Istanbul … Byzantium, Constantinople… City Museum. Today Istanbul is friendly and full of oriental charm. It is the most populated and cosmopolitan city in Turkey, with more than 15 million people living here. Istanbul is the only city in the world located on two continents. European and Asian parts of Turkey are separated by the Bosphorus Strait. The Golden Horn Bay that is connected with the Bosphorus, looks as if it crashes into the city and divides its European part into two halves. On one hand there is Old Istanbul – the Sultanahmet neighborhoods, the Grand Bazar, Kumkapi and Eminonu districts and on the other – the modern Karakoy and Beyoglu quarters.
Istanbul is about charming streets and squares, beautiful mosques, palaces and museums, traditional hamams, colorful markets, excellent restaurants, some of which are located on the roof tops, and hundreds of tiny shops with unique Turkish sweets. Everyone finds their own vivid impressions here. We have decided to guide you through the most famous districts of Istanbul where in each of them you will find something interesting and inspiring.
Sultanahmet is the most ancient and most famous district, the heart of Ottoman Istanbul. The most famous sights of the Ottoman rule period are located here – the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace. The district is named after Sultan Ahmet, who built the Blue Mosque. The highlight of Sultanahmet are romantic restaurants – terraces, located on the rooftops overlooking the Blue Mosque, which is superbly illuminated in the dark. If you do not succeed in taking a seat on the terraces, then charming open areas, which Istanbul residents call gardens are a great alternative.
In the district of the Grand Bazaar one of the main attractions of Istanbul are Istanbul University and the Suleymaniye Mosque, which became the last refuge of Sultan Suleiman and his beloved wife Roksolana. From the courtyards of the mosque you can get to a small spontaneous market, where books, paintings, photographs and souvenirs are sold. From Grand Bazaar down to the Kumkapi district and the Bosphorus embankment, as well as around the University you will find narrow streets with old houses, traditional for the Ottoman period.
At the time of the Ottomans Kumkapi was a district of fishermen, today it is a kind of tavern quarter with a special atmosphere and interesting old Ottoman architecture. This area is especially popular among locals who come here with big cheerful companies to the accompaniment of street musicians. Kumkapi has a friendly and cheerful atmosphere, it is possible to acquire a dozen friends of various nationalities here in one evening.
Eminonu, Golden Horn Cove and Galata Bridge
Eminonu is always a noisy and crowded area, this is the transport and commercial heart of Istanbul. New Mosque and Spice Bazaar are located here. In many cities there are places that attract artists, photographers, artisans and just creative people. In Istanbul, this place is the area near the New Mosque. The Golden Horn Bay is actually the natural bay of the Bosphorus and has the shape of a horn. In the past, warships and merchant ships were chartered here. The bay received its golden name due to the golden color of the water at sunset. This place is one of the favorite places of both locals and guests of the city.
The lively waterfront of Karakoy is located just beyond the Galata bridge opposite to the old city. Once it was the Genoese village of Galata on the outskirts of Constantinople, during the Ottoman Empire, ambassadors and local rich people lived here. Today Karakoy is the center of nightlife in modern Istanbul. The most famous local landmark is the Galata Tower. Dozens of restaurants, jazz clubs, hippie cafes and food courts with street food are located around Galati along small streets.
Beyoglu and Taksim Square
Beyoglu is a large, very European area of Istanbul, which begins right behind the port of Karaka and the old quarters of Galati. Beyoglu districts with a dozens of boutiques, stylish hotels, fashionable lyceums, foreign embassies, museums and galleries are the personification of New Istanbul. The best hotels, shops and restaurants of Beyoglu are located in the trendy quarters along Istikal Cadesi Street, which originates from Taksim Square.
One of the things you must do when in Istanbul is to take a cruise on Bosphorus to enjoy the views of the embankments of Istanbul. Numerous ferries sail from Eminönyu Pier and make several stops before arriving at their destination – Anadolu Kavagi, a small fishing village in the Asian part of the city, where you can see the ruins of the Yoros Fortress and have a snack at several excellent fish restaurants. Please note that if you decide to get off at an intermediate stop, the best way to get back to the city center will be a taxi. Another way to go on a cruise on the Bosphorus – on a rented boat. During the two-hour sail you will see the palaces on the embankments, mosques and numerous mansions and buildings located near the water.
Now that you had a chance to find out more on areas to explore, we suggest you find some time to visit one of roof-top terraces that we have listed below to have relaxing afternoon with panoramic view or maybe a romantic evening, who knows.
Terrace at Georges Hotel Galata
Close to Galata Tower you find the fabulous boutique hotel Georges Hotel Galata, and on the top floor a lovely rooftop terrace that offers magical views of Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Open to all, the rooftop has a stylish contemporary setting where you can enjoy international cuisine, mostly French-inspired, along with cocktails and a good selection of French wines and champagnes.
A genuine Istanbul restaurant and rooftop bar. Recently refurbished and situated over two floors it comes with several different and cozy venues. The one with the best views on Bosphorus is the 7th floor dining hall and bar, along with the top floor summer terrace ‘Captain’s Quarter’. With seats for about 20 people, this open-air terrace is a real gem. Dining room and bar is more like garden houses, with floor-to-ceiling windows and retractable roof. Here you can enjoy food prepared with local ingredients along with a long wine and raki list and well-crafted cocktails.
About 5 minutes’ walk from Taksim Square you find the roof terrace Kat, which is a small but very cozy café, bar and restaurant with a breathtaking view over the Bosphorus. The setting on the terrace is almost as beautiful as the views, picturesque and stylish at the same time with intimate dining tables, lots of greenery and also a very nice bar. Here you can enjoy large menus of both food and drinks, with great Mediterranean and local style food and a wide range of drinks, from classic cocktails to raki. All in a harmonious vibe with a very friendly service.
From this roof terrace you get one of the best views in Istanbul, really worthy of its name, the 360-degree views reach almost as far as Istanbul can take you. The 360 rooftop has a concept containing 4 words: cuisine, entertainment, vibe and ambiance. You can expect a good Turkish meze fused with international cuisine, a wide range of drinks and a very vibrant and fun atmosphere, often highlighted by different live acts and performances.
Chic yet minimalist rooftop restaurant and bar located on top of the Bjk Plaza in Besiktas. Vogue delivers amazing food, unbeatable views of the Bosphorus along with a trendy atmosphere and a very cool molecular cocktail menu. Enjoy a wide range of world cuisine dishes, from pasta and grills to over 70 varieties of sushi. Vogue also have an impressive list of both local and international wines. Open from noon, so works well for lunch, dinner or cocktails any time, but preferably timed with the magical sunset.