Istanbul, the noisy metropolis on the Bosporus Strait lauded by many a travel ranking, has much more to offer than grand mosques and bazaars.
Away from the din of typical tourist haunts, a walk around the neighbourhoods of Karakoy, Balat and Kuzguncuk will peel back the surface to reveal the city’s multilayered history, and the lifestyles of those who’ve lived it.
Descending from the Galata Tower in the Beyoglu district, often regarded as the ‘pulse of Istanbul’, one of the city’s steepest hills will lead to Karakoy, an up-and-coming area hemming the Bosporus Strait.
You can wander through galleries and boutique shops punctuating rows of nondescript buildings before reaching the luxurious renovated Kilic Ali Pasha Hamam and the more widely—known Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.
The Balat district is a quiet historic area by the Golden Horn, the narrowest stretch of the Bosporus. Its twisting streets and weathered houses, like antiques in an open museum, echo a past occupied by waves of Jewish, Greek, Bulgarian and Armenian residents. Adventurous tourists who can find the beauty in the decaying buildings and who are willing to forgo the reliability of a map or definitive street names, will enjoy wandering the hilly streets.
Kuzguncuk is not a village in the traditional sense, but a leafy residential district lined with shops and restaurants, lauded as a quieter, perhaps less jaded version of upscale Ortakoy on the European side. It is another well-known Jewish quarter, home to two synagogues.