Hacımimi, Boğazkesen Cd. No:1, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
If you're riding the tram to the beginning of the tour, get on the tram that says to Kabatas, and get off the second stop after you cross the Galata bridge. It's just to the south of where the cruise ships dock. Tophane (pronounced toe-FAN-ee) means "cannon" in Turkish, and it was here that they once built all the armaments to defend Istanbul. That big, beautiful domed building on the water side of the road is a haman, or Turkish bath, and it still is in operation. It's just been renovated and is beautiful inside so if you want to skip the tour and spend your time relaxing there instead, I'll understand. But if not, cross the street and head up the hill on Boğazkesen Street to start our adventure.
Firuzağa, Boğazkesen Cd. No:34 Kat:4, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
A little bit about Turkish pottery and tiles. You've seen them for sale all over, and a lot of it is produced for the tourists. But the real stuff is made in the city of Iznik, or if you prefer the ancient Greek name, Nicea. The tile factories were built in the time of Suleyman the Magnificient and those tiles were used for the inside of his tomb, for the Blue Mosque, and lots of other beautiful places. They are hand painted and the tableware that is made there is fired so it's food and even dishwasher safe. The other stuff often is decals and isn't food safe. But I've brought you to the good stuff. Tarkan only sells work from Iznik and her prices are very good. Everything is hand-painted and signed by the artist. No bartering, but you know you're getting a good deal. You're welcome.
Tomtom, Boğazkesen Cd. No:57/1, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
If you go to one of the Turkish baths, or hamans, they will lend you one of their towels. It's not terrycloth, but woven cotton, soft and absorbent. They are a wonderful thing to bring home from Turkey, but there's a very wide range of quality and price out there. They are especially great on the beach because they don't hold sand. Dervis sells some of the better stuff, handloomed in Turkey and some of it is just stunning. Again, the prices here are very fair. Dervis is on the second floor and you have to go through an apartment building lobby and up a flight of stairs to get there, but it's well worth it if you're interested in textiles.
Even though just minutes ago, you were in the Tophane district, the neighborhoods here change rapidly. You're now in the area called TomTom. Just ten years ago, you wouldn't want to walk here alone, but it's been gentrifying rapidly and is now an up and coming area with lots of fun little shops. Look for the soap shop down the street and also some of the weird little art galleries.
Tomtom, Boğazkesen Cd. No:67, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Simits are the Turkish version of the bagel, but they're a little bigger, a little less bready and covered with sesame seeds. You can find them all over, and they're very popular with a glass of tea. Most places buy their simits from bakeries and re-sell them because they're fairly labor intensive, but I've brought you to an actual simit bakery. Buy a simit here and get it fresh out of the oven.
Firuzağa, Yeni Çarşı Cd. 39 A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Hungry yet? If you are, this is one of the very best little kebab places in the area. Cheap, too. You may have seen signs that say Cic kebab, with the little curls under the C's. That curly C is pronouced "SH" in Turkish, so that's saying "Shish Kebab."
I recommend the lamb wrap, but the dish in the foreground is the eggplant kebab - also quite wonderful. If you were to continue up this street, after a steep, steep climb, you'd get to a major pedestrian street called Istiklal that's a fun destination, too. But not on this tour. Turn around and head back into TomTom.
Firuzağa, Çukur Cuma Cd. No:15, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The Museum of Innocence is one of the most unique and fascinating places I've been. Created by Orhan Pamuk, who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, it's a companion piece to his novel The Museum of Innocence which is about a wealthy Istanbulite who falls in love with a poor shopgirl and takes place exactly in this building. He bought the house and collected thousands of objects that related to his story. They're displayed by chapter and are a fascinating insight to upper class society in the 70's and 80's here. There's an English audioguide that will tour you through in Pamuk's voice. He'll tell you some of the novel, but he'll also tell you about living here and give you a glimpse of what it was like to navigate the culture clash of Turkey at the time when the west became so influential. This museum won the 2014 European Museum of the Year.
Firuzağa, Çukur Cuma Cd. No:44, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Your'e deep in the heart of a new neighborhood, Cukurcuma. It's known for its antique stores, cosy cafes and galleries, and right now, you're surrounded by them! The antique stores run the gamut from carefully curated and displayed collections to literal buckets of old silver jewerly for you to dig through. While the best known shops are mostly onn this street, if you love antiques, there are wonderful little shops all throughout this area on side roads. Have fun!
Kuloğlu, Ağa Külhanı Sk. 14a, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
This is the first of the community fountains you'll pass on this walk. They're really wells, rather than fountains, and at one time were the only sources of water for the neighborhoods. Wealthy businesspeople and even more often, aspiring politicians would build them to popularize themselves with the people. Many still work.
Also, notice the "teeth" in the street. This area is all pretty much one way streets, and they're serious about enforcing them!
Turn left here.
Kuloğlu, Çukur Cuma Cd. No:55, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
This is the Puppet Institute and the studio of puppet makers in Istanbul. Puppetry has a very strong culture here, most notably the characters Karagoz and Hacivat, who originated in the city of Bursa, south of Istanbul. Karagoz is an unrefined commoner while Hacivat is an educated elistist, and they constantly argue, with hilarious results. The puppet institute isn't often open, but it's worth this little detour just to see the amazing handmade puppets in the windows.
Turn around and go back to Cukur Cuma street and turn left.
Kuloğlu, Ağa Külhanı Sk. No:14, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Kuloğlu, Ağa Hamamı Sk. 2/A, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Turks love pickles! And this is an entire shop of just that. Pretty amazing.
You've just walked into a new neighborhood, Cihangir. (pronounced Chee HAN geer) You're also on the street where I lived. Cihangir is a fascinating area. It was once full of expats from around the world because the embassies on Istiklal Boulevard were close enough that support workers for them would live here. It also had a very strong Rum population. Rums were historically Greek, so they were Christian, but had lived in Istanbul long enough that they were a seperate culture and identified strongly with the city. Cihangir was a thriving, cosmopolitan place in the 50's and 60's full of street vendors, families and many different languages.
Firuzağa, Türkgücü Cd. No:59, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Remember I promised an amazing bakery? This tiny place is it. People line up here in the mornings, and the aromas floating out of this place will kill all your willpower. They still use an old fashioned Turkish wood-fired stove. Doesn't matter what you get here to try, it'll all be good.
Firuzağa, Türkgücü Cd. No:80, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Cihangir was once nearly 50% Christian and Jewish, but now is about 90% Muslim. This little building is connected to the mosque behind it - the building that has a hardware store and a (really good) butcher shop in its base. The devout wash their feet here before going into the mosque in a rite called kudu.
Kılıçali Paşa, Sıraselviler Cd. No:115, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Now you're in the busiest part of Cihangir. In 1955 Turkey implemented the last of a long series of forced migrations of ethnic minorities and most of the Rum (Greek-Christian) people who were living in Cihangir were forced out of the area. As a result, Cihangir went into a long period of decline, and at its nadir, it was the center of sex trade in Istanbul and was considered a very dangerous part of the city. Since the 90's, though, it has gentrified and it is now known as the Soho of Istanbul, attracting artists and expats.
By the way, that kebab place in the photo is quite good, if you're in the mood for kebabs. But check out the next stop before you commit...
Kılıçali Paşa, Akarsu Ykş. Sok. 41/A, 34125 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Turkish breakfasts! If you've not yet had one, stop right now and eat here. Doesn't matter what time it is - breakfast restaurants serve all day and can be open as late as 11pm. Any place that has Kahvalti in its name is a breakfast restaurant and that's pretty much all they serve. This one is our favorite in Cihangir - Dogaciyiz Gourmet. You'll get everything in that photo (except we also ordered the stuffed flatbread, or gozleme, as you should too.)
Kılıçali Paşa, Akarsu Ykş. Sok. No:16, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
You've noticed the cats everywhere, right? Technically, they are strays, but in reality, they are community cats. Everyone pretty much takes care of them. You'll see food and water out for them all over, and even little cat houses. They are so well fed that they turn up their noses at the cat treats we bought. If you see one with a notch in its ear, that means it's even gotten all its vaccinations, paid for by the people of the neighborhood. One of the people who takes care of the cats in Cihangir is Ali. If you're lucky, you might catch him here, feeding the swarms of cats who know and love him. Just go down the stairs behind the dumpster next to the wine bar and you'll see his little shed with his cat supplies - and probably a bunch of his feline friends. He takes donations to help pay for food and medical care for them, if you're so inclined.
Kılıçali Paşa, Susam Sk. No:10, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Cihangir, Susam Sk. 23/D, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Kılıçali Paşa, Susam Sk. No:26, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
One of the nicer fruit and vegetable stands in the area is on this corner and it has plenty of the yellow cataba melon that is eaten in abundance here. Sweeter than a honeydew, with white flesh, it's especially well known as a companion for raki, the strong, anise flavored liquor that is pretty much a requirement whenever you go out for meses. The melon and raki are perfect together, with the sweetness of the melon offsetting the strength of the drink. Conveniently, you're only a block and a half from one of the very best mese restaurants in Istanbul, Jash Istanbul. A great place for mese, raki and a lot more.
Pürtelaş Hasan Efendi, Münir Özkul Sok. No:2, 34427 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Turn into the mosque's little courtyard and take in the magnificent view. Suleyman the Magnificient commissioned this mosque to be built in honor of his son Cihangir, who died at a young age. At that time, this area was mostly a forest, and young Cihangir loved to visit and walk through the area. The great architect Sinan, who designed the Blue Mosque and the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent also designed the original Cihangir mosque, but it burned down and no one is sure who designed this one in its place. It's a great place to watch the cruise ships dock and take in the sunset.
This is the end of your tour. From here, you can go out of the courtyard on the other side and then down lots and lots of stairs to get to Meclis-i Mebusan Street, which is the road that the T-1 tram runs on. If you cross the street, you'll be at the other end of the cruise ship port area from where you started this adventure. Thanks for coming, and I hope you enjoyed it!