I am very publicly in love with Istanbul, from the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Bosphorous to the intricately detailed mosque domes to the amazing food. And I recently got to spend a day there (on my birthday no less), which is always a delight.
Since I’d already been to Istanbul before to see many of the famous sites, I decided instead to spend my last few hours in Istanbul wandering through the (insanely hilly) narrow streets and alleys of Beyoğlu—checking out the street art, enjoying the history, meowing at all the cats, and drinking an insane amount of coffee. Specifically, I wanted to find some of the best coffee shops in Istanbul.
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What and where is Beyoğlu?
Beyoğlu is a district on the old European side of Istanbul, comprised of several different neighborhoods, including Galata, Karaköy, Taksim, Tunel, Cihangir, Çukurcuma, Tepebaşı, and beyond. This is my favorite area to stay in when I visit, since it’s a convenient location, super cool, but not the crazy touristy part like Sultanahmet.
The district was a Venetian and Genoese merchant hub in the 12th and 13th centuries, and has always been a thriving multicultural center—Turks, Greeks, Jews, etc. Though the backdrop or “bones” of Beyoğlu is very old and historic, there is a very modern and hipster-y vibe layered on top. I hadn’t really realized that quite as clearly in past visits (other than the nightlife area up in the Taksim/Istiklal area), and got super excited about exploring this side a bit.
Where to stay in Beyoğlu
I knew I wanted to stay in the Beyoğlu area, and south of Galata Tower for ease of walking over the bridge. I found the delightful Hotel Decamondo, and was thoroughly charmed by my stay there. The staff was super welcoming, the rooms and overall decor beautiful, location great—couldn’t ask for more! The hotel has a lot of really cool history too.
On my last morning I headed out early to caffeinate and explore. I’d seen a few cool-looking coffee shops late at night on my way home from dinner, so zoomed toward those first.
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Beyoğlu: Best coffee shops in Istanbul
In articles I read about coffee options in Beyoğlu, I kept seeing references to the “third-wave coffee scene” in Istanbul, and was thoroughly confused by the term. I’ve done some digging and in a nutshell it’s about amazing, delicious coffee that celebrates the whole supply chain (including grower, roaster, etc.), includes focuses on things like sustainability, how and where a coffee comes from, etc., and quality. None of that bad and all very cool, though also feels a bit pretentious when you’re talking about it 🙂
My first stop was just past Galata Tower, at a coffee shop called Viyana Kahvesi. I was starting off with a “to go” to keep moving, and I was so excited to get a delicious coffee—it felt like my first good coffee since coming to Istanbul a week ago!
I feel like you all will appreciate this too…my notes from Viyana Kahvesi literally just say “good coffee, had insane cheesecakes”. I didn’t try their cheesecakes (had to pace my stomach), but they looked epic and you should definitely give them a try.
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Drip seems to take coffee very seriously, and since it’s tucked away on a side street I’m guessing it’s more of a local haunt rather than full of tourists. It’s adorable inside, but I couldn’t resist sitting out on the patio on a gorgeous September morning.
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Their coffee was quite good, and I indulged in a slice of dark chocolate cake…nice and bittersweet, not too rich at all. They do have some real food options too, lots of giant cakes, and quite a few gluten-free options.
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This place is so cute inside!! They had an array of food options handy (I tried an oat-y financier, which wasn’t my fave) and great coffee. I enjoyed sitting and people watching while I enjoyed my delicious latte.
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Kahve Dunyasi Al Götur
If I were looking for a good place to work, this would be toward the top of the list. The inside is super cool and a lot roomier than most shops in the area. The coffee was good, and I sat and relaxed for a few minutes. They didn’t have much in the way of food that appealed to me, but I wasn’t really hungry at this point either.
I found this on a local’s list of best coffee shops in Istanbul, and was intrigued. Also known as Muse Botanical and Coffee, this is a green wonderland that is totally worth going a touch out of your way to find!
I almost went with another latte, but at the last second changed to a fancy black iced tea they had, with lychee and honey, because I’d worked up quite a sweat on my trek. Refreshing and unique…I wish I had like five of them!
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Other Beyoğlu things to explore
Because most of my time was spent on finding the best coffee shops in Istanbul, I didn’t have time to do much more than just enjoy the ambiance of Beyoğlu…and in particular the fun street art and the kitty cats.
I didn’t go out of my way to find either cats or street art (or…street art of cats), but they’re both just everywhere.
Look at these little nuggets!!! I do recommend looking and not touching (though I don’t always follow my own advice), both because they may not react well to it, but also because you might end up with some fun contact dermatitis as a result.
Not that I’d know anything about that…
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Galata Tower is one of your big signposts as you walk from Galata Bridge up toward Istiklal Street then finally Taksim Square. You can pay to climb the tower, which can be nice on a pretty day, but the view doesn’t photograph as well as it could.
Definitely make time to climb (and stroll) up Istiklal Street, enjoying the busy crowds and the red trolley that glides past. You can go all the way up to Taksim Square as well, though it was a bit underwhelming (if you’re pressed for time, just stick to the main part of Istiklal).
Make sure the fuel your wanderings. I found a great shop near the water called Levent Börek, took it to go, and then and gorged myself on buttery soft cheesy pastry while watching the boats cruise along the Golden Horn.
Finally, don’t discount Beyoğlu at night. Whether you’re looking for true nightlife (of which there is a lot in this area) or just getting a feel for the place at night, the neighborhoods really come alive at night in a different way. Make sure to see Galata Tower lit up…always super cool!
I’m super excited to see more and more good coffee in Istanbul, and can’t wait to go back and try more new places. Have I missed your favorite Beyoğlu coffee shop? Hit me up in the comments with it, I’ll make a list for next time!
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