One of the best places to stay when visiting arguably the most vibrant city in Turkey, Istanbul is the area around the Galata tower. This area is actually a part of the district Beyoğlu but it’s known as either ‘Galata‘ or ‘Karaköy’. Even if you decide not to stay in or near to this area you should definitely put it on your to-do list. The area itself is buzzing and a favourite among tourists and locals alike. Plus the location is great and you can easily access most parts of Istanbul from here. It’s close to the metro stop ‘Şişhane’ and being close to a metro is always a plus in Istanbul due to the infamous traffic. Istiklal street (one of Istanbul’s main streets for tourists) and Taksim square are within walking distance. As is the centre of Karaköy, where you can take a ferry to the Asian side or the tram to the historical quarter, the ‘Old city’. Next to Karaköy’s ferry dock is Galata Bridge which runs across ‘The Golden Horn’.
Why you should go to Galata
‘Galip Dede Caddesi’ is the street running from the bottom of Istiklal, past the Galata tower and down to Karakoy. The cobbled street, architecture and the mixture of tourists, mosque goers and shop keepers on this street are partly what makes the area so popular. Here there are loads of cafes where you can happily spend the morning drinking coffee and people watching. There are also lots of small independent shops that are great for buying souvenirs, clothes, musical instruments and hammam accessories, or just for window shopping. On Camekan sokak, a small winding street that leads off from the tower, you can find several little vintage clothes stores as well as a few cafes.
Where to eat and drink in Galata
For food there are various options ranging from the slightly more fancy restaurants outside the Galata tower to small cafes on the side streets off Galip Dede Caddesi. One good option is a vegetarian place called ‘Sinan’ on Şahkulu Mahallesi. The portions are pretty small but the food is delicious and fairly cheap so it’s great for a light lunch. For a refreshing drink while you wander around the area, grab a freshly squeezed juice from any one of the many vendors. You can get a small carrot or apple juice for 2 lira! At the bottom of Galip Dede Caddesi (this street runs on a hill so by bottom I mean the lower end) is the part of this area often known as Karaköy. Karaköy is a very popular hang out place as there are about a million (not really but there’s a lot) small cafes most of them with outside seating areas and a few small art spaces.
Where to go out in Galata
For the evening time there’s a cute little wine cellar called ‘Sensus Galata Şarap Butiği’ literally next to the tower where you can drink wine (obviously) with cheese and/or meat platters. You can also head up to the restuarant on the top floor if you want a view. For Jazz lovers, Nardis jazz club on Galata Kulesi sokak, the most famous jazz bar in Istanbul, is just seconds away from the tower. There are several other nice bars some with rooftop terraces in this area or you can wander up to Istiklal and try one of the bars or pubs around there.
What to see in Galata
In terms of sightseeing and things to do, the main thing to see here, unsurprisingly, is the Galata tower. During the day you can pay a small entrance fee and go up to the top for a great view of the city. During the night it is lit up and is a beautiful sight itself. Nearer to the bottom of the hill there is ‘SALT Galata’, This large building houses a library that is open to everyone with books in various languages, a nice cafe and an art exhibition space. The Galata Bridge is not just a means of crossing ‘The Golden horn’ but also a sight seeing destination itself with fish restaurants, street food sellers and multicoloured ‘floating fish stalls’. Other than that there’s not so much but there are tons of things to see and do in the surrounding areas so you won’t be bored.
How to get there
To get to Galata from Atatürk airport you can either get a bus from the airport to Taksim square and then walk down Istiklal Caddesi to the top of Galip Dede Caddesi or you can take the metro. This is probably the faster and cheaper option, however, you will need to navigate buying a metro ticket at the airport. If you will be staying in Istanbul for a few days or more I recommend getting an ‘Istanbulkart’ from the kiosk just outside the metro entrance, this is cheaper and easier than buying tokens for each trip. To get to Şişhane you’ll need about 4 liras of credit. Take the M1a to Yenikapı then change and get the M2 to Şişhane. Get out at the ‘Istiklal Caddesi’ Exit, turn around and walk about 3 metres up the hill onto Istiklal then turn left and walk down the road that has signs saying ‘To Galata tower’. From the airport on the Asian side you can also take a bus straight to Taksim square.
Where to stay
Galata’s ‘World house hostel’, on Galip Dede cd., isn’t the cheapest one in Istanbul but if you want to stay in this area it’s a good option. It’s pretty large so there’s normally a good crowd if you’re looking to socialise. They give you free breakfast which is pretty good for hostel breakfast standards, the rooms aren’t great but they’re fine, they run a pub crawl twice a week and there’s a lovely little cafe attached to it at the front. However, It is right next to a mosque which means that you’re not allowed to consume alcohol inside the hostel and you might be woken up by the 5.30 am call to prayer. If you don’t fancy staying here, there are several good options on AirBnB and a few hotels including ‘Georges Hotel Galata’.