Despite being in the center of the city, the neighborhood of Laleli just doesn’t feel like the rest of Istanbul. Maybe it’s the curious absence of döner joints. It could be the shops with names like “XXL ??????? ??????” and “???????? ???????”, or the giant blonde women shouldering past with icy attitudes more befitting the tundra than Turkey. When you’re in Laleli, there’s no mistaking that you’ve arrived in Istanbul’s Russia Town.
How much you enjoy the steep, jam-packed streets around the Rüstem Paşa Camii depends entirely on your point of view. Is it an exhilarating and chaotic shopping paradise, or an intolerable maze of pushy, obnoxious vendors? So visit only when you’re in a good mood and well-disposed to both noise and hassle. Because it’s not like Tahtakale is going to change for you. Tahtakale isn’t gonna change for anybody.
The neighborhood south of the Grand Bazaar, bordering the Sea of Marmara, goes by the entertaining name of Kumkapı. Although it doesn’t lay claim to any major sights or fabulous mosques, we enjoyed the quiet Sunday morning we spent here. And now, we can finally strike “Attend an Armenian Apostolic Mass” from our bucket lists. Another childhood dream accomplished!
The winding streets and cobblestone alleys immediately southwest of the Hippodrome have a radically different atmosphere from the rest of tourist-oriented Sultanahmet. Sloping down swiftly to the Sea of Marmara, this little subsection of the city has a couple beautiful mosques, as well as a pleasing working-class vibe.