Istanbul/Golden Horn

The Golden Horn (Turkish: Haliç) is the district of Istanbul surrounding the banks of the body of water of the same name, which is a bay of the Bosphorus along its western, European coast.

This article focuses on the areas around the Golden Horn banks west of the city walls. For the southeastern and the northeastern banks, see the articles for the Old City and Galata districts, respectively.


Golden Horn as seen from Pierre Loti Cafe

The English name of the bay comes from its Greek counterpart, Hrison Keras (Χρυσόν Κέρας), which literally translates the "Golden Horn". The "horn" part perhaps comes from the deep curve the bay has towards its end in the northwest. The "golden" part is more obscure, but possibly it's a poetic referral to the reflections on the Horn's water during the beautiful sunsets.

The Ottomans named the Horn as Haliç, which in modern Turkish is a geographical term for an "estuary", although in its original Arabic, it simply means a "gulf".


The Golden Horn is the estuary of the Alibeyköy and Kağıthane Rivers (known collectively as the Sweet Waters of Europe by the early European travellers of the centuries past; joining each other northeast of Eyüp near Silahtar), formed when the waters of the Bosphorus flooded their common riverbed in prehistory. Always been the primary harbour of Istanbul, it can even be argued that Istanbul would never have existed in such a grand way if it weren't for this well sheltered, superb haven (and also the superb trading route through and across Bosphorus, by the way).

In the 18th century, the banks of the Horn and the rivers that form it were adorned with palaces and mansions that were surrounded by large tulip gardens (most of which are now lost without a trace), where the Ottoman high society were enjoying themselves in ostentatious parties. The banks of the Kağıthane River was especially favoured, where the partying suburb of Sadabad, "the happy city" was founded (the "sweet waters" simply wasn't a metaphor for the then-azure rivers, but it more was a referral to all the dolce vita going on). This was the Tulip Era (Lale Devri, 1718-1730), or as some call it, the "Debauch Era" (Sefahat Devri), which was later accused as one of the reasons for the economical weakening, and the eventual dissolution of the empire.

All this festive lifestyle abruptly came to an end with the Janisarry-led Patrona Halil Revolt of 1730, when some of the buildings in Sadabad was arsoned, and much later in the 19th century, with the inevitable arrival of the industrial revolution in Turkey, when the banks of the Golden Horn became one of the industrial powerhouses of the Turkish economy and remained as such until up to the 1980s. This had its heavy toll on what was once the "golden" Horn: the industrial effluents in addition to the untreated wastewater from the rapidly expanding city's sewers caused the Horn stinking to the high heaven, as much as that people were actually trying to avoid the avenues along its banks even if those routes meant a shortcut to where they are heading. Then in the late 1980s, the first attempts to bring the Horn to its former glory began. Today its water is much cleaner (although locals will surely advise against, it's borderline clean enough for a swim—the Epiphany celebrations of the local Greek community, in which several swimmers strive to grab the wooden cross thrown into the water by the Patriarch, have recently returned to the Horn after being relocated to the Bosphorus for decades), and its banks are surrounded by pleasant parks giving the city a new fresh breath, rising on what was once the lots of factories. Some of the neighbourhoods along its banks, Eyüp in special, put a special emphasis on celebrating the Ottoman roots of the area.


According to the local convention, the Golden Horn has a southern coast, and a northern one, which are also the designations used in this guide. However, due to the almost meandering shape of the Horn, the "south" is sometimes more like west, and the "north" looks as if it's in the east. Simple rule of thumb: if you are standing on a contiguous piece of land with the Süleymaniye Mosque, the red brick & domed Phanar Greek College, or the Eyüp Mosque, then you are on the southern bank. Conversely, if you are seeing these landmarks on the opposite shore and are on the same land that the Galata Tower or the Kasımpaşa Shipyards stand, then you are on the northern coast.

Get in

Get around

Pedestrianized Old Galata Bridge (Eski Galata Köprüsü), built in 1912, and once connecting Eminönü with Karaköy, is replaced with the current bridge in its former place after it suffered from a big fire in 1992 in the stores on its lower level, and towed to its present upper location on Golden Horn, between Feshane Cultural Centre (Feshane Kültür Merkezi) at the eastern entrance of Eyüp on the southern bank of the Horn and Sütlüce on the northern bank of the Horn, providing an easy link for pedestrians between sides of the Horn. However, the middle section of the bridge is sometimes towed away to provide water circulation along the Horn, so it entirely depends on your luck whether you'll be able to cross the Horn on foot on any given day.

Small ferries zigzaging between neighbourhood quays on each side of the Horn are also another way of crossing to the other side of the Horn.

There is also a chairlift line between downtown Eyüp and Pierre Loti on a hill overlooking the Horn, see below ("Drink" section) for more details.







Golden Horn is not very assertive when it comes to accommodation options and is mainly visited as a day trip from nearby districts, Galata and especially Old City. However, if it attracted your attention much as to arouse a desire to overnight there, you have an option or two.

Stay safe

Because of the effects of the refugee crisis due to the ongoing civil war in the neighbouring Syria, and while many refugees are just shy and/or friendly, it's nevertheless best to steer clear of the parks on the banks of the Golden Horn, especially those located near its northwestern end, in lonely times.

Go next

A trip to Eyüp can easily be combined with some more sightseeing in areas of old city of Istanbul that are close to the banks of Golden Horn, such as the former Greek neighbourhood of Fener/Phanar, which houses Patriarchate of Constantinople and Bulgarian church of St. Stephen, one of few prefabricated cast iron churches in the world.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, November 18, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.