In between Ortaköy and Bebek on the European shoreline of the Bosphorus strait lies Arnavutköy. A small neighborhood rich with history and culture.
It’s name literally translates to Arnavut (Albanian) köy (village). The name ‘Albanian village’ stems from when the Sultan brought men from Albania to Istanbul in the 19th century, to help pave the city’s streets. They settled here, hence the name’s origin.
The area was once inhabited and known for its multi-ethnic population living harmoniously together. Filled with Turks, Muslims, Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities. Within close proximity to each other, once stood a Greek Orthodox church, a Mosque and a Synagogue.
Unfortunately the synagogue was destroyed and most of the Jews deserted the area after the ‘1887 Great fire in Arnavutköy’. A fire that destroyed the village , destroying hundreds of houses and shops, all because of a fallen gas lamp in a home. Due to the wooden houses, and the wind off the Bosphorus, the fire spread quickly.
The area is also known for the famed Arnavutköy strawberry (Ottoman strawberry), a less juicy and smaller kind than the usual strawberries found throughout Turkey. Every spring the village would be filled with its strong fragrance. Now this type of strawberry can only be found in the Black Sea region.
It’s also home to Robert College, established in 1863, the oldest American school founded outside the US.
Whether you arrive by bus (from Beşiktaş: 22, 25, 40, 42) or ferry, you’ll see boats, fisherman and old wooden Ottoman mansions (yalı) lining the shore.
As you walk through the little, quiet village it’s relaxing and charming. Never crowded, and not a popular destination among tourists. Hidden gems can be found through exploring: a yorgancı (quilt maker), a rainbow staircase, or beautiful views of both the bridges.
WHERE TO EAT
As you walk through the narrow cobble-stoned streets you’ll be faced with a choice of countless fish restaurants – my favorite, Adem Baba. If you’re not in the mood for fish: Köfteci Ali Baba was ranked one of the top 10 places to eat köfte in Istanbul. Bodrum Manti & Cafe is also a good choice, I highly recommend the manti (Turkish dumplings) or tomato soup. And if it’s possible to still be hungry for dessert, I recommend buying a small chocolate cherry or chocolate orange cake from Muskat Butik Pastane & Cafe and enjoy it with tea at İBB Arnavutköy Sosyal Tesisleri. If you’re up for a walk along the Bosphorus, walk to Bebek and enjoy it at Bebek Kahve.
Adem Baba: Satışmeydanı Sokak No:2 Arnavutköy İstanbul
Köfteci Ali Baba: Arnavutköy Bebek Caddesi, No 69 Arnavutköy İstanbul
Bodrum Manti & Cafe: 1. Caddesi No: 111 Arnavutköy İstanbul
Muskat Butik Pastane & Cafe: 1. Caddesi, No 63 Arnavutköy İstanbul
İBB Arnavutköy Sosyal Tesisleri: 1. Caddesi, No:72 Arnavutköy İstanbul
Bebek Kahve: Bebek Mahallesi Cevdet Paşa Caddesi, No 34, Bebek İstanbul