and delivery boys!
If all that walking makes you hungry keep an eye out for a workman’s café. Many of the old buildings are home to these eateries offering simple but tasty servings of kebab sandwiches with a refreshing cup of ayran Turkey’s traditional yoghurt drink. If you prefer something more upmarket cross over the busy Kemeraltı Caddesi (Six Belt Road) to the eastern side of Karaköy and try one of the many fashionable eateries there.
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