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Take a stroll in these Istanbul neighborhoods

  • This undated photo shows an array of olives in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

    This undated photo shows an array of olives in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

  • FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)

    FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)

  • This undated photo shows sutlu Nuriye, a puffier, creamier version of baklava, in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

    This undated photo shows sutlu Nuriye, a puffier, creamier version of baklava, in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

  • FILE - This Nov. 22, 2006 file photo shows Historical Greek Orthodox high school, left, next to a mosque in Istanbul's Fener neighborhood. Istanbul has a number of interesting neighborhoods worth exploring, with attractions ranging from well-known landmarks like this to small shops, galleries and cafes.  (AP Photo/Osman Orsal, File)

    FILE - This Nov. 22, 2006 file photo shows Historical Greek Orthodox high school, left, next to a mosque in Istanbul's Fener neighborhood. Istanbul has a number of interesting neighborhoods worth exploring, with attractions ranging from well-known landmarks like this to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Osman Orsal, File)

  • This undated photo shows a market in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

    This undated photo shows a market in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

  • FILE - This Dec. 25, 2011 file photo shows the Church of St. Stephen in the Bulgarian Orthodox community  in Istanbul, Turkey. The church is part of a mixed ethnic history in the Balat district, a quiet neighborhood that was once home to waves of Jewish, Greek Bulgarian and Armenian residents. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for its mosques and bazaars but several neighborhoods offer visitors a different way to experience the city. (AP Photo/Selcan Hacaoglu, File)

    FILE - This Dec. 25, 2011 file photo shows the Church of St. Stephen in the Bulgarian Orthodox community in Istanbul, Turkey. The church is part of a mixed ethnic history in the Balat district, a quiet neighborhood that was once home to waves of Jewish, Greek Bulgarian and Armenian residents. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for its mosques and bazaars but several neighborhoods offer visitors a different way to experience the city. (AP Photo/Selcan Hacaoglu, File)

  • FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)

    FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)

  • This undated image shows a cluster of small cafes in the Istanbul neighborhood of Karakoy, a neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, near a small church and galleries. While Istanbul is known for mosques and bazaars, it also offers many interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore, like Karakoy, an up-and-coming area hemming the Bosporus Strait. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

    This undated image shows a cluster of small cafes in the Istanbul neighborhood of Karakoy, a neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, near a small church and galleries. While Istanbul is known for mosques and bazaars, it also offers many interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore, like Karakoy, an up-and-coming area hemming the Bosporus Strait. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

  • This undated photo shows an array of olives in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)
  • FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)
  • This undated photo shows sutlu Nuriye, a puffier, creamier version of baklava, in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)
  • FILE - This Nov. 22, 2006 file photo shows Historical Greek Orthodox high school, left, next to a mosque in Istanbul's Fener neighborhood. Istanbul has a number of interesting neighborhoods worth exploring, with attractions ranging from well-known landmarks like this to small shops, galleries and cafes.  (AP Photo/Osman Orsal, File)
  • This undated photo shows a market in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)
  • FILE - This Dec. 25, 2011 file photo shows the Church of St. Stephen in the Bulgarian Orthodox community  in Istanbul, Turkey. The church is part of a mixed ethnic history in the Balat district, a quiet neighborhood that was once home to waves of Jewish, Greek Bulgarian and Armenian residents. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for its mosques and bazaars but several neighborhoods offer visitors a different way to experience the city. (AP Photo/Selcan Hacaoglu, File)
  • FILE - This Oct. 28, 2013 file photo shows waterside mansions called "yali," in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but the city offers many other interesting things for visitors to see, including the classic wooden-framed yali mansions along the waterfront. (AP Photo, File)
  • This undated image shows a cluster of small cafes in the Istanbul neighborhood of Karakoy, a neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, near a small church and galleries. While Istanbul is known for mosques and bazaars, it also offers many interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore, like Karakoy, an up-and-coming area hemming the Bosporus Strait. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)

Istanbul, the noisy metropolis on the Bosporus Strait lauded by many a travel ranking, has much more to offer than grand mosques and bazaars. Away from the din of typical tourist haunts, a walk around the neighborhoods of Karakoy, Balat and Kuzguncuk will peel back the surface to reveal the city’s multilayered history, and the lifestyles of those who’ve lived it.

And while headlines persist on Turkey’s uneasy political situation, which included a recent government shutdown of Twitter to silence critics, protests have dwindled for now. For tourism, it’s business as usual, with the government counting 35 million people visiting last year, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. As proof of Turkey’s popularity among travelers, TripAdvisor just named the country the world’s top destination, based on the website’s ratings and user reviews.

Karakoy

Descending from the Galata Tower in the Beyoglu district, often regarded as the “pulse of Istanbul,” one of the city’s steepest hills will lead to Karakoy, an up-and-coming area hemming the Bosporus Strait.

This onetime industrial neighborhood is still home to a number of shops where anything from fishing equipment to Bunsen burners can be procured. But the hardware stores and workshops must now negotiate their space with new galleries and cafes that have created a hub for young hipsters.

Past the Karakoy ferry terminal, one street over from the water, look for Namli Gurme, a restaurant and small marketplace offering a large selection of “mezes,” or cold appetizers. Also served here is a cut of meat called “lokum,” which means Turkish delight and is the term for anything wildly tasty and juicy (unlike the narrower meaning of the term Turkish delight outside the country, referring only to chewy sugary candies).

One of Istanbul’s busiest baklava shops is next door, known for “sutlu Nuriye” or milky Nuriye, a puffier and creamier version of baklava. Farther north along the road parallel to the Bosporus, past a few deserted buildings and construction sites, a green iron gate opens into the Franciz Gecidi Is Merkezi, a small collection of cafes and restaurants.

Around an easily missed corner toward the Mother Mary Turkish Orthodox church nearby is another hidden nook for cafes that are usually full on the weekends.

You can wander through galleries and boutique shops punctuating rows of nondescript buildings before reaching the luxurious renovated Kilic Ali Pasha Hamam and the more widely known Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.

Balat

The Balat district is a quiet historic area by the Golden Horn, the narrowest stretch of the Bosporus. Its twisting streets and weathered houses, like antiques in an open museum, echo a past occupied by waves of Jewish, Greek, Bulgarian and Armenian residents. These ethnic groups were forced out or chose to move in response to political events or socioeconomic conditions at various points in the 20th century, and the area is now home mainly to working-class Turks from Black Sea towns and Central Anatolia. Adventurous tourists who can find the beauty in the decaying buildings and who are willing to forgo the reliability of a map or definitive street names, will enjoy wandering the hilly streets.

Walking from the Galata Bridge by the seaside toward the end of the Golden Horn, the Gul Mosque is not to be missed. Formerly known as Saint Theodosia church, the cross-in-square orthodox church was converted into a mosque by Ottomans. Farther along the spine of the horn, the Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, which has not been converted to a mosque, and St. Stephen’s Bulgarian Church, made entirely of iron, are among the markers of the neighborhood’s mixed history. The former seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Church of St. George, is also there.

Kuzguncuk

On the Asia side of this continental crossroads of a city, the quiet, pictorial village of Kuzguncuk is minutes away from the Uskudar ferry terminal by “dolmus,” one of the city’s many minibuses. Kuzguncuk is not a village in the traditional sense, but a leafy residential district lined with shops and restaurants, lauded as a quieter, perhaps less jaded version of upscale Ortakoy on the European side. It is another well-known Jewish quarter, home to two synagogues.

Among the seaside fish restaurants bearing views of the Bosporus Bridge, Ismet Baba generates the most fanfare. Uryanizade Sokak, running perpendicularly from Ismet Baba and the seaside, is a restored street lined with Ottoman houses and studios for artists.

Farther north, the waterside showcases a string of Istanbul’s famous classic wooden-framed mansions, known as “yali.”

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