Just ten minutes by taxi from Ataturk International Airport, this neighborhood thrives with the life of a small village, yet somehow sits within the confines of Istanbul’s sprawl. Check into Cloud 7 on arrival, an innovative new boutique hotel that offers a multitude of sensory experiences for its guests. Boasting a sun-drenched roof terrace and an on-site fresh juice stall, guests can choose from different concepts in their rooms to make staying in a hotel an actual experience rather than just a bed and a lot of money. Prices are extremely affordable too, with a double for just £45. After that, take a stroll down to the calm and well-designed Atakoy Marina, or pop into Bakirkoy village for a taste of more traditional Istanbul life. If you want to get really stuck in, utilize Lokals Istanbul to introduce you to a plethora of friendly neighborhood residents, all happy to share their stories and give you an insight into authentic Istanbul.
Balat was formerly the outpost for the Jews of Turkey who came there largely from Spain and Portugal five centuries ago; Fener was the past home of the Greeks. This is all delightfully and unexpectedly reflected in the bright and colorful terraced houses that strongly resemble Latin American exuberance and are aching for an Instagram snap. Today, amongst the perfectly preserved architecture and multi-cultural heritage are designer pop-ups, independent galleries and an ever-growing surge of edgy cafés and restaurants. Get here before the tourists start flocking, and choose your #filter wisely.
Well known to locals but devoid of tourists, these neighborhoods lie on the European side of the Bosphorus just north of the ‘First Bridge’ connecting Europe and Asia. Potter around here and the notion that just 15 minutes away lies the often suffocating and always chaotic Beyoglu seems absurd. Arnavutkoy hosts quaint village houses more appropriate on a secluded island and is dotted with shops, cafés and extremely affordable fresh fish restaurants. Next door, Bebek is home to the swanky elite bars of Istanbul and is the place to see and be seen. Dress up, brush shoulders and sip cocktails with celebrities and suave locals – all at prices which would be mid-range for London or New York.
Take a wander up from Karakoy Pier in the direction of the nargile haven of Tophane, and you would be forgiven for feeling lost in a nondescript grid of uninspiring streets. But walk a bit further and you will discover North Karakoy, Istanbul’s answer to Shoreditch, Kreuzberg, and Williamsburg – albeit on a tiny scale. In a network of just four narrow lanes is a relentless plethora of cafés, restaurants and bars, surrounded by highly impressive street art and pop-up stalls. Each establishment spills onto the pavement decorated with vines and fairy lights, and each offers a different vibe and style. The area was totally empty just two years ago, but now should be regarded as a must-visit.
The name is the giveaway – anywhere utilizing the internationally known word for ‘fashionable’ is bound to be worth a visit, and Moda does not disappoint. Set up on a little hill above the commotion of Kadikoy, the main harbor on the Asian side, Moda is the clean, romantic and bohemian neighborhood of Istanbul. The neighborhood is compact but has something for everyone: sip a one Lira (25p) Turkish cay or kahve with hundreds of locals at one of the huge cliffside cafés overlooking the Bosphorus, hole up in a suave craft beer or coffee outpost in one of the inner streets, or simply amble about admiring the greenery adorning every road. For a more nuanced and historical overview, utilize Locally Istanbul, who provides tours focusing on less well-trodden settings all around the city, ensuring that your jaunt around Moda leaves you fully immersed.
Main Street: Moda Cd, Kadikoy, 34710 Istanbul, Turkey