While many tourists come to Istanbul and spend the majority of their precious time in Sultanahmet (the Old City), I rarely go to this area of the city at all. In my first days and weeks in Istanbul, I wandered through the Grand Bazaar, marvelled at the beauty of Hagia Sophia, and stood in awe as I observed the call to prayer inside the Blue Mosque. Rarely do I explore the area without the company of curious newcomers, or house guests. However, I was recently reminded that Sultanahmet is not solely tourist territory, and there are dining experiences that satisfy and entice Istanbul residents and natives alike.
Yes, Sultanahmet is overpriced. Yes, you often hear more English than Turkish as you wander through the streets. However, there is a reason more and more tourists come to Sultanahmet to experience Turkish history, culture, food and hospitality each year.
Seven Hills Restaurant symbolizes one such reason. The restaurant offers an extraordinary Istanbul experience. Its terrace provides a 360 degree view of Istanbul, and makes you feel as if the city’s most historical sites are at your fingertips. The restaurant offers a traditional menu of Turkish appetizers, fish and meat dishes (at shocking prices), but the view makes it worth every penny. There are some delicious chicken and lamb dishes prepared in a special pottery dish that allows the meat to absorb the tomatoes, peppers and other spices that are cooked with the meat. It is the perfect place to take a break from a day of sightseeing, or to sip wine and watch the sunset.
With Hagia Sophia in front of me, the Blue Mosque at my back and the Bosphorus to my right, the setting could not be better. As we ate our meal, we heard the call to prayer come alive up and down the shores of the Bosphorus, and watched as the sun set behind the Blue Mosque. We peered down at the ruins of a yet-to-be opened archaeology museum, in front of the main gate of Topkapi Palace. Surrounded by Istanbul’s sparkling shores, and the city’s historical, cultural and religious wonders, I was reminded of the city’s extraordinary splendor. I think I know where I will be taking my next guest…