The heart of Beyoglu is Istiklal Caddesi, a long pedestrian avenue where Turks of all ages and social backgrounds come to walk, eat, and relax at all hours of the day and night. The Taksim Square end of Istiklal Caddesi is often more crowded and can be more difficult to negotiate because of the crowd. The Tunel end of Istiklal Caddesi often has lighter crowds and has more restaurants and cafes. There are interesting shops hidden away in small passages, for example the antique store inside the gated passage filled with café tables and plants strung with colorful lights directly across from the Tunel funicular entrance at the end of Istiklal Caddesi, which stocks, among other things, a large variety of mid-20th-century Turkish movie posters, but the Beyoglu area is best for people watching, admiring the Art Nouveau architecture, and eating.
Starbucks has many locations in Istanbul, including four in the Beyoglu area, with three of those on Istiklal Caddesi, and two within a 1-5 minute walk of the conference venue, one to the north and one to the south. The one to the north (turn right as you exit the conference venue) is a bit closer. Their coffee and snack lineup is similar to that in most European Starbucks, although they do also offer Turkish coffee. The Starbucks near the conference venue are open from 7:00-23:00. Further uphill on Istiklal Caddesi near Taksim Square (turn right as you exit the conference venue), there is a Starbucks open until 00:00 (Istiklal Cad. No:30-32).
Leb-i-Derya has one of the best views in Istanbul, and a great selection of cocktails. They also have a well-rounded menu of Turkish, western, and fusion food. Their Kumbaraci location is offering a 10% discount to RV Conference attendees. The Kumbaraci location is on Kumbaraci Yokusu (opposite Asmali Mescit street, which is full of good Turkish dining options for before, or after your Leb-i Derya cocktail) on the right, about 100 meters off Istiklal Caddesi, in Kumbarici Is Hani.
It is hard to find restaurants in this busy pedestrian neighborhood based on maps only. Find the intersection of Istiklal Caddesi (the main pedestrian street that the conference location is on) and Kumbaraci Yokusu.
Go downhill on Kumbaraci Yokusu. You will start feeling like this is too narrow a street and there can’t be any restaurants on it really. Don’t despair. Go downhill for about 100m and there will be an apartment entrance on your right labeled Leb-i Derya. You will have to take the elevator to the top floor.
The House Café
The House Café is an Istanbul institution, famous for its Turkish fusion takes on traditional bistro food and its lemonade. It has two Beyoglu locations, both very near the conference venue. As you exit the conference venue, turn right and walk about 200 meters. The House Café is located on the right. There is another House Café located in a slightly further and harder to find location, near the historic funicular, or Tünel, station. As you leave the conference venue, turn left (south) and proceed down Istiklal Caddesi and turn right on Müeyyet Sokak, and then left onto Sofyalı Sokak. The House Café will be on your right, opposite K.V. and the metal gate/courtyard.
A traditional meyhane or fish and meze restaurant in the Asmalimescit area of Beyoglu since 1954, famous for its mezes, or cold appetizers, small plates of usually fish or vegetable appetizers you’ll select from a variety of options and share with your fellow diners. These are followed by warm appetizers and the fish, all of which can be accompanied by wine or, more traditionally, raki, the Turkish anise-flavored liquor served with ice and water. To find both Refik and Sofyali 9 (See below), head south on Istiklal Caddesi (turn left out of the conference venue) and turn right on Asmali Mescit Caddesi, and then left on Sofyalı Sokak.
» www.refikrestaurant.com (website is Turkish only, but lots of pictures)
Another good restaurant with a meyhane atmosphere in the Asmalimescit area of Beyoglu. They also serve a good selection of mezes and salads, but their main dishes are kebaps and other meats. To reach Refik and Sofyali 9, turn onto Asmalimescit street from Istiklal Caddesi and then turn left on Sofyali street. If you cannot find a seat in either of these restaurants, Asmalimescit Street and Sofyali Street both have many other good options. (For directions see Refik above)
Mikla restaurant is a well-regarded upscale restaurant offering gourmet, fusion reinterpretations of traditional Turkish cuisine. It is located on top of the Marmara Pera hotel and has excellent views over the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
Circassian and regional Turkish food served in four separate dining rooms, each with its own atmosphere on Kallavi Sokak off Istiklal Caddesi (turn left coming from the conference venue, right from Taksim – Kallavi street is the street with the Starbucks nearest the conference venue on the corner).
» www.ficcin.com (only in Turkish)
Enstitü is the Istanbul Culinary Institute (ICI)’s restaurant. They serve modern takes on Turkish classics and regional cuisines in a contemporary atmosphere for excellent prices. Service is friendly and they offer brunch/breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are located near the Marmara Pera and Pera Palace hotels. Exit the conference venue and pass through the Odakule passageway, then turn right (head north) about 50 m. The restaurant is on the right.
Cafe Midpoint is located almost next door to the conference venue, about 20 m south on Istiklal Caddesi. They have a cafe menu with some Turkish-style food and lots of salads, sandwiches, crepes, and burgers.
Meşrutiyet Caddesi, near the Pera Palace hotel, is a street with many appealing and trendy restaurant options. To reach Pera Thai and/or Meşrutiyet Caddesi from the conference venue, you can walk south on Istiklal Caddesi to the end of the street and then turn right until you see the metro entrance and several restaurants such as Big Chefs, and hotels, such as the Galata Flats, and turn right on Meşrutiyet Caddesi (this will be like making a big U-turn). You can also walk south on Istiklal Caddesi until you get to Asmalı Mescit Caddesi, and then turn right, and walk to Meşrutiyet Caddesi. Finally, you can cross through the passage in Odakule, walk to the Marmara Pera and Pera Palace hotels, and then walk down Meşrutiyet Caddesi, which is the street on which the Pera Palace hotel is located. You will walk past the old (now closed) US consulate as well as many hotels, restaurants, and bars.
K.V. is an atmospheric café located in a passage across from the Tünel, or historic funicular, festooned with lights, filled with plants, and filled with café tables. They offer a menu of sandwiches, snacks, and desserts, as well as a fuller Turkish menu at dinner time. K.V. can be reached by walking south on Istiklal Caddesi until you reach the Tünel entrance and then entering the passageway on the right, or by walking south on Istiklal Caddesi, turning right on Müeyyet Sokak, and then left onto Sofyalı Sokak. Enter K.V. through the gate opposite the House Café.
Sultanahmet Koftecisi serves classic Turkish meatballs, or koftes, with side dishes like bean salad, shepherd’s salad, and lentil soup. Located 200 m south of the conference venue on Istiklal Caddesi.
» www.sultanahmetkofteci.com.tr (Turkish only)
A Turkish fast food chain. Simit is a traditional Turkish bread, similar to a bagel, covered with sesame seeds. Simit Sarayi serves a variety of simits, from the traditional round, twisted variety, served plain, to simit sandwiches and simits stuffed with cheese, olives, meats, and various combinations thereof. You can also sample their böreks, stuffed pastries, or various other baked goods. Simit Sarayi is located about 500 m north of the conference venue on Istiklal Caddesi (turn right as you exit).
Turkey’s most famous ice cream shop. They are famous for their kesme, or cuttable, ice cream. Try uniquely Turkish flavors like sakiz (mastic), karadut (mulberry), fistik (pistachio). Mado is located on Istiklal Caddesi about 500 meters north of the conference venue (turn right as you exit).
» www.mado.com.tr/mado/default.aspx (Their English page seems to be down)
A popular bakery offering cakes, cheesecake, baked goods, tea and coffee. About 200 meters north of the conference venue (turn right).
Bolulu Hasan Usta
Bolulu Hasan Usta offers a range of classic Turkish desserts. They specialize in pudding style desserts, from the classic rice pudding to kazandibi, a thick pudding with a caramelized top, and tavuk göğüsü, or chicken breast pudding. 600 m north (turn right as you exit the conference venue).