Beşiktas (pronounced 'Besh-ik-tash') is a district of İstanbul, Turkey located on the European side of the city, by the coast of the Bosphorus.
AQ Beşiktaş district council administers a number of communities running up the Bosphorus on the European side (from Dolmabahçe Palace up to Bebek) and the land on the hills behind these settlements. The district includes some of İstanbul's best-known locations, such as Arnavutköy, Balmumcu, Bebek, Etiler, (parts of) Levent, Ortaköy, Ulus, and Yıldız. Beşiktaş has a population of 190,813 (2000 census).
Turkish Naval Museum The Bosphorus has been settled for a long, long time and there are many places of historical interest. This stretch of the Bosphorus shore is slightly sheltered from the strong north-easterly winds that bring storms to Istanbul and thus ships have always been moored here. Indeed in Greek and Byzantine times the area was called Diklopion, meaning 'two pillars'. Furthermore one theory of the origin of the current name Besiktas is that it has mutated from Bestas (meaning "five stones"), referring to the pillars to which ships were moored in the time of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa.
However 'Besiktas' literally means 'cradle-stone' in Turkish; 'besik' being 'cradle' and 'tas' being 'stone', and there is an alternative story about how the area got this rather absurd name: this being that a church was built above a relic, a stone said to have been taken from the stable in Nazareth where Jesus was born (the stone being later removed to Hagia Sophia in the city). Apparently there are Byzantine records of this church, named 'konapetri' (cradle-stone ).
In ancient times the villages on the Bosphorus shore were isolated communities in the forest that lined the water-side. The Bosphorus however was prominent in the history and mythology of the ancient Greeks, and villages like Besiktas would have had their place in traditional tales such as Jason and the Argonauts. In the Byzantine era churches and a monastery were built and the tradition of having a summer palace on the Bosphorus was begun by the Byzantines with their Ayios Mamas palace complex. The Bosphorus settlements however, being outside the city walls, were vulnerable to raiders from the Black Sea coasts and little of this architecture or the statuary that would have decorated it so gloriously has survived.
In the Ottoman period, once the emperors had established control of the Black Sea coasts the Ottoman navy was docked in the Bosphorus and the Bosphorus villages became safe and attractive again. One man in particular, the legendary sailor Barbarossa, built his palace and mosque in Besiktas, making it his home. By now Besiktas was an established Bosphorus crossing for caravans trading across Anatolia and along the silk road, and of course for the great Ottoman armies.
This coast was of course very attractive to the Ottoman rulers, who built hunting lodges and then great palaces in the area, and the Besiktas district contains some of the most important and attractive Ottoman buildings. The area was thus the scene of scene of great intrigues of the late Ottoman period such as the dethronement of Sultan Abdulaziz at Dolmabahçe Palace in a coup in 1876 and the announcement of the founding of the Ottoman parliament in 1908, and the deposal of Sultan Abdulhamid II at Yildiz palace in 1909.
Following the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1924, the Ottoman ruling family was deported and the palaces and mansions along the coast were emptied out. Some were given to new government ministries, some used as schools and other public buildings, other were pulled down.
Places to see
Statue of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa in Barbaros Square near the ferry stop in Besiktas
Besiktas ferry landing on a snowy winter day
Barbaros Boulevard in BesiktasBefore Besiktas - Coming into Besiktas up the Bosphorus from Karaköy or down the hill from Taksim you will first go past the impressive Inönü Stadium, home of Besiktas football club, and then the last great Ottoman palace, Dolmabahçe. Leading uphill from here, through the districts of Visnezade, Valideçesme and all the way up to Tesvikiye, are quiet and pleasant residential streets. The buildings are small and there is a real Istanbul metropolitan feel to the area. Indeed some of the first apartment buildings is Istanbul are in this area.
The central district of Besiktas itself hosts a major bus terminal, a ferry port for boats to the Asian side of the city (the motor boats from here to Üsküdar are the fastest of all the Bosphorus crossings). There is a small bus terminal at the dock and at rush hour this whole area is busy with commuters transferring between boats and buses. From here it is easy to get a bus, dolmus or taxi up to business and shopping districts such as Levent, Etiler, Taksim or Nisantasi.
With all these transport connections, the centre of Besiktas is a very busy area indeed. The area is full of offices and shops and many of the large office buildings house schools where young people come to take evening and weekend classes to help them through university entrance examinations. However, some exploration off the beaten path reveals many winding streets, house cafés, restaurants and bars (food in the area is basic (much of it kebab or döner, with a beer to wash it down from one of the bars afterwards) but the choice is excellent). There are also some nice cafes on the Bosphorus waterfront near the ferry docks. Many of the streets in the shopping district are pedestianised and the area is quite tidy, the shops quite smart, not the swish international chains like Mango or Zara that you find up the hill in Nisantasi or the big shopping centres in Levent, but quality locally-produced clothing. The boutiques have replaced some of the older butchers and grocers but there is still plenty of food-shopping, including a fish-market right in the centre of the shopping district. And you can still find tailors, shoemakers, and all kind of little shops that can make or fix anything from your umbrella to your underwear.
Politically this area has always been centre–left leaning and has in the past been a stronghold of the Republican People's Party. Today there are also many students and much of the accommodation is pricey, especially considering much of it was built in the 50s and 60s, and the streets are narrow. The area today has a cosmopolitan feel to it. However Besiktas does invoke pride in its residents, and there is still a solid family feel to the place, compared with the very transient population of Beyoglu for example. With its narrow streets winding uphill, too narrow for lot's of traffic so fairly quiet, people sitting on doorsteps, a warm breeze coming off the sea, people with handcarts collecting scrap metal or selling boiled sweetcorn, and cats everywhere, Besiktas, along with Kadiköy on the Anatolian side, is one of the best preserved neighbourhoods in the city; not as pretty as the villages up the Bosphorus, but then they are much smaller.
Besiktas is also home to: the city's naval museum (Deniz Muzesi); and opposite the museum is a historical Ottoman mosque; and the Yahya Efendi Tekke—one of the best-preserved surviving tekkes in Istanbul.
Beside the naval museum is located The Barbaros Squeare which is also Istanbul's main skateboarding place where local skaters meet up and do tricks over big steps. The long Barbaros Boulevard takes traffic uphill and inland from the centre of Besiktas, a major route to the Bosphorus bridges. To the left (going uphill) is the centre of Besiktas, Abbasaga Park and streets of apartment buildings leading to Ihlamur Kasri (a summer palace of the Ottoman dynasty in its last period - the 19th century) and up to Dikilitas and Sisli. This was orchards and fruit-gardens in the 18th century but today is a densely-populated residential area and Besiktas Pazari near Ihlamur has been one of the best-known open air markets of Istanbul for several decades. Ihlamur means 'linden' in Turkish and there are plenty of these beautifully-scented trees in the park and throughout Besiktas. Abbasaga Park was a cemetery in Ottoman times, and was dug up in the early days of the Turkish Republic to create the park that exists today. Unfortunately this was done without taking any records and the operation was a loss to the historical record of Istanbul.
To the right of Barbaros Bulvari lies Yildiz palace and Yildiz park, the largest green area in Besiktas, now home to Yildiz Technical University. From this point on, housing becomes more upmarket and much more expensive as we get into the Balmumcu, Etiler (where Bogaziçi University is located) and Ulus areas. All this was farmland in the Ottoman period, and the small palace called Balmumcu Kasri was a hunting lodge of the sultans.
Going along the Bosphorus from Besiktas in northward direction we pass the Çiragan Palace hotel and come to a number of well known districts that still retain some of their original village identity:
Ortaköy: In the past this was a cosmopolitan area with communities of Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Ortaköy is highly visible from the Bosphorus because of the incredibly ornate mosque right on the jetty (a product of the feverish imagination of the Balyan family). Today Ortaköy is a popular city neighbourhood with art galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants and on Sundays a craft market in the streets.
Kuruçesme: the coast and the steep hillside behind it from the little point in Ortaköy called Defterdarburnu up to the beginning of Arnavutköy at Sarrafburnu and the entrance to Robert College. There is still some of the lush green on the hillside which gave the area its original name, Koruçesme.
Arnavutköy (previously known as Hestai, then Promotu and Anaplus). The long lost Byzantine church of Ayios Mihael built by Constantine was here. It was pulled down and its stones used to build the castle of Rumeli Hisari.
Bebek, named in the period of the conquest when Bebek Çelebi (most likely a nickname, as "bebek" means "baby" in Turkish), lieutenant of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, was sent here to build the castle of Rumeli Hisari and thus establish control of the Bosphorus. Bebek Çelebi built himself a house and a garden here. Since then many of Turkey's great and powerful have followed in his footsteps and built themselves luxury homes along this coast.
Asiyan, between Bebek and Rumeli Hisari. Now best known for the cemetery where many of Istanbul's aristocracy chose to be buried, this area is built on a slight point out into the sea, and as this narrows the Bosphorus it was known in Greek as Lomekopi or in Turkish, Bogazkesen, the Bosphorus breaker. The area today takes its name from the house of poet Tevfik Fikret up on the hill overlooking the sea, and "âsiyan" means 'bird's nest' in Persian.
The district also gives its name to Turkey's oldest sports club, Besiktas Jimnastik Kulübü (Besiktas Gymnastics Club), founded in 1903. The club's football team is one of the top three in Turkey and has won twelve Turkish Super League titles and participated three times (1997-98, 2000-01, 2003-04) in the UEFA Champions League. The club's 32,000-seater BJK Inönü Stadium is on the Bosphorus sea-front just before the centre of Besiktas and on match days the area is crowded with football fans. The Kazan Pub in the centre of Besiktas is the traditional raucous pre-match meeting place.
The football team wears black-and-white shirts and are nicknamed the "Black Eagles". The club is widely supported by the working class and also has earned fame with their notoriously faithful fans.
Besiktas JK also has basketball, volleyball, and other team-sports branches.
BJK Akatlar Arena is the home of the basketball team.
An activity against nuclear power plants from Çarsi and GreenpeaceÇarsi (means Bazaar in Turkish) is the biggest fan group of Besiktas JK. It took its name from the Besiktas Bazaar. The core of the group is from the Bazaar, working class and university students. The district of Besiktas has the highest amount of universities per km² in Turkey. Before every match, the Carsi Group meets at the Kazan Pub, and walks all the way from Besiktas, through the historic Dolmabahçe Avenue, to the Inönü Stadium. The group is mostly made up of left-wing supporters. When the former prime minister of Turkey, Bülent Ecevit (Democratic Left), died, the group blackened its website for a day as a tribute of respect for the former prime minister.
Çarsi is also known for its sensitivity to reflect public opinions and preoccupations. They have performed several activities or protest such as protesting the famous Susurluk affair (where mafia-government relations were laid to public eyes by a traffic incident in Susurluk) by turning the stadium lights off, supporting Greenpeace by helping out for a non-nuclear protest flag hang off the stadium, protesting global warming, supporting democratic leaders and icons.