This is one of the most popular suburbs of Istanbul, it is right next to the Bosphorus Bridge on the European side, has some great restaurants on the waterside square, a busy Sunday handicraft market and some very chic upscale nightclubs. For visitors looking for culture there is the Ortakoy mosque that stands on a promontory extending out into the water and many churches and hamams which can often be overlooked.
Ortakoy means “Middle Village” although it is unknown what it is supposed to be in the middle of and dates back to the Byzantine era when it had several monasteries; by the 17th century the population was an eclectic mix of Jews, Greeks and Muslims all happily living together.
The village back then had a reputation of a being a lively place for nightlife entertainment with its many taverns and today this lives on as in the summer evenings the traffic around Ortaköy and the coast road becomes a nightmare with the upmarket clubbers heading for Anjelique, Sortie and other popular evening venues.
During the day the main focus is on the waterside square which is overlooked by old houses that are now cafés and restaurants and has a beautiful 18th century fountain that was erected by Damat Ibrahim Pasa, son-in-law and Grand Vizier to Sultan Ahmed III (1713-1730).
Places to Visit in Ortakoy
The double hamam sits in the middle of a very busy traffic system and is the work of Mimar Sinan. It is believed to have been erected in the 1570s for Hüsrev Kethüda, the steward to Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmet Paşa. It has an unusual internal layout with four domed rooms that replaced the more common single chamber of a hot room. It was converted into a restaurant for a short while which is now closed and is hoped that in the future it will once again become a bathhouse.
Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Fokas
The vast Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Fokas is easily missed as it is sits behind a stretch of shops. It only dates from 1856 but a Byzantine church with the same dedication gave its name to the area. There is a small belfry hanging above the gate that will lead you into the courtyard from the main road.
Etz Ahayim (Tree of Life) Synagogue
Nearby is the Etz Ahayim (Tree of Life) synagogue which originally dates from the 14th century, although what you see today is from 1813 and 1941 as many fires have happened here. The congregation swelled considerably at the beginning of the 17th century after they moved from the Grand Bazaar because of a yet another fire.
Armenian Church of Surp Lusavoriç
The Armenian Church of Surp Lusavoriç built in 1839 can be found on Dereboyu Caddesi.
Shopping in Ortakoy
Visit the handcrafts fair in Ortakoy on Sundays that is in the streets behind the harbour and is a super place to buy handmade jewellery, unique handbags, all manner of hats and second-hand books.
Ortakoy is famous for kumpir which are huge hot baked potatoes that come with a large variety of toppings that you get to choose from and you can buy them from stalls at the back of Hagios Fokas church.
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How to go Ortakoy
There are many buses that go along the coast towards Sariyer from Kabatas or Besiktas but note that in the evenings and especially at weekends the main road around Ortaköy is notorious for jamming up and almost comes to a stand-still.