How to blend in local life in Istanbul

We all have preferences and priorities in life, business, outfit, cars and etc. When it comes to making our choices in holiday destinations and our understanding of a “vacation”, it’s not much different. While some people prefer a much “touristic” approach, such as picking holiday packages and staying in hotels, some others take it more “traveller’s” way. They rather stay in hostels or rent apartments, eat and drink where locals go and so on… This blog post will be more about these places.

To eat:

Kalinka: Closer to the Taksim sq end of the Istiklal street, you’ll find Mis street. Try to keep this place in mind since quite a lot of places I’m going to mention here will be in this street. Kalinka is a quite good, cosy and (gay) friendly place with lots of mezes and good service. The atmosphere is also delicious with a good low-volume music.

Marmara Cafe

Marmara café

Marmara café: Sometimes you don’t want long hours to spend for a dinner or lunch. You can just grab some sandwich from here or you can have your meal taking your seat and table. The place is located right across Mis street and it is one of the oldest fast food restaurants. You can even order somethıng by phone, if you are located in one of the bars near-by.

Guney Restaurant

Guney Restaurant

Güney restaurant: Another famous restaurant but it is located in Galata (around the tower) unlike others. This place is actually quite touristic but the food and service is still good for locals :). Take your seat and pick one of the local foods, enjoy your beer while you enjoy the view of Galata Tower.

Karaköy fish: Well this place doesn’t have a name actually :). This was the closest one I could find. When you are in Karakoy (where the ferry leaves), skip all those other restaurants under the bridge (they are way too much touristic and the staff can be quite disturbing sometimes) and discover the fish market. Pass the fish market and you will find a place, out in the open with no special furniture. They may not serve alcohol but the fish is quite good.

Cibalikapı Balıkçısı

Cibalikapi Balikcisi

Cibalikapı balıkçısı: Another touristic place. It is obviously pricier compared to other I have listed here but you should definitely try it. They have really good mezes (you may not find anywhere else) and fish. Don’t confuse it with Cibali Balik since they are located very close and their names are also similar. So I will give its website: It’s located in Halic next to Kadir Has university.

Murat çorba: So you had fun all night and maybe exceeded your alcohol limit a little :). You’ll definitely need to get some soup before you go home. Unless you are a vegeterian or vegan, you will probably like this place. It’s at the same street with Marmara café and actually located right across it.

To drink:

Firuzaga cafe

Firuzaga café

Firuzağa café: How about some tea or coffee with your friends among all other locals? This place is located right next to Firuzaga mosque in Cihangir. It’s very likely to see well-known artists, actors, actrisses here although you will probably not recognize :). Good for an afternoon break.

Kırmızı Bar

Another fun night at the Kirmizi Bar

Kırmızı: Our favorite local place where you can enjoy different beverages (the bartender is quite special, I must say) until very late hours. Along with some quality music, you will no wonder meet with locals and have great conversations and maybe even dance (in the streets probably since it’s quite a small place to pack indoors). It’s located at the end of Mis street on the right. Most of the people here are either lawyers, doctors or journalists. A quite gay-friendly place as well. Prices are reasonable.

Pinokyo: Good after midnight. A local gay club with quite a different taste. On its small stage, you will witness singers, belly dancers and show girls/boys while you drink and dance if you like. Best with friends who are locals, this place is located across Mis street (same street with Marmara café and Murat Corba)

Dokuz Altı: Literally meaning “nine-six”, this place is quite underground. A small place but somewhat smoking indoors is allowed (although it is prohibited by law). The music is mostly 90’s Turkish pop. With a lot of fun and dancing, you can find yourself there until the early hours of morning.

Şarlo / Bigudi: While on Saturday nights, it turns out to be a lesbian club named “Bigudi”, in the weekdays and early hours of weekend, it’s a lesbian/gay café (straight-friendly). It’s located in Mis street, at the top floor of the building where Kalinka is. Prices are quite affordable and the place is rather far from all the hassle and noise of Istiklal street, being located on the terrace.