Shabby and crooked streets, small, bare-bellied kids and wooden houses, almost about to collapse. It feels much like Moscow Street of Riga. In fact it is Zeyrek neighborhood of Istanbul's Fatih district, renowned for its unique wooden architecture. One of the oldest mosques of the city - Zeyrek Camii, is located there, too. A note on a tightly closed door clearly states: a key at the watchman...Unfortunately knocking at his door remains unanswered... A seemingly neglected nook of Istanbul, however, hides something truly amazing - a lovely restaurant, located right behind the weatherworn mosque. Its semicircular terrace offers a fabulous view over entire Istanbul. A fantastic discovery, indeed! It features a very good Turkish cuisine (including traditional boza - a mix of kefir and yoghurt) and a pretty modern interior with a dash of Eastern flavor, being enjoyed mostly by well-off local people. With no other restaurants in the vicinity, there is no fear of masses of tourists streaming through it.
Two things you definitely shouldn't miss in Istanbul are a narghile at a Turkish water-pipe café and a hamam - a genuine Turkish bath. Café Mesale is one of the loveliest among the first ones. Being situated in Sultanahmet neighborhood, it hides behind the Blue mosque, offering a marvelous view of this Turkish temple, especially impressive at night.
Occasionally, muezzins' chants, coming from nearby minarets interrupt a lively razzle-dazzle in the cozy café, calling to prayers. Some local men are carried away by backgammon game, others surrender to luscious Turkish sweets, and hours fly by taking an aromatic whiff of a water pipe now and then. The very moment you sink into soft cushions, time stops. Perhaps you will not manage anything you have planned before, yet no scruples whatsoever. A total chill-out! Especially it refers to square in Tophane area, with several tens of narghile cafes, lined closely side by side. Just stroll idly along the street and chose the one you like the best.
Arasta Carsisi No: 45, Sultanahmet
Arasta Bazaar, Utangaç Sokak
A fish marketplace at Kumkapi, surrounded by numerous tents, booth and small shops. And that is not all yet! It features a wide choice of various eateries, tickling nose with a freshly fried fish aroma. Kumkapı is part of Istanbul's Eminönü area, located at the very cost of the Marmara Sea, and it's hard to imagine a better dining spot then this! You have no other choice but to squeeze through swarm of people, especially dense at late evening hours, to find the most appealing dining spot. Small vessels get moored within hands reach and a short while later a fresh catch reaches the nearby restaurants. Kumkapı offers the best choices for a reckless feast for a variety of prices. Yet, price, perhaps, does not matter. Seafood is so fresh and delicious that hardly anything can spoil the joy.
Suleymaniye Camii is the second largest mosque in Istanbul, yet a true gem has to be searched just next to it. Stone walls surround a garden, but, cozily seated inside, is a lovely café. In Lale Bahçesi, like in numerous other places in the city, along with tea and snacks you can have a smoke of a water pipe. Sky opens up above, and succulent foliage of the surrounding trees offers shelter from the sun. With peace and tranquility enfolding you, it is an ideal spot to leaf a book over a cup of aromatic tea. Theology College and Istanbul University are located next to it and local youths are the most frequent visitors of Lale Bahçesi. Guests savor its special ambience and later on, perhaps, visit the mosque itself.
Sifahne Sokak, Süleymaniye
A place for a low-cost feast. Even if you look aslant at eateries offered by backpacker guides, a slightly quaint Doy-Doy restaurant complex still can catch your interest. Outwardly, a plain-looking building resembles one of the numerous kebab shops. Yet, do not hesitate to ascend its narrow, crooked stairs. Each floor has something different to offer - cafes, luring with colorful cushions and water pipes and a small restaurant, set on a terrace. In a word, a favorite spot of mainstream Istanbulans. Maybe thanks to them, it feels so saturated with tasty, vibrant atmosphere, full of sounds of music, buzz of voices and lively swarm of people.
Sifa Hamami Sokak 13, Sultanahmet
A modern art and cultural complex, settled in a former power station of Ottoman Empire in Eyüp district of Istanbul. Opened in 2007, Santralistanbul features truly breathtaking dimensions. Spreading over several floors, it houses an amphitheatre, a concert hall, a library and a museum that takes pride in an outstanding collection of contemporary art. As a setting for all that serve coarse structures of almost hundred years old architecture.
Eski Silahtarağa Elektrik Santralı,
Silahtarağa Mah. Kazım Karabekir Cad. No: 1,
34060 Eyüp, İstanbul
Phone: 0212 444 0 428
Turkish bath with its ancient traditions has become a national pride of this country. Being there, you have to be sure not to miss the opportunity to test a true Turkish bath on your own skin. Today, unfortunately, some of hamams demonstrate a pretty nonchalant attitude. It feels more like a conveyor that is not supposed to stop - a customer comes, pays, gets a massage and vacates a place for the next one. Yet, among others, there are pleasant exceptions, offering friendly, personalized attitude and pampering. Fabulous arches and columns ooze history of almost 300 years. Relax on a warm stone surface at Cağaloğlu hamam, gaze at small windows, lighting its dome like stars, and feel that sense of reality vanishes like a vapor
Prof Kazim Ismail Gürkan Caddesi 34
Cağaloğlu, Istanbul, Sultanahmet
Phone: +90 212 522 2424
Fax: +90 212 512 8553
A city within the city - Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) or the largest covered market in Turkey. It has its own streets, mosques, banks, restaurants and shops. Roaming there might take a whole day, yet, only thus you can apprehend amazing dimensions of this place. Thousands of small shops offer almost anything a heart may desire - jewelry, textile, leather and cotton clothes, ceramics, water pipes, ashtrays, Turkish carpets and much more.
But a David Lynch-worthy experience is a walk there at night. Few lonely street lamps cast their dim light here and there in the deserted labyrinth of narrow streets. All shops are closed. It resembles a sight of a scary movie - an abandoned city with no living soul around. Walk along the empty streets and feel the silence embracing you - it's the same place that just hours ago was swarming with people, making it difficult to squeeze through. Weird and powerful impression...
No less surprising is a Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı), located a short walking distance from Galata Bridge. Pyramids of well-known and unfamiliar spices and an aroma of peppermint, whiffing in the air. It all blends together, creating a multicolored, exotics cocktail...
What's so special about Galata Bridge, you may ask? Not so much about the bridge itself, maybe, but the nightlife swarming underneath it. Numerous restaurants, tea shops and nargile cafes line up, sited literally on the water. Lots of people, live music and delicious sea food - colors, sounds and smells mingle together, creating its special ambience.
Galata Bridge, however, does not fail to surprise in daytime, too. Not a bridge, to be more precise, but a pier just next to it. Your nose still tickles form the spice market, when an aroma of freshly fried fish reaches your nostrils. It comes from boats where fishermen fry their catch right on the deck and then, yelling at the top of their voices, offer it to passersby. Just reach over the railing to get a hot treat and eat sitting on a simple plastic bench, gazing at the life swarming around. It seems to be the best fish sandwich you have ever tried before!
Keywords: Istambul, restaurant, turkish, kafe, cafe, waterpipe, museum, bathhouse, market