Here's a little guide that I had written some years back, for some archaeologist friends of mine. Since they already knew about the history and monuments, the guide is exclusively about where to walk, what to eat, live music, etc.
Below is my account on Istanbul that I promised to send to many of you. This is basically a compilation of many small personal recommendations that I wrote over the last decade or so for friends or acquaintances who visited Istanbul and of course is only an informal guide to night-life, live music, culture and restaurants; and not about the history or archaeology of the city at all. Because it is a mixture of small notes written for different people, in different years, and on different levels of English, it might be a bit hard to read, and overly colloquial at times. Still I hope it'll be useful for at least some of you. This is the First Part of the entire account, then I'll send the second part this evening hopefully, which will be specifically on Beyoğlu where I grew up, and Turkish Music. Please feel free to distribute this, without mentioning my name, though.
If I am not mistaken, John Freely will guide the regular members in Istanbul, I must say that you guys are very lucky, for he is probably one of the most knowledgeable people on earth about Istanbul. He must be in his 80's now; however, if not retired this year, is still an emeritus faculty member of the prestigious Bosphorus University. He was originally a physicist -PhD from NYU-, but more recently he was giving History of Science and Astronomy classes. I do not know him personally, but so many of my friends took classes from him in the past, and I have yet to meet a person who does not like him. He is the writer of many books on Istanbul and Turkey ( ) and also happens to be the father of Maureen Freely, who is the English translator of Orhan Pamuk's books.
First off, buy a map and an English "Time-Out Istanbul" to see what's happening in the city during that month, and do not hang around Sultanahmet at backpackers' bars at nights, that’s the worst you can do.
Istanbul, what's the deal?
Well, it is the biggest city of Turkey (more than 13 mil. today), and it is very crowded, dirty and noisy. It is a city which is not easy to live in, it might become in fact very demanding and tiring at times, as many “Istanbul is killing me! I’ll move to the west coast countryside and do organic agriculture, or start some fancy yoga place for hipsters or whatnot” type of people would agree. Then again, after I left Turkey there has not been a single day when I did not miss Istanbul. Few places where I felt a little comfortable abroad have always been dirty, crowded and noisy large cities.
It is not a city that is easy to describe. It is, in fact, an amalgamation of many cities. In the last three decades millions migrated to Istanbul from all over Anatolia and Thrace, and each neighbourhood has its distinct character. In the Çarşamba neighbourhood of the Fatih district (actually, pretty close to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy) you would only see women in black-robes; in a neighbourhood close to Hasköy, would only find Black-Sea immigrants, where their accent and noses will make the fact obvious; in the posh neighbourhoods like Nişantaşı or Bebek you can watch the nouveau-riche yuppies and old-money profiteers sipping their overpriced cappuccinos and rosé wines; and if you go to the heavily radical leftist Gazi or 1 Mayıs neighborhoods, you wouldn't need to spend much time until you run into a member of a revolutionary group. Istanbul happens to be one of the largest Kurdish cities on Earth, with about 2 million Kurds living in the city, most of them having come after their villages and towns were burnt by the Turkish army during the Kurdish struggle of the last 30 years; and the largest Roma community in Turkey live in Istanbul as well, though unfortunately their traditional neighborhoods are under the threat of gentrification.
Naturally, all those people with different backgrounds carried their politics, cuisine, music and customs to Istanbul with them. Before the late 20th c. population influx, Istanbul was already the cultural capital of Turkey, where the palatial heritage and melancholy of the long gone Ottoman Empire was still felt. Yet, today, the city of Istanbul is Turkey itself, both for the good and the worse. It is called "a huge village" by many, implying the rural roots of the newcomers, and the elder native Istanbulites miss the smaller and calmer city of olden times. It is a fact that the city got bigger, dirtier, lost too much from its Ottoman aura and now is not the dignified palatial center it once was... However, the city is alive at all times; and culturally speaking, times have not been more stimulating.
When it comes to the old cliché, i.e. that Turkey, and more particularly Istanbul, is where the East meets the West,... well, it is actually true, despite the inevitable cheesiness. And not only geographically... You can see it in the culture, in the music, in the cuisine, in the language, and most clearly in the typical inherent schizophrenia of a Turk's messed up mind regarding his or her identity. Good news is that this makes the tourist’s visit even more interesting.
Ankara - Istanbul
Well, I was not born in Istanbul - eh, nobody's born there anyway. I was born in Ankara and only later I betrayed my hometown. I was 10 and had picked an Istanbul high-school in the general high-school entrance exam. So, suddenly, I left the calm, quiet and boring Ankara for this noisy place. I remember disliking the city immensely at first. Then, slowly I came to like it. Later I started considering Ankara a boring place. Today, I can barely stand the capital, or in fact, anywhere else in the world. As the saying goes: "the only good thing about Ankara is the drive back to Istanbul", though the Ankara-lovers claim that originally it went the other way round.
Ankara is much smaller (4.5-5 million) and quieter if you like that, has many beautiful museums and universities, and the cultural scene is not that bad either. After all, it is Bob's (Bridges) and the Gordion crew's favourite place. On the other hand, the grayness of this bureaucratic steppe city is a huge turn-off, a comparison between D.C. and NYC comes to mind. And there is neither a sea, nor a proper natural lake at Ankara. Not even a small river around. Can you really call that a city if the largest body of water that you can see is in your bathtub?
What to do?
The Archaeological Museum, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the obelisk, Topkapi Palace, many beautiful Byzantine churches, Hagia Irini, the Suleymaniye Mosque (one of the masterpieces of Mimar Sinan), Yedikule Castle, Kariye Mosque and the Grand Bazaar are typical places to go. These are mostly in walking distance to each other, and for sure you will see most of them. After you are done with the historic peninsula, though, what to do next?
Take the ferry
If you're into scenic views, a tour of Bosphorus is a must (if you're not, I will give the address of the German Institute library below). Weather permitting, take the ordinary Bosphorus ferries -not the touristic ones. They are very cheap and it's always more fun to travel on the Bosphorus with them. They set off from the Eminonu port at 10:35, stop at many small ports on both sides and return to the same spot at 16:30 (check for the current timetable). The ship goes up to "Anadolu Kavağı", a small village near the very end of the Bosphorus and stays there for 3 hours for your lunch break. There you might find fresh fish and famously fake Belgian waffles. Do not get Seebass or Seabream, since they are almost always farmed (“levrek” and “çipura” in Turkish, which come from “lavraki” and “tsipoura” that you know from Greece, as most Turkish fish names do). There is also a Genovese castle nearby, if you want to climb there. On your way back, you can get off of the ferry at Beşiktaş, which is closer to Taksim than Eminönü.
On another day -perhaps if you have more than one week in the city- you can take the ferry to the Prince Islands ( ). They are very silent -cars not allowed-, cute and great for a hike or a tour with a rental bicycle. They are full with churches, fish-taverns, and meyhanes. My favourites are smaller Burgaz and Heybeliada; but the biggest island -Büyükada- should be seen too. On the ferry, buy a small glass (not a cup) of tea and a simit (
), and share your simit with seagulls from the top floor of the ferry. I can assure you that you will be surprised at how feeding those silly shouting flying creatures will fill your heart with joy, even if you're in your most pretentiously depressive and unnecessarily melancholic film-noir-style mood.
Everybody must take the Karaköy/Eminönü - Kadıköy ferry (which goes from either Eminönü or Karaköy to the Asian side) at dusk, at least once in a lifetime. Just watch the silhouette of the Historic peninsula at dusk with many minarets and the Topkapı Palace, inevitably feel like an overly orientalist late nineteenth century European traveller -or an unconsciously overly orientalist modern American-; the view is worth it. (You can always buy Orientalism from one of the English-language bookstores that I will talk about below, as the antidote of this poisoning ferry-ride, or read Kipling or something). Once at Kadıköy, you can idly wander around the Kadıköy Çarşısı (Kadıköy Bazaar), and sit down at Çiya for dinner (Çiya is one of the best restaurants in Istanbul, and surprisingly cheap too, see below).
You have another day in Istanbul, perhaps your mind is troubled because of an obscure personal reason, and you have nothing to do? Well, walk.
If you stay around Sultanahmet (i.e. the historic peninsula), grab your map, walk to Eminönü, then through the Galata Bridge pass to Karaköy.
Eat some very cheap balık-ekmek (fish and bread) at either Eminönü or Karaköy.
Then walk towards the Galata Tower from Karaköy through narrow winding streets. Drink some tea at the Galata Square, visit the Tower if you haven't already and take some pictures from the top.
Then walk to Tünel from Galata.
Towards Tünel you will see many musical instruments stores, buy a Turkish instrument for a musician cousin or nephew of yours, a small bağlama ( ), or a darbuka maybe, that would make a better present than that fez you probably bought at Grand Bazaar, anyway.
From Tünel (which is at one end of the Istiklal Avenue), walk towards Galatasaray; checking out Russian, Dutch, and Swedish embassies on your right, and narrow streets of the Asmalımescit neighbourhood on your left. At Galatasaray (the mid-point of Istiklal), eat some kokoreç at Balık Pazarı, which is across the Galatasaray High School, drink a beer, and walk to Taksim Square. Stop at many bookshops on your way (see below).
From Taksim you can walk down to Dolmabahçe and check out the youngest and last Ottoman Palace, which is in my opinion a horrendously ugly building and ostentatious beyond imagination -no wonder the Empire collapsed, should be a divine punishment for the construction of this palace. Its architecture is neither baroque/roccoco, nor neo-classical; but manages to combine the ugliest features of all styles.
From Dolmabahçe, walk to Ortaköy, through Beşiktaş. You've been walking for many hours already, so find a nice café at Ortaköy Square and drink something watching the passers-by and the Bosphorus.
From Ortaköy, follow the Bosphorus and walk up to Rumelihisarı, passing through the coastal neihborhoods of Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, and Emirgan. Check out lots of beautiful Yalıs ( ), and you can visit the castle at Rumelihisarı too ( ).
Ok, so you walked from Eminönü to Rumelihisarı, an astonishing accomplishment - a 13 km. walk according to Google Earth. Reward yourself with a cab ride back to your hotel where you will sleep immediately. As for your troubled mind, well, the problems are still there. No walking can cure that, let's not kid ourselves.
Other great sea-side walking destinations are İstinye-Tarabya (You can take aMinibüs from Beşiktaş Square to go to İstinye) on the European side, and Çengelköy-Kuzguncuk on the Asian (You can go to Çengelköy by ferry, check the schedule). You'd see many great houses, traditional neighbourhoods, beautiful views, great coffee-shops and tea gardens (çay bahçesi). Also the historic Fener-Balat destination might be interesting (S. side of golden horn, check your map).
However, if you are already fed up with great houses and beautiful views by now, as perhaps you should, skip these destinations unless you have more than 15 days or so.
Go to the Museums
Yes, but which ones? You've already been to the Archaeology Museum, the Mosaic Museum, etc., I assume. Other good options would be:
Sadberk Hanım Müzesi: The collection of the Koç family. Many artifacts, from Prehistoric to Byzantine and later. ( ). Probably the most important private archaeological museum as regards its archaeological collection. Take the metro from Taksim. Go as far as it goes (there is only one line); and take a minibüs to Sarıyer from there. Alternatively, go to Beşiktaş, and take a direct Sarıyer minibüs. It is a great pinkish yalı and very close to the Sarıyer square (the last stop). There is a small tea garden just across the street.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art: At Sultanahmet.
Istanbul Modern - Museum of Modern Art: It's a museum with a permanent exhibition reflecting various stages of the 20th century Turkish fine arts, recent acquisitions are often times the works of international contemporary artists.
Different temporary exhibitions bring international modern art greats to Istanbul, check the website to see what's happening. ( ). It is at Karaköy, and also very close to the cheesy nargile (or shishah) cafés if you want to check that out on your way out (see below).
Pera Museum: Orientalist Paintings (mostly on Istanbul from 17th to 20th century), great Kütahya tiles and ceramics, Anatolian weights and measures, and temporary exhibitions (last one was Goya). At Beyoğlu/Taksim area (hence the name Pera. ).
Sabancı Museum: A little bit of everything, including a modest archaeological collection. Not a must, really. Check for temporary exhibitions, though. Huge Dali and Picasso exhibitions were the highlights of recent years. ( )
Rahmi Koç Industry Museum: Never been there myself, but it has an ancient submarine, an aircraft, a locomotive, several exhibitions showing several machines and stuff. If you are interested, it's fine. If not, send your 6 year old to this museum with your butler who wears a fuschia bow-tie, since the collection belongs to the richest man in Turkey who believes he’s an aristocrat, and who, like all wannabe aristocrats, often wears beige tricots on navy blue shirts on casual summer days. The museum is on the northern side of the golden horn. ( )
The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews: A small museum on the Istanbulite Sephardim, at Karaköy. ( ) They have a more than 500 years long history in Istanbul, since the Isabella the Catholic’s expulsion of the Jews form Iberia in 1492.
Military Museum: Very comprehensive collection on Ottoman and early 20th century Turkish military, if you're into that kind of thing. At Harbiye, some 10 minutes walk from Taksim Square. Every day from Wed. to Sun. a Mehter Band performs the traditional battle songs which it used to perform centuries ago, accompanying the Sultan in battle. It starts at 3 pm.
If you're visiting the city in the fall of an odd-numbered year, definitely check out the Istanbul Biennial, which has become in the last decade one of the up-and-coming international contemporary art biennials of the world. ( )
Foreign Institutes and Libraries, archaeological bookstores
If you are in Istanbul to check out some books on Anatolian archaeology, or in case you came to Istanbul to buy some lame Fez and a small carpet from the Grand Bazaar, but then cannot do without your post-processual article, the first place to go would be the Library of the German Institute, which is at Taksim. It is open from 9 to 13, but if you make it clear that you're an academic or a PhD student, you can usually stay until 17.( ) Libraries of the Institut Français d’Etudes Anatoliennes ( ) and the Dutch Institute ( ) should be your second and third options, respectively.
If you want to check out recent publications on Anatolian archaeology, or buy some books for your home institution, you can start by checking the catalogues of the three biggest archaeological publishing companies of Turkey.
Arkeoloji ve Sanat:
Homer Kitabevi: The online catalogue is a mess, but go to the bookstore itself to find all the archaeological publications of all three companies:
Books in general
For other English language books, on Turkey, Turkish literature, history, etc. check the following bookstores (both on or very close to Istiklal avenue, i.e. in Beyoğlu/Taksim area):
Speaking of books and Istanbul, the definitive guide in English remains the classic guide to the city, Strolling Through Istanbul by Freely and Sumner-Boyd: There are more picture-heavy guidebooks, of course, and you may want to check them out as well, but in terms of its histrocal and architectural competence and depth, Strolling is unrivaled.
For second hand bookstores for mostly Turkish but also some English stuff -maybe for a cheap Agatha Christie, how do I know- you can go to the Aslıhan Pasajı which houses several small second hand bookstores. At Istiklal, turn your back to the Galatasaray High School, directly walk into the intersecting street. Couple of meters later you will see a passageway on your right. Probably you couldn't find the place, so find someone and ask for "sahaflar" -second-hand bookstores-; or say "sahaflar nerede?" -where are the second-hand bookstores?-.
Karaköy: If you’re staying at the historic peninsula, it’s just across the Galata Bridge. It’s usually very crowded, not as much as Eminönü, though. There are some cheap and relatively good fish restaurants in this neighborhood. You can take the ferry to Karaköy from here too.
Galata Tower, and the Tünel neighbourhood is just a short walk from Karaköy, but if you’re too lazy, you can take the funicular for Beyoğlu. Ask for Tünel, it’s at the Karaköy Square. If you’re into small stores which sell kitch electronic toys and whatnot, check the underpass at the square.
If you want to smoke some shisha, turn right after the Bridge, walk along the coastline for 5 minutes, then ask somebody for “nargileci”. There are many nargile cafés very close to Istanbul Modern.
(2013 Update: This neighbourhood is under heavy gentrification, lots of art galleries, fusion cuisine reataurants, urbane looking hipster cafés are being opened, and the real estate prices are going through the roof.)
Kadıköy: One of the main centers of the Asian side. If you take the ferry from Eminönü, Karaköy, or Beşiktaş, you arrive at Kadıköy (be careful, the first stop is Haydarpaşa, don’t get off there unless you want to take the Ankara train). Honestly, there is nothing interesting for a tourist at Kadıköy, but it’s a good place to live. It is not as crowded as Beyoğlu/Taksim area, but still you can find everything you need at Kadıköy: several bar/meyhane streets, many cinemas, live music places where you can find everything from jazz to Turkish folk to heavy metal, an Opera House, huge bookstores, small cafés where the Kadıköy intelligentsia sit down and talk about how Taksim/Beyoğlu area is pretentious and unbearable.
Çiya: One of the best restaurants in Istanbul, surprisingly cheap too. At the Kadıköy Çarşı (market). ( )
Moda: Moda is a 10 minutes walk from the center of Kadıköy, recently becoming the hub of not-that-rich-so-can’t-af
Further east on the Asian Side, you can have a nice walk on Bağdat Avenue (take a Dolmuş for Bostancı from the Kadıköy square – the yellow minivans – and get off around Erenköy). So what's there? Nothing but several stores and coffee shops. It’s one of the upscale neighbourhoods of Istanbul, but nothing you can’t see in any big town in the world, really. At the seaside, though, there are several parks, which become buzzing picnic and night-time-drinking-with-
Üsküdar: The poorer cousin of Kadıköy. You can take a minibus from Kadıköy, or take a ferry from Beşiktaş. I’d suggest you to go one of the old coastal ’hoods of the Asian side, like Kanlıca, Çengelköy or Kuzguncuk. Much better than Üsküdar itself. The famous restaurant “Kanaat Lokantası” is at Üsküdar, though; and if you stay in Istanbul for a couple of months, it’s worth a visit.
Nişantaşı/Teşvikiye: Historically the rich neighbourhood of the bourgeoisie, Nişantaşı is today the place to go if you have a botox on your face or want to visit an Armani store. The only reason for a tourist to go there –unless you want to make some tongue-in-cheek socio-cultural observations on the life-style of the Turkish upper class– is Hacıbey, one of the best Iskender Kebap (the famous döner kebap of Bursa) restaurants in Istanbul. Take the Teşvikiye Dolmuş from Taksim square.
Levent: Some skyscrapers, banks, and many malls. If you want to do some mall shopping, take the metro from Taksim to go there. Other than that, I’d avoid this neighbourhood.
Cihangir: Very close to Taksim. Approaching the Taksim Square from Istiklal Avenue, turn right to Sıraselviler (the street with dozens of 24/7 döner places), and walk down to the small Cihangir square. The area has been the hangout of the intelligentsia, and the auteur raté types, as well as expatriates. Increasingly, though, it is becoming the nest of famous actors and directors, which dragged the evil hordes of paparazzi with them.
This is where you can hear a director talk about his new film, a writer complaining about how talented but underrated he is, or an advertisement guy telling how kick-ass his last movie-screen-size tv and how making loads of money is very fun. Depending on the café/bar you go, either take a puff from your Sherlock Holmes pipe, and start talking about post-structuralism or Heidegger; or straighten your hipster moustache, re-adjust your skinny pants which create huge discomfort around your unmentionables, and talk about some band; or, how do I know, whatever hipsters talk about. Organic food and things? Anyway, I’m sure you'll fit in somehow.
If you want to spend a week or so in Istanbul and want to have your own place, check craiglist-Istanbul, you can easily find some sublet apartments in Cihangir.
If you take the narrow winding streets from the Cihangir Square towards Galatasaray, you’ll pass from Çukurcuma, where you’ll find many antiquary shops.
Beyoğlu: Up until 15 year ago, Beyoğlu, the neighbourhood around the Istiklal Avenue all the way from Tünel to Taksim Square, was much less safer and less crowded. Since then, it has become the center of Istanbul, in terms of night-life, bookstores, cinemas and theatres. This is the area where I spent my adolescence and early youth, therefore it's my strong suit, really. I talk about the restaurants and live music places below. See the big high school building in the middle of the Istiklal Avenue to see the fences which I jumped over countless of times as a teenager.
Asmalımescit: This part of Beyoğlu has been increasingly gentrified in the last decade, and now is home to many bars and clubs where the artsy types go. Back in the day in Asmalımescit were some traditional meyhanes, several small hotels which were in fact more brothels than hotels, and studios of broke painters and sculptors. The meyhanes still remain, yet the broke painters and prostitutes and pimps moved out long ago, as they tend to do when people with ironic beards and calculatedly casual clothes start showing up on thursday nights.
Beşiktaş: (for Beşiktaş, see this NY Times article: ).
What to Eat?
Well that's a very tough question. First, I should make it clear that there is no such thing as Turkish Cuisine, but many different Turkish Cuisines. Just like Turkish folk music, every region has it's own character. But unlike, say, Italian cuisine where there are many regional varieties but still the use of olive oil, pasta, pizza, and sauces are common, in Turkey, there isn't a common basis for all regions (Of course I can see a Sicilian or a Neapolitan claiming that Northern Italian has nothing to do with their cuisine, but come on...).
Anatolian regional cuisines are different from each other as night and day, with transitional areas in between. My mother’s side is from the Aegean Region, and my father’s side, Central Anatolian.Perhaps apart from pilav, I do not remember eating the same or even a similar dish prepared in the respective kitchens of my maternal and paternal grandmothers.
In the west, dishes are usually olive-oil based. In the eastern Black Sea region, fish (hamsi -anchovy- to be exact), kale and corn flour are the most typical elements, and there are some Caucasian influences. Meat-based dishes, baklava and, of course, dozens of different kebabs dominate the South-Eastern Anatolian cuisine. There are also many specific varieties belonging to particular cities, like the Iskender of Bursa, etli ekmek of Konya and the künefe desert of Hatay. Add the Armenian, Greek, Balkan, Assyrian/Syriac Christian, and Caucasian cuisines to this general picture. Ottoman palatial cuisine is again different than all of these.
Konyalı at Sirkeci (very close to Eminönü), go for typical traditional casserole dishes, and more.
Çiya at Kadıköy is the best SE Anatolian food restaurant in town, at KadıköyÇarşı. Check out the menu before you go:
Hacı Abdullah, in Beyoğlu, is also great for traditional Turkish cuisine, check out their quince-desert or pumpkin desert, they're great. Go past Galatasaray High School towards Taksim, look out for Sakızağacı Street on your left just before Ağa Mosque.
For a cheaper place where the locals eat and the food is great, check Lades, turn right just before Ağa Camii on Istiklal, and ask.
At Asmalımescit, you may want to go to Cavit for a nice rakı-drinking meyhane night, where the mezes are always great and is honest and not that expensive compared to other Asmalımescit/Nevizade meyhanes. Several mezes and a large bottle of Rakı with 4 people shouldn’t cost more than 25-30 euros per person here.
In the same neighbourhood, there is one of the best places to eat liver and lamb shish, this side of Diyarbakır: Canım Ciğerim. . Not a drinking place, visit during the day.
The prices are usually astronomical at fish restaurants, but if it's the season, make do and eat a turbot! it doesn't get any better anywhere in the world. Read this article on this funny looking fish: For a general introduction tokebap, and two great kebap houses in Istanbul read the following, Hamdi is at Eminönü and will probably be very close to where you stay:
On Istiklal, you can eat the best kebap and drink your rakı at Zübeyir Ocakbaşı.
(2013 update: it’s incredibly expensive now, food quality is not the same either, try to find another ocakbaşı if you can. Umut Ocakbaşı, perhaps. )
Make sure that you also drink some İşkembe soup, which is made out of lamb tripe. Usually we drink this around 5 or 6, after a long night of drinking. A small local İşkembe Shop is just near the Nevizade Street, Cumhuriyet (there is also a meyhane with that name, which is a different place. This tripe soup place is inside the Fish Market - Balık Pazarı).
A bigger one around İstiklal Avenue is Lale İşkembecisi. Turn left just after the French Consulate - very close to Taksim on İstiklal - and walk down toTarlabaşı Avenue, it's on your right.
If you're hungry late at night, there are some 24/7 döner places at the very end of İstiklal, where it meets the Taksim Square, on your right.
For two nice English language articles on Istanbul cuisine, see:
The tv program of Anthony Bourdain, an ok visual guide in English to Istanbul cuisine. Do not mind his shenanigans:
First, immediately buy the DVD of "Crossing the Bridge: The sound of Istanbul" from a bookstore, that's a really good movie on the music scene of Istanbul. You can find parts of it with English subtitles on Youtube.
Nardis Jazz club is very close to Galata Tower, owned by the best Jazz guitarist of Turkey, and has live music every night. There is a student discount too, it's not an expensive posh Jazz club, it's all about live music, and was recently selected the 3rd best Jazz club in Europe. Check out who's playing at , for the map: .
If you're in Istanbul in July, i.e. during the Istanbul Jazz Festival, you can see Jazz greats jamming here after their concerts.
Peyote is at Nevizade - the Street of Meyhanes. Just go to Nevizade and ask the people where it is. Usually you can listen there to some very original bands integrating turkish music with other genres -rap, rock, indian, new age, etc. Some are naturally very horrible, but usually you'd hear interesting music at this place. A rising trend for a typical Peyote Band is the return of the psychedelic rock, I have no idea why. The electronica DJ sets are also very common, and I am not a fan of the genre at all, so can’t say much. Like, I don’t know, umpf-psss umpf-psss is what I hear. Some american electronica people whose judgement I trust (mostly because they wear weird glasses and funny t-shirts) once told me that some Peyote DJ sets are very good, and some are horrendous. How this information is helpful, that’s for you to find out. There is also a terrace on top, which functions as an ordinary bar, where the ratio of ironic moustaches to normal faces might even go beyond the levels that one finds in CihanPeyote | İstanbul
Nevizade is the name of the street where you could find dozens of meyhanes.Some of the places on Nevizade have Fasıl nights at weekends (where you can hear popular songs of classical Turkish Music), and on an ordinary night you can see small Roma bands playing for drunks. Usually the quality of the music is not that high, though, and after a certain hour it’ll be mostly belly dancing / çiftetelli stuff. Eating/drinking-wise the quality is also not that impressive, and the area has become ridiculously expensive in the recent years.
Babylon (at Asmalımescit, close to Tünel) is a good music venue, where you can find anything from jazz to indie, from electronica to world music. Check out who's playing here: (2014 update: they're moving the venue out of this area, which has gotten a little to gentrified lately, which Babylon itself had, in a way, started, some 15 years ago.)
If you turn right after the Atlas Cinema on Istiklal, and then take the first left, you'll see many türkü (a türkü is a traditional folk song) bars. Bear in mind that depending on the region Turkish folk music changes completely, but it'll all sound the same to you at first anyway... Some decent ones are Mektup, Eylül, and Munzur. More to come later, about Beyoğlu and Turkish music, if I can find those emails somewhere in my archive. (2012 Update: never happened,probably never will)
Enjoy your stay.