How to Spend a Day in Istanbul's Karaköy Neighbourhood

Karaköy | © Dan/Flickr
Karaköy | © Dan/Flickr
Photo of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
13 December 2017

One of Istanbul’s most historic neighbourhoods, Karaköy has been a port since the Byzantine era and was also a major commercial centre in the 19th century. Nowadays, cool shops, restaurants and bars, among the dilapidated surfaces of its former glory, have been renewed by a younger generation of entrepreneurs and residents.

Eat lunch at Karaköy Lokantası

Definitely one of the best restaurants in Karaköy, this lovely restaurant stands out with its interior decked out in dark turquoise tiles and a beautiful ornate winding staircase. For lunch, you’ll find a daily menu made up of Turkish classics at Karaköy Lokantası prepared using the best ingredients. As for dinner, the restaurant turns into a meyhane (tavern), serving an array of freshly made meze.

Karaköy Lokantası | © Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Explore SALT

Not only is the building that houses SALT amazing (a former Ottoman bank with marble floors and grand ceilings), but the contemporary art institution has its own research library, art gallery, café, restaurant, bookstore and museum. You can spend a whole day at SALT and we’ve heard wireless is exceptionally fast in case you need to get some work done.

Courtesy of SALT

Shop at cool boutiques

Karaköy is full of small boutiques opened up by young and trendy Istanbul entrepreneurs. Make sure to drop by Atölye 11 for original home decor and objects, Mae Zae for an amazing array of design goods and Bey Karaköy for Scandinavian-style men’s clothing.

See an art exhibition

One of Istanbul’s coolest neighbourhoods wouldn’t be complete without some serious art and Karaköy has plenty of small art galleries hiding among its many streets. Some of our favourites are the city’s main contemporary art hub, Istanbul Modern, as well as a smaller, but worth-visiting art gallery called artSümer. For something a little different, head to the Schneidertempel Art Gallery, a synagogue founded in 1894 that was turned into an art gallery in 1998.

Courtesy of Istanbul Modern

Get coffee at Karabatak

One of the first new openings in Karaköy was this cool cafe, which takes its Austrian-inspired aesthetic from the Julius Meinl brand coffee that it serves. Get a coffee at Karabatak, take a seat at one of the many tables inside or out and enjoy the lively vibe of the neighbourhood all around you.

Karabatak | © Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Eat baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu

Güllüoğlu is one of Turkey’s most popular baklava brands, but what people don’t know is that not all Güllüoğlu branches are the same (because a different member of the very large family runs each one). It’s common knowledge among locals that the Karaköy branch of Güllüoğlu, run by Nadir Güllü, is the best in Istanbul (only to be rivalled by the original Güllüoğlu in Gaziantep, open since 1871). Get a box of mixed baklava and enjoy the seriously sweet dessert until you can’t eat anymore.