Istanbul’s unspoiled neighborhood: Kuzguncuk

Istanbul’s unspoiled neighborhood: Kuzguncuk

Saffet Emre Tonguç
Istanbul’s unspoiled neighborhood: Kuzguncuk Let me take you to a neighborhood in Istanbul where traditional hospitality is still evident. Franchised supermarkets are not found here. Businesses are made by small-time artisans, buildings are old and conversation is sincere and warm…

A neighborhood where a church, a mosque and a synagogue stand side by side along the shore of the Bosphorus, Kuzguncuk is the home of 19th century Istanbul cosmopolitanism and more importantly, incredibly rare amicableness. 

We can observe that the neighborhood culture lives on here because of the preservation of small businesses. The bakery, grocery store, green grocer, butcher shop, haberdasher and stationers greet you along with scattered cafes and restaurants.  Get lost on the streets of Kuzguncuk and you will encounter unexpected surprises!

Because of the hardships of traveling at the time, Kuzguncuk was deemed the first resting stop in Asia for Jews unable to travel to sacred grounds, which is why many wanted to live or be buried there. 

Go from the main street, Icadiye Street, to the neighborhood, and right on your left you will see the Bath Ya’akov Synagogue along with the Ayios Yeorgios Eastern Church. A little bit further on your right stands the Ayios Panteleimon Church. The Armenian community gave up pieces of their land for the Kuzguncuk Mosque, which is next to the Armenian Church Surp Krikor Lusaroviç along the Bosphorus road. Today both places of worship have domes of the same height.  

Cemil Molla Mansion

Istanbul’s unspoiled neighborhood: Kuzguncuk

As you head for Beylerbeyi, you will encounter an extraordinary wooden mansion. The building that was built for Abdülhamid II’s minister of justice, Mahmud Cemil, in 1885 by the Italian architect Alberti combines Eastern and Western architecture. The mosque used to function as a center of the arts and became the host of poetry and music nights. The mansion also housed the first telephone, private cinema and photography studio of the Ottoman Empire.  

While traveling from Kuzguncuk to Üsküdar you will see one of the best the Bosphorus has to offer: the Fethi Ahmet Paşa Mansion. Situated behind the mansion is a grove with the same name and the city hall of this grove has a splendid view. For a while the famous writer and poet Nazım Hikmet lived there. In the past there lived a Greek doctor, who gave his name to the idiom “Tell your troubles to Marko Paşa,” which is used commonly by Kuzguncuk residents, and the famous writer Can Yücel.

Istanbul’s unspoiled neighborhood: Kuzguncuk

Famous food writer Refika’s kitchen is located in the Simotas building from 1923 on the street of the post office. On the building designed by a Greek architect in a Muslim country for a Jewish family, there are three different calendars: the Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar and the Hijri calendar.  

In the past there were many summer cinemas in the neighborhood, however now dropping by the Ilya’nın Bostanı park is a must. Greek-origin citizen Ilya would sell what she could grow in the yard until the 1990s. 86 little gardens in the park were recently rented through lottery.

Little businesses filled with flavor 

In Kuzguncuk there are great restaurants and cafes. Asude was one of the first to start the concept of a boutique hotel in the world. I once took the legendary founder of Studio 54, Ian Schragger, there and he loved the food (0216 334 44 14).

Kosinitza, named after the old name of Kuzguncuk, presents a menu consisting predominantly of sea food. (0216 334 04 00). Ismet Baba is a good sea food restaurant on the sea and even served Meryl Streep back in 2009. (0216 553 12 32).

The nearby Hatice Ana presents homemade food (0216 553 77 35). 

The food and the terrace of the Mülkiyeliler Lokali across the pier are beautiful (0216 492 4116).

Betty Blue is located on Icadiye Street. You feel as though you’re in your mother’s kitchen. One of the new cafes of Kuzguncuk is named “La Mekân.” It has a small but sincere atmosphere. You will love the cookies of this café run by two journalists (0216 391 29 98). 

Products with the smell of arts 

We encounter an incredibly unexpected variety of stores in Kuzguncuk. The Homemade Aromaterapi store on Üranizade Street is a venue for remedies and one of my favorites. They sell products using cold-pressed fixed oils and herbs not containing any additives in porcelain mortars not touching any metal or plastic. The Record Store across repairs record players and sells them. 

Bir Kuzguncuk Dükkânı presents its customers with countless gifts and artesian handiwork. 

Bencil is only a five-square meter-store and takes its name (Selfish) from its ability to sell custom made products. 

You can look at creative accessories in Ne Var Orada and Nilgün Berber’in Atölyesi or join an event in KUSAT (Kuzguncuk Theater of Arts). The corners of the neighborhood with the smell of the arts are also the Mavitan Heykel Atölyesi, Mona and Harmony arts galleries.