Known for impressive tourist-favorites such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı, Dolmabahçe, and the Chora Church, Istanbul has a lot more besides in terms of striking architecture. From former orphanages to a modern interpretation of a mosque, here are some lesser-known Istanbul buildings that are deeply impressive.
The Haydarpaşa Terminal was built in 1909 by German architects Otto Ritter and Helmut Conu and served the railways until its closure in 2012. Overlooking the Bosphorus near the Kadıköy ferry station, visitors can still wander inside to linger for a while in the past.
Nearby the Haydarpaşa Terminal is the Selimiye Barracks, quite an imposing structure that is always a highlight on the ferry ride from Europe to Asia. The barracks served as a military hospital during the Crimean War where the famous nurse, Florence Nightingale, cared for British soldiers. Today the structure serves as the headquarters of the First Army of Turkish Land Forces.
Located right next to the Selimiye Barracks is the equally beautiful building that now serves as the Haydarpaşa campus of Marmara University. Built in 1827 by French and Italian architects Alexandre Vallaury ve Raimondo D’Aronco, the structure was Turkey’s first medical school.
Even though it’s dilapidated and in need of renovation, the Yanaros mansion on Büyükada continues to be a remarkable sight. It was also here that Leon Trotsky lived for four years in 1929 after being exiled from the Soviet Union.
Built by Istanbul’s famous architecture firm, Emre Arolat Architects, the Sancaklar Mosque is anything but your traditional religious structure. After climbing down a slope of natural stone stairs, a concrete slab canopy hides the interior of a mosque that is a simple cave-like space devoid of the usual decoration.
Vakko Fashion Center
Another one of Istanbul’s striking modern structures, preeminent Turkish fashion house Vakko’s headquarters was completed by New York based Rex Architects in 2010. The building is a wonder composed of steel and glass panels, both reflecting its surroundings as well as offering a glimpse into the stylish offices within.
Palace of St. Eugene
Hidden behind a large set of doors that seem to separate the present from the past (the busy street from the historic structure and its courtyard) the former St. Eugene Palace is a real discovery. A former palace turned French orphanage, the site became the workshop of one of the city’s last plaster-cast artisans (currently called Zanaat Atelye), including a museum of handmade molds including stuccos, friezes, reliefs, and cornices.
Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage
Büyükada’s other hidden treasure is the Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, which looms eerily on the island’s highest point behind a scant curtain of trees. Taking up 20,000 square meters, the structure can only be gazed at from afar, because its utterly dilapidated state could pose a few dangers. However, the wooden structure is stunning nonetheless and one of Europe’s largest wooden buildings.