I decided to spend my last 2 weeks in Istanbul staying in Besiktas. Its fantastic! Great hives of shops, cafes and restaurants behind the mosque and ferry area makes it feel like a very happening place. If you wander down for dinner you will be amazed how many people are out eating and socialising (after 8pm expect to queue for most places). The views of the Bospherous at night are amazing. Besikatas is only a few blocks north of Dolmabahce Palace/Kabatas (just keep walking up the main boulevard). Its a very safe area and there is a never ending stream of buses heading back towards Kabatas/Galata. Definitely worth the trip but go early evening/night to really see it come alive.
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