Being a whirlpool of history and contemporary citylife that it is, Karaköy boasts the surprising coherence of totally contrasting elements. Lying between the Karaköy quay and the Galata Tower, it is one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, and this quarter used to be the center of nearly all financial businesses in the late Ottoman period. The aptly named Bankalar Caddesi -Banks Street- keeps the legacy alive and still houses lots of bank headquarters, the Ottoman Bank Museum in SALT Galata and the Istanbul branch of the Turkish Central Bank. However, Karaköy manages to keep its historic feel, it’s not flooded with professionals in suits and briefcases. On the contrary, Bankalar Caddesi also houses a lot of casual eateries, hardware shops and juice stalls (a cup for a lira!).
Contributing to this chain of contrasts is the Camondo Stairs – built at the end of the 19th century by the influential Sephardic banker family, the house of Camondo. Legend has it that the family had the stairs built so that their kids could take a shortcut on their way to school. No matter what its intention, this art-nouveau piece contributes greatly to the urban fabric of Karaköy, and provides a stylish hike up towards the Galata Tower as well as a great set for your Istanbul photos.