Neighbourhood guides: Live like a local in Karaköy, Istanbul
13 Apr 2022
For a good few years now, those in the know have followed in the footsteps of Istanbul’s locals to the Karaköy neighbourhood. It was perhaps only five years ago when you would only visit this area of the city to grab some Baklava from the nearly 200-year-old bakery Karaköy Güllüoğlu – FYI, it’s common knowledge among locals that the Karaköy branch is the best in Istanbul.
One of Istanbul’s most historic neighbourhoods, Karaköy has been a port since the Byzantine era and was also a major commercial centre in the 19th century. Nowadays, this ‘hood is full of intriguing shops, restaurants, and bars, among the run-down surfaces of its former glory, which have been renewed by a younger generation of entrepreneurs and residents.
Here are our favourite spots.
This hipster hotspot is ideal whatever time of day you arrive – brunch, dinner, and cocktails after dark are all served here. Their egg dishes are not to be missed, and come evening, we recommend the artichoke salad or risotto, however, the grilled octopus is a firm favourite.
This Karaköy coffeehouse is the perfect example of the neighbourhood's revitalisation. Located in a former metal workshop, the popular spot is decorated with vintage café tables and Julius Meinl posters. Make sure you take a look at the full array of specialty Turkish coffee, not to mention, all the tasty traditional pastries and sweet treats.
Housed in a former Ottoman bank with marble floors and grandiose ceilings, SALT, the contemporary art institution, is your one-stop-cultural-shop – it features its own research library, art gallery, café, restaurant, bookstore and museum. Understandably, you can end up spending a whole day here. And you wouldn’t regret it.
Couple Demet Müftüoglu Eşeli and filmmaker Alphan Eşeli launched ISTANBUL’74 back in 2009 as a location to host world-class exhibitions, workshops and festivals, and since then, they have shown works by the likes of Tracey Emin, Robin Rhode, and Angel Otero. Their aim was to cultivate platforms that connect Istanbul to the International cultural scene – safe to say, they succeeded.
Mae Zae is a design and lifestyle store that combines contemporary with vintage furniture and everyday goods. Note that it also serves as a creative project house, and its founders state that they “are inspired by places, stories, people we have just met. We take great pleasure in transforming the things we [find] inspiring into design.” If you’re looking for a place to shop local, this is it.
Looking for a bookshop? Craving a coffee? Head to Fil. This multi-hyphenate is not only a coffee-shop-meets-bookshop, but it also acts as a publishing house, making it the perfect spot to mingle with artists, authors, and discover new publications. Make sure to check out the workshops happening while you're in town.
For a contemporary take on a traditional tea house, look to Dem. Here you’ll discover over 60 different varieties to explore, from oolong to pu-erh, alongside sweet treats and snacks, as well as more substantial salads and simits (traditional Turkish bagel-style bread), making Dem the perfect place for a pause during a busy day of exploring the neighbourhood.
If you fancy a meyhane – that's a traditional Turkish tavern, in case you didn’t know – then make your way to family-run Karakoy Lokantasi. Of course, you’ll find classic raki/meze as well as fish, naturally, being served all day long.
Set in Istanbul’s hipster ‘hood, housed in a historic theatre building, you’ll find Mitte Karakoy, a spacious, light-filled cocktail bar and restaurant that is two parts French art deco and one part Keith Haring – sold? We are.