A Complete Guide to Ortakoy

The name Ortakoy means “the village in the middle”, as it is nestled between the two villages of Asrakoy and Pynarkoy. When Istanbul was captured by the Ottomans, Ortakoy was a multinational district, housing Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Turkish peoples in one territory. Ortakoy is located on the European side of the Bosporus with a great collection of cafes and restaurants along the water .

A lot of boat trips in Istanbul begin at the Ortakoy Marina. It is a fantastic walking area, with numerous fish restaurants, open braziers selling national goodies, stores that trade in gorgeous silver decorations, and souvenir shops.

Ortakoy is a beautiful place to take a leisurely stroll. Locals and visitors alike come here to wander through the cozy streets, relax in the spacious square, explore interesting goods in local retail stores, and buy thoughtful souvenirs. And of course, there are plenty of amazing restaurants and cafes to dine in. 

The area is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. You can take it all in by relaxing on the benches near the mosque, overlooking the sea or on the outdoor restaurant terraces.

If you’re interested in seeing the local historical landmarks, you can check out the many sculptural and architectural buildings dotted throughout the area.

In the middle of the XVII century, Ortakoy was a picturesque village with a pier on the Bosphorus, bustling with boats and fish markets. The people settled more and more of the infidels: Christians, Jews, and a minority of Turks. Built in 1854, it is a handsome building with a baroque exterior and a light-filled interior. But the focus of this third day is a visit to another continent by car or boat or both.

The Medzhidiye Mosque was built by the renowned sultanate architect Nikogos Balyan, the author of the Dolmabahçe palace. It was constructed in the Baroque style, non-traditional for the local architecture – magnificent and showy, with two white minarets.

For several generations, sultans have chosen this spot to construct their summer residences. Gradually built up with mansions, taverns and restaurants, the village grew to become the district of Istanbul.

The symbol of the Ortakoy quarter is the Ortakoy mosque, Büyük Mecidiye camii (Buyuk Mejie). Where the building of the shrine stands today, the inhabitants of Byzantium once called “the key to the Bosphorus.” The beauty of the mosque was so impressive that the sultans living on the other side of the Bosphorus travelled to Ortakoy just to pray at it. In those days, the only way to cross from one coast to the other was by rowing boats. The author of the project was the respected architect in the Sultanate, Nikogos Balyan. The famous Dolmabahce palace complex was built according to his detailed drawings. The beautiful and imposing mosque was stylistically Baroque, which again, was not traditional for Istanbul at that time.

Pro Tip : Ortakoy is a perfect place to start the third day with a traditional breakfast of tea, cheeses, olives and bread. Weekend mornings are best because the cafes are crowded and the lively flea market is bustling.

The small square near the water is home to the Medzhidiye mosque, which resembles a small baroque palace more than a mosque.

You can visit the mosque any day, from 9am until sunset. You do not have to pay for entry, but donations are encouraged. 

Ortakoy has long been a haven for artists and musicians. Bohemia describes the general atmosphere of the capital – a few years ago, this area was known for its vibrant nightlife, but now most of the night clubs have closed.

The narrow streets of the district are lined with stones; old gates featuring elaborate stone lace ornaments stand adjacent to modern residential buildings. On the old streets two- and three-story buildings in a variety of architectural styles, with walls painted in different colors, nestle tightly together, forming cute, cozy neighborhoods.

In the area there is a university and a male lyceum, among other respectable educational institutions. Here, you can try the most delicious seafood dishes – caught fresh from the Bosphorus – in many restaurants, cafes and taverns.

Tourists are often drawn in by the large flea market, where among all sorts of treasures, you can find gizmos from antique silver, along with expensive antiques. The new buildings of the Semt Ortakoy hotels are respectable and modern, similar to the buildings in other districts of Istanbul. Tourists wishing to visit the local market, Ortaköy шarşısı, in search of interesting and unique souvenirs should pack along some cash, as you likely won’t be able to leave without a trinket or two. 

Ortakoy has many souvenir shops, selling accessories and jewelry made from semiprecious stones and silver. The bulk of the jewelry is handmade and the prices are quite affordable.