Top 13 Hidden Gems in Istanbul even Locals don’t Know

Here, you’ll find many hidden gems, off-the-beaten-track treasures, beautiful buildings, historic corners and best kept secrets of Istanbul, even locals don’t know. From beautiful escapes from the city to secret gardens and historic sites, you can discover and enjoy the another side of Istanbul that don’t appear on essential tourist itineraries for Istanbul attractions.

1. Balat neighborhood

The old Jewish quarter Balat, situated on the southern shores of the Golden Horn, have very rich historical heritage, with the neighboring former Greek neighborhood of Fener. Balat is famous for its colorful cafes and restaurants, antique and vintage shops, traces of Jewish heritage, various synagogues and churches.

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It has been home to Greek-speaking Jews since the Byzantines. However, in the 15th century, the Sephardics who were exiled from Spain settled in Balat. There are big number of Jewish population in Balat, so that you may find many synagogues and Jewish establishments, as well as some churches and mosques. There is also an UNESCO/EU project in the region to restore the many buildings together with Balat. Continue reading…

2. The Million Stone

Dating back to 4th century AD, the Million Stone is one of the less known but very important historical sites of the city, located in Sultanahmet, on a corner right of the Divan road from Hagia Sophia to Beyazit. It is also called as Roman Millarium Aureum or Golden Milestone. The importance of the stone comes from the fact it was the milestone that all the distances were calculated during the Byzantium Empire period. The Million Stone was considered to be the zero point of the world. And so the source of the word “all roads lead to Rome” used to come from this stone. Google Map

3. Cukurcuma neighborhood

Cukurcuma is a lively and authentic neighborhood located along the way down from the Siraselviler street, in the back streets of Taksim. You’ll find and enjoy more than 100 antique shops, such as 19th century Ottoman embroidery, nostalgic biscuit boxes from 1950s, antique paintings and prints, many art galleries and street cats here. You’ll also find  variety of nice cafes for rest. Continue reading…

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4. Buyuk Valide Inn

Located close to Grand Bazaar in the Mahmutpasa ramp, Fatih district of Istanbul, the 17th century Inn with more than 300 shops. The terrace of the Inn has become very popular in the recent year with the photo lovers. Entrance to the terrace is only 1 TL. Note: Due to collapse on the roof, the terrace is temporarily close until the restoration works end. Address: Büyük Valide Han Mercan, Çakmakçılar Ykş. no: 31, 34116 Fatih/Istanbul Google Map

5. Bozdogan (Valens) Aqueduct, Vefa Neighborhood

The Bozdogan Aqueduct, a kilometer long aqueduct that was built in 375 by the Roman Emperor Valen, forms a very beautiful prominent landscape of the region. It was used to carry water to the city. The Vefa district and Zeyrek along, is a residential area and home to some historic places such as Vefa Church Mosque and Ayin Biri (First of the Month) Church. Vefa is also famous for its Vefa Bozacisi (Katip Celebi Str. No:102), which has serving the drink named boza since 1876, made from fermented barley. It is a popular winter drink for locals. Google Map

6. Women’s Bazaar

Located in Unkapani, at the Fatih district, the Women’s Bazaar (also known as Siirt Bazaar), is a fantastic place that you can find very good quality local food from Turkey’s southeastern cities such as Siirt, Adiyaman, Mardin, Diyarbakir, Bitlis and Mus.

You can also find wide range of herbs that you might not have heard anywhere before. You can taste them with the pastries that are made with these herbs there. The honey stands are also attractive. The variety of cheese and cheese products are also popular. Google Map

7. Otagtepe (Fatih Grove)

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Located by the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge, along Kavacik, in the Beykoz district on the Asian side, the Fatih Grove Tema Vehbi Koc Nature Culture Center (formerly known as Otagtepe Park) offers spectacular views of Istanbul and so called as fake heaven. You can see the two bridges and the city’s best scenery with a bird’s eye view, and combined with the unique Bosphorus view. No cafes or restaurants. Google Map

8. Mihrabad Grove

Mihrabad Grove is a beautiful grove overlooking Bosphorus and covers an area of 25 hectares, located in Kanlica, Bosphorus Asian shore, close to the Black Sea. There are variety of gardens as well as with monumental cypresses, umbrella pines, Judas and bay trees. It is also a favorite place for the ones who want to have an open buffet breakfast and dinner at the weekends. Google Map

9. Yoros Castle

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Located on the far end of the Bosphorus Asian coast through the Black Sea, the 500 meters long and 60-130 meters wide Yoros Castle (also known as Genoese Castle) is a Byzantine Castle that was built to control the entrance of the Bosphorus. It is also one of the popular weekend places for locals to enjoy their breakfast and meals at the cafe of the Castle. Here you can watch both Black Sea and Bosphorus with spectacular views. Google Map

10. Belgrad Forest

Located in the northwest of Istanbul, at Sariyer district, Belgrad Forest is one of the most green places in Istanbul and covers an area of 55,000 hectare proliferation of protected woodland full of oak, beech and chestnut trees. You can do hiking, nature walking, mountain biking, and have a great day out with picnics and barbecue. You’ll find many picnic spots. Continue reading…

11. Sile

Located on the Asian side, by the Black Sea shores, about 80 km. (1-1,5 hours drive) from the city center, Sile is a pretty town where you can spend a great day out with its beautiful nature, beaches and restaurants. Especially during summer season, locals flock to this town, to have a resort atmosphere.

Many stay at the quality hotels situated by the beach and nature. The town is also famous for its historical lighthouse from the Ottoman era. You’ll find many summer homes, holiday villages, hotels, pensions, long sandy beaches, classy bars and restaurants with sea views, pretty harbor with fishing boats, great nature with big forests, etc. Google Map

12. Kilyos

Located on the northern coasts of Istanbul, by the Black sea, Sariyer district, about 30 km. (45 mins. drive) from the city center, Kilyos is another pretty seaside town and resort. The town is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, bars and restaurants with sea views, summer time entertainment activities, music festivals at its quality beach clubs, and water sports activities such as windsurfing and kite-surfing.

You’ll also find a 14th-century Genoese castle in the village that worth a visit and see. Especially during summer season, locals flock to this town, to have a resort atmosphere, swim, sunbath, dine and wine at the popular fish restaurants. Google Map

13. Polonezkoy

Located in the natural park and protected area, on the Asian side, about 25 km. (45 mins drive) from the city, Polonezkoy, formerly known as Adampol is a pretty Polish village that you should visit during your Istanbul stay. Polonezkoy has an interesting history that the village was established after Poland was invaded by its neighbors Russia, Austria and Prussia in 1775. With the help of the Ottoman Empire, the Polish immigrants have settled here.

This unique village gained a reputation in protecting its green nature and environment around Istanbul. Many locals flock to the village at weekends to have a great day out at its quality hotels, pensions, restaurants, gardens, barbecues, village breakfasts, etc. Google Map

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