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.
If you come to Ortakoy at noon, you can take pictures in the square, visit the picturesque Ortakoy Mosque from the 19th century and eat kumpir as a snack. Kumpir, one of the street foods of Istanbul, is identified with Ortakoy.
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Things to Do in Ortakoy in 2023
Things to do in Ortakoy include visiting mosques, churches and synagogues that are very close to each other. You can also take great instagram photos as Ortakoy Square offers the best Bosphorus views in Istanbul.
Ortakoy is located between Besiktas and Sariyer, the two largest districts of Istanbul on the shores of the Bosphorus. For this reason, there are shopping places, museums, luxury hotels and fancy restaurants around Ortakoy.
1. 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 Ortakoy.
2. Ortakoy Square
Ortakoy Square is a cheerful place, full of people and pigeons during the day. You can see dozens of people taking selfies here at any time of the day. There are also stalls selling handicrafts in every corner of the square.
It is customary to have a photograph taken in Ortakoy Square by framing both the Ortakoy Mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge. Thus, you will have a memory as beautiful as a postcard in Istanbul.
3. Ortakoy Mosque
Ortakoy Mosque is the most famous of the late Ottoman mosques. This mosque is a wonderful blend of baroque and neo-classical architecture with Ottoman traditional architecture.
Ortakoy Mosque was built in the 19th century by the Balyan family, who had been palace architects for several generations. The Balyan family also designed the Dolmabahce, Ciragan and Beylerbeyi palaces on the shores of the Bosphorus.
The most distinctive feature of the Balyan family architects was that they were educated in France. Thus, they brought the architectural orders that were fashionable in Europe in the 1800s to Istanbul.
4. Agios Fokas Orthodox Church
Agios Fokas Orthodox Church is among the most distinctive historical monuments of Ortakoy. Those who come to the district from the main street immediately notice the bell tower of this church. The door next to the tower opens to the courtyard of the church.
The church takes its name from the Byzantine period name of the district, Agios (Saint) Fokas. The history of the original church is also believed to date back to the Byzantine period. However, the current structure was erected in 1856.
5. Etz Ahayim Synagogue
Etz Ahayim Synagogue is one of the three most important synagogues in Istanbul, along with Neve Shalom (in Galata district) and Ahrida (in Balat district). The name of the synagogue, which has a deep-rooted history, means “Tree of Life”.
It is believed that the history of the synagogue dates back to the 1400s. However, it was damaged and rebuilt several times due to fires. The building that has survived to the present day is from 1941.
6. Esma Sultan Yalisi
Esma Sultan Yalisi was built in the 1800s for the daughter of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz. The building, which was given to Esma Sultan as a wedding gift, was among one of the most magnificent houses of the period.
The structure was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s. The house, which was used as a warehouse for a long time, was finally bought and restored by The Marmara group in the 1990s.
The outer walls of the heavily damaged building were preserved and surrounded by glass. Thus, a spacious indoor area with wonderful views of the Bosphorus was provided. Today, the building hosts special events.
7. Shopping in Ortakoy
Shopping in Ortakoy generally means buying handcrafted necklaces, bracelets and rings from the street vendors surrounding the square. Instead of mass-produced souvenirs in Istanbul’s touristic bazaars, you can choose the unique designs here.
Since this district consists of a square and restaurants and cafes surrounding it, it does not have large shopping centers. However, for other shopping opportunities in the vicinity, you can review the article Shopping Places in Besiktas. (link will be added soon)
8. Walking from Ortakoy to Bebek
Walking from Ortakoy to Bebek is one of the most fun activities in Istanbul. The main reason for this is that this walking route offers the most beautiful views on the shores of the Bosphorus.
You can see many Istanbulites walking or jogging between the two districts on weekends. Locals flock here, especially during the spring and autumn months when the weather is walk-friendly.
Since Bebek is the district where many singers, writers and TV stars live in Istanbul, it is possible to meet Turkish celebrities on this route. If you come from one of the countries where Turkish TV series are watched, this tip may interest you.
Ortakoy Cafes and Restaurants
Ortakoy cafes and restaurants offer you wonderful Bosphorus views. The first three titles on the list are the luxury restaurants of the district. In the last two headings, you can find two options that locals prefer for street food.
1. The House Cafe
The House Cafe is a restaurant on the seafront in Ortakoy. The restaurant has a very stylish and modern concept and is among the best breakfast places in Istanbul.
The Turkish breakfast at The House Cafe consists of a very balanced blend of hot and cold. Since breakfast with a Bosphorus view is a very popular activity in Istanbul, you can see plenty of locals here.
As a footnote, the tea had not yet arrived when the photo above was taken. However, Turkish tea is an indispensable part of this breakfast table. An average Turkish person drinks 5-6 cups of tea with this breakfast.
2. Feriye Palace
Feriye Palace was the seaside houses built side by side for the members of the dynasty during the Ottoman period. Today, some of these structures are used by educational institutions and some are used by touristic companies.
Feriye is a group of restaurants named after this palace. Among them, Lokanta Feriye is a place that serves great local Turkish food with a sea view. Next to it is a fish restaurant called SeaSalt.
In addition, there is a new generation coffee shop called Voi Coffee Company. And finally, there is a bar called Kult Palace, which is famous for its great cocktails.
3. 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.
4. Kumpir Shops
Kumpir Shops are lined up almost from Ortakoy sea shore to the main street. The reason why there are so many shops selling stuffed baked potatoes in the district is that Ortakoy is known for this specialty.
Some street food in Istanbul is identified with a single district. For example, there are Fish Sandwiches in Eminonu, Turkish Baklava in Karakoy, and Wet Hamburger in Taksim, as well as Kumpir in Ortakoy.
5. Ortakoy Waffle
Ortakoy Waffle is one of the baked potato vendors in the neighborhood. However, as the name suggests, this shop is famous for its waffle specialties.
Thanks to this shop, Istanbulites began to identify Ortakoy with waffles as they did with kumpir. You can also taste this street food, which is very popular especially among young locals.
Ortakoy is a happy place where Istanbulites visit with their loved ones. On a spring day, you can see happy children and smiling couples running around Ortakoy Square.
Visiting this cool district surrounded by natural beauties is among the must-do things in Istanbul. You can also see Ortakoy in almost all of the travel articles that list the best photo spots in Istanbul.
If you head towards Bebek from Ortakoy, you can see Istanbul’s best nightclubs like Reina on the way. Beyond Bebek there are historical structures from the Ottoman period, such as the Rumeli Fortress.
On the other hand, going south from Ortakoy, there is Besiktas, one of the busiest districts of Istanbul. In Besiktas, you can find places like Istanbul Naval Museum and Besiktas Fish Market.
Written By Serhat Engul