Explore Eminonu

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South of the Golden Horn, west of the Bosphorus and north of the Sea of Marmara, Eminonu has long been the meeting point of traders, sailors and people looking for a bargain. Back in Ottoman times, it was home to the Empire’s official Customs Office and numerous private customs houses. It’s believed that the name in part stems from the word emin, meaning the officials tasked with controlling the taxation, storage and record keeping for all goods being traded. “Önü” means “in front of” in Turkish, suggesting that the name Eminönü refers to the area where the custom houses once stood. These custom houses formed the entry point for newly arrived goods, people and ideas. Located on yarımada, the peninsula housing Topkapı Palace, the country’s seat of power, and Sirkeci Railway Station, which connected Turkey to its lands in the east, Eminönü was once an important place.

Some of Eminonu’s residents

This warren of narrow streets, housing mosques, working han, sacred tombs and people hiding from justice, was fed by a constant stream of new arrivals coming on the sailing boats, and later steamboats that docked nearby. Daily the air rang with the cries of tea vendors, water sellers, hamal (porters) and the myriad of vendors selling wares from all corners of the vast Empire. But at night, then the city gates were locked tight, Eminönü remained outside on the outskirts of civilisation.

Over the years the strategic importance of Eminonu waned. First Dolmabahçe Palace was built in 1853 and the royal court moved away from the peninsula to the other side of the Bosphorus. Then Ankara was established as the capital in place of Istanbul in the 20th century. Nonetheless, Eminönü continued to evolve as the growing nation needed more goods to supply its voracious demand.

Canework for sale in Eminonu

Today this waterside area is a vibrant, noisy, dirty, messy sprawl of streets. On any given day they’re packed with people out shopping and you’ll be deafened by conversations held in Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and English. Women hunting down the best deals on ceyiz items (things for a bride’s glory box) and pardesu (long coats worn by modest Muslim Turkish women). Mothers after the finest sunnet (circumcision) outfits. Arab tourists on honeymoon or hair implant trips looking to buy shoes, handbags and jewellery. Porters bursting through the crowds carrying impossibly heavy loads. Itinerant vendors selling novelty kitchen items like dolma rollers (small machines used to automatically make dolma) and narmatik that take the hard work out of deseeding pomegranates. Syrian refugees making a living working in small shops.

Circumcision outfit for sale in Eminonu
Craftsmen at work in Eminonu

The word emin also means certain, and when you enter the streets of Eminonu you can be sure you’ll find a bargain, have an adventure and see something new.


Want to see Eminonu for yourself? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip to Istanbul and Turkey.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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  1. Eminönü this part of Istanbul, one day I am traviling to visit the city when I got to the airport I took the Metro from the Asian side to the west side it took me about one hour to find my selef in Eminonu I took the side of sea start feeling the waves from the sea and smiled it.
    then i pas my eyes over abnd take alook thire is amoseq you can sea the you can sea big shipes around the area while I started to walk around thire is a brige bwteen to side of western part alot of people walking around every thing like you are dreaming as I still untill know see all the land scape in this parts of the heart of the world.

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