Beykoz is a district in Istanbul, Turkey at the northern end of the Bosphorus on the Anatolian side. Beykoz includes everything from the streams of Küçüksu and Göksu (just before Anadolu Hisarı) up to the opening of the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, and the villages in the hinterland as far as the river of Riva. This is one of the most pleasant and peaceful districts of Istanbul, with much greenery still intact.
The mouth of the Bosphorus has always been a location to spark the imagination, and in ancient times was a place of sacrifice. Blood was spilt to petition Zeus and Poseidon for a safe journey across the treacherous Black Sea, without which no one would venture into those stormy waters.
The first historic people to settle the upper-Bosphorus were Thracians and Greeks and the ancient name for the area was Amikos (Αμικός in Greek) or Amnicus (Αμνικός), named after a Thracian king. However, the area has changed hands many times since. As well as being one of the most strategically important crossing points in history, the Bosphorus itself has always been rich in fish and opportunities for plundering the even richer communities around the Marmara, and Beykoz has been settled by wave on wave of invaders from around and beyond the Black Sea: Thracians, Bithynians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and finally Turks.
In the Ottoman period, the land behind Beykoz was open country and forest used for hunting and an escape from the city by the Sultans and their court. The hunting lodge at Küçüksu, and the fountains and mosques that decorate the villages along the coast date from this era. The name Beykoz was established at this time and appears to derives from Bey (meaning prince, lord or gentleman) and Koz (the Persian word for village). (Koz is also a word for a type of walnut, another possible etymology).
Under Turkish control the straits have retained their strategic value; indeed British troops assembled in Beykoz on their way to fight in the Crimea in 1854.
Later attempts were made to bring industry to the area, most importantly the glassworks at Paşabahçe, which began as small workshops in the 17th century and by the 18th and 19th centuries were a well-established factory making the ornate spiral-designed or semi-opaque white glassware known to collectors worldwide as 'Beykoz-ware'. A well-known shoe factory was later built, now both glass and shoe factories are closed.
On the hillsides above the Bosphorus Beykoz has always suffered from uncontrolled development and large areas above the Bosphorus are covered in illegal housing, where migrants have come to live and work in the glass and other industries. Areas like Çubuklu and Paşabahçe are continually struggling to put in infrastructure to keep up with the housing being built illegally or semi-legally. Due to this incoming industrial workforce Beykoz has had a working-class character unseen behind the luxury of the Bosphorus waterfront. Schooling is somewhat of a problem and it is common to see children from the Beykoz area going to school by boat to the European side.
Now the illegal building is happening in the forests further back from the sea, particularly in the areas of Çavuşbaşı and Elmalı. This countryside is scattered with little villages, all of which are expanding now more roads are being put through.
Not all the new housing is scrappy, and Beykoz holds some of the most luxurious new development in the Istanbul area, the villa estates of Acarkent and Beykoz Konaklar, home to filmstars, members of parliament and other Istanbul glitterati. How attractive these places are and how cultured and respectable the residents are matters of some debate.
The Bosphorus has historically been teeming with fish, and Beykoz does have a small fishing community (although the main fishing fleet is based in Istanbul itself). The fish restaurants at Anadolu Kavağı in particular have sprung up to serve day trippers from the Bosphorus tours by ferryboat.
Places to see
The Bosphorus coastal road runs up to Beykoz from Beylerbeyi (just below the Bosphorus Bridge) and there are roads down to the coast from the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge too. The district can also be reached by water of course; by ferry from Eminönü, Beşiktaş. There are also smaller boats from Yeniköy to Beykoz, and from Bebek or Emirgan to the neighborhoods of Kanlıca or Anadolu Hisarı.
Of the three most distinctive buildings on the way up the Bosphorus to Beykoz, one is a classic Ottoman imperial hunting lodge Küçüksu Palace; one is much older, the castle of Anadolu Hisarı was constructed by the Ottomans during the buildup to the conquest in order to secure the Bosphorus for the Turkish armies; and one is more recent, the prominent white tower on the hill above Kanlıca is Khedive Palace, built in 1907 as the holiday home of the Khedive of Egypt. Khedive Palace is now a restaurant set in a very attractive park. Kanlıca and Anadolu Hisarı are pleasant vıllages with cafes on the waterfront to sit and take tea.
Along the coast are some of the most expensive houses in the city and many politicians and famous people in Turkey have villas here. Some of the grandest of the huge wooden Ottoman seaside houses called yalı can be found from Anadolu Hisarı up to Beykoz itself. As well as the obvious attraction of living by the water the large areas of forest parkland on hillside along much of this coast make the Beykoz waterfront a peaceful retreat from the city. But the water is the clincher: the scent of the sea coming off the Bosphorus, people fishing, the huge ships sliding by, the sound of foghorns in the evening; no wonder the restaurants and nightclubs on the shore are the classiest in the city, and the coast before Beykoz has its share of these - clubs such as Hayal Kahvesi or Club 29 in Çubuklu, restaurants such as Körfez or Lacivert (both near Anadolu Hisarı). Much of the coast is built on unfortunately, and the buses that drive the coast road are a law unto themselves but there are still plenty of spots on the waterfront to eat, drink, fish or just sit. In places such as Yalıköy there are boats moored up selling grilled mackerel.
In Beykoz itself there is a large park on the hillside (Beykoz Korusu), and a number of attractive Ottoman fountains. The town centre also has a village feel to it, with smallish, aging buildings, many of them houses rather than blocks of flats, especially on the hills that climb up away from the coast. Being far from the city infrastructure such as natural gas is taking its time to arrive, but the general peacefulness of neighbourhood and the possibility of a Bosphorus view more than compensate. There is however very little in the way of night-life, or even evening-life, or smart places to eat and drink this far up the Bosphorus (although one or two places are opening up now)
Beyond Beykoz, there are large areas of forested countryside, where the people of Istanbul come for picnics at the weekend. And it is then that Beykoz suffers some of the traffic congestion that so plagues the city as a whole.
Some popular picnic spots include: The upper Bosphorus villages of Anadolu Kavağı, Anadolufeneri and Poyrazköy. In Anadolufeneri, the historical lighttower Anadolu Feneri can be visited. Kavak being particularly popular as the last stop on the Bosphorus ferry cruises, where people stop to eat fish and walk up to the castle on the hill. Fener and Poyraz are smaller but very pleasant fishing villages; The Black Sea village of Riva; where you can swim but you must be careful as this is near the mouth of the Bosphorus and sometimes there are dangerous currents. The inland around and between Cumhuriyet Köyü, Ali Bahadır, Değirmendere, Akbaba, Dereseki and Polonezköy are all popular retreats, and new roads are being put through to service the luxury housing that is going up in places.
There are a number of tombs of Muslim saints and holy places that also attract visitors, particularly the tomb of the saint Yuşa (a nephew of the Prophet Mohammed), on a hill just before Anadolu Kavağı. According to other accounts, the tomb is that of Prophet Yusha, the successor to Prophet Musa.