I have lived in Istanbul for a few years now and changed several addresses so far. Yet of all the Istanbul neighborhoods I have lived in, Cihangir makes me feel most at home.
Just like its geography, that is full of little hills and sometimes endless stairs, busy streets and quiet corners, Cihangir has that special dynamics that somehow always manages to inspire and bring something new.
Even if I pass a street a hundred times, I can never know what is waiting around the next corner. Be it a stunning new graffiti, a coffee shop that remained undiscovered, or a neighborhood story told by an accidentally met neighbor, Cihangir is continuously alive and kicking.
What makes it most homey is the fact that it gives me almost everything I need without going very far from home. And now, after a full year of living here, a lot of places have that familiarity that gives comfort and easiness in my daily life.
For those who do a lot of work on their own laptops, like I do, Cihangir could easily be the best place in town to find your perfect office café for those days when you get bored of your own home desk.
I love sitting on the upper floor of the Journey café, where during the day the place feels more like a real office than a coffee shop/restaurant, with lots of locals working there in total silence just like me.
Alternatively, I recently discovered Magritte in Cukurcuma, which is, in my opinion, the most original café around as far as interior design is concerned, and it is always a pleasure to sit there and enjoy its exciting decoration.
The neighboring Cuma has a good working atmosphere too, but also a fantastic offer of desserts for the sweet tooth days, which come often in my case.
Yet, when I crave a perfect carrot cake, without any further thinking I head to Swedish Coffee Point for the best carrot cake in town (some of my friends complained that it is too sweet, but I simply love it).
These are just some of the places I attend regularly for the daily laptop work and refreshments, yet there are so many more and the list could be endless.
Kahve6 is one of them, with their sweet little inner garden and a nice selection of vegetarian meals.
Or Savoy pastanesi with their inexpensive breakfasts and desserts (again). For the evening cocktails, the little place called Geyik is the place where we mostly go.
And so many, many more…
When I get bored of these, or simply need a change, Karaköy and Galata are just a few minutes’ walk away. And then the possibilities get really endless.
Lest there be no mistake, some of these places might be pricey, but in many cases you get what you pay for.
There are times when I crave some imported goods – French and Dutch cheese in my case, or quality peanut butter – and this is when Carrefour comes in handy. These are usually quite expensive, but today I made a good winter stock of some of this stuff thanks to their super discount of 50%. For other daily goods, I like to shop in my street and give support to small bakkal’s struggling against the harsh competition. Thanks to them working so hard, I can get my emergency supplies at late hours.
For those days when there is not enough time to cook, I often opt for Fish and Meat house. It’s hamsi season right now, and I go for this option whenever I can. They are a tiny place with only 2 or 3 tables, so home delivery is what you mostly need to rely on. Özkonak, on the other hand, is a simple place with long tradition, where you can find all kinds of traditional meals for a very good price.
My hairdresser Özgür Sahin is also there, and I am happy to have finally found someone who knows how to treat my thin blond hair, which is so different from the local thick and dark standard.
Of all the little corners in Cihangir, Çukurcuma could easily be my favorite, and I know I am not being very original here. Everyone loves Çukurcuma, and for a reason. Its small curvy streets with numerous colorful antique shops never fail to surprise with their street adornments – perfect for my Instagram account.
My own area which is close to Gümüssuyu is much quieter, yet I love it because it is so close to Taksim and all the transportation I need. And then everything else gets much closer than it would in other circumstances.
Cihangir is also known for its high percentage of young people, foreigners and artists living there, which inevitably adds to its charm and dynamics. It’s great to hear different languages around you, especially in these hard times in the country, when so many have decided to leave. And my friends love where I live almost as much as I do. It’s easy for them to reach my place and often we meet at my home before going out because it’s so central and close to main events in town.
Yet, Beyoglu is going through difficult days. So much has been written about it all across the Internet, so I won’t repeat the sad story.
The effects can definitely be felt in Cihangir too. The number of homeless people has risen, and it is always so sad to see another shop close its doors for good. Just today I saw one of the places where I used to have my morning cup pf coffee from time to time, sealed and closed. But somehow the spirit is still alive here and the neighborhood fights the negative trends in its own way.
It also has to be mentioned that it’s definitely not the cheapest place to live in Istanbul, both in terms of rents and the services, but I am mostly happy with what I get for the money I pay.
One thing I miss though, and that is a spacious and modern gym, but you can’t have it all, I guess.
When Billur moved from her hometown of Izmir to Istanbul at an early age, she immediately fell in love with its charm and uniqueness. Over the years, she became part and parcel of Cihangir – a zone heavily inhabited with expats and intriguing locals, where today she is known as the real expert of the neighbourhood. Also known as an animal rescuer, Billur currently owns two cats and one dog, all three of them saved from tough conditions on the streets.