Besiktas is the most popular district of Istanbul and also a transportation hub between the European and Asian sides. Besiktas district is famous for its fish market, palaces, luxury hotels and football team.
The name of the district of Besiktas comes from a legend dating back to the Byzantine period. According to tradition, parts of the cradle of Jesus were brought from Bethlehem to a church here.
This sacred treasure was later transferred to Hagia Sophia and stolen during the Sack of Constantinople (IV Crusade) in 1204. The word “Besik” in the name of the district means cradle in Turkish.
As a local tour guide, I can say that the touristic districts of Istanbul, Besiktas, Beyoglu (aka Taksim) and Kadikoy (Asian Side), have common aspects and are the most entertaining places in the city.
In each of these districts, there is a “Fish Market” where locals shop. The streets surrounding the fish markets are known for their delicious street food, traditional Turkish restaurants, famous dessert shops and taverns (meyhane).
Although tourists coming to the city focus on Sultanahmet, where historical monuments are located, they should also visit these districts in order to have a local experience and observe the daily life of Istanbulites.
Things to Do in Besiktas 2022
Things to do in Besiktas include visiting palaces, mosques and museums. In addition, you can taste street food like a local at Besiktas Fish Market. You can have a wonderful Turkish breakfast in Ortakoy, drink coffee with the Bosphorus view in Bebek and shop in the famous boutiques of Etiler.
Most of those staying in Istanbul come to Besiktas from Beyoglu or Sultanahmet. In that case, the first place they will arrive in the district will be Kabatas Tram Station. Kabatas can also be reached by ferry from the Asian side.
The places to visit in the article start from Kabatas, located in the south-west of Besiktas, and continue along the shores of the Bosphorus in the north-east direction. Thus, it will be easy to follow the sights on the map.
Besiktas district is surrounded by Sariyer on the shores of the Bosphorus in the north, Sisli in the west and Beyoglu in the south. Along the eastern borders of the district are the shores of the Bosphorus.
1. Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace is the largest and most beautiful of the late Ottoman period palaces. Neo-Classical and Baroque influence is clearly seen in the palace built in the 19th century.
Dolmabahce Palace is located in a very central place. You can take the Tram T1 from Sultanahmet or the Funicular F1 from Taksim Square to Kabatas Tram Stop and walk to the palace from there.
Dolmabahce Palace and Vodafone Arena Stadium of Besiktas Football Club are adjacent. In addition, the famous hotels of Istanbul, Ritz Carlton, Swisshotel the Bosphorus and Hilton Istanbul are also around the stadium.
2. Dolmabahce Mosque
Dolmabahce Mosque is located right next to the palace of the same name. The mosque was dedicated to Bezmialem Valide Sultan, mother of the 19th century Ottoman sultan Abdulmejid I.
Valide Sultan was the title of mothers of sultans in the Ottoman Empire. The woman who took this title used to manage the Harem Rooms in the palace. The most famous “Valide Sultan” in Ottoman history was Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent.
There are many mosques in Istanbul attributed to the mothers of the sultans. However, the most famous ones are the New Mosque next to Spice Bazaar and this mosque next to Dolmabahce Palace.
3. Vodafone Park
Vodafone Park (former Inonu Stadium) is one of the landmarks of Besiktas. In addition to football matches, international concerts are also held in the stadium of Besiktas Football Club.
Beşiktaş fans meet at the Fish Market on match days and after having fun during the day, they walk to the century-old stadium next to Dolmabahce Palace in the late afternoon.
Besiktas Football Club’s fan group “Çarşı” is quite famous. Celebrities like Viggo Mortensen, the lead actor of The Lord of the Rings, come to the matches to witness this atmosphere.
4. Besiktas Fish Market
Besiktas Fish Market is one of the most energetic squares of the city. Here you can find the best examples of Turkish street food such as doner kebab, kofte, lahmacun and kokorec.
Fish Market is a cosmopolitan place that blends traditional Turkish restaurants, old dessert shops and new generation cafes. In this sense, it is similar to the Kadikoy Fish Market on the Asian Side.
At the Fish Market, you can find everything the district has to offer in terms of food. One of the best features of the neighborhood is that it is a crossing point. From here, you can easily reach shopping malls, Bosphorus districts or Taksim Square.
5. Istanbul Naval Museum
Istanbul Naval Museum tells about the maritime history of the Turks. The museum is located in the most central part of the Besiktas district and is adjacent to the Shangri-La Bosphorus hotel and the piers of the ferries to the Asian Side.
While the Ottoman Empire was at its peak in the 16th century, Turkish ships were dominating the Mediterranean. Famous Turkish admirals such as Hayreddin Barbarossa, Dragut and Piri Reis also served during this period.
At the Istanbul Naval Museum, you can see both the historical development of the Turkish navy and the characteristics of the Turkish navy in the Republican period. This is among the best museums in Istanbul for those who are keen on maritime.
6. Ciragan Palace
Ciragan Palace was one of the palaces built on the shores of the Bosphorus during the last period of the Ottoman Empire. Ciragan Palace, built in the 1860s, is contemporary with Istanbul’s famous museum, Dolmabahce Palace.
Today, Ciragan Palace serves as a hotel under the name of Ciragan Palace Kempinski. Ciragan Palace also hosts the wedding organizations of many local and foreign celebrities.
Ciragan Palace is only open to hotel guests. However, it is a nice experience to have a coffee in the courtyard of this hotel and photograph the view of the palace from the outside while you are in Besiktas.
7. Yildiz Palace
Yildiz Palace is located in a giant park in Besiktas. The palace, which was used in the late Ottoman period, consists of pavilions spread over a large area. This place is identified with Abdul Hamid II, one of the sultans of the last period of the Ottoman Empire.
Yildiz Palace is a hidden paradise in Istanbul with heavy traffic and crowds. You can take a pleasant walk in the gardens of the palace, visit the tile factory and have a drink at the Malta Pavilion.
Ortakoy is one of the most beautiful districts on the shores of the Bosphorus. Istanbulites go to Ortakoy Square on weekends to take pictures and have a good time. Every Istanbulite has the classic Ortakoy photograph with the Ortakoy Mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge in the background.
In my opinion, having a nice breakfast in Ortakoy first and then going for a walk to Bebek is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. For example, you can find a balanced Turkish breakfast at The House Cafe with a sea view. Then you can continue with a coffee in one of the wonderful cafes in Bebek.
Bebek, which means “Baby” in Turkish, is indeed the most special bay of the Bosphorus and is as beautiful as a baby. This district is a great stopping place on the walking route starting from Ortakoy and continuing to Rumeli Fortress.
You can drink coffee (or Turkish tea) and try Turkish desserts in one of Bebek’s wonderful cafes. While enjoying your meal, you can watch the Bosphorus view in its most picturesque form.
Etiler is the most convenient district for shopping near Besiktas. Etiler is an upscale district and offers many opportunities for clothing shopping. In addition, the city’s top-class restaurants such as Nusr-et and Sunset Grill&Bar are also located here.
You can find many women’s fashion stores on Nispetiye Street in Etiler. In addition, Akmerkez, one of the best shopping malls in Istanbul, is also located here.
Besiktas Restaurants and Cafes
Restaurants and cafes in Besiktas are like a showcase of Turkish food culture. In this district, you can find various street foods, traditional restaurants and meyhanes (Turkish taverns) that represent everything about Turkish cuisine.
1. Karadeniz Doner
Karadeniz Doner is the most famous doner kebab shop in Istanbul. Many people all over Istanbul flock into this restaurant and you can often see a long queue in front of the shop.
Karadeniz Doner has a special doner kebab, a mixture of lamb and beef. However, beef consists most of the doner here. The meat used in making doner is supplied from Balikesir and therefore, the taste of doner is always good.
2. Balkan Lokantasi
Balkan Lokantasi is one of the places in Istanbul that still keeps the traditional “lokanta” culture alive. You can find an open buffet of Turkish dishes in this place, which offers cheap and delicious food.
This restaurant in the center of Besiktas is generally preferred by locals for lunch. It is a great place to get an overview of the food in Turkish homes.
3. Cakmak Kahvalti Salonu
Cakmak Kahvalti Salonu has a very simple table compared to most brakfast places. However, a breakfast you eat here is a real local experience. The breakfast offered by Cakmak is an optimized version of the breakfast prepared by Turkish mothers at home.
At this breakfast place, you can have a breakfast of delicious Turkish cheese, Aegean olives, fresh tomatoes and peppers, and magnificent menemen (eggs, tomatoes and peppers). Don’t forget to spread the mixture of honey and cream on bread and eat it with Turkish tea!
Vogue Restaurant was opened in 1997 at the penthouse of the BJK Plaza in Akaretler. The restaurant offers food from the international kitchen.
While you have your meal, you can also enjoy its terrific Istanbul view. In this neat, elegant and comfortable restaurant, you can find many unique dishes like sea bass or roasted lamb’s shank.
Along with the options such as fish in Thai style and artichoke tortellini, you can also enjoy Japanese food. Vogue is definitely one of the best restaurants in Istanbul with a view.
5. Tugra Restaurant
Tugra Restaurant is a Turkish restaurant that has been serving in Ciragan Palace Kempinski for many years. A dinner at Ciragan Palace, Istanbul’s best hotel on the Bosphorus, is something special for most Istanbulites.
When I updated this article, I reviewed the last comments about Tugra Restaurant and realized that Turks prefer it for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. As far as I can see, restaurant chefs have fascinated Istanbulites with their special dishes.
As a local guide, I can say that Besiktas is one of the most entertaining districts of Istanbul. You can find many things about street food, traditional Turkish restaurants, shopping malls and nightlife in this district.
Besiktas is a district located in the center of best walking routes in Istanbul. After having a good time here, you can go shopping in Nisantasi or take pictures with the Bosphorus view in Ortakoy.
Since Besiktas is also one of the city’s public transportation hubs, it is possible to go to popular districts such as Kadikoy and Uskudar on the Asian Side by ferry from here.
Home to three palaces from the Ottoman period, Besiktas is one of the most interesting historical districts of the city. There are hidden gems such as the Sinan Pasha Mosque, a work of Mimar Sinan (famous Ottoman architect).
Written by Serhat Engul
Leave a Reply