Beyoğlu: A bohemian district at the heart of Istanbul's art, entertainment, and night life scene!


Going to Turkey was one of the best travel experiences I've had so far. Istanbul is a beautiful city, rich with history and culture - umm Byzantium, Constantinople, The Ottoman Empire, to name a few reasons! It's also one of the few transcontinental cities in the world, half of the city is on the European continent, the other half on the Asian continent! The Bosphorus Strait separates them, and you can literally look from one shore to another, from one continent to another... Ahhhh, it's so awesome. Just because I thought it was interesting to know (thanks Wikipedia), the other transcontinental cities are: Atyrau, Kazakhstan (Europe/Asia), Orenburg, Russia (Europe/Asia), Suez, Egypt (Africa/Asia), and Magnitogorsk, Russia (Europe/Asia).

Since I went on this trip for business (with my aunt, more on that in this post), I didn't get to explore the city as much as I would have liked, but that doesn't mean I didn't see tons of stuff (hence the series of posts!). Thanks to Orhan, our Turkish business contact, we were able to see parts of the city that we may not have seen otherwise. He gave us advice, restaurant tips, and even picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the best spots, dropped us off and picked us up hours later! He is a very kind-hearted and friendly person, and although I'm no longer working for the same company (and neither is he), I still keep in touch with him via Facebook. 

Soooo... After he heard our excited chatter about wanting to go to the Turkish Baths, and my love of architecture and all things bohemian, he suggested a district called Beyoğlu. He referred to it several times as the "bohemian district" and an area of town with younger people and very diverse ethnic enclaves, not to mention the hub of Istanbul's art and entertainment scene. He also suggested a great, and very very old, Turkish Bath house in the same area, but that is a post for another day - what an experience!! 

The 'g' in Beyoğlu is silent, so it sounds like "be-yo-lu" when pronounced. Below (in red) you can see that Beyoğlu is located on the European side of Istanbul near the Southern mouth of the Bosphorus, it curves along an inlet known as The Golden Horn. This historic natural harbor separates this district from the historic peninsula of what was once called Byzantium and Constantinople, and more recently Old Istanbul/The Old City. 



Interestingly, the area now known as Beyoğlu has been inhabited for millennia, its earliest settlers are traced back in records dating back to the time of Christ. Shazaam! 

Alrighty, take a little trip with me through the streets of Beyoğlu, the hot spot for Istanbul's art, entertainment, and night life scene. In case you notice, yes, I had a very indecisive battle with the camera settings, my photos are in color, black and white and a few other vintage tints. Hehehe, enjoy!

Catherine
xoxo


Check out my other posts about my trip to Istanbul:


The drive into Beyoğlu was incredible...


There were tons of people walking, talking, and fishing along the bridge... I was in love with the crisscrossed pattern on the railing!


In the distance, the Süleymaniye Mosque and its minarets (clearly undergoing repairs as evident from the extensive scaffolding). It is the largest mosque in Istanbul, an Ottoman imperial mosque, completed in 1558 for the Sultan Süleyman.




Once we had crossed over The Golden Horn, this is what awaited us...


This is İstiklâl Caddesi, the main street running through Beyoğlu, and one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul. In English it translates to Independence Avenue. As you can see, there's a beautiful red tram that runs through the avenue! According to Wikipedia it was "...reinstalled in the early 1990's with the aim of reviving the historic atmosphere of the district." Mission accomplished! 

Apart from the picturesque tram, the buildings lining the avenue are of an eclectic architectural variety, with styles including Neo-Classical, Neo-Gothic, Renaissance Revival, Beaux-Arts, Art Nouveau, First Turkish National Architecture (Birinci Millî Mimarî Akımı) and a few Art Deco. In other words, there was a lot to look at, wonderful details everywhere! 

İstiklâl Caddesi goes on for a long long time, and it's a great walk with curving streets and lots of intricate alleys branching off from the main drag (more on that below). This avenue also runs through the famous Taksim Square, a street full of various shops, restaurants, bookstores, cafes, clubs, pubs, art galleries, theaters, cinemas and more...


We even had the pleasure of witnessing a student protest march down the main avenue...


I can't remember what they were protesting, but it was peaceful and respectful...



And just as soon as they came, they were gone...


There were a lot of alleys like these, filled with overhead lights and banners, littered with eclectic cafe tables and chairs...

    

I was fascinated by this creative little table at a street cafe, made from the body of a guitar and four guitar necks! Super cool!


    

I found some great things down these shadowy alleys, like the tiny little hookah cafe (above left) with the blurry couple havin' a smoke and a chit chat. Or the incredible bay window (above right). Sorry for the crappy photo, I was walking and talking, and drooling. Blame it on the unevenly gorgeous cobblestone streets...


And then there was this wacky gem...


Yes, pretty cray-cray looking, but it had me at hello because I knew it was the flower child of a hippy like me! My aunt and I looked around inside for a bit, the walls were lined with jewelry, tables and banquettes. It was an artistic little cafe/gift shop...


We did a lot of walking that day, and I enjoyed every second of it! There's nothing like that amazing feeling of awe you get while you're walking around exploring a new country...


We stopped for some Apple Tea, which we had become rapidly obsessed with shortly upon arrival. Everywhere we went in the Grand Bazaar we were offered Apple Tea while we browsed the shop (no doubt to butter us up, haha), read more about The Grand Bazaar and Apple Tea in this post. So we stopped at this interesting cafe bookshop called ADA...


We were immediately drawn to the open storefront and the intricate wood panels suspended from the ceiling and patterned wood divider between the cafe and the bookstore. It was a nice space!


While we sipped our tea this gentleman walked by balancing a pan of large pretzels and bread rolls on his head! :D

    

Afterwards, we came across St. Anthony of Padua Church, the largest of the Roman Catholic churches in Istanbul.


Funny story: my aunt and I had just sat down on the front steps to take a quick rest, when we were promptly shooed away by some Italian priests. I did not take kindly to being shooed, as you can see there are some boys sitting on the steps in the photo above and they weren't shooed. I do not like that sexual discrimination. Anywho. We passed by the church again on our walk back down the avenue in the afternoon and I stopped to take some photos through the incredible gate.


I love the way the gate is framed beneath Moorish style arch with a Venetian Neo-Gothic style church in the background! 


At this point I had switched back to black and white photography, my favorite. It makes for much more dramatic photographs...

    


    

I was in love with everything, can't you tell?


This vine was creeping all over the place, up the buildings and across the power/phone/cable lines!


The vine arched over a pretty wall painting and a doorway with a fantastic gate...


And the doors, oh the doors...


This colorful graffiti covered door was fan-freakin'-tastic! I shared this image in my Istanbul graffiti post, but since it was taken in Beyoğlu I've gotta share it again. My aunt insisted that I stand in front of it, but now I wish I had also taken a picture of the entire door by itself.

So yes, there were lots of incredible old doors and doorways to ogle throughout Beyoğlu...


As you can see, I wasn't the only person admiring doors... :D

    


I like this photo I took of a woman having a cigarette on the stoop of this giant door. The woman on the inside must have been about to push open the door and exit when I took this photo, but it still creeps me out when I notice her because she looks like a ghost!



The iron grates on these arched openings had me swooning. I love, love, love the details!


Like I said, magnificent details to marvel over, everywhere! Up, down and all around...





    


    

I wish I'd had more time in Istanbul so I could have attended this "One Love Festival" that I saw a poster for...



Enormous gates everywhere...


    


At this point we were wandering the streets, finding hidden treasures along the beaten path...


Oooh la la, a street sale! Everything was too pricey though :/


I enjoy taking photos of people too, so I took a lot of those on this trip...


    

This woman was passively begging on the street, it was disheartening to see, unfortunately it's a part of life all over the world - and an unnecessary one at that. It's always especially hard to take in when it's a child or elderly person, which is often the case (at least from what I've seen throughout my travels)...

    

These two were in the middle of a very animated conversation...


A weird way to walk if you ask me, but they seemed very happy...

    

Oh yeah, and I got a kick out of that guy's shirt!


Mmmm... delicious! This man was diligently preparing some Döner kebabs from the meat (likely veal or beef, perhaps lamb) on the vertical spit. This is also known as Shawarma (Arabic) or Gyro (Greek). Did I have one? Dammit, no. I didn't, but I should have. I was too busy eating Meze every chance I got! Mmmm Meze, drooooool!!!!


Oh, and this dude... He captured my heart! I was completely enthralled with his adorable photographs, and of course the kitten balanced on his head, hence the blurry photos. I wish I had taken sharper pictures, argh!!! He had everyone's attention, all of his photos were with cats. I'll never forget this guy, I hope I see him walking the streets the next time I'm in Istanbul...


One of my favorite photos from the entire trip...


Speaking of cats, I saw quite a few, and this one was pretty photogenic...




    

I couldn't get close enough to for a clear shot, but this was an adorable moment! Someone had put a dish of milk in the top of that broken stone column and these cats were going to town lapping at it...


Now, for the street dogs. I warn you, these two photos are going to tug at your heart strings...


I couldn't get over how nonchalant these dogs were as they slept/rested on the sidewalks while tons of people walked by them. Sigh, as a dog lover this really makes me sad. Just look at that face...


This is another one of my favorite photos, as sad as it is. That look tears at my heart, I wish I could have given him more love than just a passing hello and sympathetic pause.


On a lighter note, we came across a bunch of Native American dudes jamming out, they had a huge crowd around them!


I think everyone was thinking the same two things: "Man, these guys are awesome, but what the heck are they doing in Istanbul!?" Hehehe ;)



I really love these photos too...


I was watching this guy for a while as he looked up and down İstiklâl Caddesi. I was intrigued by his style and the way he carried himself, plus I think he made a great subject. The stacked buildings along the avenue, the distant Turkish flag flapping in the wind, the swarm of walking people, the anarchy graffiti, and the way he looked out over the rim of his sunglasses all screamed "Photograph me!!" 


And of course, I leave you with my two top favorites!

This couple was the ultimate embodiment of the bohemian atmosphere in Beyoğlu, the moment was too picturesque not to capture! I consider myself lucky to have caught their intimate moment lounging in front of a warehouse door off the main avenue. I know they saw me because they smiled - I don't think they minded. She appeared to be comforting him, and they also seemed very in love.... :)

    

(All images in this post are my personal photographs and property of Inspire Bohemia, please do not use them without my written permission - InspireBohemia(at)gmail(dot)com - thank you!)

(References: Wikipedia, hereherehere, here and here)

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