It was a Friday night and the kick off of the 27th Akbank Jazz Festival in Istanbul. As a group of fresh-out-of-university people we were looking forward to enjoy Ilhan Ersahin’s tunes. (https://open.spotify.com/artist/5aweKNLI0ZyI48q5TmoCxT) They combine electronic music with saxophone and sounds from the Middle East. (I recommend you continue reading with Ilhan Ersahin playing in the background).
Around 10 pm the yard of Bomontiada was full with people, drinking, chatting. Some started to dance. At the entrance to Babylon, a popular concert venue where Ilhan Ersahin was going to play, many people were waiting to get in. After a nice and fun concert, we left Bomontiada. Its yard had become more crowded with people dancing despite the rain. The night ended with a nice and tranquil walk back home with Ersahin’s rhythm on my mind.
Bomontiada is definitely a place to visit, if you live in Istanbul or if you are a visitor who wants to go off the beaten path and wants to mix with the locals.
This Ottoman beer brewery got a new life and serves as a cultural hub for Istanbulites since the summer of 2015. It is located in Feriköy, Şişli, in the past home to Greek, Armenian and other non-Muslim communities.
Bomonti, which gave its name to the neighbourhood, was the first beer factory founded in a predominantly Muslim country. In 1890 the Swiss Bomonti brothers started to produce their Bomonti Birası (beer). Its name lives on as one of the brands of Turkey’s largest beer producer Efes Pilsen.
The Turkish state took over the factory in the 1930s and it ceased to produce beer in 1991. Bomonti beer had played an important role in spreading the beer culture in Turkey by establishing beer gardens in and outside of Istanbul.
The hood transformed after most Greeks and Armenians left, but maintained its cosmopolitan nature. Recently it has seen a revival and has become more popular with the hipsters after the opening of Bomontiada and other venues around.
One can chill in Bomontiada, isolated from the noise and chaos of Istanbul. The large yard is serving as a home to many facilities and events. If you seek for crafted tastes, try Kiva, a meyhane where you can enjoy Turkish cuisine with a modern touch and rakı.
In The Populist you can enjoy craft beers and DJ performances at night. Klimanjaro has a popular menu of world cuisine and creative cocktails. You may also experience the cosy yard while sipping your drink in Monochrome, a nice place with a brasserie concept. In Delimonti, which is a marketplace and a restaurant, you can find the traditional tastes from Anatolia.
Aside from Babylon, where you can enjoy concerts by both local and international artists several days a week, there are other venues for enjoying culture and arts. ALT is an arts and dialogue space where young creators from all over the region meet and exhibit their work. In Leica Gallery, you will find photographs of local and international artists. Apart from these, Atölye serves as an innovation and creative hub for individuals and start-ups from different disciplines. My favourite time is summer when you can chill the long nights at the yard, with movie screenings, jazz concerts, performances or simply for a nice chat with friends.
For a cool night out during your trip, or if you want to experience Istanbul as a local, or simply for an adventure in the backstreets of multicultural Istanbul, I strongly recommend you to visit Bomontiada. If you are lucky you may even listen to Ilhan Ersahin as well.
I am sure that the atmosphere of this former Ottoman beer brewery will have a place in your memory of Istanbul (hopefully with Ersahin’s rhythm on your mind).
This Feriköy hood is worth a visit for many other reasons too, but that is a topic of another post.