Category Archives: Istanbul

Istanbul: Bebek

The first thing I’d mention about Bebek is that it is not a touristic place. Visit only if you like to blend into locals. It is very popular (hence crowded) especially on weekends and when the weather is nice.

Istanbul Bebek - Map

Bebek is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Istanbul. It is located on the west bank of the Bosphorus. Expensive apartments by the Bosphorus, yatches on the bay, hip cafés and restaurants can be seen all along. Besides, Turkey’s one of the most prestigious universities -Bosphorus University- is located on the hills of Bebek. If you have the energy to climb all the way up, the view from the top is spectacular.

Istanbul Bebek View

The Bebek district starts with the big, white Art Nouveau building, Egyptian Consulate, also known as the “Valide Paşa Mansion”. Next to it, is the Bebek Park, a magnet for families and dog lovers, just by the Bebek Mosque and the famous bohemian café, Bebek Kahve, which is mainly preferred by intellectuals, writers and actors. If you are looking for a nice and rich breakfast, from traditional Turkish, French to American; inluding pancakes, granola or omelets, you should stop by at Happily Ever After. Besides, they have the best cupcakes in the neighborhood. Another alternative for a good breakfast or cocktails in the afternoon, with a view of Bebek Bay, is Mangerie. It’s a small restaurant with white decor, a lovely terrace, and a delicious menu.

Istanbul Bebek

Just accross Bebek Park, on the corner you can find the most trendy cocktail bar-resto in Istanbul: Lucca. It is popular among celebrities and high-society, and can easily be located by the sports and luxurious cars and the crowd in front.

Istanbul Bebek Lucca

Bebek is an ideal place to spend a lovely day. I’d recommend a walk from Bebek Park to Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisarı), and taking a rest in one the cafés along the seaside.

Istanbul: Ortakoy

Ortakoy (Ortaköy) is an authentic neighborhood on the European bank of Bosphorus. It is famous with open-air handcraft bazaar; as well as cafes, bars and restaurants with reasonable prices. I’d recommend you to take a tour in the bazaar, then have a seat in a cafe by the sea. You may try hookah (nargile) if you are interested. Afterwards, if the weather is nice, I’d also recommend you to take a walk by Bosphorus heading north towards Bebek.

Ortakoy Map
Ortakoy
Ortakoy

Istanbul: Galata Tower

Galata Tower is a 650 year old, 67 meter tall stone tower. Built by Genoese colony as the tower of fortifications around Galata, but eventually used as fire lookout tower during Ottoman Empire. It rises on the northbank of the Golden Horn. It has a fabulous view of Golden Horn, Historic Peninsula and Bosphorus. The tower is open to public, so you can enjoy the view from the top (there are elevators). You can reach the tower by walking down the Taksim Square through Istiklal Street for 2 kilometers, and turning left downhill when reaching the Tunel circus (Please see the map).

At the top of the tower, there is a restaurant, café and a nightclub where special Turkish and oriental shows are held. Click here to for more information and reservations.

You can get more information about Galata Tower on Wikipedia.

Galata Tower Map
Galata Tower
Galata Tower
Galata Tower Map

Istanbul: Leander’s Tower

Leander’s Tower (aka Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish) is a small tower on an islet at the entrance of the Bosphorus from the Marmara Sea. There are numerous legends about the tower, heroes of which gave names to the tower.

The tower was built on 408 BC, rebuilt and restored many times since then. It had been used as a lighthouse and a watchtower, and now is being used for touristic purposes where you can take a boat to the tower and have your breakfast or dinner.

Click here for the official web site of the Leander’s tower and for reservations

Leander's Tower Map
Leander's Tower
Leander's Tower

Istanbul: Beyoglu, Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

What is there in Taksim? Simply everything! History, culture, art, shopping, entertainment of all kind, Turkish food, all kinds of people, rich and poor, cosy and posh, anything… It is where you should not leave Istanbul without seeing. Taksim (a.k.a Beyoglu and Istiklal Street is the main part) lies on a historic region. The region is alive nearly for 24 hours. There are many opportunities for different tastes for entertainment.  I recommend you to lift your head up in the street once in a while not to miss the historic buildings all around. The old buildings mostly host modern venues. You may be surprised to see a fancy venue in a very old and neglected building or in a backyard. I’ll be writing about my favorite places and places you may like to see in Taksim area (mainly on Istiklal Street):

Taksim Square Map
Istiklal Street

Cicek Pasaji

1. Cicek Pasaji & Nevizade (Çiçek Pasajı & Nevizade): Cicek Pasaji is an arcade hosting Turkish cousine restaurants, mainly for dinner, traditional Turkish alcohol “Raki” (Rakı). Raki is a strong booze (45% alcohol) with a dominant anise taste. It is diluted with water and drunk slowly, together with cheese, melon, appetizers (meze), etc. Nevizade is the street by Cicek Pasaji with open air restaurants similar to the ones in Cicek Pasaji. I personally prefer the ones in Nevizade street.

St. Antoine Cathedral

2. St. Antoine Cathedral: It is the largest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul. The original cathedral was built in 1725 by the local Italian community of Istanbul, but was later demolished and replaced with the current building which was built between 1906 and 1912 in the Venetian Neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is run by Italian priests. Saturday mass is in Italian and begins at 19:00, Sunday mass is in English and begins at 10:00, and Tuesday mass is in Turkish and begins at 11:00.

360 Istanbul

3. 360: 360 is a fine dining restaurant – bar – club on the roof of a building on the Istiklal Street (next to the St. Antoine Cathedral). It has a magnificent Bosphorus and Golden Horn view. Special events are held in the club as well. I recommend you to visit their web site and make reservations beforehand: Click here to visit official web site

NuTeras

4. NuTeras: It is another roof-top fine dining restaurant – bar, with fantastic Golden Horn View. It is on Mesrutiyet Street (Meşrutiyet caddesi) (parallel to Istiklal Street) and next to Pera Museum. Click here to for more information and reservations

Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi

5. Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi: It is one of the best live rock music bars in Istanbul. Famous singers and bands perform here every night. Quality music and audience guaranteed. You may run into a celebrity among the audience any time. It is on Buyuk Parmak Kapi street (Büyük Parmak Kapı sokak) (On the left when going down along Istiklal Street). Click here for more information

Galata Tower

6. Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi): Galata Tower is a 650 year old, 67 meter tall tower. It has a fabulous view of Golden Horn, Historic Peninsula and Bosphorus. The tower is open to public, so you can enjoy the view from the top (there are elevators). There is also a restaurant, café and a nightclub on its upper floors where special Turkish and oriental shows are held. Click here to for more information and reservations

Asmalimescit

7. Asmalimescit: Asmalimescit is a bohemian region with cafés, restaurants and art galleries on the streets. Generally preferred by artists and intellectuals. You can find all kinds of cousines (Italian, Far East, American, etc.) along with Turkish cousine (“raki” & “meze”). I suggest Asmalimescit instead of Nevizade for raki & meze.

Babylon

8. Babylon: Babylon is a multi-purpose performance center and live music venue of Istanbul. It hosts local and international jazz, latin, brasilian, reggae, world music and electronica scene. You can listen to world-famous bands in Babylon. Click here to visit official web site

Taksim POI
Of course there are many more, and I’ll be adding new places in time. One last word -a little warning- about Taksim; as it is a very crowded region, I advise you to keep an eye on your personal belongings. Also I’ve heard some incidents where tourists had been deceived and accompanied to some shows where large amounts are charged. So be careful about strangers approaching friendly (Turks are generally hospitable, and some people may approach with true feelings; but it is better to be safe than sorry).