Istanbul has many districts; within each district there are neighborhoods. Today, you’re exploring a neighborhood called Cihangir in the Beyoğlu district. If you’re looking for a neighborhood in Istanbul without the buzz — Cihangir is for you. You’re taking a morning stroll, allowing your senses to immerse themselves into Cihangir. The time of your walk starts between 10-11am. There are a few clouds floating in the sky, and a cool breeze coming in from the water separating European and Anatolian Istanbul.
A Hilly Climb to Cihangir Neighborhood
You start your walk from the eastern side of Cihangir, near the river. On the highway, there are a few dozen steps leading westward, toward Cihangir. You stand in front of them, gazing at the top. It’s a long climb up the countless steps. You start your trek. They’re small steps, I got this. From what you thought would be a fatigue-free climb, your calves and quads are burning at the top.
You turn to your right and realize you’re not at the highest point. There is more clicking require, but the change slightly changed. Now you have a narrow road rather than steps. As you’re moving up, you distract yourself from the agonizing climb—looking through the buildings and homes that surround you. They’re ancient and worn down, as if they stood there for many years.
All the history that lives up here, you think.
You continue walking through Cihangir’s narrow roads, with little care of the direction. You know the general direction—eastward—but you don’t get caught up the details (i.e. exact road). The narrow roads lead you around the neighborhood. It’s silent, and once in a while a car or a motorbike passes by. A couple passes by you, a foreign language on their tongue. It feels as though no one lives in these buildings, but there definitely are people. Why else are these cars here for?
As you make your way through the neighborhood, you see graffiti on the building’s ground level. Graffiti displays cultural meaning, political messages, or entertaining cartoons. It looks more of planned by the city than vandalism.
Coffee Shops, Grocery Shops, and Sweet Stores
You walk deeper into Cihangir, heading in the direction between Galata Tower and Istiklal Street. As you turn into a street, you find it to be more lively. Not so much compared to other streets in Istanbul, but at least there are some coffee shops. You look toward a corner coffee shop and find a couple who from Germany, enjoying their breakfast with a cat’s company. They’re speaking German, clearly revealing their home country.
You take a right at that coffee shop and head up the main street of Cihangir. People are walking up and down the street, enjoying the atmosphere. Shops dominate the ground level of each building — grocery, pharmacy, breakfast and coffee shops. You continue walking, your body breathing in the atmosphere, and the cool breeze against your face.
As you’re heading up the street toward Taksim Square, you find a side street with a produce shop. You move closer, inspecting the vegetables and fruits. They all look fresh, as if harvested yesterday, driven to the shop at night, washed early in the morning and then placed on the crates just before you arrived.
On your left side, you find a hospital. Taxis run down the hill. Some locals are taking their morning stroll with their spouse or simply enjoy the atmosphere for themselves.
With more climbing, and heading toward Taksim Square, you find yourself near a bright shop filled with sweets. You stand near the glass and look into the shop. It has Turkish sweets such as the famous baklava. Your gaze trails away, deeper into the shop, finding your favorite Turkish breakfast—börek.
A Morning Meal in Cihangir
The börek calls your name, pulling you inside. You order a plate of meat börek with a cup of tea. At the table, you patiently wait for the breakfast, but your stomach isn’t patient, it itches for börek. Then, after a long wait of two minutes, your stomach relaxes. You eat börek quickly and request another plate. As you’re waiting, you take your first sip of tea, not realizing that it waited for you the entire time. You add two small cubes of sugar and drink half way. More börek arrives!
After your stomach is satisfied, you pay for your meal and leave the shop. You continue your journey up the street, closing in on the border of Cihangir and Taksim Square. A section of Istanbul University lies on the right side. You pass by it seeing some students walking by. A few meters beyond that, you reach the end of Cihangir neighborhood and the beginning of Taksim Square.
If you’re more of a visual person, check this video of Cihangir.