The Sultanahmet area of Istanbul is notorious for the beautiful mosques and museums that define the history of the city and bring thousands of tourists to gaze upon and wander among its streets. However, some other hidden locales are worth a peek and a purchase if you know where to look (in no particular order):
Located mere steps from the Grand Bazaar, Fes Café is a trendy eatery that offers modern fare in an older setting. The stylish café offers delicious sandwiches, salads, and pastas, along with fresh-pressed lemonade, mint tea, coffee, beer and wine.
There is a little shop within the café – a branch of Abdullah Natural Products – that sells beautiful textiles as well as a variety of olive oil-based soaps. If you prefer to remain even closer to the commercial action, Fes Café has another branch located within the Grand Bazaar. Ali Baba Türbesi Sokak, Nuruosmaniye; P:(0212) 526 30 70-71
Istanbul Archaeology Museum
Founded in 1881 by the eminent painter, architect, and Renaissance man Osman Hamdi Bey, this often overlooked site is actually a group of three museums: the Archeological Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum.
The largest of the three, The Archaeological Museum, is located in a grand, porticoed building; it features sculptures from the Archaic through the Roman Era, among other Istanbul artifacts. The Ancient Orient Museum lays claim to artifacts from pre-Greek Anatolia and Mesopotamia, as well as those from pre-Islamic Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. The Tiled Kiosk Museum boasts more than two thousand artifacts of Turkish art from the Seljuk and Ottoman eras.
Getting to the Archaeology Museum is very easy. Simply take the tram to the Gülhane stop, and enter Gülhane Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the Museum. Alemdar Caddesi Osman Hamdi Bey Yokuşu Sokak; P:(0212) 520 77 40
Nar Lokanta is the first restaurant venture by Nar Gourmet. Housed in Armaggan, a luxury goods retailer, it is located in the heart of Sultanahmet, right near the Nurosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar. The restaurant specializes in all-natural regional products from throughout Anatolia. Its menu features familiar Turkish classics as well as a number of less common regional dishes – from Ottoman palace meals to humble village fare.
All dishes are prepared using Nar’s own olive oil, which comes from the Aegean coast’s Ayvalık region, considered to be the best olive region in the country. The oil has an especially low acidity, lending it a very pure, almost sweet flavor. Every meal begins with a basket of freshly baked bread, coupled with a selection of Nar’s olive oils. The meze feature a variety of regional, olive oil-based dishes, while the main dishes focus mainly on lamb and beef. Armaggan, Nuruosmaniye Caddesi No.65 5th Floor, Nuruosmaniye; P:(0212) 522 28 00
Şişko Osman is generally regarded as the leading authority on carpets and kilims in the Grand Bazaar. A fourth-generation family business, Şişko offers a wide selection of carpets and kilims, carefully selected from all over the country for their unmatched value. Şişko has his own private collection in the store, which contains priceless items from Turkey and beyond. His clientele includes a long list of famous people, aptly reflecting his reputation for high-quality, high-cost products. Zincirli Han No.15, Grand Bazaar; P: (0212) 528 35 48
Sivaslı Istanbul Yazmacısı
Located in the Grand Bazaar, Sivaslı Istanbul Yazmacısı boasts an incredible range of hard-to-find fabrics from all over Turkey and beyond. Its collection of hand-printed fabrics and woven, ethnic textiles is similar to that of a Turkish lady’s attic, suggesting a rich history of cultural garments. Sivaslı Istanbul Yazmacısı is one of the oldest drapery shops in the Bazaar; as such, it carries many antique fashion pieces, including a beautiful collection of vintage embroidered scarves. Yağlıkcılar Sokak No. 57, Grand Bazaar; P: (0212) 526 77 48
Sofa Art & Antiques
Sofa Art & Antiques is a unique shop run by the charming, knowledgeable couple, Kaşif and Dilek, since 1976. It features a lively presentation of objects and oddities, including prints, maps, ceramics, miniatures, calligraphy, antique rugs, silver, and contemporary art. There is also a handy collection of cookbooks, books on Turkey, and CDs on site.
The antique shop is located on Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, just before the courtyard that leads to the entrance of the Grand Bazaar. If you feel less than inclined to battle the Grand Bazaar, stop by this shop, which is a mini-bazaar in itself. Nuruosmaniye Caddesi No. 53/A, Nuruosmaniye; P:(0212) 520 28 50-51
The English Bookshop
In 1996, the English Bookshop was established by the Kayseri Company in the heart of Sultanahmet. With two branches located across the street from each other, the Bookshop offers a comprehensive collection of English-language titles that range from Lonely Planet guides to Byzantine history books.
The English Bookshop serves not only as a haven for relaxing and reading, but also as a nifty source for gifts. Its extensive repertoire of beautiful photography collections, children’s titles, cookbooks, and novels will satisfy the needs of any gift-giver. Divanyolu Caddesi No. 11 and 58, Sultanahmet; P:(0212) 516 33 66