The riverside of the Bosphorus is lined with a large number of yal?s. These were built as family summer houses for the rich of the Ottoman Empire to provide respite from the centre of Istanbul, most yal?s are still owned privately by families with some used as hotels.
Traditionally yal?s were built in wood and have similar characteristics to other forms of chalet architecture; wooden boarding is used externally, architectural elements such as columns and cornices are used sparingly but architraves and balconies may have elaborate embellishments. The buildings are composed with a loose symmetry that allows for off-centre entrances, balconies and corner features.
As riverfront buildings both the front and rear of the building are given architectural importance compared to the sides. A large proportion of the building façade is fenestrated providing views of the Bosphorus and permitting good airflow for comfort. Landing points for boats provide an opportunity for a strong second entrance.
Over time most yal?s have fallen into disrepair or burnt down, the surviving or replaced yal?s are usually painted in light colours or dark red hues.
In addition to the yal?s are a small number of stone mansion and palace buildings serving a similar purpose.