City as big as Istanbul is full of popular spots, but also full of hidden corners, if you dare to wander off the beaten path and chose to see more than just popular sights. Our travel plans are usually full of not so obvious things we want to see, like libraries, bookstores, universities, shopping centers, cemeteries, street art, train/metro stations, cultural places and Istanbul was no different. Its streets are full of charming corners with cafes and just wandering the streets is activity of its own.
As Istanbul is the only city spread over two continents it was only logical to hop over to the Asian side. Even though most of the popular sights are on the European side, it was here were people first settled. Less tourist sights also means less people, but probably not during weekends, because it was packed. We took a ferry from Karaköy to Kadiköy (it is 3 TL with Istanbul card one way, which probably makes it the cheapest way to go to Asia) and wandered the streets searching for some street art and there was quite few we found. After that we went to see Şakirin Mosque – the first mosque build by a woman. We weren’t really sure if we can enter because it seemed like it was prayer time so we quickly and quietly slipped in and out. Since we walked from Kadiköy to this mosque we went part of the way through the cemetery and caught few weird looks.
To get back to Kadiköy we took a bus and went on a quest to find a perfect lunch place. Narrow market streets, cafes and restaurants everywhere and so full of people it was hard to move. Here we really got a sense of how big Istanbul really is. Later we found out that 15 mio. people live in this city, which makes it 4th biggest city by population. Incredible. We stopped at Ciya Safrasi for lunch and got lachmachun, which is round, very thin Turkish pizza topped with spicy minced meat and served with slice of lemon and parsley, some soup with beans and chickpeas and kofta. It was enough to get us back to European side, where we ate again. When in Istanbul, eat!
Another not so obvious tourist thing on our list was Bilgi University, which is quite out of city center, but really worth a visit. Beside libraries, cafes, student dorms and classrooms it has its own museum located in the former Silahtarağa Power Plant, which was first electrical power station run by the Ottoman state from 1914 to 1983. In 2007 the Power Plant opened again as Santralistanbul, arts and cultural complex, that consists of the Museum of Energy, exhibition halls, education spaces. In 2010 the Main Gallery builiding which hosts contemporary art exhibitions and various cultural events won an International Architecture Awards. There is no entrance fee to the Museum of Energy and it is really amazing place to see, so if you have some time to spare in Istanbul, you should visit this.
Our next stop was Kanyon shopping center and not because we wanted to do more shopping, but because the architecture of the building is quite fascinating. The shopping center is partly opened, which means you know what kind of weather is outside and if it is dark yet. This is really quite unique, because most shopping center tend to close completely so you will lose track of time and spend more time, thus more money, in there. Besides many shops, cafes, resturants there is also cinema and probably something else as well, because it is quite big.
During my first visit to Istanbul I was staying in Besiktas and I really loved that area.It is one of those hip areas, where people hang out, go for a drink, shopping and since this place has it all it is quite perfect. It was already getting dark once we got here and it was really nice to just wander around, get something to eat, buy some baklavas and enjoy. I think Besiktas and Beyoglu are the areas where I would suggest you to stay, as they are very vibrant, there is tons to do, lots of cozy breakfast places (3 amazing breakfast places in Istanbul) and there is also a lot going on in the evening and during the night, which is way Sultanahmed is not the best area to stay in, despite being extremely close to all major tourist sights, it doesn’t offer that much after dark.
Do you also like to go off the beaten path and sightsee some weird things? Let me know in the comments below!