It is not surprising that a city like Istanbul has many stories behind the names of its neighborhoods. Since the beauty of city flourished creativity when it comes to calling neighborhoods, there are countless interesting background stories of neighborhood names. Here we list only 7 of them to give you the glimpse of it.
Feriköy is a district close to Nişantaşı and Eminönü in the European side of Istanbul. It is a historical neighborhood, which still has remarkable churches and buildings. During the Ottoman Period, the area was mostly populated by Rums (Greek Ottomans who were Orthodox Christians). Feriköy gets its name from a French merchant Monsieur Ferri, who lived in today’s Feriköy. According to scarce sources, in the 18th century Monsieur Ferri built a mansion in the area, therefore the area started to be called as Ferri’s Village (Feri’nin Köyü). In time, the name got shortened and took its current version, Feriköy. Feriköy is also one of the areas that was abandoned during the unfortunate 6-7 September events that caused majority of non-Muslims to leave their houses in Istanbul. However, you can still visit churches and schools in the area in order to imagine how it was once. Feriköy, as a neighborhood, is also hosting Feriköy Organic Market, Feriköy Flea Market, Bomontiada, Babylon Bomonti, Atölye Istanbul, and Kilimanjaro which are very popular venues nowadays.
Bakırköy is another district that has a long history. Its history goes all the way back to the 4th century CE. It is known that it was a nice countryside during Byzantine times that was enjoyed with its great seaside and nature. Towards the end of Byzantine Empire (13th and 14th centuries), the neighborhood started to be called “Makrohori” which meant long village in Greek. As more Turkish people started calling the city’s name after Ottoman conquest, Makrohori transformed into Makriköy (“Makri” remained in Greek, “hori” changed to Turkish “köy“). After Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, foreign names were translated into Turkish and as a result of this Makriköy was changed into Bakırköy (Bakır means copper in Turkish) probably only for similarities in pronunciation .
Çemberlitaş, next to the Grand Bazaar, takes its name directly from the honorific column (Column of Constantine), commemorating the foundation of Constantinople, erected in 330 CE. The column consists of porphyry blocks that are only found in Egypt. Due to incidents of vandalization and fire disasters the column damaged several times, but in the late 19th century Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid I added iron hoops to bolster the structure and this is why it started being called Çemberlitaş (meaning “hooped rock”). This beautiful monument lead neighborhood to be called with its name. 16oo years old column is still visible and it is very close to the monuments of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Cağaloğlu is a district in Fatih and very close to Sultanahmet, the most touristy district of Istanbul. Cağaloğlu have always had a significance during the Ottoman period since the area was close to the palaces and administrative buildings. When it comes to what gave Cağaloğlu its name and significance, we need to mention Cığalazade Yusuf Sinan Paşa, who was grand vizier in Ottoman Empire around 1596. He built a palace and a Turkish bath (hamam) in the area. Since people were fascinated with the beauty of them, the palace and mostly the hamam became a highlighting spot of the district. Later on, the area started to be called Cığalaoğlu as it refers to these two buildings. Due to practical modifications, the name got its last version Cağaloğlu. During your Istanbul visit we recommend you to visit the area and even enjoy a traditional bath in Cağaloğlu Hamamı.
Tarabya is a district which is on the coast line in European side of Istanbul. It is now famous with fish restaurants, but it also holds a unique story in its past that needs to be known. With its great nature and air quality, during Byzantine times the area was advised as a healing spot. To honor the area with its merits, in the 5th century, Patriarch Attikos officially named the neighborhood “Therapia”, meaning treatment or therapy in Greek. Since then, the name had certain transformations and revised into a more suitable version for Turkish speakers. It is still possible to see examples of Greek architecture from Ottoman times in the area and taste delicious fish meals.
Eminönü had always been one of the essential centers throughout the history of Istanbul during the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods. Thus, Eminönü is at the northeast corner of the peninsula controlling both Golden Horn and Marmara Sea. However, the story of its name is coming from from its Ottoman past. Back then, Eminönü was the center of trade and populated by importers, sailors and traders. Since there were lots of products entering to the empire, there were also custom houses which was directed by Emins, who were the trusted officers and responsible of controlling the taxation, storage and records for traded goods. “Önü” means “front of” in Turkish, so we can conclude that Eminönü represents the area with reference to custom houses, which were once in the neighborhood. Eminönü is definitely on the list of every one who travels in Istanbul because it has countless spots to visit like mosques (New Mosque, Rüstem Paşa Mosque), bazaars (Spice Bazaar), and many old structures.
Kadıköy is one of the oldest known settlements in Istanbul. According to the excavations and primary sources, there were settlers starting from 3000 BC. In such a long history, it is hard to find the first versions of its name. However, the oldest we can go is 675 B.C when Phoenicians moved to the area close to Kadıköy and built a city there which they called “Carhadon”. Later, they built another city to today’s Kadıköy which was called “Chalcedon”. Chalcedon became the capital of Calchedonian State. This city also played a role in the establishment of Byzantium on the other side of the Bosphorus. After Ottoman conquest, the area’s name changed to Kadıköy (Village of the Judge). Although the name was changed to an Ottoman one, the sound similarities with its ancient name is hard to disregard. It is interesting since at the first impression, people would think this name comes from an Ottoman background but actually there is a gentrification in overall name that still keeps the ancient feeling in its sound.
So, these are only 7 instances of interesting stories on name of Istanbul’s neighborhoods. Even this is enough to understand how Istanbul has always been a city welcoming different settlers and been exposed to continuous change. We hope that if you ever visit Istanbul, these neighborhoods and districts will remind you how a city holds lots of stories behind its areas’ names.