Visiting Arnavutköy Neighborhood in Istanbul – How to Explore It Like a Local
Last updated on May 22nd, 2023
As one of the most charming, yet to this day underrated neighborhoods in Istanbul, Arnavutkoy is a paradise for those who want to explore the local life without the hustle of the 5 million visitors that Istanbul receives every year.
Being located in one of the most beautiful spots on the Bosphorus Strait on the European side in the district of Besiktas, it is one of the most popular places for social life in Istanbul. Arnavutköy is famous for long Friday night cocktails, all day long Saturday hangouts, and Sunday brunches. It is also famous as the most desired neighborhood for living among Istanbulites even though there is no proper public transportation or parking.
Arnavutkoy’s proximity to the ferry and tourist areas makes it a great area for an afternoon visit, day trip from the busy Istanbul center, or even an overnight stay.
This wonderfully unique neighborhood has charm and beauty as well as a few secret things to do during your escape. Check them out and get inspired!
Resources You’ll Need for Your Istanbul Trip
Planning your trip to Istanbul last minute? If yes, here are the first-hand resources and insider tips that you’ll need!
Apply for E-Visa
- Turkey E-Visa for individuals – check if you need it
Top Private Transfer from Istanbul Airport
Best Places (Locations) to Stay in Istanbul for Mid-Budget
- Zeyn Otel Istanbul (Sultanahmet – 9.6)
- Walton Hotel (Galata – 9.4)
- Room Mate Emir (Taksim – 9)
- Ikiz Konak Boutique Hotel (Kadikoy, Asian side – 9.6)
Top Tours in Istanbul
- Evening Walking and Food Tasting Tour (best for short visits!)
- Tour Around Colorful Neighborhoods of Istanbul (small group tour!)
- Mosques of Istanbul Walking Tour (with expert guide!)
- Secrets of Istanbul Tour (best city tour!)
- Asian Side Walking Tour With Ferry Ride (best for budget travelers!)
- Best Bosphorus Cruise (skip the line!)
Other Useful Resources to Have
- Best Istanbul Car Hire – below I explain why
- Best Istanbul Pocket WiFi – unlimited 4G Internet
- Istanbul City Transport Card – for bus, metro, tram & ferries
- Istanbul Museum Pass – skip the line at the most famous sights
In the 4th century, Arnavutkoy was inhabited by the Greek community and many other communities over the years. However, it received its name for its influx of Albanians that were placed here by the ottoman conqueror Sultan Mehmet in the 15th century. The literal translation for Arnavutköy is “Albanian Village”.
All this diversity made it one of the most cosmopolitan places in Istanbul back in the day. Even today you can still see remnants of the melting pot that once lived here as you will find a church, synagogue, and a mosque all co-existing within 5 minutes of each other. Also, there are many other places for different faiths and backgrounds all around the neighborhood.
The most attractive part of Arnavutköy is its ottoman-era houses that fill the streets with color and incredible architecture. These tall and majestic Art Nouveau buildings belonged mostly to Greek families that left these wonderful houses either because they were expropriated or they abandoned them. Today those mansions are worth an average of 1 million euros each.
So, why should you add Arnavutköy to your must-visit places list when traveling to Istanbul?
Let’s Start with the Waterfront & Charming Streets
Arnavutkoy’s waterfront is a fascinating area where you can see fishermen during the day, getting the freshest fish from the Bosphorus.
There are also magical areas to see the sunset, whether you are directly on the waterfront road or if you climb up a few (or a lot) steps to get a great view from above looking into the strait that separates the European and Asian continents.
One of my favorite spots for the best sunset views of Istanbul from Arnavutkoy is here on the stairs on Uvez street, right on top of a staircase by a red Ottoman house.
But before the sun starts to go below the horizon, you have to walk first on the streets of Arnavutkoy, exploring the historical architecture the neighborhood has preserved. Colorful houses with bay windows full of green plants attract attention and make hands reach for the camera before you even think about it.
The number of beautiful sights increases as you go up the coast and enter the side streets which, by the way, also serve as shooting locations for popular Turkish TV series.
For the most beautiful streets of Arnavutköy, be sure to stop by Beyazgül Street, Francalacı, Eğlence, Dolaplı Kuyu, and Kamacı Street.
Continue with Historic Buildings
During your Arnavutköy street tour, you shouldn’t also miss the historical buildings, they all have a story to tell. Such as:
Tevfikiye Mosque, built in 1838 is one of the oldest Ottoman structures in the neighborhood. The name of this mosque comes from the prince Tevfik who was a prince here during the time when the mosque was built by Sultan Mahmud II when there were no Muslims living in this area yet. Right next to the mosque, there is Süslü Arnavutköy Police Station, one of the 19th-century police stations of Istanbul which is interesting to look at.
Taksiarhis Greek Orthodox Church, completed in 1899, is quite remarkable from the outside. It is a large building with a bell tower offering services on Sundays. This church was dedicated to the archangel Michael and people believe that being there gives healing powers. You can find it here.
The next place that is worth a peak is Profitis Ilias Greek Orthodox Church located in the northern part of the neighborhood here. It is not open to visitors (only for private ceremonies and worship), as there were too many thieves in the past who tried to steal liturgical objects. But if the church guard is there, he’ll let you in.
Robert College is another interesting place to walk to if you are curious to see one of the most prestigious high schools in Turkey. It was established as a private school in Istanbul to provide education in the “American style” in the Ottoman Empire in 1863. The building is hidden in the Arnavutköy hills over a huge territory and requires a bit of an uphill walk from the coast. Not only is this a beautiful area with a grandiose building, but also a place where to look at Turkish student life.
Photograph Ottoman-era Greek Mansions along the Bosphorus
The biggest road that passes through Arnavutköy is Bebek Arnavutkoy Cadesi which means nothing to most readers who see me mentioning it. However, this is the place where you’ll find beautiful and unique-looking Ottoman-era Greek houses that are an iconic highlight of Arnavutkoy. They are on all postcards that picture this neighborhood and it is easy to recognize them when being in the area.
The mansions, in different pastel colors lined up side by side, overlooking the Bosphorus in the past used to stand right by the water, giving Greeks direct access to the sea and providing great opportunities for fishing.
However, after the construction of the road, a direct connection with the sea was lost, taking away all the original significance of mansions. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that it is still one of the most beautiful views of the Istanbul Besiktas neighborhood. Painting-like homes that look like they have been drawn and colored with a brush become more beautiful as you get closer.
Make sure you walk by the canal where these mansions are located (you’ll definitely see them but a lot of people don’t walk the entire way) no matter when you are visiting – either in spring, summer, winter, or fall.
It is always so nice to look at each home with its embroideries, carvings, and so many beautiful details. All of them have their own boat mooring and serve as an excellent location for millions of Instagram photos.
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Arnavutkoy is finding a bar or coffee place that can offer great views while I indulge in one of my favorite drinks. For that, I recommend Xunta, where I have found the best cocktails in Istanbul. There is a street-level space and a terrace but make sure you get there early as it is not a big place and locals love it.
However, if you don’t find space in Xunta, try Alexandra Cocktail Bar. It is a bit pricey but has a good rooftop bar. Don’t go without taking some photos on the spiral stairs. They also have a DJ at night and on the weekends.
Another thing you must try in Arnavutköy is one or many of their fish/seafood restaurants. It doesn’t get fresher than this. Two of my biggest recommendations are:
Arnavutköy İskele Balık restaurant where the atmosphere is just like the views – excellent. Try there the Hamsi (Anchovy) or the Seabass. And if you want to practice your Turkish, this is a good place to do so, their staff is very welcoming and will help you practice with a smile.
The second fish restaurant that you may want to try is Hayri Balık Midye Tava. This restaurant is not fancy at all but it has one of the best storefronts you can find in Arnavutköy. Also, its building is the most photographed in the neighborhood. You can often find it on many resources or on many postcards and magnets.
If the weather is good, sit down outside and have two of the must-try foods when in Turkey and that is Balık ekmek (fish sandwich) and Midye Dolma (mussels filled with rice and spices). You will love them whether you like mussels or not, so don’t say no just yet.
Finally, for the evening, do not skip the Rakı along with your seafood.
HIDE ARNAVUTKOY – With its outdoor seating area, it is a very nice restaurant for breakfast, coffee, and desserts. Its menu is pretty limited but includes healthy alternatives. Prices are slightly higher than average, and a 10% service fee is added to the account. There may be a queue at the door starting from 10:00 in the morning, so you better go early.
F’ROSÈS – Beautiful, cute, pink cafe with a nice selection of coffees, teas, desserts, and sweets.
CREPAN – Best place in Istanbul for crepes and pancakes with many toppings to choose from, and my favorite part is the wall art. Here you will find another photo session location for your Instagram.
DOORSTEP – simply the best cafe for a new generation coffee with sweet options in Arnavutköy. It is a nice stopping point for those wandering around with a small seating area outside.
CHADO TEA SHOP – a tea store with a mini cafe area where you can find a good selection of loose teas. There is a small instagrammable area outside where to drink your tea and watch people pass by.
There are many restaurants and cafes in Arnavutkoy as pretty much in all other areas. The Istanbul restaurant scene is so rich that each neighborhood has something of its own to surprise with. In Arnavutkoy, you can truly sit in any place and love them all and enjoy either a hearty Turkish breakfast, a quick snack, or a 3-course dinner.
One of the experiences that I also loved on top of everything was going with one of my Turkish friends to a super local tea house where you can see retired Turkish man spending their entire day drinking Çay and playing table games.
The Çay houses I mean are not related to the coffee shops or a tea room recommended above. These local Çay houses don’t have a name as they are just a location without a sign or presence online. But it is difficult to miss them since they are usually full of Turkish men who chat, sip cay, and play table games. By visiting one of these places, you can drink excellent Çay and Turkish coffee while seeing locals spend their time. This experience is as local as it gets.
From the IST (main Istanbul) airport:
Unfortunately, the Havaist/Havabus bus that connects the main areas of Istanbul like Beşiktaş, Taksim, Kadiköy, etc, doesn’t have a stop in Arnavutköy. But you could take the Havaist bus to the Beşiktaş stop, and from there grab an Uber/Taxi. The price of this shuttle bus from the airport is about 27 Turkish Lira, about $1.50 to today’s rate exchange.
Alternative to that is bus 40 which departs from Taksim and goes to Arnavutkoy along the coast.
If you decide not to stay there and want to visit from different points of the city, here is a quick guide to how to get there.
Take the ferry from Kadiköy to Beşiktaş and then take bus 22, 22RE, 25E, 40T or 42T. Or you can take the ferry from Kadiköy to Beşiktaş Dentur and then switch to the ferry from Beşiktaş Iskelesi ferry terminal to Arnavutköy Iskelesi. I highly recommend sticking to the ferries as you will never find traffic that delays your commute.
Take the ferry as mentioned before. Or the buses also mentioned above.
Take bus 40 from Taksim square or 40T or 42T from İETT Park Otel Durağı bus station.
Take tram T10 to Fındıklı Mimar Sinan Üniversitesi and transfer to the buses mentioned in the Kadiköy route.
Note: You will need your Istanbul Kart for any of these methods of transportation or you can always take an uber, which is again available since the end of 2020, or get a cab through the local app Bitaksi. For more tips on transport in Istanbul, refer to my guide on things to know before visiting Istanbul.
Should You Use a Car?
Technically you can reach the Arnavutkoy neighborhood by car but I don’t recommend anyone to do it. First of all, because traffic is intense and parking situation in Arnavutkoy is pretty bad.
Better use public transport or uber/taxi and find out when exactly you need to have a car in Istanbul.
There are thousands of airbnbs, hotels, Couchsurfing options, and all types of unique accommodations in Istanbul. So of course Arnavutköy is no exception. However, let me tell you straight – this neighborhood is expensive. All accommodation is overpriced (even the most basic one) simply because of the ‘luxury status’ it got, due to location, views, hills, and historic mansions.
If you prefer hotels, you will find limited choices in Arnavutkoy, but still great options for an elegant stay.
The fanciest one is The Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, right above the Ortaköy Mosque which starts at $500 a night. Even though I haven’t spent a night there, I was able to visit it in 2020 and was simply stunned by the waterfront view. It is out of this world. This hotel also has an exclusive hammam and great gastronomical offers.
Another beautiful hotel is Bebek Hotel, in the north of Arnavutköy. It is a down to earth place and its location provides dreamy views with a great quality-price ratio.
Airbnb has tons of options too, although some are as expensive as hotels. But if you love airbnbs as much as I do, it is your lucky day. Prices range from $45 to $450 per night, and you can even find apartments in historical buildings like this ottoman villa for about $100 per night.
There are really a lot of places to stay in Istanbul. If budget allows, Arnavutköy is one you don’t want to miss for sure, especially if looking for romantic accommodation with fantastic views! If you need cheaper options, take a look at my list of budget-friendly flats in Istanbul and from there go over other posts to Istanbul accommodation.
The golden rule that I recommend to follow on any trip, be it Istanbul or any other Turkish city – don’t be afraid to explore.
Getting lost in the streets and back streets has led to some of my favorite discoveries of quaint tea places, cafes, and a welcoming group of cute cats. Arnavutoy has its own secrets and discoveries and sweet and friendly cats.
Don’t worry, even if you are afraid or allergic, none of them would attack or get close if you don’t want them to. But if you are down for some cat loving, Arnavutköy is a perfect place to play and cuddle cats, as there aren’t many distractions that will make them run away to the next curiosity they find.
If you follow my tips for visiting this neighborhood, you’ll be able to see it through the eyes of a local and experience it in an authentic way. And then if you look for more inspirational posts on other neighborhoods, see more posts below.
More Self-Guided Tours Around Istanbul Neighborhoods
If you enjoyed this neighborhood tour, I have a few more neighborhood tour suggestions that you can do on your own. And many more are yet to come!
- All neighborhoods and areas in Istanbul – find out which one works best for you
- Istanbul Old City Guide – discover Sultanahmet neighborhood, the historical center of Istanbul
- Touring Balat – most historically and culturally rich neighborhood in Istanbul
- Areas in Istanbul that is better to avoid – know where to go & where not to
- 4 Days in Istanbul itinerary – how to spend four days in Istanbul
- My guide to Burgaz island – avoid the crowds and visit the best beaches in Istanbul on this island
- Turkey 7 days itinerary – my top 4 sample routes for a week’s long travel in Turkey