Explore No : #430
Eminönü is a district of Istanbul in Turkey. This is the heart of the
walled city of Constantine, the focus of a history of incredible
richness. Eminönü covers the point on which the Byzantine capital was
built. The Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn into Eminönü and the
mouth of the Bosphorus opens into the Marmara Sea. And up on the hill
stands Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) and Hagia
Sophia (Aya Sofya). Thus Eminönü is the main tourist destination in
The Golden Horn was a natural port, particularly the Eminönü/Sirkeci
shore, which being on a peninsula was also eminently defensible. It
was for this port that İstanbul was built, and from here that İstanbul
grew, with the oldest neighbourhoods being the port districts along
the Golden Horn. In time the Byzantine port was also occupied by
merchants from Genoa and Pisa, who eventually acquired their own
wharfs and waterfront districts.
The Golden Horn was still a thriving port in Ottoman times, occupied by importers, warehousemen, sailors and traders of every description, the centre of trade in the city, a labryinth of narrow streets wokshops and markets leading uphill to Topkapı Palace, the Ottoman capital.
The district's name, Eminönü, also reflects its' place in history. Translated from Turkish to English it roughly means 'in front of justice'. Emin meaning 'justice', önü meaning 'in front of'. The name most probably came from the Ottoman courts and customs houses on the docks.
The nature of the place did of course change in the industrial age; the Galata Bridge was built across the Golden Horn; steamships came, then electricity, then the railway and the Istanbul terminal of the Orient Express was naturally sited at Sirkeci Station. The sea walls still surrounded the city, and the sea gates of the port of Eminönü were the point of entry for goods, and for people.
Following the huge railway station, other grand stone buildings followed in the late Ottoman period, commercial buildings, the central post office among others. And in the early days of the Turkish Republic, Eminönü was renovated extensively; the big square was opened up in front of Yeni Cami (by clearing out the tollbooths at the end of the Galata Bridge); The Spice bazaar was restored; the fish market was cleared off the shore of the Golden Horn and a road opened up to the new bridge at Unkapanı.
By the 1950s, the area was continuously clogged up with traffic, which was eased somewhat by the construction of the large coast road around the point and all the way out to Istanbul airport.
Things to see
Eminönü has many historical mosques and buildings, many of Istanbul's best-known landmarks. Recent development has improved Eminönü greatly and many of its winding streets which can at first seem imposing have been developed and improved, while Eminönü has started to repair the many mosques.
•Sultanahmet - which contains Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque and Aya Irini among about a thousand other incredible pieces of architecture;
•Süleymaniye - the huge mosque complex of Suleyman the Magnificent;
•Yeni Cami (The new mosque) - the mosque that dominates the waterfront by the Galata Bridge; there is a wide open space in front where people feed the pigeons.
•The Grand Bazaar - as much to look at as to shop in.
•The Spice Bazaar - another Ottoman caravanserai, not as huge as the Grand Bazzar but right on the water, next to Yeni Camii;