Where To Stay In Istanbul – We Know Where We Want To Be

Our last post was all about us getting to know the Galata neighbourhood a bit better, and, for this particular blog post, we’re still in Galata…but we’re being a bit nosey.

In Istanbul, all the sights and sounds of the city are right here, right now, in your face, when you’re walking around. The call to prayer, the traffic, the ferries, cargo ships, the squawk of the seagulls, street traders pedaling their wares of varying quality, street food aromas…and of course, the masses of people.

This is all going on in the great outdoors of Istanbul, around the shores of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn and you’ll see it for yourself as a tourist in the city. And, if you’re anything like us, you’ll just completely fall in love with the place. We love the comparable peace and quiet of Fethiye – but, every now and then, we crave that big city fix – a jolt to the senses – and Istanbul has got to be up there as one of the cities of the world that does that best.

Galata Neighbourhood, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

What’s behind those walls and windows?

Where To Stay In Istanbul – 19th Century Suits Us

But duck off the main thoroughfares and you can find calm quite easily in Istanbul. This is where we’ve always wandered when we’ve felt the need to soothe the senses a little – and it’s where we’ve looked up at the windows of those Beyoğlu 19th century buildings. Some are bars, restaurants, hotels, backpacker hostels, holiday apartments; some lie empty and neglected and some are simply apartments where people live. Many is the time we’ve watched residents disappearing through the main entrance doors, imagining what they see when they get inside. When you’re thinking about where to stay in Istanbul if you ever visit the city, well, we just love these buildings.

After watching all those UK property programmes in the late ’90s and into the millennium, we used to fancy ourselves as being able to restore a property, one day; wandering around reclamation yards looking for baths and sinks and fireplaces. That sort of thing…

In England, we lived in a Victorian terrace (which had been stripped bare of anything remotely original) and it was to be our little restoration project that we would get around to…one day… eventually…and then we came to Fethiye…

Sahkulu Place II Galata Ceilings

Coveting the ceiling and floor of Sahkulu Place II

So the older properties of Turkey are now the ones that really pique our interest and to get a little nosey inside…well that was just as much of a part of our time in Istanbul on our last visit as the explorations of the sights of the city. If you remember, we were staying in one such apartment, Pasha Place, and we were just in awe of the enormous sash windows, the huge double doors and high ceilings…so much so that we asked owner of Istanbul Place Apartments, Tarkan, if he could show us around any more of their apartments.

We met up with him a few days later for a little extra peek behind the closed doors of Galata. Great for us because we got to satisfy some of our long-time curiosity and appreciate the architecture of the Galata neighbourhood; architecture that we’ve only ever been able to appreciate from the outside, looking in

Now, we’re on the inside. We’ve closed the crowds out and it’s just us and a little bit of neighbourhood history. The apartments Tarkan and his wife, Julia, have taken on have all been beautifully restored so that, where possible, original features have once more been exposed. As we wander around each apartment – we can only see a selection as the rest are occupied – we’re treated to the different physical character of each dwelling. (This short slideshow below is just a small selection of the photos I took.)

Aslan Place with its wide, polished wooden floorboards, sash windows and deep walls with built-in shelves, is not even a stone’s throw from Galata Tower. Up close and personal with this 15th century structure is what it’s all about, here. All of these Galata apartments are where people such as the international bankers and merchants of the 1800s lived and you can see why they built around here. Me and Barry are in our elements as we wander from apartment to apartment, ascending and descending wide, sweeping, spiral staircases and being greeted with rich, wooden doorways on each floor.

In Sahkulu Place and Sahkulu Place II, it’s original wooden flooring again and this time, we’re also treated to frescoes decorating the walls. Sahkulu Place also has a frescoed ceiling in the dining area whilst there’s an amazing ceiling of exposed brick in the dining area of Sahkulu Place II. I’ve got to say, I was loving the brick ceilings and noticed afterwards (by way of a couple of local bars we hunted down), that they’re a feature of many of the buildings around Galata. You can see it was a luxurious lifestyle lived by these people all those years ago.

In every apartment we visit, all the furniture and lighting celebrates each original feature, however small or large. Sahkulu Place II is fitted with a modern chandelier that highlights the bricks…and you covet the ceiling. Well, I covet it, anyway!

Long, narrow hallways are a feature of these apartments and when we go to Hendek Apartment, it’s exposed brick walls that line the entrance hallway. Polished wooden floors and those brick ceilings again, and doorways with coloured glass windows. Just beautiful, and we’re really happy to have had the opportunity to have a wander around. As we’re leaving the final apartment, Tarkan mentions they’re in the midst of of doing up a roof terrace of one of the apartment blocks. “It’s got great views. Do you want to see it?”

Galata Views Of Istanbul

Istanbul Views From A Galata Roof Terrace

Well, of course we want to see it. Anything for the opportunity to photograph views across the city of Istanbul. We spiral and spiral up the marble staircase to the top floor and eventually emerge onto a flat roof. Glorious sunshine, the viewing platform of Galata Tower, almost within touching distance, behind us and the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and many of Istanbul’s most famous sights stretching out ahead of us. It’s fantastic.

“Ohhh, I can’t believe it,” Tarkan says. “Why didn’t we think of it when we were down there? We should have brought a beer up with us.”

Hindsight, eh!

  • This little jaunt around the buildings and stairways of Galata was completely our idea, so thanks a lot to Tarkan for taking the time to show us around some of their apartments…and the roof terrace. We’ll make sure none of us forgets the beers, next time! 

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Comments

  1. . . the man deserves a medal for going against the trend and restoring instead of turning the place into a faceless bit of concrete!

    • It’s a family business, Alan, and what they’ve done – well, we think so – is amazing. Each apartment is so full of character and takes you back to the past. Yeah, wish all buildings were the same.

  2. Sounds like a beer would’ve been that could make that stunning view more perfect. Wonderful!

    • And also, Krista, we were very tired from walking up so many flights of steps. We could have gone back down to Galata street level…but it just seemed so far. 🙂 Shopping fşrst next time. The views were amazing. 🙂

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