Inside Istanbul: 7 Things You Have To Do In Sultanahmet

Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

As the heart of Istanbul’s tourist visitation Sultanahmet, there are the major sights you know too wee. So why not go a little bit off the beaten path? We picked out some of the more unusual Sultanahmet experiences for your excursion in Istanbul.

1. Eat Dinner at Karışma Sen

Eat Dinner at Karışma Sen

You can’t come to Istanbul without experiencing the ‘rakı masası,’ or the act of having an extended dinner, where drinking rakı and eating meze is accompanied by long and deep conversation. In Sultanahmet, our favorite for this lovely activity is Karışma Sen, where the meze varieties are fresh and delicious, as well as the daily fish.

Kennedy Cad. No:10, Cankurtaran Mah., Sultanahamet, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 458 00 81

Meze, Istanbul | © smayda/Flickr

2. Meet Gramofon Baba

Bazaar, Shop

Meet Gramofon Baba

As you may know, the Grand Bazaar used to house tradesmen of all kinds so that visitors could come by and take care of all their hand-made needs. In today’s world of mass production, these tradesmen have all but disappeared, but there is still one man who fixes gramophones in a tiny shop. Even if you don’t have a broken gramophone, dropping by to see Gramofon Baba (AKA Mehmet Usta) is like traveling back in time. He’ll probably be sitting there smoking a cigarette and listening to an old record (it was Zeki Müren the last time we were there). You’ll become nostalgic for an Istanbul you never even got to witness.

Lütfullah Sokak Kapalı Çarşı No:16, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 526 15 84

3. Eat Kebab at Hamdi


Eat Kebab at Hamdi

You definitely can’t miss Hamdi restaurant’s giant sign that hangs on a building in the middle of Eminönü Square. The restaurant began humbly in the 1960s as a counter where kebab varieties from Urfa were prepared true to their original recipes. Years later the counter was replaced with a five-story building, but the food is the same. You’ll definitely get some of the best kebab in town with a great view from the top floor.

Tahmis Caddesi/Kalçın Sokak No:11, Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 528 03 90

Courtesy of Hamdi Restaurant

4. Eat Döner at Gül Ebru Kantin


Eat Döner at Gül Ebru Kantin

Döner is a ubiquitous sight in Sultanahmet, but the best can be found in the Grand Bazaar at Gül Ebru. You’ll know that you’ve come to the right place when you see the giant mass of meat rotating in its own axis and giving off a most appetizing smell. Get a dürüm (döner wrapped in lavaş bread) and an ayran (yogurt drink) and indulge in the best döner in town.

Acı Çeşme Sokak No.4, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 512 33 93

5. Buy Sweets from Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir in Eminönü

Buy Sweets from Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir in Eminönü

I’ve you’ve been to Taksim you’ve probably seen the Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir store with its many jars of colorful Turkish candies and stacks of Turkish delight in the window display. However, their store in Eminönü is utterly nostalgic with the old-school wooden window display and storefront sign. After you’ve properly dealt with your nostalgia get a bag of mixed akide şekeri (hard candy with various flavors) and a box of Turkish delight.

Hobyar, Zahire Borsası Sk. No:1, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 244 28 04

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir | © rg-fotos/Flickr

6. Buy Wooden Spoons at Tahtakale


Buy Wooden Spoons at Tahtakale

True to its name everything at Tahtakale, which translates into ‘wooden fortress,’ really does revolve around wood. In this small area near the Egyptian Bazaar, you can find all kinds of household goods literally spilling out of the stores and into the streets, but our favorite purchase is, of course, the wooden spoons, cutting boards, and honeycombs. Make sure you peruse thoroughly to find the spoon of your dreams, because a lot of stores will want to entice you with their goods.

Tahtakale, Istanbul, Turkey

7. Buy Coffee at Nuri Toplar


Buy Coffee at Nuri Toplar

Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi is the most popular stop in the Grand Bazaar (and the world no less) for Turkish coffee. However, we know that the coffee at Nuri Toplar, established in 1890 and near the Spice Market, is actually much better without all the fuss of becoming a giant international name. It’s an insider tip you’ll definitely appreciate once you make yourself a cup of this fragrant coffee that gets its fine aroma by being roasted gradually in a wood fire oven.

Hasırcılar Caddesi, Tahtakale, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 522 07 28

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,665 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article