Take in modern museums, unveiled Bosphorus views, and more
It’s not often that a big city gets an entirely new neighborhood, but that’s exactly what has happened on the Bosphorus riverfront in Istanbul. The long-delayed Galataport district has been opening in stages from October 2021 through this summer, transforming an industrial stretch of about three-quarters of a mile that was closed to the public for around 200 years into a gleaming promenade with spectacular views and lots of arts and entertainment offerings. Hiding beneath it all is the city’s new cruise port, which features the world’s first underground terminal. Here’s a guide to how to get the best of the area.
What to See
Launch your explorations with a stroll along the sandstone promenade to take in views across the Golden Horn that have been obscured for more than a century by crumbling docks and warehouses. Six of Istanbul’s seven hills are visible from the waterfront, allowing you to catch glimpses of historic sights such as the Hagia Sophia and the Süleymaniye Mosque. By contrast, the Galataport Shopping Complex seems dizzily modern, even though part of it is housed in an early 20th-century post office that had its ironwork and mansard slate roof painstakingly restored. New and old also converge in the restored 19th-century Neoclassical Tophane Clock Tower, which is surrounded by a plaza that hosts open-air concerts. And this spring saw the opening of one of the most notable parts of this $1.8 billion development: Renzo Piano’s dazzling 113,000-square-foot Istanbul Modern. Türkiye’s first museum of modern and contemporary art is housed in a sleek structure clad in shimmering aluminum panels that reflect the water.
What to Eat
Nothing beats the views from the pricey Galata Hills cocktail bar or the terrace restaurant at Istanbul Modern, but you’ll find a more fun-loving scene at the vine-covered cafés and mezze bars in the graffiti-splashed alleys of the once-gritty Karaköy industrial district. Standouts include Duble Meze Bar for platters of hummus, olives, roasted eggplant, and cacik (yogurt and cucumber dip); Karaköy Güllüoğlu for honey-laden baklava; and Pim Karaköy for rich cakes and savory snacks.
Where to Stay
The Peninsula Istanbul made its splashy debut this summer, winning accolades for its glass-fronted atrium, hammam, 177 luxe rooms, and 82-foot indoor pool. The 78-room Pera Bosphorus Hotel nearby boasts similarly splendid views at a more reasonable price. To experience Istanbul like a well-heeled local, choose one of the luxuriously outfitted Istanbul Place Apartments, located in some of the area’s most elegant historic buildings.