Nişantaşı is known for its glitz. Jewelry shops, coyly revealing their sparkling displays, are spaced sporadically along broad avenues as the trendily dressed stroll past the high-end fashion labels that have chosen to mingle on these few blocks. However, beyond the usual run of metropolitan store-fronts and chain restaurants is a short walk where westernized pretentiousness is overtaken by the quaint charm of colorful boutiques, good food, fine wine and cocktails.
Journeying here from Osmanbey station, if you are feeling sentimental in a free speech sort of way, you have the opportunity to walk past statues commemorating two murdered journalists. Uğur Mumcu (1942 – 1993) is just on the corner where the Beşiktaş bound dolmuşes congregate and Cumhuriyet Caddesi splits in front of the military museum. Following past the museum and taking a right through the cat and bust-lined park, leads you down some stairs and out onto the street where you can look to the left and find the statue of Abdi İpekçi (1929 – 1979), his stone head held aloft at the intersection of Vali Konağı and a street named for himself.
Not far from here, following Vali Konağı up one block and then right will bring you to the sudden peace of Teşvikiye Camii. With its charming white columns and quiet courtyard dappled with shadows, it is an excellent place to pass through or have a sit for the space it provides.
Exiting the back of the mosque will take you past a row of artfully painted doghouses filled with immensely fat dogs. They are clearly a well-loved neighborhood fixture and astounding to behold. If, after watching the dogs, you find your appetite calling, turn left and then right on Ahmet Fetgari. Where this street crosses Teşvikiye Fırın a block up, there are several local restaurants that beckon. The one on the left, Doğaya Dönüş Bistro, is a great spot for a glass of wine and quiche that you can select from under glass as you walk in.
Supposing you aren’t hungry and/or you have no interest in charming little Turkish restaurants that serve quiche or you just want to say, screw the quiche and go straight for the wine, exit the back of the Camii, take a left and go straight down Osman F Sedan Sokak. This street, named for a Turkish film director whose repertoire spans three decades starting in the ‘50s, leads to a great little wine shop called Online Mahzen, which sells 30 TL bottles of Chilean wine. If you like wine and you live in Turkey, you will understand the value of a 30 TL bottle of Chilean wine that’s not Frontera. There are varieties from France and other places as well. You best just go and have a look for yourself.
The surrounding few blocks here are a great area to venture for there are well spaced sidewalks and large old trees overhanging the streets – two things that can be hard to find in some parts of Istanbul. The entrancing displays in the windows of the many privately owned boutiques and myriad of cafes offering up hip venues to stop and clear your head in build upon the exploratory satisfaction that can be gained from this stroll.
Come evening time, there are several wonderful bars on the streets off of Ihlamur Nişantaşı Yolu. They quickly fill up and spill out into the streets with the local hipsters and dog-walking drinkers as the evening wears late. Perhaps the best cocktail in town can be found at Efendi. This little establishment can possibly seat ten people and has been in business for less than a year. But the drinks are amazing and always changing. Other local places to explore are Kamu right and, of course, the perhaps more well known Kosmonaut.
If you find yourself hungry again, there are many wonderful looking Meyhane’s and pizza places around. Explore and find yourself something.
Images courtesy of the author, except for when specified.