Tastes of Istanbul in 24 hours
Mehmet Yaşin08.00 - 09.00
Breakfast by the Bosphorus
In the early hours of the morning, the misty view of the Bosphorus is pristine. That’s why you should have your breakfast at the famous Sarıyer Börekçisi. The restaurant, which is on the road from Sarıyer’s center to the Rumeli Kavağı, has been the connoisseur of breakfasts for over a century. I suggest the spinach pie… If you insist on “Watching the Bosphorus while breakfasting,” then you should start your journey from Kireçburnu. The simits of Kireçburnu patisserie are quite delicious. Best eaten hot, freshly out of oven. Take a few and sit on one of the banks by the sea. Don’t worry, the waiter will bring your tea. Watch Paşabahçe and Beykoz wake up on the opposite side while the cold breeze from the Black Sea envelopes you. But don’t forget that you’ll have a late lunch, so don’t be shy about buying more simit.
09.00 - 10.00
Walk by the Bosphorus
When your breakfast is done, take a walk by the sea. Kalender, Tarabya. On your right, mansions that still stand tall and on your left, the Bosphorus flowing like a river. You’ll see amateur fishermen on the coast. Have a look at them for a while. And it is alright to think about the lives in the mansions on the other side of the road. You can make up a different story for each mansion. I know you’re getting tired, you can sit on one of the banks by the sea and breathe the fresh air of the sea. Don’t worry, the walk will terminate at Yeniköy, because there, the mansions will cover the view of the sea like a wall. If you want to rest before taking a shuttle, bus or a taxi, you have to turn to the coast from the traffic lights. Sipping a tea while watching the sea from Yeniköy Kahvesi is delightful.
10.00 - 11.00
When you pass Yeniköy and İstinye, get out at Emirgan. You have to linger in the most beautiful district of Istanbul. Sit either at the seaside cafés or under the trees of Emirgan Park. The tea gardens by the coast are the symbol of Istanbul. Sitting in those gardens while drinking tea with family was the most enjoyable part of my childhood. Also one should note that the Sunday breakfast in those cafes are of exquisite quality.
11.00 – 12.30
A Look From Aşiyan
Our next stop is Bebek. If you like to walk, I advise you to leave your car in front of the Rumeli Fort (Rumelihisarı). Have you ever been inside this castle that you see from postcards and pass in front of it? If you continue to walk along the coast, you’ll see a slope on the right, which will take you to Aşiyan. If you go up this road, you’ll end up in the house of the famous poet, Tevfik Fikret. You’ll face an astonishing panorama when you look at the sea from Aşiyan. I’m pretty sure that you’ll say: “I would be a poet too if I lived here,” when you look at that panorama. I have said the same thing for 40 years, each time I go to Aşiyan.
12.30 – 13.30
Don’t worry, you’re not going to walk anymore. You’ll get in a taxi and head straight to Ortaköy. This is the district I have been living in for 25 years. I’m not going to disturb you with my memories. Ortaköy was beautiful in the past, and is beautiful now. Only a little more crowded. Pass through the narrow streets and go to the square. Sit in one of the cafés and watch one of the most beautiful mosques on earth, the Ortaköy Mosque, and the bridge above. This scene will look familiar, because it is commonly used in adverts, brochures and postcards about Istanbul.
13.30 – 14.30
Fish Sandwich Feast
It’s time to leave the Bosphorus and head to Eminönü. You won’t see much from the road covered like a tunnel by century-old sycamore trees. By the time you reach Eminönü, the breakfast you had should already be gone. Now it’s street food time. The fish which is cooked on the huge pans on the boats attached between the ferries, await you between slices of bread. There’s no fresh fish in this season, but don’t worry that the fish comes out of the fridge, because they’re still delicious. A fish sandwich is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Istanbul. Don’t get hung up on things such as health conditions – no one has been hospitalized due to a fish sandwich. You can watch the streets of Cihangir, Karaköy and Salıpazar, the Galata Tower and Beyoğlu on the other coast, while eating your lunch. The only expense for this view is a fish sandwich. If you still don’t want to eat a fish sandwich, you can try Hamdi Restaurant behind the bus stops; its kebab and view are magnificent. You can also try the historical Pandelli at the entrance of the Mısır bazaar or Rumeli Köftecisi, on Hocapaşa Street, at the start of the Cağaloğlu slope.
14.30 – 17.30
You have to be on the move after quenching your hunger. You’ll have to walk uphill a bit. You should take Cağaloğlu slope to Sultanahmet. It is not an ordinary slope. It is the slope that was used for vezirs, writers, journalists and politicians in the Ottoman era. Buildings that were once filled with the smell of ink are now occupied by other jobs. There is a lot to see in Sultanahmet Square. The Hippodrome, the world’s greatest mosque, the German Fountain, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace. You do not have time to fully visit all of these places. Pick one that you are really interested in and spend most of your time there. You may take a fast look at the others.
17.30 – 19.30
The day is about to turn to night. Time is running out, and you have to hurry up a bit. You should now go back to Eminönü. Take a ride from there and follow the coast of the Golden Horn (Haliç). Balat, Fener, Alibeyköy, Eyüp are among the oldest districts in Istanbul. These are not places to pass by. You need days to explore these neighborhoods. You should be at Pierre Loti during sunset, on the hills of Eyüp. A café named after the famous French writer is one of the must-see places of Istanbul.
19.30 – 24.00
When the sun sets and the sky is painted red, take a cab and tell the driver to take you to Tünel in Karaköy. This century-old tram of İstanbul will take you to the end of Beyoğlu, Tünel. From this district, which is home to cafés, art galleries and jazz bars, you can walk up to Taksim. Never go toward toward Asmalımescit, Müeyyet, Sofyalı and Şeyhbender. These districts are so seducing that you won’t be able to get out of them again. I advise you to visit Çiçek Passage first, when you reach Galatasaray. The delicious food there will surely water your mouth. Now it is time to dine with a couple of drinks. Your table is reserved in Nevizade, about 300 meters away from Çiçek Passage. I leave you to yourself on this street. You are free to order anything you want. All the mezzes are fresh.
24.00 – ...
Are You Done Or Not?
You have to get onto İstiklal Avenue after the dinner. You’ll move on to Taksim Square. I suggest the chestnut twists of the Saray patisserie while moving upwards. You have to decide when you reach Taksim Square; “Are you done or not?” If the answer is yes, you have to find transport to get back to your place. If you’re not, you should take a cab and go back to the Bosphorus again. All the bars and clubs between Ortaköy and Bebek await you. These are the temples of nightlife in Istanbul. You may have some hard time with the bouncers at the door but do not force your luck if you can’t get in. Your whole day may end badly. For munchies, I suggest the travelling köfte vendors at Akıntıburnu, or Ali Baba’s in Arnavutköy. If you can extend your route, you can also end the day in Apik Restaurant in Dolapdere.