The regeneration of declining waterfronts has been one of the crucial tasks of urban policy since the 1970s; whereas culture has become an important theme as means for responding to the socio-economic decline that waterfronts have been facing through the re-functioning of abandoned factories and warehouses, the rehabilitation of historic neighborhoods and the utilization of events and amenities. At the same time, many academics are critical on the attempts to reform post-industrial spaces of consumption in creating privatized spaces and commodified cultures excluding social milieu. Within this context, the research attempts to discuss the contribution of culture-led approaches in the regeneration of Istanbul waterfront by using a case study of the Golden Horn Cultural Valley Project (GHCVP) as empirical evidence. The GHCVP is not only one of the most important indicators of wider governmental emphasis on culture as a way of reviving Istanbul's waterfront; but also it provides major discussions and claims on the impact of these developments, especially those regarding the historic environment, local community and economy. The results of this research respond to questions about what makes waterfront regeneration a success and what role the culture-led approaches should play in the process of waterfront regeneration. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.