Interested in Istanbul?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Istanbul each week.
Topics include Dining Scene, Turkey: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Tunel has always been special for Istanbul and Beyoglu lovers. It’s difficult to say if this popularity comes from being the world’s second oldest metro or from being the heritage from the 19 century''s Pera era. No matter where it comes, Tunel is one of the symbols of Istanbul and this 571 meter long railway station has been tying up Karakoy to Pera since 1871. That time Pera was one of most prestigious residential areas and Galata was the popular trade centre of Istanbul. Businessmen living in Pera had to walk everyday to Galata Karakoy. The distance from Karakoy to Pera is not much, but the road is a tough hill. A French engineer who had noticed the difficulty, had proposed this railway project to Ottoman Sultan and the construction has started right after when the permission was granted. Since that time trains are going back and forth between Karakoy to Tunel in every 3 minutes and the trip takes about 1,5 minutes. No chance to miss your station because there are only two. The one you hopped in and the one you are going to get out.
Tunel is also used by tourists who would like walk to the Sultanahmet area. Then the station on Istiklal Street is also the starting point of the street tram for Istiklal heading to Taxim Square.
Tunel has given its name to the neighbourhood as well. This area is still one of the most Bohemian quarters in Istanbul. It has its own character with a mix of everything. Maybe that’s why this little quarter is loved by locals and tourists. It offers all kind of shops: bookshops next to a doner kebap kiosk or elegantly decorated restaurants next to the cheapest passages. Terkos Passage and Beyoglu Is Hani are most known budget shopping opportunities in the area, but you have to dig hard to find something special.
Tunel Quarter is also visited frequently by the ones who are interested in music. The street, Galip Dede, going down to Galata Tower from Tunel is filled with shops selling music instruments and other stuff.
It would be unfair not to mention Galata Tower, while talking about Tunel. This 77 m long tower is also one of the other greatest heritages of Constantinoples’. From the top you can have the privilege of seeing Topkapi Palace, hagia Sophia, Leander’s Tower, Bosphorus connecting Europe and Asia and the Golden Horn at the same time. For this unique view you have to pay 8 YTL fee on the entrance.
Galat Mevlevihanesi, located just at the Tunel Square in Divan Edebiyati Museum, is considered as one of the most interesting attractions in Tunel. Whirling Dervishes Ceremony can be visioned on every Sunday starting at 17:00 by paying about 25 YTL fee.
Another charm of Tunel is the Asmalimescit. In the streets of Asmali you may find plenty of alternatives for dining. Even in winter people do not mind sitting in the narrow streets and having their lunches in those cozy streets. To mention a few of the good cafes around; The House Café and Peradox serve fine international cuisine. The House Cafe’s freshly made lemonades and ice teas are worth a try. Just opposite of the House Café there is the Helvetia cafe, serving delicious examples of home plats of Turkish cuisine. Sofyalý restaurant (meyhane) is also a good alternative for lunch with its reasonable prices. A maindish in the lunch menu is about 5 YTL. Sofyali is also a good choice for a classic Turkish dinner with raki and small appetizers. ‘Lokal’ is a fine alternative restaurant on eastern fusion food. For breakfast recently opened Starbucks would be a practical choice if you do not have much time. ‘Simdi’ located on Asmalýmescit street is also serving good food with the same quality for three years. The home made cookies with freshly made Turkish tea are my favorites.
Asmalimescits’ oldest and best known restaurant and pub(meyhane) is Refik. The owner himself Refik can be seen always near his meyhane day and night. A rather heavy man with white hair sitting in front of his restaurant or playing backgammon with his friends. He is one of the symbols of Tunel as well. Yakup restaurant is another meyhane in Tunel the owner is the cousin of Mr.Refik. Both Yakup and Refik are serving more than 50 years in this area.
Two cafes facing Tunel square Café Gramaphone and the Kaffehaus are the oldest favorites.The cafés and shops of Tunel are not always very neat and proper, you can see abonded buildings near a classy café or people playing backgammon while drinking the cheapest beer on top of tiny chairs.
Nights are also animated at Tunel, especially in Sofyali Street of Asmalimescit..
In the evening it is time to drink raki with delicious mezes spread on white sheets and taste fresh fish (one choice would be Lufer) in one of the meyhanes in Asmali. The perfect ambience and the side effects of Raki is all about the meyhanes in Istanbul. Club Babylon is keeping the area alive with great music events. Live performances of popular bands or world known DJ’s perform shows during the year.
The French street in Galatasaray is an adorable place with charming cafés where you can take pictures with colourful backgrounds.
The Tunel, with its grey dirty buildings, has more character. It is just like Istanbul; you have to get in if you really want to taste it.