The haven of antique dealers and art galeries… Cihangir is best described as the poorgeoisie neighborhood of the artsy population: artists, photographers, fashion dealers, boutique owners, architects, actors and actresses…
There is an anonymous dresscode, and anonymous pact in terms of living and style amongst the residents and frequenters of this neighborhood. If you spot a slender and lean woman in ethnic skirts or pants, or in baggy shorts with a plain shirt on top; odds are she lives in Cihangir or likes to stroll around there.
The cafes of Cihangir are where actors and actresses sign on in new projects, where they read scripts, where they celebrate and get drunk with a few beers.
The boutiques of Cihangir are mostly vintage stores or designer shops, where you may shop for delicate items at not very affordable prices.
The antique dealers of Cihangir lend chests and boxes and jeweleries to the film-makers.
That is the making of Cihangir and its residents, yet it still is untouched, plain, honest and authentic. You don’t feel phony here, you do not dress up here and you certainly do not drive around here. Cihangir is where you come with your loafers to walk and walk and walk, up and down, back and forth…
Start your trail up from the main Taksim square and walk down past the German Hospital down the Sıraselviler Street. You will be passing on your way both Changa Restaurant and the legendary Mimolett, as well hotels and clubs like Mini Music Hole, Roxy and Kiki, and the Lush Hotel. At the bottom of this street, you come to a crossroad surrounded by cafes and shops. There is a wine house near the corner followed by a pickle store and many many real estate business offices. Turning left here into Akarsu Street, keep on walking and first you will come across the Antre Gourmet Shop, selling all types of delicacies: varieties of cheese and cold meze (tapas), few bottles of wine, pasta and olives. It is a tiny, yet cozy place, decorated in green. I can already imagine residents loading up their shopping bags with cheese and meze from here before hitting off to their homes.
Further down on Akarsu Street, one can start seeing cafes lining up across from each other. Cafe Symrna is one of the most famous ones. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks; Smyrna offers an above average quality -thinking in terms of cafe culture. The staff is very friendly. Across from Smyrna is what used to be Leyla, now Meyra -used to be very very popular among the bohemian elitists. In fact the phenomenal Cihangir concept developed out of Leyla, which had earned itself fame as the place where writers and theater artists went to. “You’ll love it: I saw Xyz last weekend with his friends there” would have been the default conversation starter between two people heading to Cihangir in those days.
Cihangir needs no acknowledgement any more; and Leyla, as Meyra (its new name), still attracts a good level of crowd day and night. These cafes are most frequented by out-of-the-neighborhood visitors for breakfast on Sundays. In fact the new phenomenal concept around the district is that its ‘breakfast is legendary’… That would be somewhat true, since none of the cafes around here is serving something radically different for breakfast. The generic Turkish breakfast plate, followed by scrambled eggs could well be found anywhere. But, I agree that atmosphere is nice and that it is very authentic.
Continuing down and through side streets are other famous cafes of Cihangir including White Mill Cafe, which is almost always filled with stars of TV shows and films, Baykus Cafe & Bar, Cafe Porte, Miss Pizza (where you should really eat more than pizza, the entries are also delicious) and Depo Dans Bar.
Depo Dans Bar is especially interesting since it is lively day and night and music is literally dancing day and night. Frequenters are dancers or those interested in dancing. The crowd came together for the first time in 2008 and adopted this place as their own for purposes of arranging dancing events, Latin Nights, Tango Nights and for using the place as a workshop for practice during the day.
Had you not taken the Akarsu Street at the crossroad of Siraselviler Street, and taken Taktaki Yokusu or Altipatlar Street, you would have left the cafe world of Cihangir for the arts and antique dealers. Both roads lead towards Beyoglu-Galata. The back streets of this district abound with antique dealers that lend stuff to TV shows and films. Is it a jewelry box you are looking for or an old painting or an old music recorder? You are very likely to find them all here. Some shops are more upscale than the others, which immediately bounces back on their prices. Define what you need and your budget, these people will try to help you and not rip you off.
Take a respite at Cezayir Restaurant in Cezayir Street. This is also where the so-called French Street starts. The French Street is a small pedestrian street filled with bars and cafes with tables out in the open -a.k.a Cafe du Fleur Paris. Cezayir Restaurant is one of the most upscale restaurants here. It is a multiple floor building owned by Osman Kavala -famous for his passion into arts and protection of cultural heritage. The bottom floor opens to the most beautiful garden dining scene. The menu is hand-selected and personally prepared by the manager Fatih … Try whiting fish croquettes, sea-food risotto and duck wrapped in milfoille. Service is a bit distant and sometimes cold, but the food is extremely delicious. Rather expensive when compared to other restaurants in the district, but definitely worth it. Frequenters are tourists, expats or loyal customers and friends of its manager Mr. Fatih.
[images my own]