As recommended by Refik Gökmen, who divides his time between London and Turkey.


The Grand Bazaar, although touristy is still a place Istanbulites go to. Check out Abdullah for bathwares and cool pestemal (sarong/towels) or Dösim (near Yeni Cami), a government run shop good for Turkish carpets or ceramics.

Yastik by Rifat Ozbek
Ozbek’s cushion and soft furnishings boutique in the chic neigbourhood of Nisantasi.

Ece Sukan Vintage
‘Ozbek’s cushion and soft furnishings boutique also in Nisantasi.

Sevan Jewelry
Sevan Bicakci jewelry has such illustrious admirers as designers Angela Margareti Missoni and Tory Burch, and creates stunningly intricate jewelery using an ancient micromosaic technique

A stunning modern twist on classic Turkish textiles.

The Cukurcuma area, especially Faik Pasa Yokusu,has great antique shops. Check out Hall, run
by a Kiwi expat.

Blue Mosque courtyard and interior detail
Topkapi Palace tiles


If you haven’t visited Istanbul before, be sure to not miss Topkapi Palace Museum (especially the Treasury), Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet) and Hagia Sophia.

Take a boat trip on the Bosphorus (the straits which separate Europe and Asia) in the Summer. The Bosphorus is the defining feature of Istanbul and it’s great to be on the water. There are special day trips that leave from a pier marked ‘Bogaz Hatti’ near Eminonu, at the southern end of the Galata Bridge. Take the boat to Anadolu Kavagi, the last stop - have a fish lunch there, walk to the ruined Genoese fort and enjoy the views. Timetable at

To see a more contemporary and edgy view of the city go during the Istanbul Bieniale, the contemporary art festival which has events and showings dotted around the city.

If classical Ottoman architecture and mosques are your thing, there are a couple of smaller 16th century mosques that aren’t on most tourist’s itineraries and are well worth a visit. These are Rustem Pasa Mosque, up some steps near the Spice Bazaar, and Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, just down a hill round the black of the Blue Mosque.


A funky, informal restaurant in an Ottoman-era mansion serving a modern take on traditional Turkish cuisine.

Delicious food from Turkey’s Hatay region which includes Nar eksili cevizli kozbiber (pureed red and green peppers in pomegranate dressing) and barbecued beef.

Besiktas Kaymakci
Feast on Kaymak, the Turkish version of clotted cream often served with honey and crusty white bread at this tiny aging eatery. A great and cheap breakfast.

An unpretentious restaurant with delicious food provides a great overview of Turkish cuisine. Enjoy dishes such as meat stews with green plums. Not to be missed.

Pera Sisore
Black Sea cuisine at it’s best. Eat hamsi (fresh anchovy) pilaf and kuru fasulye (white beans) in a rich buttery sauce.


Expensive but worth it. A fish restaurant on the Bosphorus – a real Istanbul tradition and great for people watching. Make sure you book.

Get one of the best kebabs in town at this grill house, also in Beyoglu. Try the spicy minced lamb kebab or chicken wings and the meze.

Mikla, unmissable. Sit and watch the sunset with a cocktail from the roof terrace, and then stay on for dinner afterwards.

This blog also makes good reading.

View from Poseidon restaurant


Istanbul Modern Art gallery café
Sitting directly on the Bosphorus this café is a great spot to have lunch.

Visit Mandabatmaz for one of Istanbul’s best cups of coffee.

The Tunel area has lots of great bars:

- 360 Istanbul which has great views.

- Trendy and clubby Otto and Ghetto.

- Babylon is a live music venue and bar and has some of the best gigs in Istanbul.

ABRACADABRA | 50/1 Arnavutkoy Cad. Arnavutkoy, Istanbul | T. (212) 358-6087
ANATICOHIA | Minare Sokak, Asmalimescit, Istanbul | T. (212) 292-1100 |
BESIKTAS KAYMAKCI | Koyici Meydani Sokak, Besiktas, Istanbul | T. (212) 258-2616
CIYA | Guneslibahce Sokak 43, Kadikoy, Istanbul | T. (216) 330 3190
ECE SUKAN VINTAGE | Ahmet Fetgari Sokak no.152 Tesvikiye, Istanbul 34360 | T. (212) 233 5439
MANDABATMAZ | Olivia Gecidi no. 1/A Beyoglu
PERA SISORE | Oteller Sokak 6, Beyoglu, Istanbul | T. (212) 245-4902
POSEIDON | Cevdet Pasa Caddesi 58, Bebek, Istanbul | T. (212) 263-38-23

TULU | Bindirdirek Mah., Ucler Sk. No. 9/1, Sultanahmet, Istanbul | T. (212) 518-8710
YASTIK | Sakayik Sokak, Olcay Apt. n0 13/1 Tesviklye, Sisli, Istanbul | T. (212) 240 -8731 |
ZUBEYIR | Bekar Sokak 28, Beyoglu | T. (212) 293-3951

1 comment:

Amber in Brisbane said...

have just stumbled on your cityguides and am chuffed Istanbul is included. I was there 8 years ago and can still conjure the olfactory delights of bread and diesel and corn and sugar and incense at whim. Glorious place. Heading back next year to celebrate finishing my degree (travelling from Paris to Istanbul by train, via Venice!).

Your recommendations will elevate the return to Istanbul beyond the usual tourist traps (breathtaking as they are!).

Is it still relatively easy to get by with English and a smattering of bad schoolgirl French? I have no Turkish language, sadly, and wonder if bookings etc might be tricky without it.