Today with my wife. We had a walk through Galata neighbourhood on our own. Once again we were impressed with the beauty of 19th century NeoBaroque and NeoRenaissance style buildings. Once the richest in Istanbul lived. Noble Greeks, Jews, Armenians and Turks lived together happily. Each building has an individual story. Unfortunately so many of them are not in good condition. Some are turned into trendy cafes, restaurants and designer stores.
First settlement to Galata is made by Genoese trade colonies representing Republic of Genoa in 1273 during the Byzantine Era of the city. The Genoese built the famous Galata tower in 1348. After the city, conquered by the Ottomans, Latin and Catholic population continued living in the neighbourhood. Greeks and Jews started moving to the area. In the 19th century Galata and Karakoy became major business center. Gatala became a finance center with its bankers and stock exchange. Karakoy harbor was one of the busiest harbors of Europe.
There are 3 theories regarding the origin of Galata word. According to Italian historians the word is derived from Calata meaning downward slope. According to Greek Historians, the word is derived from Galaktos meaning milk. There is a possibility that the area might be used by the ancient shepherds in the ancient times. According to the last theory Celtic tribe, Galatians may have camped here in the Hellenistic period.
The nearby Grand Rue de Pera (today known as Istiklal Avenue) became a shopping center second only to the Grand Bazaar. An entertainment center with its cafes, theaters, bars, restaurants and pastry shops.
Galata had a cosmopolitan population. Mainly French, but also almost all other European languages were spoken there. Italians , Germans, French, British, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Hungarians, Poles and Russians had their own communities. Each community had its own places of worship, not only based on its religion but also based on its different sects. Therefore, many churches and synagouges of different groups were located close to each other. There were quite many Muslim structures at Galata such as Galata Mevlevi Convent, Arab Mosque, Asmali Mosque, and Aga Mosque.
There were many foreign schools in Galata. French, British, Italians, Germans and Austrians opened high schools in
Galata. All these schools are still running. The rich and noble muslim families also send their children to these schools. Most of the Ottoman and Turkish scholars were educated in these schools.
Below please find some of the must see highlights of the area. During your visit to Istanbul make sure you see these sites besides the historical highlights like Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, Grand Bazaar... Let us organize you a private walking tour of Istanbul.
Original name is Christea Turris, meaning Tower of Christ. Built by the Genoese in 1348. Galata Tower was the tallest building in the city at that time. Used as an observation tower for spotting fires. According to the legend in the 17th century an Ottoman genius Hazarfen Ahmet Celebi flew from this tower with artificial wings over the Bosphorus. Today the tower is running as a night club with Turkish Belly Dance shows. It is possible to see great views of Istanbul from the top balcony. There is an elevator. The cost to take this elevator is 10 Turkish Liras.
First mosque built in Istanbul in 1453 right after the conquest of the city. Named after Bereketzade Ali Efendi who is assigned as the governor of Galata by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conquorer. In the premises there is a small cemetery.
Donated by the wealthy Sephardic Jewish banker Abraham Camondo in 1785. Built in baroque style for his children to easily climb the hill from the Banker Street up to the
fashionable 19th century neighbourhoods. Banker Street at that time was named after Camondo Family as Rue de Camondo. Camondo family at that time was among the wealthiest in the city. Abraham Salomon Camondo founded Ottoman Imperial Bank in Karakoy. Unfortunately there is no descendants left from this famous family. Abraham Salomon Camondo died in Paris at the age of 88 and buried at Haskoy, Istanbul. His last descendants were deported and murdered in Auschwitz Concentration Camps during WW2.
British Seamen Hospital
It was built by a British artchitect as a quarantine hospital for British sailors during the Crimean War. Looks like a fort and having a tower which can be noticed in a far distance. Today runing by the Turkish government as an Eye Hospital.
Serdar-i Ekrem Street
The busiest, liveliest and the most popular street in Galata. Has many fancy designer boutiques, vintage shops, cafes, jewelry stores...
Named after a pasha of Ottoman Empire who has an Austrian origin, served as an high ranking officer for Ottoman State in the 19th century.
Famous Dogan Apartment (built 1895) is also located in this street. Many Turkish celebrities live here. The u shape building has breathtaking views of Istanbul.
Crimea Memorial Church
Built in 1858 in the memory of British soldiers who had participated in the Crimean War. All the stones are supplied from the island of Malta. It is the largest active protestant chuch in Istanbul. Weekly mass services on sundays are provided in this magnificent neo-gothic structure.
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