Where to Hang Out in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu Neighborhood
Historically settled by foreign envoys and non-Muslim minorities, Beyoğlu (formerly Pera) has always been Istanbul’s cosmopolitan heart. After flourishing at the turn of the 20th century, the neighborhood floundered in the 1980’s, but now reigns again as the city’s creative Western-minded dining and entertainment quarter. Best savored by staying at one of its trendy hotels, Beyoğlu is actually an eclectic patchwork of sub-quarters. Here’s a jumping off point to begin further exploration in one of Istanbul’s most atmospheric neighborhoods.
No hotel quite captures the energy of Istanbul quite like the Soho House in Beyoğlu, set in a cluster of buildings that includes the former American Embassy. The inlaid wood and gilded interiors had been hiding under drywall and white paint; now, they embellish a private club for members and hotel guests, with three restaurants, a speakeasy-style bar, and a rooftop pool, where a glittering crowd smokes and air-kisses into the night. The rooms, in a new structure across a pretty courtyard, impress on their own: warm, tactile cocoons of dark wood layered with beautiful textiles. Think of them as a necessary respite from the formidable chic next door, so close and yet so far.
Hayvore, which specializes in dishes from Turkey's Black Sea coast, sits just off the pedestrian thoroughfare Istiklal Caddesi. You’ll recognize a strong American Southern inspiration: corn bread, sturdy leafy greens (collard-green-like “black cabbage” shines in a chunky soup with borlotti beans and dried corn), and cornmeal-crusted fried fish. Hayvore's kuru fasulye —Turkey's national dish of dried white beans slowly stewed in tomato sauce — is among Istanbul's best versions. Don't miss dessert, whether it’s a caramelized pumpkin garnished with walnuts or the laz boregi, a pastry-wrapped milk pudding studded with Black Sea hazelnuts that’s doused in syrup.
In 2012, chef Mehmet Gurs reoriented Mikla’s menu away from Europe and introduced dishes highlighting ingredients from Turkey, becoming the progenitor of a culinary movement called New Anatolian. The cuisine has taken Istanbul by storm, with a clutch of chefs updating, refining, or playing off of traditional Anatolian dishes. Gurs still carries the lead, tasking an anthropologist with traveling widely to ferret out small producers and obscure recipes. He then shows them off in dishes like whole-wheat manti with smoked buffalo yogurt and clay-pot-braised lamb stew with cibes (wild lily stems). The presentation may be European, but the flavors at Gurs’s table are true to the Turkish heartland.
Working with fine fabrics and imported buttons, Turkish designers Bahar Gozkun and Kerem Kucukgurel produce two collections a year inspired by the classic Istanbul gentleman. Expect trousers, shorts, shirts, jackets, suits, and overcoats featuring plaids, checks, and composed colored solids. Stop into their self-described street-fashion atelier in the antiques district Cukurcuma, peruse items from the current collections (or a previous one), or the pair will take your measurements for a bespoke version, which will be shipped to your door three weeks later.
Sitting at the border of Beyoğlu and Karakoy, the Vault, a 19th-century former bank, underwent a $40 million restoration before opening as a House Hotel in 2015. The hotel's 63 rooms walk the line between elegant and contemporary with tall arched windows, and frescoed ceilings, and dark-stained wide-plank timber floors. Marble-clad bathrooms house roomy showers — some have tubs for two with a view over the Bosporus of the Old City. The location is ideal: a quick walk over the Galata Bridge will get you to the Old City, it’s a short funicular ride from Beyoglu, and a two-minute trip from Karakoy ferry terminal.