Whenever I travel my goal is to try and get to see the city through the eyes of local people. Only Daniel knows how absolutely terrified I am of big crowds in the streets (yes, it is specifically in wide open spaces like streets and squares), that must be the reason why I avoid at any cost very touristy places in touristy hours. It is often difficult to find locations that would make me feel at ease and let me open my heart to the destination I’m exploring. Luckily enough we got a great deal of help from the staff at the 10 Karakoy Hotel, who came up with a full list of suggestions for us, which I am really excited to share with you!
1. Buyuk Valide Han & the mysterious Mr. Mehdi.
I can not even start explaining how weird this whole thing was to me, but I’ll start from the beginning. Going to Istanbul, Daniel and I had this BIG dream that we just had to achieve while on our trip- to get on the rooftop that appears in Skyfall and Taken 2. Well, it didn’t turn out to be as easy and we felt quite desperate after the research we did online gave us no results. However, I wasn’t ready to give up so I posted the picture to my Instagram and Facebook, and also asked the 10 Karakoy staff to find that out for us. Luckily, one of my readers and the hotel concierge came back with very precise instructions. They couldn’t find out how to get on the exact rooftop we wanted, however, they did come up with an alternative that turned out to be even more stunning.
So, how do you get to this mysterious rooftop that opens a view of the old Istanbul? First of all you need to find Buyuk Valide Han, which is just behind Grand Bazaar. To my surprise Google Maps actually had the place so I pasted it below for you. Keep in mind that it’s a very old building that looks abandoned, you go into the courtyard and ask for Mr. Mehdi. Try to find someone to ask because they’ll just direct you to the door where you’ll find Mr. Mehdi, but in case you can’t see anyone, just walk upstairs and walk around the floor until you see an old locked door with a man. The entrance costs about $1 which is insane value for the unforgettable experience you get.
2. Mimar Sinan Teras Cafe.
The place itself isn’t too nice, but it’s definitely worth going for the view. If you’re an older reader of mine you know how obsessed I am with rooftops so going into a shady cafe just for a coffee and the Panorama is completely acceptable.
3. Suleymaniye Mosque.
Such an imposing building that opens one of the most beautiful views of Istanbul. You can watch the horizon of a world that combines of and new so well through the beautiful grey coloured cupolas.
1. Mums Cafe.
This is a must with great ambiance located in the cool and young area of Istanbul, Karakoy. Should I also mention the beautiful colour of the cups? They definitely looked really good in photos.
2. Brew Coffeeworks
This cafe is located in the beautiful of Eminonu area. After hours of exploring the mosques and old streets it’s the perfect stop for a little coffee break.
3. Safa Kahvesi.
If you are looking for a traditional experience, this is the perfect place. Located in Sirkeci, just near by Eminönü, Place name is “Safa Kahvesi” in NEA Suites. It is in walking distance and you can go there directly and you can make your own coffee 🙂 Do not forget to get your certificates.
Here I would like to mention Karakoy, which is the modern name used for Galata. But there is a particular area there, literally 5 minutes away from the 10 Karakoy Hotel, hidden in the heart of Karakoy, away from the eyes of tourists. There you will find a huge amount of modern restaurants, cafes, burger places, all made in a really cool young way with a traditional touch. If you go there you’ll fall in love immediately! I don’t know how exactly the area is called so I just attached you the Google Map location for you.
1. Have breakfast at Lokma.
Also called the “Cafe on Bosphorus”, it provides the most breathtaking view of the Bosphorus Bridge. Unfortunately you can not book a table during the weekend due to the high demand, however, if you arrive there at about 9-9.15 am you should be able to get the best table with the most insane view of the coast.
2. Surplus Restaurant.
Be prepared to spend a bit here as the big kebab for 2 people costs 300liras (£100). Surplus is a great experience of the local tradition, meat and bread, but make sure you go on an empty stomach and plan to spend there a few hours. Also stunning view of the New Mosque and the Galata bridge.
3. Rudolf Karakoy.
Enjoy some of the best pastries you’ve ever had with a traditional “sandy” coffee in the morning. Also make sure you get back for a lunch of dinner, as then food is truly exquisite. From the beetroot crisps to porcini Risotto with fresh winter Truffle and lamb covered in pistacchio jacket. The Wine Menu made me particularly happy and we dined in the company of an Umurbey Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot.
4. Tukann restaurant
On our last day, as we were wondering around the Karakoy area we happened across a magical restaurant with an outside sitting area and cats playing around. There was something just so peaceful and nice about that place that without knowing what the Menu would be like, we sat down. Soon enough we discovered that the food was actually very delicious and the prices affordable. I particularly recommend the vegetable wrap that comes with a salad on the side.
1. Karaköy Güllüoğlu.
50 Shades of Baklava… Literally! If you’re a fan of Baklava or just want to try the traditional Turkish dessert, this is the place to go. And it’s not just according to me, the place was recommended to me by a few locals who know a thing or two about the art of Baklava!
Think Turkish delights wrapped in rose petals, pistachio, lemon, nuts. Koska was our first stop once we moved to 10 Karakoy Hotel since it was right around the corner and the concierge strongly recommended it for local sweets. Absolutely worth it!!
The perfect place to get some traditional Turkish ice cream. The one on Istiklal is particularly good, it has a huge selection of all sorts of delicious sweets.
1. Hagia Sofia
I was so impressed by this place that after my trip to Istanbul I did a whole post telling the story and beauty behind this magical place. Hagia Sofia used to once be a Christian church, which was later turned into a mosque, to then become a museum under the wise Ataturk that would be open for people of every nationality, religion and race. If you want to find out more, read my whole post about it HERE.
2. Walk around Grand Bazaar and then buy from the little shops on the old streets around it.
Grand Bazaar is an amazing experience, however, it is ridiculously overpriced. You will buy the same item on one of the little streets around the Bazaar for sometimes up to 10 times cheaper. So do go for the experience but don’t get blown away by the beauty of the craftsmanship of the local artisans, be smart and search for a good price.
4. Take the ferry across to Asia.
It’s not something you can put in writing, watching how majestic the two continents connect is quite an unique feeling. It is peaceful, romantic and beautiful
5. Dolmabahce Palace.
A must see when visiting Istanbul. The architecture, history, beauty behind this place is so unique, it perfectly showcases the local culture. My advice would be to go earlier in the day so that you get time to spend about 5 hours there without rushing through.
6. Basilica Cistern.
As mentioned before, Bond locations is a thing we do quite often due to Daniel’s love for Ian Fleming’s character, and this was another one we fell in love with while watching “From Russia with Love”. In Sean Connery’s adventure they use a boat to get around the Basilica, which actually did happen since the place was abandoned when they filmed it. But it is not like that at all today. The ancient construction that used to once be a water reservoir is now carefully taken care of, which makes me very happy because it really is such a unique place that needs to be preserved.
7. Ortakoy Mosque and the area around it.
Definitely one of my favourite places in Istanbul. The mosque itself is a perfect example of the stunning Ottoman architecture where traditional meets Neo-Baroque on the Bosphorus. However, that is not the only thing I like about this place, the area itself is very beautiful with little colourful houses and a stunning view of the Bosphorus bridge.
Hope this was useful to you, and make sure to share your pictures with me on Instagram if you happen to go to any of the places I’ve recommended and also use the #Doinarecommends in order for me to see your posts.