A Day Out in Istanbul Tips

Crowded and at times chaotic, the youthful energy of the middle-class Beşiktaş neighbourhood north of Dolmabahçe Palace is infectious. With a busy central çarşı (marketplace) full of cafes, bars and cheap eats, and lingering Ottoman splendour on its waterfront, Beşiktaş gives visitors a slice of modern Turkish life alongside a dive into history.

Beşiktaş is also the name of one of Istanbul’s biggest and most beloved football clubs, so expect the çarşı area to be packed and rowdy on match nights. If you happen to be visiting in October, don’t miss the annual Fotoİstanbul festival, which brings excellent international photography to pop-up exhibition spaces around the neighbourhood.

But there’s plenty to experience even if you visit on days when there’s no football buzz or international festivals. Here’s what one of those days might look like.

 

9am

Fuel up for the first part of the day at one of the popular indoor/outdoor eateries along the winding intersection of Çelebioğlu Sokak and Şair Veysi Sokak – an area so full of places serving the morning meal it’s been dubbed ‘Kahvaltıcılar Sokağı’, or ‘Breakfast-Makers’ Street’. Tuck into a delicious traditional egg dish like menemen at the no-frills Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu (Çelebioğlu Sokak 8) or linger over a full serpme kahvaltı – a table full of sweet and savoury bites – at Reçel Türevleri or Cafe Faruk. If the endless cups of black tea haven’t sated your caffeine craving, pop into the tiny Dem Good Coffee, run by a mixed team of deaf and non-deaf employees, for a quick post-breakfast espresso.

 

10am

Head down to the waterfront for a peek into the former residence of the Ottoman heirs-in-waiting, now the National Palaces Painting Museum, where the evocative images of old Istanbul – including a canvas depicting the ships of the Ottoman navy arrayed along this very coastline – are a highlight of the collection. The nearby Palace Collections Museum offers a more intimate glimpse into the sultans’ daily lives, displaying their Baccarat-crystal ice-cream bowls and porcelain vases alongside their writing sets and shaving kits.

 

1pm

Join the local office workers for lunch at Hatay Antakya Mutfağı , a cosy corner restaurant specialising in kebabs and meze infused with the spicy flavours of south-eastern Turkey, or at Elde Börek (Ihlamurdere Caddesi 26), a cheery lokanta serving up a wide range of home-cooked dishes, all attractively displayed at the front counter.

After lunch, grab a small treat for later at 7-8 Hasanpaşa Fırını (Şehit Asım Caddesi 12), an old-fashioned bakery renowned for its almond biscuits and tahini-infused pastries. You’ll find it just down the street from the ‘kartal’, the black eagle statue that represents the Beşiktaş football club and is one of the neighbourhood’s best-known landmarks.