With summer at its terminus, little hints of cold weather are starting to remind everyone of fall’s approach. One of autumn’s time-honored traditions has to be curling up with a good read and watching the grey skies whirl by, and café culture has always been a home to this ideal. Istanbul hosts a number of great spots that are perfect to grab a coffee or a light meal and laze away the day with book in hand, here are some of our favorites.
Molly and her café are something of an institution in Istanbul. Known and loved by the expat community, it’s a home away from home. There is a large range of ‘pre-loved’ books on sale for 5TL, and ample comfy seating to curl up with one in. Upstairs, tables are bedecked in pretty gingham cloths and downstairs, there is a larger space that can be used for events such as poetry reading. The menu offers breakfast and light meals from pancakes to quiche to thick slabs of homemade cakes and crumbly scones. Şahkulu Sokak No.12, Galata; P: (0212) 245 16 96
The perfect place to stop and have a break during a tour of the Çukurcuma neighborhood (or a relaxing lunch out), Cafe Cuma offers a daily changing menu of healthy dishes as well as baked goods that are all homemade. The outside seating area is a casual place where different languages can be heard from the tourists and expats that make up the population of our changing city. Inside, a cozy space with wooden tables, little windowsill decorations, and potted plants make for an ambiance you will want to linger in for a long time. Çukurcuma Caddesi No.51 Çukurcuma; P: (0212) 293 20 62
Coffee and Jazz House
After a short and steep walk down the bohemian Kumbaracı Yokuşu, take notice of the small coffee shop on your left side, which looks like it popped out of a modern version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Coffee & Jazz serves everything from Turkish coffee, which they buy from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, to homemade lemonade, eggs benedict, to fresh-out-of-the-oven börek. A perfect place to while away a cold, grey day. Kumbaracı Yokuşu No. 52/A, Tünel; P: (0212) 213 20 27
Located at the intersection of emerging Çukurcuma and bohemian Cihangir, Çukurcuma 49, is a cool and cozy venue that specializes in pizza and wine, but with a Turkish twist, only serving local products. The atmosphere at Çukurcuma 49 is very relaxed, as this is the type of place that invites you to settle in and read a book or chat with friends. The walls are exposed brick and the furniture is all warm wood and comfy chairs, with everything from the furniture to the decorations available for sale. Turnacıbaşı Sokak No: 49 / A, Cihangir; P: (0212) 249 00 48
Julius Meinl / Karabatak Karaköy reverberates cool. The funky café features retro-style décor and an atmosphere that really invites you to spend hours chatting away with friends over a cup of coffee or settling into a long read. This comfortable coffee shop features a menu with a short list of snacks, sandwiches, and desserts, but the real draw is the coffee and the atmosphere. Julius Meinl is an Austrian-based coffee roaster and coffee house that is known for the quality of its coffee products. Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi Kara Ali Kaptan Sokak No.7, Karaköy; P:(0212) 243 69 93
Mavra is a little café that will draw you in and coax your stay. The comfortable armchairs, vintage decor, warm lighting, soft outdoor seats, and drowsy music will keep you wrapped around the cafe’s finger for hours. Here you’ll find classic but very tasty fare, including a variety of breakfast platters, sandwiches (with a bunch of light options), indulge-worthy appetizers, salads, pastas, and meat-heavy mains. What’s unique about Mavra, in addition to its great location and serious I-want-to-laze-here-all-day feel, is its self-entitled designation as a design-café-workshop. Design objects are sold and also sometimes created in workshops. Objects for sale include books, toys, pillows, pins, and key rings, all of which are quite cute. Serdar-ı Ekrem Caddesi No. 31/A, Galata; P:(0212) 252 74 88
The quaint feel of Holy Coffee’s location extends to its interior; a warm space brightened by natural light pouring through the doors. A relatively small space located in Çukurcuma, a lovely neighborhood known for its antique shopping, the café has the feel of a single, home kitchen-like space. The staff linger and converse amongst the customers and it can often be difficult to tell who is who. This all reinforces the informal atmosphere. Once you’ve taken up residence in a soft chair, grab a drink or something light to eat. Holy Coffee carries great Julius Meinl coffee roasts and serves up a satisfying selection of salads, sandwiches, and fruit smoothies. A great place to watch things meander by. Kuloğlu Mahallesi Çukurcuma Antikacılar Çarşısı Hacıoğlu Sokak No.1/B, Çukurcuma; P:(0212) 243 68 69
Located in one of Istanbul’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Ops offers a quiet getaway from a city center entangled by the flow of crowds. With an interior decorated much like a lounge area with inviting couches and plants decorating the tables, the wall is used a temporary exhibition space with all items on sale. You won’t miss Ops café when you wander about the neighborhood since there are always young people sitting outside by side street the tables conversing. Mumhane Caddesi Nimet Han No.45B, Karaköy; P: (0212) 245 02 88
Located in the lovely residential neighborhood of Moda on the Asian side of Istanbul, Yer is a quiet cafe with a menu of coffee classics such as Cafe Latte and Cappuccino as well as a light array of sweet and salty options. The small spot has a unique vibe to it that feels like a blend of down-home American pantry and trendy European café. The space opens up to the street outside, and you can let the flow of people mesmerize you as you laze away. Caferağa Mahallesi Ferit Tek Sokak No.25/A, Moda; P: (0216) 450 16 70
Located on one of Cihangir’s liveliest streets is Journey, a cozy restaurant that offers a quick getaway amd reflects the character of its neighborhood: international, modern, and laid-back. With comfortable sofas, coffee tables, and bookshelves filled with interesting reads, Journey welcomes the idea of calm. And, accordingly so, both first-time customers and regulars feel relaxed and at ease. The menu is solid, with food ranging from classic Turkish home-cooked meals with a twist to homemade pastas and pizzas, salads, and meat dishes. Akarsu Caddesi No.21/A, Cihangir; P: (0212) 244 89 89
Backyard is located in the Bebeköy neighborhood of Etiler. As the name implies, Backyard does indeed have a large backyard area with plenty of cushions and seats for lounging in the sun. The restaurant’s main building has vaulted ceilings with skylights, giving the space a very light and airy feel. There are plenty of warm wood and broad floor boards painted white, with both modern and retro furniture. The menu focuses on natural and organic produce and many of the ingredients are sourced from co-owner Zeynep Moroğlu’s family farm in Çatalca. Backyard is definitely cool, but still manages to be warm and inviting, large enough for you to find a corner of your own and flip through the pages of a good read. Bebeköy Sokak No. 1, Etiler; P: (0212) 287 15 00
Updated on October 7 2013.