Those who travel to Istanbul for the first or second time will be looking forward to visiting the famous landmarks. Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque? Check! Galata Tower? Also. The Bosphorus and Prince’s Islands? By all means. Very few people, even those who claim to know the city very well, will venture into locals’ favourite district, where you will rarely see someone walking around with a camera – unless it’s a paparazzo. I’m talking about Nisantasi (actually spelt Nişantaşı), located only one metro stop away from central Taksim Square. But what to do in Nisantasi?

What to do in Nisantasi, Istanbul

Nisantasi, Istanbul’s equivalent to London’s Chelsea or New York’s Upper East Side, used to be dominated by strawberry orchards in the 18th century. It was here that the sultan’s soldiers used to train their target, hence its name – Nişantaşı means “target stone”.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

Walking down the streets, you will notice the Turks here are slightly different. There are more blond women, botox is more popular and you will hardly see any hijabs, the headscarf some Turkish women wear. This privileged district has several small buildings that now house the world’s top fashion brands, as well as prominent Turkish ones. Abdi İpekçi street, for instance, is a shopper’s paradise, with Christian Louboutin, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Armani and l’Occitane, to name a few, lined up. Prices, in general, tend to be a tad lower than in European capitals.

What to do in Nisantasi, Istanbul

This part of town is also home to many eateries, especially gourmet restaurants serving Turkish and international cuisine. But what I really like is the number of charming cafes where glamourous locals hang out and meet for a casual glass of rosé wine or a cappuccino – it seems Turkish coffee is not very popular around here.

O Que Fazer em Nisantasi Istambul

But that’s not a reason for you to think Nişantaşı is all about appearances. On the contrary. In his book “The Museum of Innocence”, Turkish Nobel Prize winner mentions Nisantasi as “the favourite place for the highest echelon of Turkish society to meet”. And this high echelon includes intellectuals, artists and politicians who meet here to discuss important matters in their own field. I’m sure that by now you’ve realised this is the place to see and be seen in Istanbul, and spotting paparazzi is not something rare. I was even confused by one, as I walked around with my camera.

WHAT TO DO IN NISANTASI

GO SHOPPING: That’s the best pastime Nişantaşı. With so many famous fashion brands in the same area, shopaholics will be in their environment. Abdi İpekçi and Tesvikiye streets are the best ones.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

EAT WELL: If shopping is not enough for you, another thing to do in Nisantasi is to sit at one of the many cafes and restaurants, and try the best of the Turkish cuisine. There is a huge variety of restaurants serving very high-quality food. Service quality, however, can vary drastically from one place to another.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

MONUMENTS: Despite its charm, Nisantasi lacks a bit when it comes to landmarks. Having said that, on Tesvikiye street you will find the small but beautiful Tesvikiye Mosque, completed in 1854. It’s small if compared with the many mosques found around Sultanahmet, and its interior is decorated with colourful motifs, modern stained glasses and blue tiles.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

Down the road from Tesvikiye Mosque you will find Anadolu Licee, a beautiful and imposing building closed to visitors, but I recommend stopping by to admire the facade. Despite its historical looks, it was only founded in 1953 as a girls-only school.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

If you’re into architecture, you will also enjoy a stroll around Nişantaşı and spot the details in many art nouveau buildings spread all over the neighbourhood.

WHERE TO STAY IN NISANTASI

There is quite a distance separating Nisantasi and Istanbul’s historical district of Sultanahmet. But this is a good alternative to the hustle and bustle of Taksim, for example. Most hotels around Nisantasi are of very high category, and tend to range from luxury to ultra luxury, with few budget options. My recommendations in the area are:

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

The Sofa Hotel, a very modern hotel with its own art collection. Service standards are high and its restaurant is very buzzy. Room rates start from 220 euros.

Park Hyatt Istanbul, part of the Hyatt group, this modern hotel has a very nice swimming pool, gym and spa. Prices start at 195 euros per night.

Wame Suite Hotel, a more down-to-earth hotel choice and highly rates on Booking.com. It’s only a short walk from Omanbey metro station. Room rates start at 65 euros per night.

WHERE TO EAT IN NISANTASI

I know I’ll repeat myself, but yes, there are a lot of good restaurants around Nisantasi. I could easily write a long post about the trendy places to eat around here, but let’s go to my favourite ones:

Develi Kebap, despite its name, is a very upscale restaurant serving Turkish food. They have a very nice outside area, perfect on sunny days, but the internal area is beautifully decorated in modern classic style. One of my top places for service quality and with reasonable prices. Starters from 15TL and mains from 25TL.

The House Café belongs to a chain of cool cafes all around Istanbul and there are two of them in Nişantaşı. One is right on Tesvikiye street, behind the mosque, and is very popular with the cool crowd. The other, on Atiye street, is the chain’s first establishment, with a tiny room on the ground floor, and a very spacious area upstairs. Salad prices start at 30TL, main courses start at 33TL (beef, chicken, etc) and a cappuccino costs 13TL.

What to do in Nisantasi Istanbul

If you’re in Istanbul for the first time and just for a few days, perhaps this part of town is not for you. But if you’ve already seen all the historical sites and now want to be part of the cool local crowd, Nisantasi is may just be the place for you. After a couple of hours, it’ll captivate you, just like it did to me.

Have you ever been to Istanbul? Did you visit Nisantasi?

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