Just across the Galata Bridge from Eminönü, Karaköy was formerly a major port and its busy trading houses and banks made the neighborhood the economic hub of the late Ottoman Empire. Today, only ferry boats and cruise ships stop here, but the area still has a historic feel to it: Ottoman mosques line the waterfront, and Istanbul’s Jewish Museum is also here. The Istanbul Modern, nestled among the mosques in a former shipping warehouse near the Tophane tram stop, is the city’s leading art museum. Tophane is also one of the most popular spots in Istanbul for nargile (water pipe) smoking, featuring a long row of cafés filled with customers puffing away. In the last few years, Karaköy has started to become gentrified, with cafés, art galleries, and a few boutiques and hotels elbowing out dingy hardware stores and import-export offices. Galataport, a massive redevelopment project slated for the area, is likely to further revitalize the shoreline but also erase much of its historic character.
Just uphill from Karaköy is Galata, one of Istanbul’s most ancient neighborhoods, dominated by the 14th-century Galata Tower about halfway up the slope. Like Karaköy, Galata has become increasingly popular and gentrified in recent years, though the neighborhood’s long history is still palpable. Serdar-ı Ekrem, one of the main streets leading off the square around the Galata Tower, is lined with cafés and cutting-edge fashion designers’ boutiques.