East meets West, old world meets modernity in this city of Sultans. I don’t know the reason why you’re here, but I definitely know that you’re likely to love it as much as I do.
If you’re here as a tourist, I have no doubt that you will get lost in the Grand Bazaar. If so, then tighten your belt, take a deep breath and I’ll see you at café Fes. This is the favorite place for anyone who feels like having a Turkish coffee or perhaps sample the local apple tea. The place is tiny, unpretentious and charming. If you manage to find it in the labyrinth of the Bazaar, then the coffee is on me.
Anywhere in the city you can always find small stands with plenty of chestnuts and corn. Don’t expect too much from them but they are the perfect snack as you wander around.
For the moment let’s get away from the tourist routes and attractions to discover some of the amazing Turkish cuisine you can find off the beaten track. My theory: no need to eat as a tourist even if you are one. My mission: to help you eat well, like a local, because there is alwaysopportunity to get it wrong in over-priced, underwhelming touristy restaurants.
This is an up and coming trendy neighborhood close to the Golden Horn. Where fish stands and hardware stores once were, now find art galleries, cafes and design hotels.
Before exploring the fascinanting neighbourhood of Karakoy, I suggest you a stop to have a nice brunch:
A cosy space with tasteful décor. Let them advice you on their daily menu.
I’m sure you’ll love Dandin as much as I do. Try as many things as you can! Before you finish reading the menu it will have totally won you over. My favorite.
A healthy little place with french vibes.
Maya and Goya are two of the best two options from the area to eat in a more European way. Both classics, with no surprises. Of course you’ll eat well here, but we are in Istanbul to find more exciting experiences. At Karakoy Lekantasi and Mana you’ll find genuine Turkish dishes/tapas. Have a look at the blue pintoresque tiles which has become a design aspect the place is famous for.
What to order: seabass with curry. Don’t forget to taste a glass of Raki which is the classic drink that they have when out with friends, Raki is for Turkish what beer is for us… though don’t forget it’s a little bit stronger! The locals will advise that it’s best not to drink Raki with anything else as it can be a dangerous mix…!
This European neighborhood, is the Istanbul equivalent hipsterville Shoredith in London, Le Marais in Paris. Although the area preserves its roots, it has been invaded by boutique hotels, new designers and fusion restaurants.
A Morning Coffee
Let’s take one step off from the main shopping street of Istiklal Avenue, to avoid all the franchises and chain restaurants. There are lots of little side streets where we can find real gems and local people. This is the case of J’adore Chocolatier. If you are a chocolate lover you must find this hidden gem full of bombons and edible nice things.
At first, I thought I was just in a bookshop but this snug and special space had everything you can think to win me over and persuade me to spend my whole morning there.
Ministry of Coffee or Drip Coffee: They are cool, comfortable and the coffee is good.
Latife: It’s the perfect café on the up and down from Galata tower.
Noir Pit: A convenient corner to pick up an early coffee to take away. Their teas are all natural and the coffee is good.
Favorite area to eat
Believe it or not, this street is in the heart of the Soho district and is full of unmissable cafes, restaurants and hot spots. The street is called Meşrutiyet cd. and the nearest tube station is Shisane.
You just need to have a quick look through the window to realize that it’s impossible not to go in. White and elegant touches, modern but cozy. Merengue, merengue and more merengue. Their pastries are fabulous.
It has the sort of vibe of any trendy NY eaterie: lights down and a menu that sounds delicious. The roasted aubergine with roasted pepper sauce and the steak tartar are a MUST. The cocktails will fly you to the moon, let the very friendly staff advise you, but I’m warning you that the almond cocktail could be the very best thing I have tried so far, and one might well lead to another… and maybe just one more!
If you had to name the star of the show it would be Aheste. Traditional Turkish cuisine with innovative contemporary flair. You’ve got to try their tasting menu. Unlimited Turkish tapas, impossible mixtures and a game of flavours that seems difficult to imagine would go together, but they do! The atmosphere is chic, lights down and candles; add fantastic service to this…it’s my favorite.
Simple Turkish food.
The place is beautiful in the early afternoon when the light comes in to highlight the charming, minimalist decor. I could have been there taking pictures forever.
Favorite shopping street
Just one step out from the unmissable and impressive Galata Tower, you can’t leave without walking along the short but intense street of Serdar-ı Ekrem Cd. Trendy clothes, design and furniture shops on both sides. Here’s a few suggestions of places to have a break or a quick snack.
The George’s Hotel
A boutique hotel with French inspiration. Here you’ll find one of the best views of the Topaki Palace and the Blue Mosque, SO, don’t feel shy and find the lift that leads to Le Fumoir on the rooftop. The menu is French at the moment but Teki (one of the best waiters of the area) tells us that the menu is going to be changed to modern Turkish dishes in the near future.
In the meantime, enjoy the delicious brioches! Views and super comfy sofas, perfect to spend your afternoon there with a tea and appreciate the amazing sunset.
Good coffee, jams, local products and pastry. Great to have a nice breakfast or simply to wile away the afternoon!
Full of cafes and fancy clothes: Bakraç Sk. The quadrant of streets that surrounds this square is the most similar to a Parisian vibe that you are going to find in Istanbul.
Part café, part music and bookstore. It has style and character in equal measure. The atmosphere is sooo “cool”. Have a seat in their lovely terrace and perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see some classic VW beatles, fancy motorcycles. A perfect hang out for the area.
A tiny place with lots of personality. As its name suggests there is an offer of Tea or Coffee… and nothing else.
Yeees, their name ends up with a full stop and we like that. This café is cool and its atmosphere all the more so. The space is in constant movement and it sounds to us like rock n roll.
A beautiful coastal neighborhood that ties together everything that’s chic in the city. From the seafront we can see the Asiatic part of Istanbul just 1km away. A mosque, a park, designer shops, hotspots and pretty people. We stay!
The local people tell me that Bebek is at it’s very best in February when it’s likely you’ll see the contrast between the coast and the snowy topped mountains. That said, we are here in February and still not a single snowflake. Now I have the perfect excuse to come back!
The shopping area is the unpronounceable Küçükbebek Street where its easy to find anything from souvenir shops to local designer boutiques.
The first mandatory stop is at the famous Bebek Hotel that marrys the new with the old. Is one of the oldest spots of the area. I enjoyed having a Turkish tea on their terrace looking out to sea. But if hotels aren’t your preference, there is a cafe which is the oldest in the neighbourhood called Bebek Kahve. I would just recommend it to enjoy the views whilst having a simple tea, right next to the spectacular baroque architecture of the Egyptian embassy.
I would call this place a total social experience. The guy on the door even asked me if I have chaufeur… DO I? Oh no! I forgot mine, walking here instead… not such luck today!
Coming in and finding the Turkish “crème de la crème”, it’s about a place to see and be seen. The quinoa lucca salad deserves your time and their natural homemade tea with ginger, cinnamon and orange… too good! This place has become the new Bebek hotspot and you cant miss out. Don’t be scared by the Ferraris at the door, the menu is reasonable and it has nothing in it that you can’t pronounce.
The best place to socialize in the morning is called Cup of Joy. Enjoy a yummy croissant or an organic omelet. They have the best (not Turkish) coffee in the city.
If you’re here and on a diet, then you’ve got a problem! The best chocolate bonbons are here waiting for you in one of the patisseries with the most history in the city. It has been converted into three spaces: patisserie, restaurant and bar. The terrace has a resplendent sea view.
A SPECIAL OCCASION
Sunset Grill & Bar
Dinner with stunning views. Just as in every expensive restaurant, it’s important you make the right choice from the menu. Black Cod and Sirloin Steak are two easy wins. They have a bar where smoking is allowed and the atmosphere is interesting… I leave you to make your own conclusions.
Their restaurant serves international dishes but its all about the views… It is said that if you go there you’ll fall in love with the city. If you stay on, you’ll discover it becomes one of the best nightclubs in Istanbul.