Golden Horn (Turkish: Haliç) is both the name of the estuary of the Bosphorus towards west in Istanbul, and also of the district on banks of it.
This article concentrates on the areas around Golden Horn banks west of city walls. For southeastern banks, see Istanbul/Sultanahmet-Old City. For northeastern banks, see Istanbul/Galata.
Golden Horn as seen from Pierre Loti Cafe
English name of the bay comes from its Greek counterpart, Hrison Keras (Χρυσόν Κέρας), which literally translates "Golden Horn". The "horn" part perhaps comes from the deep curve the bay has towards its end in the northwest. "Golden" part is more obscure, but possibly it's a poetic referral to reflections on the Horn's water during beautiful sunsets.
Golden Horn, an estuary formed by flooding of valleys of two rivers confluenting just northwest of Eyüp by Bosphorus in prehistorical times, had always been Istanbul's primary harbour. In fact, it can be argued that Istanbul would never have existed in such a grand way if it weren't for this superb harbour (and also the superb trading route through and across Bosphorus, by the way).
In 1700s, mansions and large gardens full of tulips along the Horn, then called Sadabad, were favourite retreats of Ottoman state elite, who conducted costly parties thereabouts, which were later accused of economic destruction and the eventual dissolution of Ottoman Empire. Those years were called either Lale Devri ("Tulip Era") or Sefahat Devri ("Debauch Era") by different classes of society. Very little is left from that period physically. Then, about a century later, in 1800s, the banks of Golden Horn was where the industrial revolution first started in Ottoman Empire and up to 1980s, Golden Horn continued to be one of the industrial powerhouses of the Turkish economy, however this situation had its heavy toll on what was once "golden" Horn: the industrial effluents in addition to the untreated wastewater from rapidly expanding city's sewers caused the Horn stinking to high heaven, as much as that people were actually trying to avoid the avenues along its banks even if those routes meant a shortcut to where they are heading. Then in late 1980s, the first attempts to bring the Horn to its former glory began. Today its water is almost as clean as to safely swim in (although there is still some more way to go), and pleasant parks on the lots of demolished factories surround its banks. Neighbourhoods on its banks, Eyüp in special, put a special emphasis on celebrating the Ottoman roots of the area.
- Buses depart from Eminönü for Eyüp on the southern shore of the Horn, and also for neighborhoods on the northern shore.
- Ferries from Üsküdar (Asian coast), which also call at Eminönü and Karaköy, zigzag between neighborhood quays located on both shores of the Horn.
Pedestrianized Old Galata Bridge (Eski Galata Köprüsü), built in 1912, and once connecting Eminönü with Karaköy, is replaced with the current bridge in its former place after it suffered from a big fire in 1992 in the stores on its lower level, and towed to its present upper location on Golden Horn, between Feshane Cultural Centre (Feshane Kültür Merkezi) at the eastern entrance of Eyüp on the southern bank of the Horn and Sütlüce on the northern bank of the Horn, providing an easy link for pedestrians between sides of the Horn. However, the middle section of the bridge is sometimes towed away to provide water circulation along the Horn, so it entirely depends on your luck whether you'll be able to cross the Horn on foot on any given day.
Small ferries zigzaging between neighbourhood quays on each side of the Horn are also another way of crossing to the other side of the Horn.
There is also a chairlift line between downtown Eyüp and Pierre Loti on a hill overlooking the Horn, see below ("Drink" section) for more details.
- Eyüp Mosque Complex (Eyüp Camii), Eyüp. This is the main attraction around this part of the city. The holiest Islamic shrine in the city, the complex includes, right next to the mosque, the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Eyüp Ensari Türbesi), the standard bearer of Prophet Mohammad, died and buried here during the first Muslim siege of Constantinople (674–678 AD). It was him the neighbourhood was named after. Muslims flock—in so huge numbers that sometimes you have to queue for a few minutes before entering the tomb—here also to see a rather uninteresting plaque made of plastic, which is purported to be Mohammad's footprint. The interior of the tomb, covered with fine tiles/faience, is nonetheless well worth a look, however. It is also interesting to see the devout Muslims leaving the place by walking backwards through its exit hallway, as not to turn their backs to al-Ansari's catafalque, though obviously no one expects everyone to quit the place in the same manner. Free.
- Around the mosque complex is cemeteries and tombs all of which date back to Ottoman period, with their distinctively decorated marble headstones. Besides, there are a number of other mosques, streets, and stores surrounding the Eyüp Complex, all pleasantly preserved, and give the visitors an idea of how Ottoman Istanbul should be looking like. Here is where all of those "boys-to-be-circumsized photos" are taken, as it’s a tradition to take the boys in their special Ottoman prince clothes to this particular mosque before the event. In the adjoining streets, you can find shops offering interesting Ottoman-style stuff like wooden toys or traditional salty cookies shaped like a ring (halka) which you cannot easily find elsewhere.
- Feshane, Eski Feshane Caddesi, Eyüp (on the waterfront, just east of downtown Eyüp; get off the bus at 'Defterdar' stop), ☎ +90 212 501-73-26 (fax: +90 212 501-73-28), . Originally a factory producing fezzes (fes), Ottoman red hats made of felt, adopted in Ottoman Empire in early 1800s as a part of westernizing efforts in lieu of much more traditional turbans. However, as an irony of fate, fez itself was scrapped away in favour of outright western garments during Atatürk's reforms of 1920s and '30s as it was thought to symbolize the old, decidedly oriental regime. Today, Feshane serves as a cultural and exhibition centre, which hosts celebrations on local days, and some temporary art exhibitions. During Ramadan, it becomes some sort of playground showcasing how Ramadan was celebrated during Ottoman era, with traditional sweets and all.
- Miniaturk , at Sütlüce (on northern shore of the Horn). M-F 9AM-7PM and S-Su 9M-9PM. It was built in 2001 and is the first miniature park in Istanbul (the world's largest miniature park in respect to its model area). The park hosts icons of many cultures and civilizations. Models vary from the Hagia Sophia to Galata Tower, from Safranbolu Houses to the Sumela Monastry in Trabzon, from Qubbat As-Sakhrah to the ruins of Mount Nemrut. In addition, some works that have not survived into the present, such as the Temple of Artemis, the Halicarnassus Mausoleum and Ajyad Castle, were recreated. All former Ottoman Empire in one place.
- Rahmi M. Koç Industrial Museum (Sanayi Müzesi), Hasköy Caddesi 27, Hasköy (on the northern shore of the Horn), ☎ +90 212 256 71 53-54, . This is a typical industry museum which showcases evolution of machines. Many transport related items including a submarine, classic cars, railway carriages, an out-of-service Bosphorus ferry and a Douglas DC-3 aircraft (possible to go inside) is, among others, in the display. Also houses a typical Istanbul streetscape with its shops and all as how it would look like in the past.
- Santral İstanbul, Silahtar Mah., Kazım Karabekir Cad. 1, Eyüp (at the upper end of the Horn, confluence of two creeks; free shuttles every half an hour 8:30AM-9PM daily from Atatürk Cultural Centre in Taksim Square is available in addition to a wide array of public buses which call at the nearby 'Silahtar' stop), ☎ +90 212 311 78 09, . Tu-Su 10AM-8PM. A contemporary art museum located in a building converted from an old power plant (first such plant in Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire). Part of the plant was kept in almost exact original condition and now serves as the "Energy Museum". 7 TL (students 3 TL, under 12 and over 65 years of age free).
- Walk the town of Balat. Balat housed the first Jews who settled in Istanbul after the Spanish expulsion. Today, it’s a middle class neighborhood and as you walk you can see the oldest Jewish houses with the Star of David.
- Akmanoğlu Fırını, (near Eyüp Mosque), ☎ +90 212 581 06 39, . This is the bakery where halkas mentioned in see section, as well as a number of other traditional cookies, both sweet and salty alike, are produced and sold.
- Lale Lokantasi, Feshane Caddesi, Eyüp (inside Feshane Kültür Merkezi - cultural centre), ☎ +90 212 501 73 72. Traditional Turkish/Ottoman cuisine.
- Pierre Loti is an open air café on a hill overlooking Golden Horn in Eyüp. It’s rumored that a famous French writer used to love to visit this café during his residence in Istanbul. There is a cable (enclosed chairlift) line (which lasts about 3 minutes; departs every 5 min between 8AM-midnight), which offers some nice views, between the shore of Golden Horn and the hill on which café is situated. It’s also possible to walk uphill or to take a taxi.
Golden Horn is not very assertive when it comes to accommodation options and is mainly visited as a day trip from nearby districts, Galata and especially Old City. However, if it attracted your attention much as to arouse a desire to overnight there, you have an option or two.
- Turquhouse Boutique Hotel, Merkez Mah. İdris Köşkü Caddesi, Eyüp (1 km to downtown Eyüp), ☎ +90 212 497 13 13 (fax: +90 212 497 16 16), . Boutique hotel housed in 7 separate buildings in the same yard. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms, air-con, satellite TV, and wireless internet access. € 90/110/140 for single/double/triple rooms. About 20% cheaper Nov-Mar.
A trip to Eyüp can easily be combined with some more sightseeing in areas of old city of Istanbul that are close to the banks of Golden Horn, such as the former Greek neighbourhood of Fener/Phanar, which houses Patriarchate of Constantinople and Bulgarian church of St. Stephen, one of few prefabricated cast iron churches in the world.
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