Istanbul’s hidden Gems

Exactly what the title says! Hidden Gems! This is what most of us search for in our trips. A hidden area, an inspiring street, a cool neighborhood. Something as we say, that stands out of the Box, something that makes the Journey special.

Istanbul, like any other City has its cool Hidden spots. Those areas that might not be the main touristic areas represents the exotic touch that you would like to add to your vacation.

My experience

I had to search for those hidden Gems in Istanbul, and I was lucky enough to find them. I won’t lie to you; I did some research before. Some were easy to find, others well actually harder. I had to follow my intuitions that actually led me to some cool surprises.

And guess what?

When I came back from my trip, many of my friends asked me about those cool streets and areas that I posted about in my stories. There is actually one friend who told me

“Hey! We all know Istanbul, but you know it in a different way. I bet travelling with you is so special.”

Those words really marked me! And this is when I decided to write about that.

Don’t Worry!

So don’t worry about all of this. Luckily I am here to help you! You won’t be doing the same thing that I did. You won’t be searching for those gems but only enjoying them!

This is why I am here writing this article. This is for you!! Am here to be your guide and give you all the information you need.

First & Foremost Tips:

  • Those areas are all located in the European side of Istanbul!
  • You may use many bus stops. So make sure to have your card recharged because you don’t find those yellow machines at Bus stations.
  • If you are using your phone to take pictures, make sure that you have a full battery or a charger on you. Trust me you will need it.
  • If you are travelling alone, don’t be shy to ask tourists or locals to take pictures of you!

For all the General knowledge you need to know about Istanbul along with some tips & extras, Here is your link: Istanbul Generalities, Tips & Extras

Finally, Make sure to check out the Istanbul’s street food article, for you to have the ultimate experience there!

So now let’s go together wander in those Beautiful hidden streets of Istanbul City!🤩
  1. KARAKOY
  2. BALAT & FENER
  3. YEREBATAN Street
  4. ARNAVUTKOY

I- KARAKOY

One of my favorites areas in Istanbul. Karakoy area is very well located and connected area. It is close to both Taksim and the old city area known as Sultanahmet.

With its magnificent views over the Bosphorus, its cool terrace restaurants, and beautiful hidden narrow streets; Karakoy has made it to the top of my list.

My true story

Without knowing it, I happened to stay close by Karakoy! When I did my Itinerary, the area wasn’t even on my list. And on my first night in the city, I decided to walk back to my hotel from the closest tramway station. And there it was, Karakoy stop! I really enjoyed the walk at night along the Bosphorus that I decided to do my research about this area.

At my surprise! I found out that Karakoy is not only about its perfect location, but that it had many hidden streets and gems to be discovered.

How to get there?

In case you are not staying close by this area and you can’t walk there, there are two possible stops either get to Karakoy stop by taking the F2 or stopping on Tophane station either by bus or tramway T1.

Karakoy streets & Cafes

Karakoy is divided into two main parts. Starting at the bottom of the Galata tower area, is the Karakoy financial district area where all the famous banks and insurance companies are imposing their headquarters.

Walk deeper towards the Museum of modern Art and make sure to wander in the hidden narrow streets of this area. Those streets are “hipsterized” and over there you can find many art galleries, cafes and restaurants that flourish alongside more traditional shops.

Make sure to walk through Hoka Tahsin street it is really a unique one full of nice cafes and colorful surprises.

My Recommendations!
  • Head to the area first thing in the morning to enjoy a nice brunch and a pleasant walk. And if you are a fan of Chocolate try the Willy Wonka Chocolate restaurant Address: Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, mahallesi, Akçe Sk. 4a, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
  • The Museum of modern art is a nice museum for those who are fan of the contemporary art. Admission fee: the entrance ticket price is 15TL and the museum closes on Mondays.

Tophane Park

If you chose to visit the museum of modern art you actually arrived to the Tophane park. But anyways, I would suggest that you walk from those narrow karakoy streets to Tophane park and enjoy the walk and the Bosphorus sightseeing from there.

What will you find?

The park has many historical landmarks such as the Tophane Kasri a beautiful historical monument that was used for the sultan’s visits, a museum called Antrepo 5, a remarquable fountain cafes and a clock tower.

You can spend a while there by admiring the different monuments, relaxing by the shores or having lunch in the Restaurant right on waters.

Rainbow Stairs

Right next to the Museum of modern art you will find colorful staircase. But those are not the Touristic Rainbow stairs! In case you are looking for the famous stairs, that take part in almost all group pictures, you should walk a bit further.

The Rainbow colored staircase is part of a street art project situated still in the district of Beyoglu close to Karakoy area. It is a long staircase situated between different surrounding buildings. It presence is bringing a new colorful touch to the neighborhood.

Here is the exact location for you not to get lost!

Adress:  Pürtelaş Hasan Efendi, Salı Pazarı Ykş. No:2, 34427 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey

II- BALAT & FENER

Balat is one of the most incredible districts of Istanbul! It is an old area, maybe one of the oldest in the city. Known for its Narrow cobbled streets and colorful buildings, Balat is starting to be the new trendy cool area. The area visited by all tourists and especially all bloggers.

At the end of this beautiful historic area, starts a trendier and modern one full of cafes and some magnificent landmarks. What is it called? Fener! So am actually talking about a district of two areas. Both of them super charming, both of them to be visited.

My impression!

One of my biggest surprises ever!! I actually checked some pictures before going there, but trust me it’s not the same. When I tell you keep your phone charged, well this is where it needs to be full!

Once I stepped inside Balat, I felt like I was drifted to an old fairytale area. A Disney movie neighborhood where life is beautiful & Colorful. The local are so nice, the ambiance is so peaceful and the vibes are simply awesome!

The area is simply stunning! Mesmerizing! Amazing! Beautiful!

I only wish I was an Artist so I can describe to you how much of a beauty is this Area. Honestly words fail me! And because:

Photography is the Story I fail to put into words

DESTIN SPARKS
I decided to bring to you the most out of Balat & Fener in pictures!
My Recommendations!
  • Start your journey there early like around 11am tops! This way you get to have your coffee in one of its cool cafés and wander in almost all the hidden streets of the area and get lost there. Finally, for you to have the time for a good lunch, visit some attractions and souvenir shops.
  • I walked from Balat towards Fener and it turned out to be a great idea. I had my coffee in Balat and my lunch in Fener by the sea. I was also relaxed to continue my walk and discover Fener landmarks. So I would recommend you the same!
How to get there?

Balat is a bit far from the shores of Eminönü. So all you need to do is to get to this area and then take either the Metro from Halic Station or walk a bit further to the Bus station.

Tip: if you are taking the bus, don’t get lost there is a big stop plaza for busses there. All you need to do is check the right number and direction.

Colorful Houses & Streets

The main reason for everyone’s visit! The iconic colorful houses neighborhood dates from up to 200 years old! Photographers have been rushing from all over the world to take their best pictures.

Coffee shops & Restaurants

The area became so popular because of its iconic architecture. And this popularity led to the opening of many marvelous cafés and restaurants.

Dimitrie Cantemir Müze Café

This part of Fener was my biggest surprise! And I won’t hide it from you, I haven’t done my research well and it is by chance that I dropped in front of this cool street.

I was HAPPY! And that is why I am giving you this secret. Enjoy this cool street and don’t forget to take some Happy pics!

Souvenir shops

The markets along the winding cobbled streets are famous throughout the city for selling some traditional and fresh products. Don’t expect some high brands but some one of a kind souvenirs.

III- YEREBATAN Street

Am not talking about the Famous Sultanahmet area where you have all the historical prestigious landmarks. Well I’ll be telling you about this in another article!

But since this article is all about the hidden Gems of the city, I am here to tell you about a backstreet from HAYA SOFIA. A specific one called Yerebatan Street.

A street?!

Yes, you heard me right! It’s not a full area, nor a neighborhood it’s simply a street. A colorful surprising street that I discovered literally by chance. Yerebatan Street this is how it’s called and this is where you should go.

Tip: There is a small colorful super trendy Hotel called Kybele Hotel, If you’d like to stay in the area. Check it Out!

You can’t Miss it! Because well I suppose no one flies to Istanbul and leaves without visiting the iconic HAYA SOFIA. And Yerebatan Street can lead you there!

My experience

I was walking from the “Grand Bazar” towards Haya Sofia, without using any GPS just by following my intuitions, and apparently I was walking down Yerebatan Street.

The first thing I have done was stopping for a second, realizing how lucky I was to find this street and finally checking on my GPS the name of this street.

What I said to myself was: “I should definitely tell others about this”!

Cafes and Restaurants

The street is mainly about stylish Colorful Cafes and Restaurants. So chose whichever impresses you more to have a relaxing time with the View of the Iconic landmarks nearby.

Here are the most impressive ones! Well at least the one that sounded so appealing to me 😀

Those being: The Sultanahmet Haveran & Ottoman life Park/ House of Medusa/ Maya’s corner Cafe.

I chose to eat in House of Medusa and it turned out to be one of the greatest food experiences I have ever had in Istanbul😋

What have we ordered? The meat you see is a special kabab with tomato sauce and some yogurt! I would definitely recommend you having the same😍

As for the price of that, It was a very fair restaurant comparing to its priceless location.

Tip: For those of you who are into books & arts, there are both an Antique shop and a Book store in this street. Check them out!

The Basilica Cistern

One of the most Impressive structures I have ever seen. Talking from the eye of an engineer, this is definitely a breathtaking masterpiece.

A bit of history!

The Basilica Cistern was built back I 532 to serve as a huge Well for the Great palace and surrounding buildings. This huge reservoir was made out of 336 columns taken from ruined temples. Its capacity is tremendous as it was able to store up to 80,000 cu metres of water

My impression

I remember how impressed I was once I stepped inside this subterranean structure. It really marked me with its grandeur and the height of the columns used.

While strolling inside this marvelous piece of art you get the feeling of being transported back the Byzantine Area. And not only this! You start wondering how this can possible be made by humankind especially back in 532.

Address: Yerebatan Cad. Alemdar Mah. 1/3 34410 Sultanahmet-Fatih/İSTANBUL

Entrance Fees: The ticket price is 30 TL http://yerebatansarnici.com/

Recommendations:
  • If you are into history and culture, get a guide! He will show you around in a different spectacular way.
  • Whatever you do, don’t miss out the chance to see the inverted head of the “Medusa” column. All you need to do is walk all the passageway till the end.
  • If you are claustrophobic, I don’t really recommend this visit for you. It is not a confined space but a more or less dark one.

Tip: Have a turn around the famous Basilica Cistern to divan yolu street. Stop there to check the Milyon Tasi an iconic Byzantine pillar used to mark distances.

                              

IVARNAVUTKOY

This historical neighborhood in Istanbul is Istanbul’s best kept secret. The area stands out of the ordinary with its outstanding architecture. It is so peaceful and friendly there! Mainly a quite residential entourage that calls for a visit.

I happened to notice the area on my way from Ortakoy to Bebek. It caught my attention and I did my research on the spot. I was amazed by the pictures that I saw and decided to stop by. And I was really happy that I stopped. This area by the catch of an eye became my favorite one of all.

What to expect?

Beautiful clean colorful neighborhood. You can’t pass by Arnavutkoy without noticing it. Known for its beautiful architecture with side by side residential colorful Ottoman buildings, and for its sea food restaurants, Arnavutkoy really calls for a visit!

Allow yourself to get lost in its narrow beautiful streets and enjoy having coffee in one of its cool cafes.

How to get there?

Very simple! If you are already at Ortakoy, take a taxi or a bus. The ride is about 15min. And if you feel like walking it will take you about 35min to get there.

Or from Kabataş station, take buses 22, 22RE or 25E. This trip takes about 30 minutes.

What marked me the Most there!

Without any doubt it was its shore. Arnavutkoy lays on the coast of the Bosphorus and represents this fancy clean area. It can be mistaken for a Marina because of the numerous boats parked there. The view over the bridges is priceless from that location and the walk along the pedestrian sidewalk is a must.

Oh! Before I leave you for now, I should tell you that Arnavutkoy at Night is really something! So if you are a fan of good Restaurants and a nice Atmosphere, make sure to head there at Night😊

So here they are! The gems that made my trip to Istanbul exceptional! I hope you like them; Give them a visit you won’t Regret It!

7 thoughts on “Istanbul’s hidden Gems

  1. Very good post. Highly informative for travellers who want to visit these hidden gems in Istanbul. Nicely written and keep up the good work.

    Like

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