Here’s my top ten of outdoor cafés in Istanbul. Some of the places in this article offer you a chance to experience history and mysticism, others offer an escapade to serenity in the middle of the hectic city life. It’s very unlikely you can try them all out during your visit, but I’m sure you’ll find a few that are just what you were looking for.
Çorlulu Ali Paşa
This is a medrese building adjacent to Çorlulu Ali Paşa Mosque which was built in 1709 and takes its name from the grand vizier Ali Paşa who came from the city of Çorlu. The historic atmosphere offers a surprising peace, as if you step in to a different dimension. As you enter the place, you leave the busy city sound behind. Also, many people agree that this is the best place to smoke water pipe or sheesha – nargile in Turkish. Regulars greet anyone who comes to the place since they believe that the friendships made here are forever. The place is open daily from 7am to 2am.
Address: Yeniçeriler Caddesi 36/28, it is on the right while walking towards the direction of Beyazıt from Sultanahmet.
Galata Konak Cafe
Konak Patisseries was founded in 1975 in Nişantaşı by the Aki family, and has a reputation for the crispy cakes and daily baked patisserie delicacies. The new generation of the family decided to transform their concept into a restaurant/café featuring a wider menu with international favorites and they opened the place in 2006.
This is another surprisingly dream away place that can seat 150 people on the roof terrace right in the historic city center. The place offers an impressive combination of tranquility and a magnificent 360 degree view containing the Galata Tower, the Bosphorus and its bridge, the Golden Horn, the Galata Bridge connecting the historical peninsula with the 5 hills of the city, Topkapı Palace, Yeni Camii, Hagia Sophia, and Süleymaniye Mosque.
The place is open daily between 8 am and 12 am and they serve brunch on Sundays.
Address: Bereketzade Mah. Hacı Ali Sk. No:2 Kuledibi, Beyoğlu (5 minutes away from the Galata Tower down the hill)
Telephone: +90 212 252 53 46
Kumpir at Ortaköy Shore
If you ask locals the best place to eat kumpir the answer will always be: Ortaköy. In the middle of the European bank of the Bosphorus, Ortaköy literally means middle village. This neighborhood is famous for art galleries, night clubs, cafés, bars, restaurants, the Sunday market place and kumpir. Kumpir is a baked potato puréed with unsalted butter and kaşar cheese (a medium-hard faint yellow cheese made from unpasteurized milk). The topping varies according to your wishes or taste. Possible toppings are mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sweet corn, sausage slices, mushrooms, Russian salad, and many more.
To reach Ortakaöy from Sultanahmet, go to Kabataş by tram first, than take a taxi. From Taksim, stop a taxi from the start. The taxi ride of roughly 4 km will take you passed Dolmabahçe Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, the Maritime Museum Art Gallery, the Beşiktaş dock, the Maritime Museum, Çırağan Palace (not open to visit, yet a nice sight) all on the right-hand side (sea side), the entrance up the hill to Yıldız Park on your left before you end up in Ortaköy. Alternatively, if you are not pressed for time, you can walk and make most of the sightseeing spots.
The first settlement in Çengelköy dates back to the 5th century. The place still features the old and traditional Bosphorus life to some extend. For locals, Çengelköy is famous for its Çınaraltı (literally translated “underneath plane tree”) tea garden where one of the most popular TV series, Süper Baba, was shot in the 90s. The plane tree that provides the shade and the uniqueness of the place is believed to be around 900 years old.
You are free to bring any kind of food you desire, but no drinks. Some börek from the shops close by and tea in the place is what locals like, especially early in the morning for a peaceful breakfast before school or work. My personal favorite is the view of the Bosphorus and the bridge.
The place is open every day. To get there you can take the city line ferry directly to Çengelköy from some points like Eminönü, or get to Üsküdar (6km away from Çengelköy), and take a taxi from there to enjoy the seaside road of the Asian side. In case you are in Kadıköy, you can take the city line bus 14M or 15F.
Address: Çengelköy Cad. Çınarlı Camii Sok. No:4, Üsküdar
Telephone: +90 216 422 1036
Mangerie Bebek Terrace
There are several fancy cafes, restaurants and night clubs in Bebek. One thing I have observed is that the places in Bebek have a disadvantage due to its popularity. They are consumed quickly because the circulation is huge and new places open up all the time. Mangerie has managed to stay away from this rise and fall since their goal is to stick to their own standard, or even improve it constantly.
The place is mostly known among the locals for its breakfasts or brunches, yet they do have more to offer. The terrace, the view and the decoration makes you feel like you are part of this city, yet privileged to experience the tasty sides of it. A serene and fine place, open every day of the week from 8 a.m. till midnight.
Address: Cevdet Paşa Caddesi 69, Küçükbebek
Telephone: +90 212 263 51 99
Located next to the ferry, adjacent to the cute Bebek Park, the place is surprisingly humble unlike the other stylish Bebek cafes. The place is famous for serving typical Turkish breakfast with a plus of serenity on the Bosphorus waterfront. All day long you can see people playing backgammon, chatting and sipping their Turkish coffee or tea. One other striking point for the locals, the place is mostly visited by Turkish celebrities for some casual time. Unfortunately, this has an effect on the prices — they are a little higher than what you’d pay in your regular coffee house. But the place stands out so much that it has become difficult to find an empty spot.
Address: Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No. 137, Bebek
Telephone: +90 212 257 54 02
A homelike cozy cafe decorated with some antique and mismatching furniture. The place has an unpretentious warm atmosphere of a friendly local cafe and a rich menu, especially for drinks. The customers are a mixture of expats, celebrities and locals. I like the street-side terrace and the fact that prices are reasonable.
Susam Sokak No:11, Cihangir – Beyoğlu
Telephone: +90 212 251 59 95
Nişantaşı Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi
You can spend a whole day enjoying this street and hop from one establishment to another.
How to get there
When you turn your back to the Istiklal Street, you’ll see the main street called Cumhuriyet Caddesi. Start walking and on your right you’ll pass the Taksim Art Gallery, Taksim Park, and the Military Museum. In front of the museum the road splits into two. You will follow the right-hand road, Vali Konağı Caddesi. Go passed the park on the right, and the first street on the right is Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi.
Just for your information, the second one is Abdi İpekçi Caddesi, one of the most expensive streets on earth (according to the 2011 results of Cushman&Wakefield with a rent value of 1.931 €/sq.m per year).
My favorite on Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi
Delicatessen — It opens at 8 a.m. and is very famous for its breakfast. It has a deli like atmosphere with the coziness of a kitchen. Customers enjoy seasonal tastes with a back to basics approach, accompanied by a big wine cellar treat.
Address: Şişli, Mim Kemal Öke Cad. No.19
Telephone: +90 212 225 06 04