The mixed dockland area of Tophane is named after the Imperial Armoury – now housing a university – that churned out cannonballs for the Ottoman war machine. It’s dotted with venerable Ottoman buildings, most notably the Kılıç Paşa Camii, dating from 1780, and the more recent Nusretiye Camii (1822), both recently restored. It’s also well known for its large congregation of nargile (water-pipe) cafés.
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Turkey’s leading contemporary arts gallery, İstanbul Modern, is housed in a revamped warehouse on the edge of the Bosphorus, just in front of the Nusretiye Camii. The interior is all big, blank white walls and exposed ventilation pipes, with picture windows giving views across the Bosphorus to the Topkapı Palace. The collection includes the best of modern Turkish art, as well as some intriguing video installations from foreign artists. There’s a reference library, a cinema showing arts and independent movies, and a trendy café with a terrace overlooking the Bosphorus.