Article cover image

Off the Beaten Path: Explore these 8 Hidden Gems on Your Next Istanbul Visit


| 5 mins read

Straddling two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul's rich history and vibrant culture have attracted visitors for centuries. While most people flock to the city's famous attractions like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, Istanbul is also home to many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

In this article,  discover the 8 hidden gems you must see on your next trip to Istanbul.  From tucked-away neighbourhoods to off-the-beaten-path attractions, these spots offer a glimpse like none other.

Balat Neighbourhood- A Melting Pot of Different Cultures

Located on the Golden Horn, the historic neighbourhood of Balat is a melting pot of cultures and a fascinating example of Istanbul's diverse history. 

Once home to Istanbul's Jewish population, Balat now boasts a mix of Turkish, Jewish, and Greek heritage. You can explore the historic synagogues and churches, admire the street art, and taste traditional Turkish delicacies at the best Istanbul restaurant in the area. The area is also home to the Fener Orthodox Patriarchate, one of the most important religious institutions of the Orthodox world


Emirgan Park - A Peaceful Escape from the City

A beautiful and tranquil oasis in the heart of the city, Emirgan Park is famous for its stunning gardens, which are filled with a variety of colourful flowers and trees. Head there to enjoy beautiful greenery and a picnic by the Bosphorus. 

The park also hosts an annual tulip festival where you can see these beautiful flowers in all their glory. The official festival's dates go from April 1st to the 30th, although sometimes tulips bloom as early as the end of March. Moreover, it is home to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, which houses a collection of Ottoman calligraphy, Islamic art, and ceramics. 

Emirgan Park

Pammakaristos Church - Byzantine Church

Pammakaristos Church, also known as Fethiye Mosque, is a Byzantine church in the Fatih district of Istanbul. The church was converted into a mosque in the 16th century during the Ottoman period and later used as a warehouse for the Turkish navy. In the 1950s, the Turkish government restored the building and turned it into a museum, which remains to this day.

As the building is open to visitors, you can attend a typical religious service. If you are interested, you can check the mosque's schedule and plan your visit or go with a local guide that will provide all the information needed. 

Pammakaristos Church

Suleymaniye Market - Istanbul's Hidden Food Haven

If you are a foodie, you cannot miss this bustling market near the Suleymaniye Mosque, offering the best Istanbul cuisine. The place is known for its spice stalls and herbalists selling medicinal teas and herbs. You not only get to munch on mouth-watering Istanbul kebabs, lamb chops, meze, and baklava, but you will also get to know the secrets of Istanbul’s herbalists.  

Tip: Because of the lively atmosphere in this Istanbul food bazaar, you will often need to negotiate for the best price.  For a better experience, consider going to the market with a local guide to get all the essential on-site tips.

Istanbul Cuisine

Camlica Hills - A Hidden Gem for Panoramic Views

Located on the Asian side of Istanbul, Camlica Hills is the highest point in the city and provides breathtaking views of both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus. Take a cable car to the hills' top to experience an amazing view of the city, and stop for a delicious Turkish tea or coffee at the bars over the hills. 

Tip: Sunset at Camlica Hills is particularly spectacular, as the sun dips below the horizon and the city lights up in a mesmerising display. 

Camlica Hill

Basilica Cistern - An Impressive Engineering Marvel

Built in the 6th century, the cistern is an engineering marvel that was used to supply water to the city. The cistern's most famous feature is the two Medusa heads that are used as bases for two of the columns, creating an eerie and mysterious atmosphere. The cistern also offers an escape from the heat during the hot summer months. 

Do you know? The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul has two impressive Medusa head sculptures placed under columns in its northwest corner. According to legend, Medusa is one of three Gorgons, the female monster of the underworld in Greek mythology. Some people believe that the heads were used to protect such private places. 

Basilica Cistern

Polonezköy - Polish Village

Polonezköy is a charming village located on the Asian side of Istanbul. The village was founded by Polish immigrants in the 19th century and has preserved its unique cultural heritage to this day. Many locals flock to the village on weekends to spend a good day at its quality establishments.

Stroll through the streets, explore the quaint houses, and experience Polish hospitality while enjoying traditional Polish dishes with tourHQ’s local Istanbul private tour guide. Moreover, the surrounding forest is also a popular spot for hiking and picnics. 

Kadikoy Market - A Must-Visit 

Kadikoy Market is one of Istanbul's most vibrant and bustling markets, a paradise for foodies, offering a vast array of fresh produce, spices, meats, and cheeses. 

On your visit, you can sample local delicacies, browse through colourful stalls, and haggle with friendly vendors. The market also has a lively atmosphere, with street performers and musicians adding to the lively ambience. Moreover, to experience typical Turkish culture and shop like a local, consider booking a local Istanbul tour guide

Plan the best Istanbul itinerary with tourHQ’s local private Istanbul guide.