Places To See In Istanbul

Hidden behind the busy road that runs along the western bank of İstanbul’s Golden Horn, the intertwined neighbourhoods of Fener and Balat have a rich history dating back to Byzantine times. These days, past and present mingle in colourful, maze-like streets, where third-wave coffee shops and design boutiques sit next to traditional tea gardens and tradesmen’s workshops. Here’s a bundle of ways to spend the weekend exploring. Start with art A good place for art enthusiasts to begin sating their senses is The Pill, hosting thought-provoking exhibitions since it opened in an old factory in early 2016. At the northern edge of the neighbourhood, Plato Sanat, located inside İstanbul Ayvansaray University, is another beautifully-curated gallery – featuring intriguing student work, Turkish contemporary artists and focusing on original presentation techniques. A real neighbourhood gem, glass artist Yasemin Aslan Bakiri’s studio, set in a historic stone building by the Bulgarian Iron Church, hosts regular exhibitions and occasional workshops. Architecture aficionados should also keep an eye out for the beautifully restored 15th-century Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamam, sometimes used as a venue during major art events such as the İstanbul Biennial. Sip and shop You could spend all day just cafe-hopping through the neighbourhood, especially since many coffee purveyors double as little shops. Browse for antiques while you sip your java at Maison Balat, or just admire the heirlooms decorating cosy, cat-friendly Cafe Naftalin K. Pick up some stylish coffee cups or a cold-brew infusion bottle at Coffee Department, or peruse the handmade bowls, trays and other wood products at ultra-colourful Atölye Kafası, which also has a small stage for live music performances. Delve into design Lots of young İstanbul designers have set up shop in Balat, either in their own studios, or in co-working spaces such as Olmadık Projeler Atölyesi, which has an attached cafe selling quirky jewellery, bags, T-shirts and home accessories by more than a dozen designers. The Reformist Project reworks vintage furniture into sleek, original new pieces, though the playful handmade plates, bowls and cups at Elif Acar’s ceramics workshop would be easier to fit – carefully – in a suitcase. Have a taste of neighbourhood life Street vendors selling everything from piles of luscious fruit to glistening-fresh fish are a common sight here. This is the kind of place where you can join locals in buying a chilled, sliced and salted cucumber from a cart – the ultimate cooling snack in summer – or a warming cup of salep (a hot sweet milky drink) in winter. Year-round, you can stop in for a shot of tangy pickle juice at Tarihi Balat Turşucusu (Ayan Caddesi 86) or one of the tantalizing cookies in the window at old school Evin bakery (Vodina Caddesi 82a), in business since 1923.

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