Colonized for centuries by non-Muslim minorities and foreign traders, the district of Beyoğlu (pronounced be-yoh-LU and formerly known as Pera), across the Golden Horn Strait from the historic center, has always been the cosmopolitan heart of Istanbul. At the turn of the 20th century, locals dressed to the nines would promenade alongside the grand embassy buildings and Parisian-style arcades of Istiklal Caddesi, its main avenue. After a period of neglect in the 1980’s, Beyoğlu is now reclaiming its status as Istanbul’s favorite playground, thanks to an influx of young Turks and international entrepreneurs. And while Starbuckization is taking its toll on Beyoğlu’s famed pedestrian artery Istiklal, East and West and past and present still clash vividly on the backstreets: grungy boutiques, hipster clubs, and sleek lounges with glamorous Bosporus vistas sit cheek by jowl with tatty kebab dives and gritty meyhane (traditional drinking houses).—Anya Von Bremzen
The stylish Ansen Suites has 10 crisp, airy rooms; book those with Golden Horn views. Never mind the location on a murky alley: Misafir Suites is a tiny, six-suite gem, filled with Designer Guild textiles and plenty of kilims.
Architects and designers hold lunch meetings over bowls of just-like-mom’s bulgur at Otto. The soul of old Beyoğlu is its meyhane taverns. Some old-timers love Refik, while others head to the cavernous Yakup 2. With au courant food, wraparound city views, and Scandinavian-inspired design, Mikla is Istanbul’s most confident modern restaurant, and is helmed by the equally impeccable chef Mehmet Gürs.
The 19th-century mansion that holds the store Alaturca is crammed with exquisite pottery, embroideries, and kilims. Try the Turkish Delight in flavors like mint and pistachio at the exotic candy shop Haci Bekir.
The excellent collection at the Pera Museum includes Kütahya tiles and Orientalist portraits from the late Ottoman era. Edgy and intimate, Babylon is the live-music venue that sparked the area’s renaissance. Beyoğlu’s party central, however, remains the rooftop lounge at Nu Pera, a bar-and-restaurant complex.