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Atatürk Museum in central Şişli

Şişli (pronounced /'ʃiʃli/, SHEESH-lee) is one of 39 districts of Istanbul, Turkey. Located on the European side of the city, it is bordered by Beşiktaş to the east, Sarıyer to the north, Eyüp and Kağıthane to the west, and Beyoğlu to the south. In 2009, Şişli had a population of 316.058.[1]


The grand past

Until 1800 Şişli was open countryside, used for hunting, agriculture and as the city's burial ground, and there are still a number of cemeteries here. It was developed as a middle class residential district during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the early years of the Republic (the late 19th-early 20th centuries). French culture had a great influence in this period and the big avenues of Şişli had a European look; big stone buildings with high ceilings and art nouveau wrought-iron balconies, little elevators on wires in the middle of the stairway and so on. This trading middle-class was composed of Jews, Greeks and Armenians as well as Turks, many built homes in Şişli after a large fire in the district of Beyoğlu in 1870. Still today many of Istanbul's Armenians live in the Kurtuluş area of Şişli. The area was alslo popular with the Levantine trading families of this period and as the Ottoman empire contracted Şişli attracted migrants from the former lands in Greece and the Balkans. In the late 19th century Şişli was one of the first areas to be supplied with tramlines, electricity and a gas supply. The orphanage of Darülaceze and the large Şişli Etfal hospital were built here in this period, also the prominent French schools of St. Michel and Notre Dame de Sion.

Following the founding of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s, larger and larger buildings were put up along wide avenues such as Halaskargazi Caddesi, the main road that runs through the middle of Şişli, with its little arcades of shops below tall buildings of apartments and offices. In the republic the area was still the residence of the middle-class, as well as traders there were now writers and poets and Şişli acquired theatres, cafes and other cultural amenities. The Hilton Hotel was built here in the 1950s and many others followed.

From the 1950s onwards people from Anatolia began to migrate to Istanbul in search of work. In most cases they illegally built themselves squatters on unclaimed or government-owned land (see gecekondu). Some of these people settled in parts of Şişli in the 1950s and 1960s, especially at the northern sections of the district, around Mecidiyeköy.

The centre of Şişli today

Now that the wealthy elite of central Şişli have moved further out of the city, the large buildings on the grand avenues are occupied by offices, banks, and big shops. Since the 1970s most older buildings have been pulled down and replaced with newer, and perhaps less remarkable, multistory structures. The back streets are still residential, and many working-class families and students have settled here. As in most parts of Istanbul, the number of people living and working in these blocks challenges the existing infrastructure; for example, competition for parking spaces is intense, and traffic during peak hours can come to a standstill. But for the residents of Şişli, there are plenty of shops, cafés, pubs, and other amenities and these make life in Şişli still manageable. Additionally, Şişli's central location to other important areas of Istanbul adds to its desirability.

In the 'gecekondu' (shanty town) districts life is harder, while some neighbourhoods remain very attractive indeed - (see section on individual neighbourhoods below).

Business and shopping

Being a central area well-served with public-transport and other infrastructure Şişli is a center of trade and shopping. The main road through Şişli up to the skyscrapers of Mecidiyeköy, Gayrettepe, Levent and beyond is now lined with office blocks. Europe's largest and the world's second largest (urban-area) shopping mall, Cevahir İstanbul, is situated here. Due to Şişli's middle-class past and the enduring quality of some neighbourhoods the area is home to many upmarket shops mainly in the stylish and charming Nişantaşı area. Parking is an enduring problem, especially in the narrow side-streets.

People also come to Şişli for schooling; this city-centre area has some well-known high schools and a great number of dersane (preparatory courses for the annual university entrance exams), evening and weekend schools where people come to cram for university or high school entrance examinations, or to learn English.

There are many well-established cafes and restaurants, including fast-food for the students and shoppers.


  • Kurtuluş - known as Tatavla in the Ottoman period (Tàtaula in Greek), the area was home to a Greek and later Armenian community. The district had mostly wooden houses until it was destroyed by a huge fire in 1929, and then rebuilt in narrow streets of stone and later concrete buildings, lined with cafés, patisseries and shops. This is a cosmopolitan district with a long history, and has been home to a great many singers, artists, and actors. There are a number of attractive old apartment buildings, but most of those which have been built since the 1960s are ugly and crammed together. After 1964/1965, the Greek community mostly left the area, but some remain and the Greek school and churches are still active. Recently the district, like many other historic neighbourhoods in Istanbul, is being revitalized with mass restoration projects, in which historic buildings are repaired and painted, while the "modern" (characterless) concrete façades are being restyled in line with the historic architectural characteristics of each of these neighbourhoods.
  • Nişantaşı - a busy high-class shopping district for stylish bronzed ladies talking on mobile phones while driving expensive SUVs. Pretty, narrow streets of 19th and early-20th century buildings housing the most expensive boutiques, parfumeries, art galleries and cafes. Some of these buildings are architectural masterpieces; one of them, the historic Maçka Palas, houses Istanbul's Gucci and Armani stores as well as Armani Café. There are a number of well-known schools here too, including some buildings of Marmara University and Işık Lisesi. The American Hospital, one of the city's best hospitals, is also located here. Parking is a problem and so is petty crime. Nişantaşı also has many stylish pubs and restaurants. Abdi İpekçi Street, Turkey's most expensive street in terms of lease prices, is located here.
  • Teşvikiye - uphill from Beşiktaş, near the shops and restaurants of Nişantaşı, and a similarly old-established smart area with many classic European-style buildings, Teşvikiye is one of the most attractive residential neighbourhoods in Istanbul. Since the 19th century, Teşvikiye has been home to many writers (including journalist Abdi Ipekçi, who was assassinated here in 1979), politicians and a great number of prominent business families and still holds a well-established middle-class, including some descendants of Levantine and Jewish families that built many of the beautiful stone apartment buildings of Teşvikiye in the Ottoman period. Prominent buildings include the Milli Reasürans building (this one does not have an ornate 19th century stonework façade but is one of Istanbul's best examples of modernism) and the ornate neo-Baroque Teşvikiye Mosque, built by Sultan Abdulhamid II, who established the neighbourhood by building this mosque and the nearby historic Teşvikiye Police Station, encouraging citizens of Istanbul to settle in this new district (hence the name Teşvikiye which means encouragement in Turkish.) Among the shops of Teşvikiye lies Gerekli Şeyler, Turkey's specialist importer of fantasy and gaming publications including Star Wars, Marvel Comics and Wizards of the Coast.
  • Mecidiyeköy - Business and shopping district north of Şişli; Istanbul's main market for computer equipment. Narrow streets of tall office buildings. A major intersection and bus terminal underneath a huge flyover, very noisy. Home of Galatasaray football club's Ali Sami Yen Stadium. The Profilo Shopping Center, cinema and bowling alley is here, its food court a popular eatery in the area. Mecidiyeköy Antikacılar Çarşısı (Mecidiyeköy Antiques Bazaar), a large multi-storey building with dozens of antiques shops (the largest of its kind in Istanbul) is located between Mecidiyeköy and Kuştepe.
  • Okmeydanı - north of Şişli, home to some large hospitals. This was the archery practice ground of the Ottoman armies (which is the meaning of its name in Turkish), and an Ottoman mosque was built here. Later the land was planted with fruit trees, and in the 1960s turned over to developers for building as the city expanded. Darülaceze, the Ottoman-period orphanage, is here, built in 1896.
  • Kuştepe - a gecekondu (illegally built) district of poor housing traditionally occupied by the Roma community and recent migrants from the countryside. Bilgi University has a campus here.


The mayor of Şişli is the active and charismatic Mustafa Sarıgül, an established presence on the Turkish centre-left, now he works independently. Under the slogan 'Smiling Happy Şişli' he is working to get the once glamorous area smartened up again, and certainly Nişantaşı is very smart indeed, although he is struggling to ensure car parking here and everywhere else in Şişli. He is on the board of Galatasaray football club, whose Ali Sami Yem stadium is in the Şişli neighbourhood of Mecidiyeköy. During New Year celebrations, he parades in an open-topped bus dressed as Santa Claus. His deputy is Vasken Barın of Armenian descent.

Places of interest

See also


External links

Coordinates: 41°03′36″N 28°59′13″E / 41.060°N 28.987°E / 41.060; 28.987



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