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Dear Alyne’s Ultimate Guide for One Day in Nişantaşı, Istanbul

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4 months ago

Travel Insighter spoke to Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne to create the ultimate guide to Nişantaşı, one of Istanbul’s classiest neighborhood. We walk through the neighborhood with Alyne to experience a day in Nişantaşı, the place Alyne called home. Carve out a day in your Istanbul itinerary for a special day in this fascinating neighborhood with Alyne’s insights.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with a Turkish flag in Galata Istanbul

I’m Alyne. I’m a content creator born and raised in Los Angeles, California during the school years and in Israel during the summers. I describe myself as half American Mormon and half Israeli. I love traveling, so when I was a college student, I saved up and traveled to 60 countries between the ages of 18 and 22 in the summers. Since then, I’ve visited over 100 countries and have visited many of them over and over.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne in Galata on a rooftop

One of my favorite countries that I’ve visited many times is Türkiye. What’s interesting for me about Türkiye is that I liked it when I first visited, but I definitely wasn’t as obsessed with Türkiye then as I am now. I feel like it’s the type of place that the more you go, the more you love it. And there’s just so many places to go and areas to discover not only throughout the country but even within Istanbul itself.

One neighborhood that I’ve come to love so much that I considered moving to is Nişantaşı (pronounced ni-shan-ta-she). It’s 15 minutes by car from the famous Galata Tower and has lots of open green spaces and incredible food.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne on a hot air balloon

In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with food in Nişantaşı. Everything is good so you’re not going to mess up. I’ve got some recommendations though. But even outside of this article, there are so many great places in Nişantaşı that you have to check out for yourself. Also tons of cute cafés!

I’m excited to move to London in April so I can have a homebase, but I love Nişantaşı and like to visit as much as I can.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with a cat

Why Nişantaşı

Nişantaşı is the neighborhood where you’ll see the young and beautiful crowd of Istanbul. They go to Nişantaşı to see and be seen. I think of it as the chic Beverly Hills of Istanbul.

One of the things that I love the most about this neighborhood is that everything is walking distance which means you don’t have to worry about Istanbul’s notoriously difficult taxis. I can get to virtually anywhere in a few minutes, and I’m always passing well-dressed people and nicely decorated shops and cafés.

Black and white cat in Nişantaşı

Nişantaşı is just one block away from a major shopping precinct with all the big shops (Sephora, H&M etc.), but Nişantaşı isn’t on that street so it still has that vibe of a small-town neighborhood which I love. There’s the dog that’s always there and which everybody recognizes, the mosque that locals go to and the park.

There’s even a statue of a dog that was a neighborhood dog which died and then they had it commemorated with a giant bronze statue which I love.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with the Tommy dog statue in Nişantaşı

It’s no secret that I love cats. There are cats all around the neighborhood which I love seeing. (If you see any that look hurt, you should take them to the vet!)

How to get to and around Nişantaşı

Turkish Airlines is my top airline for economy class and my third favorite for business class (after Etihad and Emirates). Turkish Airlines was one of the first business classes that I ever flew and I still think they have a great business class product if you’ve ever wondered which business class to try.

I like to get picked up by a driver when I arrive in Türkiye to be taken to Nişantaşı. You can hire via Instagram (make sure you mention Alyne). The driver I like drives an orange car that feels almost like it’s been decorated by Hermes. The ceiling of the car is covered in stars and he provides snacks and water. There’s also a TV for that luxury pickup experience.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne in a car with lights

And if you’re looking for a personal tour guide, I recommend Hachi. You can contact Hachi on +905334217618. Make sure to let Hachi know that Travel Insighter or Alyne sent you. He can arrange anything from restaurant reservations to your domestic flights or entire trip.

Travel tip: Be really careful with the taxis in Türkiye. They can rip you off and can be a little bit sketchy sometimes. I recommend you use BiTaksi.

Best time to visit Nişantaşı

The best time to visit Nişantaşı is spring through fall, but specifically May, June and September have the perfect weather. It gets quite hot in July and August, and it can sometimes still be a little chilly in May.

You might not expect it, but it’s also great to visit Nişantaşı during Christmas. The streets are lit up and there’s street parties and mulled wine.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with Kashlee Kucheran and Ruveyda in Nişantaşı

Where to stay in Nişantaşı

My favorite hotel is definitely The Stay Nişantaşı. I always stay here. I just love it. It’s like my treat-myself hotel stay. It’s not even crazy expensive given the quality and service (usually between US$180 and US$250 per night in high season).

There’s two hotels with almost the same name. Make sure you stay at The Stay Nişantaşı and not at The Stay Boulevard. The Stay Boulevard is nice, but I much prefer The Stay Nişantaşı, and its right upstairs from Prada. If you’re going to do major shopping, The Stay Boulevard is a good choice. But otherwise, stay at The Stay Nişantaşı. I don’t know why, but the rooms at The Stay Boulevard feel smaller and darker to me even though technically they’re the same size as The Stay Nişantaşı.

If you can, get a room on a higher floor in a corner at The Stay Nişantaşı. There’s great light that comes through the window (it’s where I like to shoot videos).

I feel really taken care of at The Stay Nişantaşı, and it’s a boutique hotel so you get great service. There’s a big lobby where you can work which is quiet and filled with books. If you need a taxi to outside the area, the doorman will help you call the taxi. They’re lovely people, and my friends like to stay there as well.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with Kashlee Kucheran in Nişantaşı

When I’m on a budget, I like to stay in short lets that I find on VRBO or Airbnb. Whatever you do, make sure you stay within a 10-minute walk of The Muse. For me, I’m much more likely to go to pilates in the morning if I’m close by. But also, all the great restaurants and bars are in that area which is north of Maçka Park.

Dog lying down next to an outpost in Nişantaşı

One Perfect Day in Nişantaşı

Turkish breakfast

I don’t like to eat out every single day, and I usually like to eat breakfast at home. But when I do go out for breakfast, my favorite is Çesme Bazlama which started as a mom cooking. It’s a famous breakfast and is perfect for when you have guests in town.

Çesme Bazlama makes the typical world-famous Turkish breakfast with the tea and bread. It’s very vegetarian friendly, and the best part is that they keep bringing you tasty Turkish food like simit (kind of like Turkish bagels) until you’re full. And they have fresh orange juice which I love. The lady cooking gozleme is also so lovely, and she knows how to make the best gozleme which is my favorite food. If you don’t know it, it’s essentially pan-fried cheese and bread with herbs.

Çesme Bazlama food

If you’re visiting and want the best Turkish breakfast in Nişantaşı, I highly recommend Çesme Bazlama. Turkish breakfast is known the world over for a reason.

I also like to go to Macro Markets in Nişantaşı. You can walk there from anywhere in the neighborhood. They have great options for vegetarians and vegans. Sometimes they even have Twix ice cream which I LOVE. Like most things, it’s walking distance from The Stay.

Macro Center in Nişantaşı

There is also a place called Healin Foods which is very vegetarian-friendly and very healthy. It has a beautiful, multi-storey interior so it’s a nice place to spend the morning or lunch.

Hair salon

I actually first found Nişantaşı when I was researching where to color my hair. I’d be wanting to color my hair for years and I was finally feel brave enough. Türkiye is famous for having great hair stylists, and luckily for me, Turkish people generally have similar hair texture to me (thicker Mediterranean hair).

I did the research and found Skandal Hair Studio. I think there are a lot of great stylists in Nişantaşı but I decided to go to Skandal.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with hair stylist in Nişantaşı

Skandal is on the higher end in terms of cost in Nişantaşı and Istanbul generally, but I didn’t want to mess with my hair for my first ever hair color. I absolutely loved it but it was US$180 for hair color, cut, take home product, and treatment.

You can get a cut and blow dry for US$7 at Skandal though (at time of writing). That’s high for Türkiye but Nişantaşı is the Beverly Hills of Istanbul, so you’re essentially paying Turkish Beverly Hills prices.

My best friend, Kashlee the founder of Travel Off Path, used to fly every six months from Mexico to Canada to go to her hair stylist in Canada that she trusted, but I took her to Skandal and she loved it. My hair stylist is named Oguz. I’ll be honest, Oguz doesn’t speak much English but with Google Translate it’s been perfectly fine.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with Kashlee Kucheran in Nişantaşı getting hair washed one day in istanbul

I get a blow dry at least once a week while I’m in Nişantaşı because what’s the point of washing your own hair when you can get an amazing blow dry that lasts multiple days.

Shopping

As you’re walking around Nişantaşı, you’re going to notice a lot of upscale shops. Nişantaşı is a shopping destination above all with everything from Gucci and Prada. I bought my first-ever Prada bag at the Prada store in Nişantaşı because honestly I was intimidated by the Prada stores in Italy and Dubai or elsewhere. It felt overwhelming there but in Prada in Nişantaşı I didn’t feel overwhelmed and intimidated.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne in Prada

And if you’re new to luxury shopping, you can ask your Prada sales assistant for their WhatsApp number. You can text them and ask them questions about the products which feels really cool and makes me feel special, like I’m texting Prada.

Türkiye in general is relatively affordable but Nişantaşı is higher end so things will be more expensive here than elsewhere. And beyond clothes, you’ll find plenty of antiques, perfumes, jewelry and wines in Nişantaşı. There’s also art galleries on almost every corner.

My favorite place to shop in the area is a Turkish brand called Jimmy Key. If you go to the back, they have the best basic tank tops. They’re amazing and I love them. It’s a little bit outside Nişantaşı but it’s worth the trip.

I love to buy gold in Nişantaşı. It’s so much cheaper than other places if you have a good guide. I recommend Norm from Grand Bazaar Jewelers. he is fun, cool, and completely trustworthy! He helped my friend find a solid gold Rolex for US$6,000.

Co-working and lunch

After I’ve finished shopping, I might want to meet a friend for lunch or co-work in a café. Istanbul is the perfect city for digital nomads, and Nişantaşı is the perfect place within Istanbul. It’s got amazing places for working and lunching.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with friends in Nişantaşı in a pilates studio

I like to co-work at The House Café Atiye or The House Corner Café. They’re only a few steps from each other on the main street and both equally nice to spend the day working. The Atiye branch is the first one they ever opened, but you can find them around Istanbul now.

Both of them have vegetarian options and have pretty interiors. The staff are cool, and they usually have cats and dogs in there because it’s Istanbul and everything is pet friendly. Turkish desserts are delicious and everywhere, but at The House you have to try the San Sebastian cheesecake and the caramel and apple tart.

Kashlee Kucheran in Nişantaşı at Muse - ideal for one day in istanbul

I love the food at The Muse. It’s great for both lunch and dinner so make sure to make a reservation for when you visit.

Exercise and Maçka Park

I prefer to go to Pilates at Pilates Nişantaşı. A private class when I started was about US$35 but now it’s about US$50 which is kind of expensive. My teacher is Natolika who took me nightclubbing in Nişantaşı once – so maybe that’s why I love going to Pilates Co. when I’m in Istanbul!

For me, Pilates is a great way to stay in shape. You don’t sweat too much, but I like to keep my hair looking nice and pilates won’t mess up your blowout so that’s really why I like it. There are cheaper Pilates studios in the area but I’m not necessarily optimizing for the lowest price.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne in Nişantaşı on a yoga mat

If you prefer a normal gym, there’s a gym called Gym & Tonic which is small and upscale (like basically everything in Nişantaşı).

If you prefer lighter exercise or you’re just visiting, I think one of the best things to do in Nişantaşı is a stroll through Maçka Park – and it’s free! It’s filled with trees and people from the neighborhood walking their dogs. And there’s even a super cute café in the park and a cable car going across it because it is a little hilly.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with Kashlee Kucheran in Nişantaşı eating breakfast

Self-care

Nişantaşı is a bougie and upscale neighborhood, and bougie people like to spend time and money to look good. I suffer from bruxism and so I wear a retainer when I sleep to stop my teeth from grinding. I was told I could get Botox in my jaw to stop grinding my teeth when I sleep. I decided to do masseter Botox in Nişantaşı with a doctor called Cem Hamidi who was recommended by my Turkish friend.

I actually do think it helps and I’ve been doing it ever since. I would recommend and I think it’s worth trying at least once in your life. It wasn’t super painful, and it’s probably more affordable in Türkiye than it is in other countries.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne doing skincare

If you want to do medical botox or even cosmetic botox or skincare treatments generally, I highly recommend Nişantaşı and Türkiye generally. You can always start with Dr Cem who comes highly recommended (a lot of actresses and actors go to him).

The essential Turkish experience that is open to all is a hammam. You have to do a hammam while you’re visiting Türkiye. I didn’t love the hammam I found in Nişantaşı so I won’t recommend it, but there are plenty of great ones in Istanbul. It’s the perfect way to relax and unwind after a long day (or any day).

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne in a hammam in Cihangir

Dinner and drinks

You’re definitely going to want to go out in Nişantaşı.

I recommend Joker No.5. I don’t want to use the word chain because it isn’t a ‘chain’ in the sense that Americans use that word. It’s just that Joker was so popular that they opened a few of them around Istanbul. But it’s a great restaurant and bar. And, like everything in Nişantaşı, it’s all within walking distance.

At Joker No.5, you can either get dinner or sit at the bar at the back and get drinks – or both. The Joker is the place where everyone starts their evening. If you have dinner at Joker and you’re American like me and you love mac and cheese, get their mac and cheese. You’ll love it. They also have a great pesto pasta and salads if you’re trying to be healthy.

Everyone loves to people watch, and the best way to people watch is to sit as close to the exit as you can so you can watch. But I still prefer to sit at the bar at the back.

All of the bartenders at Joker are super fun and outgoing. Try to start conversations with your waiter and bartender and be playful. They like to have fun and will give you shots and make it a great night. And they always recommend great places to go out afterward. Now I recognize the bartenders and waiters at Joker so it’s half the reason I like to go. They’ll even make custom drinks which I love.

Alyne Tamir of Dear Alyne with a man in Nişantaşı

Nişantaşı isn’t really a party neighborhood so if you’ve finished dinner and drinks and want to go out, you’ll need to leave the neighborhood. I recommend Galata, or ask around to see where the parties are happening that night.

Outside Nişantaşı

There’s plenty to do in Galata which is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Istanbul. I love to work from the Soho House in Istanbul which is near Galata so that’s a good reason for me to leave Nişantaşı. Cihangir is also one of my favorite neighborhoods in Istanbul. It’s kind of like Nişantaşı but is slightly cheaper and feels more hipster. It’s also filled with tiny cafeterias which serve super tasty food.

You can contact Alyne on Instagram at @dearalyne. And if you’re looking for a retreat, Alyne also runs Dear Alyne Retreats in destinations around the world, including in Türkiye.


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