My Top İstanbul Things

By: Alba Brunetti

  1. Top Reason to Get Up in the Morning: Kahvaltı, that’s Turkish for breakfast. And what a breakfast it is! Olives! Tomatoes and cucumbers! Beyaz peynir! (a.k.a. feta cheese!) Eggs! – Most deliciously a scrambled-omlette combo known as menemen that mixes eggs, peppers, tomatoes and sometimes cheese and the sausage-like socuk with spices. Kahvaltı calls for a big mug of çay (tea) not the usual tulip glass. I love Beşiktaş, though you must do kahvaltı along the water in Bebek. If you go off the beaten path and take my advice, then you can either do the Uptown or Downtown Beşiktaş version of Kahvaltı at the neighboring

    Café Fessa – Ilhamurdere Cad., Çelebioğlu Sok. No. 11/A Beşiktaş, İstanbul

    Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu – Sinanpaşa Mah., Ilhamurdere Cad., Çelebioğlu Sok. No. 8 Beşiktaş, İstanbul

    Café Fessa
    Café Fessa
    Çakmak Salonu
    Çakmak Salonu

  2. Top Reason to Go to Bed Early: (Is my mom reading this? Um. Well.) Let’s say rakı, the anise-flavored drink favored by the founding father of Turkey, Atatürk. (Did you know that ‘ata’ means father?) Rakı is delicious but packs quite a punch even though it is often drunk alongside small plates known as meze to lessen the blow(s). You should go to bed early, but since you’re probably already in Taksim somewhere along the Nevizade, you might as well go to one of the clubs nearby. Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

    Nevizade - We enjoy life to the fullest
    Nevizade - We enjoy life to the fullest

  3. Top Little Thing: Meze. Meze are the ‘small plates’ mentioned above that you nibble on all night long crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with some of your best friends and total strangers on the back streets of Taksim. The theme of these plates is most often fish, though sometimes it can be meat. There are also salad and vegetable choices that make for a great variety of flavors and textures. You can fall in love over these little beauties (especially since they are paired with that cupid’s arrow known as rakı.) And they are perfect for the other highlight of the evening, small talk and a little flirting with the handsome stranger with rougish eyes who is sitting nearby. What the hell? This is what life is all about. Enjoy!

    Meze - Delicious, delightful and dig right in!
    Meze - Delicious, delightful and dig right in!

  4. Top Big Thing: Galata Tower (notice how I worked the Italy theme in here.) Galata Tower was a gift of the Genoese people to the city of İstanbul in 1348 and was the tallest building here at that time. (That doesn’t surprise me one bit.) Sure, there are taller buildings now, but are they as sexy? (No!) If you don’t believe me, just take a trip to the top (possibly with the handsome stranger you met having meze the night before) and take a long look at the panorama. It’s 360 degrees of İstanbul wow! We Italians know what we are doing when it comes to beauty, romance and tall towers. We’re sexy like that.

  5. Top Thing to Do When You Should Be Working: Strolling. Stroll down İstanbul’s most famous street, İstiklal, with a million other people. (Turks, tourists and everyone else not working on a Tuesday afternoon.) Why? Because everyone is. Why? Because it is sunny. Why? Because life is short and work is over-rated and it’s so much better to do it right before your deadline, right?

  6. Top Thing to Do to Pretend You Are Working: Café sitting in Cihangir. Throw on something 70s and bohemian. Project an air of earnest thoughtfulness or world-weary knowingness (or switch every five minutes between the two.) If you are old school, chew on a pen cap and smooth out a page of your eco-friendly journal; or if you are new school, plug yourself into your iPad head-first. Write a sentence using one of the following phrases: “phantasmagorical tentacles,” or “culminating sources,” or “we were surprized to learn.” Congratulations! You are now a writer or a journalist or whatever else your heart may desire. It’s nice work if you can get it, but since this is İstanbul I am going to recommend forgetting all that work nonsense. Everyone here is gorgeous and has an amazing sense of style. Let’s get down to the serious business of people watching, how else could I write so knowingly about this stuff. It’s all research, I tell you.

    Cafés in Cihangir - Find a café that suits the mood of your inner artist
    Cafés in Cihangir - Find a café that suits the mood of your inner artist

  7. Top Reason to Come to İstanbul: There isn’t just one, but if I were to tell you that you would be surprised and delighted and welcomed like family, it would be just the beginning and really, I could write a book. So could you. Come and find out why.

    P.S. Of course you are going to visit the Old City and all the Old City attractions like the Blue Mosque, the Haiga Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, The Grand Bazaar, The Spice Market and Topkapı Palace. Once you are done with that, see İstanbul my way. Discover the city as it is lived. Bite into it like a local. Walk along the streets to feel its rhythm. Pause along the Bosphorus to experience its magic. Be welcomed by the İstanbullu to discover its soul. I can almost guarantee you will fall in love with city as I have.

    The Blue Mosque:

    The Haiga Sophia:

    The Basilica Cistern:

    The Grand Bazaar:

    The Spice Market:,_Istanbul

    Topkapı Palace:

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAlba Brunetti is an American expat living in Turkey. Blog description: Life, art, food and all the little things that make living in İstanbul so special.
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