Istanbul’s Hidden Gems

Istanbul is a magical city, brimming with bright colours and sounds, and permeated with delicious smells of sweets and spices. As a popular tourist destination, the city has some iconic landmarks and attractions, but with so many streets, alleys, and neighbourhoods, there are plenty of less-discovered charms in this enchanting city. Here are some unique places to explore: Istanbul hidden gems


Discover Kadikoy Fish Market

Situated on the Anatolian Peninsula of Istanbul, Kadikoy Fish Market is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Listen to fishmongers shout out their daily catch between the cry of seagulls and the chatter of customers.  The market is filled with locals who purchase their fish here before heading to Kadikoy Market for honey, spices, cheese, and other ingredients.

Because the market is on the Asian side of the city, prices here are more reasonable than on the European side. Try a traditional balık ekmek (fish sandwich) or visit one of the many restaurants and cafes throughout the market and enjoy tasty treats and Turkish coffee.

Take the ferry from the European Peninsula to enjoy the sea breeze and beautiful views, and marvel at the unusual street art that adorns the streets near the market. Istanbul hidden gems


Wander through Balat

Istanbul hidden gems - balat

Istanbul’s Jewish quarter, Balat, is beautiful. The suburb was even added to the UNESCO World Heritage list as part of the old city of Istanbul. Located on the western bank of the Golden Horn, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover in this historic neighbourhood.

Wander through colourful houses and cobbled streets that make for picture-perfect moments. Walk through history and time by visiting an array of traditional Jewish synagogues and striking ancient mosques. Take a break in one of the many quirky and colourful cafes after browsing through antique shops filled with treasures. Istanbul hidden gems

Marvel at the stunning architecture of the 18th Century Yanbol Synagogue and the Ahrida Synagogue built in the 1430s before exploring the Balat Mosque designed by Mimar Sinan in 1562. Visitors should also explore the beautiful Chora Mosque, by the walls of Constantinople, which was once a Church.


Visit the Women’s Bazaar

While many travellers are sure to visit the iconic Spice Bazaar and the famous Grand Bazaar, you can go off the beaten track and enjoy a fascinating visit to the Women’s Bazaar. Located in the Faith Neighbourhood and selling an array of nuts and spices, as well as rare and traditional ingredients this market is a popular spot for foodies, though it is not for the faint-hearted. Istanbul hidden gems

Freshly slaughtered sheep carcasses hanging from the butcher’s windows and dried sheep heads, pungent Tulum cheese and other unusual produce are the norm.

Isanbul hidden gems - Women’s Bazaar

It’s certainly an interesting experience, and those not swayed by the carcasses will enjoy walking through this wild and wonderful place. If the sights don’t unsettle your stomach, there is a wonderful selection of treats to be tried from the bazaar’s eateries.

The Women’s Bazaar was created in the 1940s as a place for housewives to sell hand-made and homegrown goods. The bazaar now includes over 70 shops where residents sell produce from local villages’ farms. The market is located close to the Balat neighbourhood and is the perfect activity to combine with a day of wandering through the Jewish quarter.


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Visit Nevmekan Sahil library

istanbul hidden gems - Nevmekan Sahil library

Istanbul is a city of historic religious buildings and impressive museums, but few tourists have visited the new Nevmekan Sahil library complex, which combines a museum, library, and architectural marvel into one. In fact, this hidden gem is so unique that you will find most of the other visitors will be locals and students.

Located in the Üsküdar district on the Asian side of the city, this haven for bibliophiles contains over 80,000 books. The most striking aspect of this space is the spectacular domed ceiling of the library, which creates a feeling of light and splendour. This circular room is lined with bookshelves and offers ample space for reading, studying, eating, and chatting. Istanbul hidden gems

As you enter the building, you will first find a café, seating area and art gallery displaying fine contemporary art. The space is said to be planning lectures and events, in this hub for brilliant and modern minds.



Escape the bustle in Belgrad Forest

Istanbul is bright and buzzing, and all that bustle can be overwhelming sometimes. Whether you are a nature lover or you just need some space from the city, Belgrad Forest is one of Istanbul’s most beautiful hidden gems. Often referred to as the ‘lungs of Istanbul’, the forest is a protected area overlooking The Black Sea.

There are 11 parks within the forest area, boasting beautiful green spaces and tall leafy trees, as well as an array of marshes, and reservoirs to explore. The Valens Aqueduct runs through the forest and history buffs can even visit one of Istanbul’s largest structures, The Aqueduct of the Valens which stretches across the valley of Constantinople and dates back to the 4th century.

Istanbul hidden gems

Nature lovers can hike the walking trails, go mountain biking, picnic, and even camp in the forest. It’s also the perfect place to spot local wildlife. Istanbul hidden gems

Belgrad Forest can be reached by car or taxi or by the M2 metro from Taksim towards Haciosman station. Then take the bus 42HM towards Bahcekoy, followed by a short walk to the park’s entrance. Istanbul hidden gems

Istanbul’s charm is infinite and there are so many hidden gems to discover in this exceptional city. From historical and religious buildings to fragrant food markets and beautiful scenery, Istanbul is a city for every kind of traveller. See how many more hidden gems you can find on your trip to Istanbul!


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