A Day in Karakoy: What To Do & See

A mesmerizing coastline, streets filled with rich history, and countless cafés where you can meet with friends… What more can a neighborhood offer? Situated right between Sishane and the Golden Horn, Karakoy is a fascinating district frequently visited by tourists and locals. As it has a port, over the centuries it was a home to merchants, businessmen and travelers from all around the world.

Today, there is a great harmony between the dynamic side and the historic side of the district. The neighborhood is easily accessible: you can take the historic funicular from Sishane, the ferry from Kadikoy or the tram from Eminonu. Take it from us, a day in Karakoy is definitely a must on your trip in Istanbul! We are sure that right now you can’t wait to hear what to do in Karakoy.

So, here are ten things to do in Karakoy!

1. “Tünel” Funicular Railway

Tunnel, Funicular Railway in Istanbul

The funicular is a great way to get to Karakoy from the Istiklal Street. It is a real piece of history, as it is the second-oldest subterranean urban rail line in the world. It has been in use since 1875.

Throughout the year, there are mini exhibitions depicting the neighborhood’s and the city’s history in the stations, which you can have a look at while waiting for the funicular to arrive. And just in a couple of minutes (there is only a single station), you can get to Karakoy from the Istiklal Street.

Location: View on Google Maps

2. French Passageway

French Passageway in Karakoy

The French Passageway, situated on the Kemankes Street, dates back to the 1800s. It is a reflection of the multicultural demographic of the Ottoman times and it mesmerizes its current visitors with its architecture and landscape.

As Karakoy was a port district, back in the day it was frequented by merchants and travelers from all around the world. And many left a piece of their own culture behind in the city. In fact, this passageway is a great example of French merchants and businessmen and their culture. Don’t forget to take a picture with the historic gate that says “Cité Française”!

Location: View on Google Maps

3. Coffee Sapiens – Café

Coffee Sapiens - Café in Karakoy

There are countless cafés in Karakoy where you can have a break, drink delicious coffee and catch up with friends. One of them is “Coffee Sapiens” which brands itself as a third wave coffee shop.

With its calming ambiance and loyal customers, it serves as a meeting point of the neighborhood. There are many types of coffee you can choose from. We definitely recommend you to try a cup of Turkish coffee while you are there!

Location: View on Google Maps
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4. Kilic Ali Pasha Turkish Bath

Kilic Ali Pasha Turkish Bath in Karakoy

The Turkish bath, or “hamam” in Turkish, should definitely be on your list if you are interested in the Turkish culture and history, and want a couple of relaxing hours on your trip.

Kilic Ali Pasha Turkish Bath was established in 1580, and it offers its visitors an authentic experience. Inside, there are separate sections for women and men. Make sure to book an appointment before you visit.

You can get different massages and the “Traditional Hammam Ritual” service. Be sure to visit the souvenir shop “Derya” at the end of your visit! You can buy traditional Turkish soaps and scrubs.

Location: View on Google Maps
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5. Galata Tower

Galata Tower

There is no doubt that Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s signature landmarks. In fact, it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List. It is very close to Karakoy and worth definitely a visit.

In 1630, Hazerfen Çelebi, an Ottoman aviator, flew from the top of the Galata Tower to Uskudar with wings similar to birds he had made himself!

On the top, there is a café and a restaurant, as well as an observation deck. There, you have a 360 view of Istanbul. Perfect for taking photos of the city! Here’s a fun fact for you: there is a legend that says you marry the person you go up the Galata Tower with for the first time 🙂

If you are interested in the historic side of the city, be sure to check out our tour plan. It takes you to three historic neighborhoods in Istanbul. Highly recommended!

Location: View on Google Maps
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6. Camondo Stairs

Camondo Stairs

Situated on the “Banks Street”, these stairs are a real architectural beauty. They are also known as the “Lovers’ Stairs”, as many newlyweds and couples get their pictures taken there. They were constructed by the Camondo family between 1870 and 1880. It is close to the Galata Tower. So, if you are visiting the tower, make sure to have a stop at these stairs and take a picture!

Location: View on Google Maps

7. Karakoy Güllüoğlu

Karakoy Güllüoğlu Desserts

It is time for a dessert break! Karkoy Güllüoğlu, established in 1843, offers a wide range of traditional Turkish desserts from baklava to Turkish delight. There are also vegan and gluten-free dessert options.

We recommend you to have a taste of the kadayif, sobiyet, pistachio & walnut baklava. While you are there, you can get a souvenir package to take a little taste of Istanbul with you back home. Don’t forget to have a glass of Turkish tee with your delicious plate of dessert!

Location: View on Google Maps
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Check out most loved Istanbul attractions by HeyTripster readers:

8. The Coastline & The Pier

The Coastline & The Pier of Karakoy

Oh, the coastline! The fascinating view of the Asian side, the breeze of the deep blue sea, the seagulls dancing above the ferries… Just sit on a bench, enjoy living in the moment and admire the beauty of the Bosporus. If you want a quick snack, you can get a simit (Turkish bagel), corn on the cob or chestnuts from peddlers.

After that, you can have a refreshing walk by the coastline. A great spot for resting and taking pictures!

While you are there, you might want to take a boat trip as well. A Bosphorus tour will be a one in a lifetime experience, as Istanbul is the only city in the world located on two continents. Be sure to get an extra piece of simit with you on the boat, because it is a tradition to feed the seagulls while on the ferry.

If you want more information about which boat tour is more suitable for your budget, check out our blog about boat tours in Istanbul…

Location: view on Google Maps

9. Mimar Sinan University Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture

Museum of Painting and Sculpture in Mimar Sinan University Istanbul

If you think that a day without visiting a museum is incomplete, here’s a great suggestion for you! It is situated near Karakoy and worth definitely a visit from art-lovers.

Credited as one of Türkiye’s best art schools, Mimar Sinan University brings the beauty of art to the city. It was established in 1937 as Türkiye’s first ever fine arts museum. The exhibitions vary from modern calligraphy, late Ottoman sculpturing and Turkish paintings. You can visit the museum Tuesday-Sunday between 10.00-18.00. It is closed on Monday.

Location: View on Google Maps

10. Seafood Restaurants Under the Galata Bridge

Seafood Restaurants Under the Galata Bridge

A great way to end the day is to have dinner at one of the seafood restaurants under the Galata Bridge. With a view at the Bosphorus and fresh seafood, you will definitely have a great evening. In most restaurants, there is also live music.

The experienced chefs and waiters are always happy to recommend which seafood is the best at the season of your visit. Don’t forget to taste the traditional Turkish appetizers (“meze” in Turkish) while you are there!

Location: View on Google Maps

Karakoy is one of the most beautiful districts in Istanbul, please make sure include this area to your trip plan. You won’t regret it!

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