If you settle in (or regularly travel to) Turkey, you’re in luck. Istanbul, where you’ll probably transfer your flight, is one of the world’s richest cities, built on several millenia of culture and with a million streets to explore. So instead of making a transfer flight to your final destination, why don’t you instead take advantage of Turkey’s extensive network of comfortable coach buses, and spend an afternoon or a couple of days recovering from jetlagg in a city that invented the seaside cafe? Shrug off the stress of travel, take a stroll prop up your feet and relax at one of the city’s many, many outdoor cafes.
But in a city with so many options, how do you choose the perfect place? We looked at some top industry lists. Here’s some of their favorite picks, with a little something for every taste.
Çorlulu Ali Paşa is a medresse building and hookah cafe hidden in a 18th century alleyway near Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, next to the Çorlulu Ali Paşa Mosque. This is a great place to relax after shopping (or bolstering your strength before stepping into the Grand Bazaar). Step away from the city’s chaotic streets through a small stone arch and enter into a peaceful, hazy cafe filled with locals. The historic cafe’s only offerings are tea, and hookah in dozens of flavors. Address: Yeniçeriler Cad No:45, Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi
Çengelköy Çınaraltı A popular old tea-garden on the Asian side of Istanbul that still retains the vanishing flavor of old Istanbul life. Relax with breakfast or a cup of tea under centuries-old trees and enjoy the fantastic sea-side views. This place can be crowded in summers, but it’s hard to beat the perfect combination of good tea, cool shade and cooler breezes, and a fantastic view over the Bosphorous. Address: Çengelköy Mh., Çınarlı Cami Sk.
+90 216 422 1036
Coffee and Sheesha at Katmerler ( Photograph: Alamy)
A small oasis of coffee and sheesha shops, whose trail of fruity tobacco scents and brightly coloured seating and lanterns will draw you in from the street. While every cafe in this sheesha republic boasts pretty much the same offerings – a wide array of sheesha flavours, coffee, tea and jumbo television screens – Katmerler has a loyal customer base and boasts an exquisite melon flavour. As crowds huddle before the jumbo screens in clouds of sweet-scented smoke, particularly on football nights, vendors weave their way in and out of the open area, offering slices of fruit, nuts and appetizers as the clicks of the sheesha tongs mix with the roars of joy (or rage).
• Necati Bey Caddesi 81, Beyoğlu
Galata Konak Cafe (Photograph: Mehmet Yaman/ZAMAN)
With a view of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn on one side and the marvellous medieval Galata Tower on the other, Konak Cafe spoils you with more than a panoramic view of the old city. It’s on the top floor of a three-storey historic building. A tiny elevator will lead you to both the nostalgic indoor cafe with its velvet armchairs, chandeliers and gramophones, and to a simple terrace with wooden tables and wicker chairs that nabs the lion’s share of locals and tourists alike, day through to night. This cafe, which boasts a wide selection of freshly squeezed juices and cakes , is open for breakfast with a Sunday buffet option.
• Haci Ali Sokak 2/2, Beyoğlu, +90 212 252 5346, galatakonakcafe.com. Open daily 8am-midnight
The House Café (Photograph: Alamy); Minutes from the chaos of İstikal street, the House Café’s main floor opens up into the centuries-old Tünel Passage, a charming courtyard in artsy Tünel hosting shops and cafes. Adorned with large chandeliers and a white interior, the cafe is divided into two parts: The bar above the basement, which is used as a wine cellar and hosts special events, and a quieter corner with small wooden tables scattered by large windows. Trendy crowds, aspiring musicians and couples can be found politicking, reading, enjoying a romantic outing or immersed in their work in this two-storey posh joint that transforms into a DJ lounge during the winter.
• Asmali Mescit 9, Beyoğlu, +90 212 245 9515, thehousecafe.com. Open 9am-1am (until 2am Fri-Sat)
It was obsession with the east that regularly landed novelist and naval officerPierre Loti – the pen name of Frenchman Julien Viaud – at a cafe on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn. You can get there on a cable car ride from Eyüp, gliding over a cemetery before you reach Pierre Loti Café, re-named after its most famous 19th-century regular. Coffee is served by waiters in traditional garments of velvet embroidered vests, salvar pants and fez hats, who flit around the terrace, illuminated at night against the silhouette of the minarets of Eyüp Mosque.
• Gümüşsuyu Balmumcu Sokak 1, Eyüp, +90 212 581 2696. Open 8pm-midnight. The cable car ride is TL2.10 (75p). Last car down to Eyüp leaves at 11pm
Why locals love it? Renkli Limon attracts business people from all over Istanbul. It’s a good choice for those seeking a quiet place for dessert in Beşiktaş. The friendly staff always make you feel at home.
Why you should visit it: The lunch menu features a variety of affordable homemade dishes. The meat dishes are especially good! Their Sunday brunch is awesome, as are their cakes.
Special tip: There’s a chance you might run into a celebrity here!
In search of something else? Find 429 Istanbul cafe reviews here.