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
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
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
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
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
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.
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