The Kepali Carsa or in English, The Grand Bazaar, is a maze of shops, people, and products with cats wandering all about. One can find runner flip flops, antique brass and silver, diamonds, gold, luggage, Persian paintings, leather clothes and purses, and huge spice collections – and much more. It takes years to master the twisting alleys – and don’t try using some map you find on your phone – it will only confuse you more and get you further lost. Just enjoy the wandering and when you need to leave ask for help! (The last Bond film, Skyfall, has an amazing scene on motorcycles that takes place atop the Bazaar and you can now arrange a tour of the filming site.)
Near the Grand Bazaar (about a block outside of it) is a wonderful civilized restaurant called Nar which serves all natural Anatolian food and local wines. It is a peaceful place with good food and a “living wall” that provides a soothing green background to your lunch. You are then rested and ready to go back into the fray of the bazaar. The restaurant is located in a wonderful modern department store called Armaggan which is worth wandering through on your way out.
In between trips to the bazaar (and it takes at least three before you can breathe and focus) eating and visiting sites can keep you very busy. If you are there in the summer, and are staying at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, you can also lie by the pool and watch the ships go by on the Bosphorus. The pool there is the perfect example of East meets West since bikinis abound and then there are several Saudi women who watch their children in the pool while the mothers wear full abayas and veils. (Some call them Black Moving Objects since all you see is a black moving object – no face – no clothes, just the veil and robe.)
So here are a few restaurants to amuse you:
Sunday brunch outside at White Mill : A typical table of 14 of us sprawled under the trees and fans and ate eggs benedict and local Turkish breakfast foods, and debated the world. It is clearly a local place but they are gracious and have English menus for those of us who have yet to master Turkish.
Ferahfeza has a beautiful modern bar and good food. It is worth going and sitting on the edge of the patio to watch the view of the Golden Horn as the sun sets and the lights of the evening light up the city.
Zelda Zonk is another great find where the tables have a perfect view of the Golden Horn and the food is excellent – a combination of local products and pasta is excellent. At about 11 it turns into a night club with a DJ and lots of thirty-somethings standing and dancing. It is definitely a local hang out for the “beautiful people.”
Duble Gurme Meze Bar is a wonderful proper meze meal – lots of small dishes on a lazy boy with delicious home made bread. They have a full bar as well so even the single malt people are happy.
For an elegant meal, go to Sunset which sits atop a hill overlooking the first bridge. The food is varied – Sushi, European, and Turkish. Hey have an amazing wine list. The locals use it for special events and the rest of us go there to have a Zagat rated meal with exquisite service (which is not the norm in Turkey). From the patio the view is absolutely one of the best in the world.
And then finish your evening with a Scotch or Cognac at the Hooka Bar on the patio of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski!