Explore 15 offbeat places in Istanbul: Hidden gems

 In Best Time to Visit, Istanbul, Places To Visit, Things to do, Turkey

In busy Istanbul, there are some offbeat places in Istanbul that only some know about. Forget about the famous spots like the big mosque and huge market. These hidden places are like secret treasures waiting for you to find them.

First up is Balat, a neighbourhood full of old-fashioned streets and bright, colourful paintings on the wall. You can find cosy cafes with tasty Turkish food and cute shops selling special handmade stuff. There are many famous places to visit in Istanbul around here. 

If you need a break from the noise of the city, check out the Prince’s Islands. There are a bunch of small islands in the sea where you can ride around in horse carriage out on a bike. It’s super peaceful there and you can see old houses from long ago.

For a different view of Istanbul, go up the Galata Tower. You can see all around the city and even across the water. You can find it in cafes on top of old buildings where you can sit and have a cup of Turkish tea while enjoying an awesome view.

So if you want to see Istanbul differently, these offbeat places are perfect for exploring and discovering something new with Turkey Tour Packages

The Top 15 Offbeat places in Istanbul are

  • Kemerburgaz Kent Ormani
  • Hagia Irene
  • Rumeli Feneri Kalesi
  • Japon Bahçesi 
  • Kuzguncuk Sokakları 
  • Otagtepe park Fatih Korusu
  • Camlica Mosque 
  • Tarihi Cinaralti
  • Kanlica neighbourhood 
  • Anadolu Hisari
  • Belgrad Forest
  • Bebek waterfront 
  • Büyük valide Han rooftop
  • Fener and Balat neighbourhoods 
  • Aqueduct of Valens

1. Kemerburgaz Kent Ormani


Kemerburgaz forest is located in the Eyup district. It is an ideal place to explore the walking trails and peace of Istanbul’s nature. Kemerburgaz Kent Ormani offers a breath of fresh air. Its vast woodlands, meadows and trails provide a peaceful escape from the city’s fast-paced life. 

It is heaven for birdwatchers, you can spot rabbits and squirrels. It has designated picnic areas and cafes for you to recharge and refuel. Kemerburgaz Kent Ormani is a testament to Istanbul’s commitment to preserving green spaces and keeping a balance between urban and natural experiences and is among the best offbeat places in Istanbul.

2. Hagia Irene


Hagia Irene is situated in Sultanahmet’s district. This Byzantine church which dates back to the 4th century, sets it apart from its famous neighbour Hagia Sophia. Unlike the latter, Hagia Irene has simplicity in its architectural design, featuring a classic basilica layout.

Over the centuries, this church has played various roles like witnessing Ceremonies, serving as an arsenal and now standing as a small museum. Hagia Irene may not be the most renowned site in Istanbul but it still offers a glimpse into the city’s Byzantine past making it a must-visit offbeat places in Istanbul.

3. Rumeli Feneri Kalesi


This Ottoman-era stone fort Rumeli Feneri Kalesi is a landmark with stunning views of the Black Sea. Rumeli Feneri castle is located on a hill in Sariyer, on the north-eastern end of Istanbul’s European side. The spot is typically not very busy, making it an ideal gateway away from city life.

Suggested read: Adventure activities in Istanbul.

4. Japon Bahcesi


Japon Bahçesi is a small theme park within Baltalimani Park in the Sariyer district. Japon Bahçesi or the Japanese garden is one of the most impressive offbeat places in Istanbul. This meticulously designed Japanese Garden in the city’s heart entices the visitors with its landscapes. Since the garden isn’t quite famous among tourists, it’s rarely busy. So you can use this to your advantage and have a moment of Zen in the garden.

5. Kuzguncuk Sokakları

Image source : Tripadvisor

Kuzguncuk Sokakları or Kuzguncuk Streets is one of the most colourful places in Istanbul and the best offbeat places in Istanbul. The neighbourhood is filled with numerous old Ottoman houses. The neighbourhoods cafes and shops are filled with local products and sweets. Many vintage bookstores and religious structures contribute to the nostalgia. 

If you walk from Üsküdar to Kuzguncuk, you can also see the Fethi Ahmet Pasha Mansion on the shore of Paşalimanı. The municipality has taken possession of the mansion and its surrounding grove and now operates it as a public space.  There are dozens of Day trips in Istanbul opportunities to break things up if the city is to be too much

6. Otagtepe park Fatih Korusu


The stunning views of the city make this grove one of the offbeat places in Istanbul. The name comes from the Ottoman army forces, called OTAĞ, and tepe means hill. The Emperor wanted to see the whole of the Bosphorus after the first siege of Constantinople, Istanbul in 1391.  It is the perfect photography spot in Istanbul.

Locals call it Otağtepe, but the signs refer to this grove’s official name, Fatih Korusu. There are no entry fees, no cafes, and no restaurants. There are children’s parks, bridges, ponds, and a botanical garden with 15,000 means. At the far end of the coast of the Bosphorus, there is the Anatolian Fortress, where there are cafes. It is one of the best offbeat places in Istanbul.

Suggested read: Hotels & resorts in Istanbul

7. Camlica Mosque


Camlica Mosque is one of the more unvisited spots by tourists and offbeat places in Istanbul which is a shame because it’s one of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey. Moreover, it’s the largest mosque in the city. 

However, what makes these beautiful hidden places in Istanbul is not the mosque but the art gallery, library, childcare sections, and museum. Moreover, it’s next to the stunning Çamlıca Hill. If you’re heading to the Üsküdar district anyway, why not see this woman-friendly mosque designed by two women architects?

8. Tarihi Cinaralti


Tarihi Cinaralti on the Kadikoy shore is a family tea garden that offers a leisurely escape from the city’s crowd. If you want to enjoy waterfront views and local ambience add Tarihi Cinaralti to your list of offbeat places in Istanbul. Situated in the Uskudar district on the Asian side of Istanbul. The garden is under the shade of a giant plane tree along the Bosporus shoreline. In Tarihi Cinaralti visitors can choose to sit at tables under the shade of the ancient plane tree or Upkar traditional question known as ‘Mindere’ to lounge comfortably by the water’s edge.

9. Kanlica neighbourhood

Image source : Istanbul

A quick ferry ride to the Asian part of Istanbul, and you’ll find the Kanlıca neighbourhood. What makes this a real treat of all of the beautiful hidden places in Istanbul is that the Kanlıca is a quiet escape from the busy city life of Istanbul. 

The historical wooden waterfront mansions, the open water swimming event in the Bosphorus, and the stunning Mihrabat Nature Park are all part of the scene here. We can’t recommend the local treat enough for foodies yoghurt topped with caster sugar.

10. Anadolu Hasarı


If you’re interested in Turkish and Anatolian history, Anadolu Hisarı must visit offbeat places in Istanbul. Anadolu Hisarı is an iconic structure that narrates Istanbul’s rich past and transports you through time. The structure was constructed in 1394 with the help of the Ottoman Empire to aid in the siege of Constantinople. In the following centuries, various Ottoman sultans renovated and improved the fortress.

Suggested read: Homestays in Istanbul

11. Belgrad Forest


Belgrad Forest is one of the best offbeat places in Istanbul for its focus on nature. This forest is a protected woodland area by the Black Sea. It’s also referred to as the lungs of Istanbul. In the Sarıyer District, you can consider offbeat things to do in Istanbul

You have the opportunity to camp, walk on the walking trails, mountain biking, or picnic here. You can even BBQ in selected areas, but please be careful not to start a forest fire! There are nine nature parks, marshes, and historical reservoirs. The Valens Aqueduct runs through the Belgrad Forest. Please note that there are wild species if you choose to camp here.

12. Bebek waterfront

Image source : Booking.com

Bebek is one of the gorgeous neighbourhoods in Istanbul’s Europe side. Even the locals love to visit here in the summer. If you’re visiting Istanbul, you may want to grab an ice cream from a local shop and chill in the park. You can watch life go by on the Bosphorus. If you have enough time, when you visit Istanbul, this neighbourhood is not only a beautiful hidden places in Istanbul for its views but also its food. If you want to try something sweet, visit a pudding shop in this part of the city. You can thank us later.

13. Buyuk valide Han rooftop

Image source : Katrinka Abroad

The sultan’s mother established Büyük Valide Han in 1651 as one of Istanbul’s most significant Hans that is shops and hotels. However, in 1567, this was also the site of the first printing press in Istanbul. There is a Shia mosque in the main courtyard. It’s also within walking distance of some of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul – Hagia Sophia, Beyazit and Nuruosmaniye. The Film Skyfall – James Bond 2012 was shot here. It is among the best offbeat places in Istanbul.

14. Fener and Balat neighbourhoods

Image source : Istanbulite

These suburbs were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the historical old city of Istanbul. That list includes both the Balat District and the Fatih District. Located on the western bank of the Golden Horn, you’ll find a massive chunk of hidden gems in Istanbul here. 

When the Jewish people fled the Spanish Inquisition, they settled in this area which is why it’s known as the Jewish Quarter of the city. As you walk around, check out the Phanar Greek Orthodox College, a private school established in 1454, a popular school for Greek families in the Ottoman era. 

Suggested read: Airbnb in Istanbul

15. Aqueduct of Valens


If you’re into historical buildings like the Blue Mosque, this is one of the hidden gems that you really can’t miss. The Aquaduct was built in the 4th century by Romans and it surrounds the Women’s Bazaar. There’s a distribution plant near Hagia Sophia. 

The aqueduct brought water into the city, and then stored it in underground cisterns like the Basilica Cistern. After the fall of Constantinople, Fatih Sultan Mehmed repaired the system to supply water to the imperial palaces such as Topkapı Palace.

Are there secluded beaches in Istanbul?

Secluded beaches in Istanbul are Kilyos Beach and Sile Beach.

What are the best offbeat activities to do in Istanbul?

The best offbeat activities in Istanbul are a street art tour in Kadikoy, sailing on the Bosphorus and Hiking in the Belgrade forest.

Which offbeat islands are near Istanbul?

Offbeat Islands near Istanbul are Buyukada, Heybeliada, and Burgazada.

Where can I find unique attractions in Istanbul?

Unique attractions in Istanbul are the Basilica cistern, Chora church, Pierre Loti Hill and Istanbul Modern.

What are hidden gems in Istanbul?

The hidden gems in Istanbul are Balat, Kuzguncuk, Miniature and Yedikule Dungeons.

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