5 x Sezgi Olgaç's favourites in Istanbul
I’m a copywriter, photographer and jazz vocalist based in Istanbul - the city I have called home for 22 years. I describe myself as a person of images, sounds and words. Some of my passions in life are taking long walks, discovering new places, sneaking into abandoned buildings, thrifting at markets and shops, petting stray cats of Istanbul and always having a book in my bag. After spending a decade as a copywriter and a professional jazz singer, I started practising photography, which has been a passion of mine since my high school years. The more I strolled the streets of Istanbul, the more I discovered. I have been posting the images collected during my city strolls on my Instagram page since 2010. Photo by Salih Erçetin.
1) Istanbul Archaeological Museums
As neighbours of Istanbul's superstars the Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums are easily overlooked. However, it is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul, especially in summer. The Tiled Kiosk is the oldest of the three museums and dates back to the 15th century, when Mehmet II was the emperor. It is a serene garden full of historical ruins, and four different buildings full of remnants from different periods. Keep in mind that you’ll benefit from a discount at the entrance and in the cafe if you enter with a Museum Pass. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter a free live classical music concert in the garden, during summer.
2) Salt Galata
When the Ottoman Bank needed a new, spacious and garish space at the end of the nineteenth century, architect Alexandre Vallaury was hired to build a new head office building. After fulfilling this function for more than a century, the building was beautifully restored and transformed into a culture & arts space and renamed Salt Galata in 2011. Today the building is home to a public library, a cafe, a contemporary restaurant, the Robinson Crusoe 389 bookstore and a museum in the basement, which is full of treasures from the Ottoman Bank years. Enjoy the enchanting view of the Old City’s domes and minarets, as well as the Golden Horn sunsets from the windows on the second and third floor. After your visit, don't miss the Kamondo Stairs right across the street: an art nouveau staircase, built at the end of the 19th century by the influential Jewish banker family Kamondo.
3) Bomonti Flea Market
Far from the crowds, this flea market (also called Feriköy Antiques Market) is held every Sunday in a neighbourhood where mostly locals live. This huge cabinet of curiosities is full of vintage coffee cups, vinyl records, accessories, vintage prints, maps and magazines and the best way to start a Sunday in Istanbul. Do not miss the gözleme (a traditional savoury pastry) stall of Haluk Kurt and his mother. They serve the best gözleme in the market every Saturday and Sunday. If you’d like to extend your visit in this area, head over to Bomontiada to see Ara Güler Museum, which features the works of the legendary photojournalist, also known as 'the eye of Istanbul'.
4) Museum of Innocence
A hidden gem located between Istiklal Street, Tophane and Cihangir areas, Çukurcuma is the home to Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence. Orhan Pamuk started working on this museum project while he was working on his novel of the same name. Located in a red wooden house from the 19th century, each corner inside the museum tells the story of the different chapters of the book, represented by the mementos of a love story. Whether you are a fan of Pamuk’s work or not, this museum bringing the characters’ stories to life touches everyone’s heart. After the museum visit, a stroll along the maze-like backstreets of Çukurcuma, full of antique stores and coffee shops, is highly recommended.
5) The Princes’ Islands
If you need a break from Istanbul’s hustle and bustle, the nine-island archipelago known as the Princes’ Islands or simply Adalar (islands) in Turkish awaits you. A day trip to one of these islands (visiting on weekdays and in May or September is recommended) includes experiencing one of the best free attractions in the city: a ferry ride on the classic ferries of Istanbul. The three biggest islands of the archipelago are definitely worth visiting; Büyükada, Heybeliada and Burgazada. If you’re in Büyükada, head over to Ada Kahvaltı for breakfast and Splendid Palas for coffee. When in Heybeliada, discover The Halki Seminary at the island’s highest spot, then stop at Heybeli Sahaf for vintage books and Luz Cafe for a tea/coffee break. If you visit Burgazada, do not forget to indulge in a freshly made strawberry millefeuille dessert at Ergün Patisserie.
The 500 Hidden Secrets of Istanbul reveals off-the-beaten track places and interesting details for anyone who's keen to explore Istanbul's best-kept secrets.
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