A Different Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

15 places

Natulya Ptukhina

A couple of years ago Turkey became visa-free for Russians and now they're practically everywhere. Our guide lists secret places to avoid them.

I'ZAZ lofts

If you want to live in an apartment without cleaning or cooking, go to I'ZAZ guesthouse with four lofts in Beyoğlu. A neutral beige decor, kitchen with snacks and coffee and a balcony with west Istanbul panorama. Plus a perfect nightlife location – a five-minute walk from this calm street and you are in the party hub of Nevizade.


A nice and simple place: light brick walls, wooden floors and spacious rooms. Beyogulu location is their main advantage – you can spend days on foot, taking no public transport or take a cab and not pay a fortune. The place is super popular, so better book two months ahead. Price start from 100 euros a day.

Susam Cafe

Striped chairs, an old-fashioned tiled mirror console with magazine – that's not everything charming about this place. The cafe is located in a quite Cihangir and the atmosphere matches the spirit – calm and lazy with nice music and long chats. A good choice for a relaxed night out with friends and wine. But better have dinner somewhere else – they offer routine salads and pasta, but cocktails are fab.

House Café

Quite expensive for Istanbul but splendid interiors and yummy food. Shown to us by a local friend of ours. In winter, their ginger tea with lemon and honey kept us warm and in summer we munched on their perfect sandwiches and oatmeal with berries sitting in the outdoor veranda. There are two locations in Istiklal – one closer to the Tunnel and the second right in the heart of the district.


A reason to live in Bebek. The place is pretty relaxed, no Ottoman decor – wooden floors, large windows and a veranda overlooking the bay. Morning is time for great breakfasts and coffee and in the evening the place is packed with locals. Their week-end brunches are a hit as it's the best hangover remedy – so filling and delicious.

Balikci Sabahattin

An upscale seafood place in the 1920s estate. In the summer, their terrace has a fab view of Hagia Sophia – however, this also boosts the prices. It's a perfect place to celebrate some special occasion (your first or last day in Istanbul). The food is awesome especially spice fish bowls and marinated sea bass. Orient Express trains used to pass along it until the 1970s and now – these are night trains bound for Belgrade and Bucharest – so romantic.

Istanbul Modern

This museum for contemporary art on Bosporus is trendily located in converted cargo warehouses in Tophane. It hosts great exhibitions by modern artists, photographers and sculptors and imitates Tate Modern. You can see a permanent exhibition about the evolution of Turkish art and some contemporary shows, including Istanbul Biennale – flying books in the library are its gift. There is a photo gallery and an art-house movie theater. After art enjoy their terrace bar and the Sultanahmet view – a great example of Islamic architecture.


An Istiklal gallery with lots of interesting stuff – mainly installations that completely transform the place. One day you find coffins everywhere or no furniture at all - bare walls and a light bulb. Its five floors will show you everything you need to know about contemporary Turkish art - video, art objects and paintings – the best such place after Istanbul Modern.

Pilot Gallery

The hub of extravaganza – chicken breast portraits and carpets with embroidered faces of Turkish bloggers. The place is housed in a hippy club of the 1960s and this definitely affects the owners – the dullest exhibition they offer is a video of a flood in McDonalds. The Beyoglu location makes it impossible to miss.


This art center is located in the first Ottoman power station, so you can still see power generators in its Energy Museum and even generate some in a special interactive area. The major exhibition is a crazy collection of everything – Colombian photos, climate change paraphernalia, Moleskines. The center also houses concerts, theater and fashion shows – more details are available on their website. To get there take a free bus from Taksim Square.

Soda Istanbul

It's more than a gallery but rather a small center for contemporary art, video and design in Nisantasi. They display paintings, installations and jewelry by young artists, like teeth-necklace or penis earrings. If you speak Turkish, attend a regular workshop or a lecture about art. If you don't – just watch around. Art needs no words.


Artistic bar where days are calm and nights are funky. In summer, enjoy the shade outside – the tables are bathing in a sun shade made of trellised vines and ivy. Great lounge after a walk in Beyoğlu. The interior is cosy, old-fashioned Parisian with olive walls and the 1960s stools. Don't even try to get a table after dawn – all are taken by artsy types, laughing, moving tables together and dancing on their stools.


An awesome gastropub that turns into one of the best Cihangir bars at night. A lantern-lit patio, music, colored sofas – Kiki is everyone's darling – from hipsters to bikers. The venue is famous for its daily events – the 1980s party, aperitif hour, Girl Power Night or a DJ set – so groovy. Their cocktail hit is vanilla and pomegranate vodka. Vodka is really the number one Istanbul party drink though the weather is not cold at all.

Mini Müzikhol

One of the best music spots in Cihangir. Life here begins around 2 am and you will definitely stay till sunrise. DJs are super groovy, dancefloor is funky and the crowd goes wild, though somewhat hipster-like. You feel like at someone's home party. A perfect place for the big night out.

V2K Designers

Nisantasi concept store selling big European and interesting local designers. Foreign media praise the place for its decor, art-blogs for its regular exhibitions, while Istanbul non-fashionistas come here for books and music. V2K has something to hook anyone.


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