Tag Archives: Besiktas

The Perfect Turkish Bath Experience

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The women’s entrance is in the back of the building, with a much smaller sign. Thus, this photo…

Turkish baths, or hamams are central to traditional Turkish life. It is where the women of the community come together to gossip and discuss their relationships, home life and news. Historically, the hamam was a strategic site for a discerning mother to find the perfect wife for her son, as well as an important part of pre-wedding festivities to prepare the bride for her wedding night. Hamams are slowly loosing their significance in every day life, and the most glorious and historical hamams are becoming expensive tourist traps. Thus, an authentic neighborhood hamam is hard to find and provides a truly unique experience.

I spent a lovely day with three of my friends from my old school, as well as one of my best friends visiting from Seattle. We gathered in Besiktas to start our day at one of the lovely and hip cafes hiding in the backstreets around Balik Pazari. Then, we took the ferry to the Asian neighborhood of Uskudar. Located right along the waterfront, this neighborhood is one of the city’s busiest and most conservative neighborhoods. It is also a wonderful place to experience a unique slice of Turkish life. We talked to 5 different taxi drivers before we found someone who knew where the hamam was located AND was willing to take us for this short 6 lira fare (It is somewhat off the beaten path and at the top of a hill so a taxi is recommended)

Cinili Hamam was commissioned by Kosem Sultan and built in 1640 . This Turkish bath is also known  as ‘Eski Hamam’ or ‘Old Bath’ and is considered to be one of the most historical Turkish baths in the area. It is frequented by locals and expats alike. It is beautiful, as well as inexpensive and authentic. I would go so far to say that is probably one of the best hamam experiences in Istanbul.

We were quickly ushered into our own dressing room  and then welcomed through the doors of the warm steamy bath itself. The hamam is arranged in a star shape.Each corner is composed of benches with sinks flowing with warm water. In the middle there is a large marble slab, where you are summoned for your scrub, massage and cleansing by  women in their underwear for a full-body exfoliation, followed by a round of soap. As you await your turn, your job is to soften your skin by pouring shallow buckets of hot water all over yourself. With each bucket, comes a wave of relaxation and rejuvenation. 

We came prepared: we brought flip flops, Turkish bath towels, our own bath scrubs, soap and shampoo. The entrance fee was 18 lira and the scrub cost 12 lira. For 3 relaxing hours, and indulgently soft skin, this was a steal!

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Watch out Cihangir. Besiktas is the new weekend breakfast destination!

In the past 2 years, a handful of new breakfast cafes have popped up near the Besiktas Balik Pazari. This lead TimeOut Istanbul to describe Celebioglu Sokak as a street devoted to breakfast, stating that the street “pretty much exists just so that Besiktas residents can eat breakfast.’ However, I predict that these restaurants and cafes will attract more than local residents. These bustling cafes have crowds of people waiting for a seat. Their charm as well as their quirkiness contributes to their allure. Blues and jazz play in the background. Tables unfold onto the streets.

I spent my Saturday morning sampling the numerous jams and delicious menemen at Reçel Türevleri. This particular Besiktas breakfast cafe has a unique draw: numerous jams from the city of Adana. We were served cherry, quince and carrot jam in our particular breakfast spread. We ordered the ‘serpme kahvalti’, menemen, tea and ended the meal with fresh squeezed orange juice…all for 18 lira. The young owners serve as waiters and cooks. The decor is colorful, hip and inviting. Prices are low and ingredients are fresh and organic. Read the rest of this entry

Besiktas: The New Breakfast Destination in Istanbul

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Growing up on small island in the Pacific Northwest, I was spoiled by the natural beauty of the region. However, when I moved to the bustling concrete jungle of Istanbul, I realized that my natural surroundings are more than something I appreciate, but something I need. It took me too long to find a natural refuge from the chaos of city life, but ever since I discovered Yildiz Park, I have flocked to this beautiful green hillside whenever I was consumed by the desire to be surrounded by nature. For a lovely Sunday afternoon, we took a bus to Besiktas and walked past students, couples and tourists before entering the grand gates of Yildiz Park. Formally, the palace gardens and hunting grounds for the sultans who inhabited the ornate Dolmabahce Palace, it is now a public park that is always full of life. On Sundays, it is overflowing with families and friends who flock to this prized piece of urban greenery for a picnic. We love walking along the paths and up the steep hill. Sitting at the top of this hill sits a wonderful cafe where you can order tea, read your newspaper and enjoy the scenery. It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon outdoors in Istanbul.

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An Afternoon at Yildiz Park

The Perfect Besiktas Dinner

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We love kebab. We love really good, cheap food. We also love wonderful Istanbul views. We first started going to this small durum restaurant 3 years ago. We continue to come back because the food is great, the service is exceptional….and they shower you with gifts, covering your table with small appetizer plates to enhance your dining experience. We returned to Durumce and discovered they had expanded and remodelled. There is now rooftop seating and a spectacular view of the Bosphorus, Sultanahmet, and the busy ferry port. We spent 2 hours snacking on appetizers, eating our dinner and chatting over a glass of tea. I would recommend this place to everyone!