Streets of Balat by Deniz Yilmaz Akman

Balat is a very old neighborhood in Istanbul. It used to be a Jewish neighborhood till 1950’s. Then it was transformed sociologically like the other regions of Istanbul, and it started to be a place for many people with different ethnicities. When you visit around Balat, you can still see the old buildings, synagogues, churches from 1700’s and you can feel this diverse culture behind all this architecture. Nowadays, it becomes more popular for creative people who move from city center (like Cihangir, Beyoglu) to this area. Also new cafes, restaurants are opened as well. It’s so nice to see an old store next to a newly opened cafe, or a very old “bakkal” (traditional markets) next to a pizza restaurant.
Balat is one of those neighborhoods which make you feel traveling back in time but feel “today” at the same time. When you look up, seeing newly washed laundry on a line strung over the old streets while a street merchant passing by with a “simit” (Turkish pretzel with sesame) trolley and shouting out: “siiiiiimiiiitttt” is a typical picture of Balat.

Name:Deniz Yilmaz Akman

Publisher & writer


Lately, I’m into traveling and exploring my city Istanbul.

Tell us about Istanbul:

Istanbul is a place where you can witness different human stories on streets, hear high-volume conversations between the shopkeepers, and come across little children playing football on roads.

A perfect day in Istanbul?

Waking up a bit earlier to have a huge Turkish breakfast in a traditional cafe, then taking a walk around old streets of Çukurcuma, taking a glace at some antique objects which are sold in the old stores. At the time of sunset, to find a bench for sitting near seaside, probably near a ferry port in Karaköy would be the best for me to watch rushing Istanbul people in front of a beautiful orange-blue view.

What is the best thing about Istanbul?

Balat is the best for visiting old architecture with a nostalgic athmosphere, and getting lost in the sloped back streets then finding your way again down to beautiful seaside.

What is the worst?

Steep streets of Balat make me always so tired, and breathless.

What would be surprising about Istanbul to an outsider?

Little children on the streets always ask for you to take a photo of them, no matter if you’re a foreigner or not!

If Istanbul was a person who would it be?

It would be an old lady with tears in her eyes. She is so emotional that she’s tired of getting older but still very beautiful and happy to be alive.

Who are three of your favorite artists?

Orhan Pamuk: A writer who describes Istanbul in a poetic way with words. Ara Güler: A photographer who successfully reflects different faces of Istanbul with photos. Gevende: A band using an imaginary language which belongs to nowhere. But for me, their sounds belong to Istanbul.



Name:Deniz Yilmaz Akman


Favorite place to eat:

Karaköy Lokantası in Karaköy, is an old restaurant where you can eat Turkish mezze with “Raki” (traditional alcohol drink).

Favorite place to drink:

Mikla Bar is my favorite rooftop bar with a beautiful view of the historic peninsula. Their cocktails are so delicious too.

Favorite shop:

Slow Public, a shop selling only handmade designs (textile, pottery, art, etc.) from only local designers.

Local Tip:

Take a walk around old banks street (near Kamondo stairs) then visit San Piyer Han (the first Ottoman bank building) to buy local mustard power from “Özyer Hardal”.

Must Do:

You should watch sunset near Galata bridge. Taste simit, fish & bread in Karaköy. Definitely go to a “meyhane” where you can taste Turkish mezze with “Fasıl” (live old-time Istanbul songs) and “raki”.In addition to famous modern museums, visit “Museum of Innocence” (Orhan Pamuk’s museum in the name of his book) too, while visiting Çukurcuma neighborhood.