You’re young, trendy, beautiful, dressed head to heel in designer labels, got into your sports car with your mates in similar attire. Where do you go on a lovely summer Saturday afternoon? Why, to Bebek of course!!!
Bebek is a picturesque bay on the European shores of the Bosphorous, with cafes, restaurants, boats, expensive flats and villas and pretty people. Oh and the sprawling campus of the Bogazici (Bosphorous) University (which this blog writer is a proud alumni of)
Bebek has always been a popular destination to spend a wonderful weekend afternoon in but over the last couple of years it has become terribly popular with new cafes and restaurants opening at every corner.
Although by the Bosphorous, you cannot really see the sea from the main road in Bebek, as the buildings are built at the edge of the water, blocking the views. But the ground floors of many of these building, sometimes whole buildings are cafes and restaurants so the view from any one of them is spectacular, most of them at the edge of the water so you feel like you are on a boat on the Bosphorous.
Popular places on the water side of Bebek :
These are just a small selection, you need to go there to discover for yourself!!
Divan Brasserie : This is an old café of the famous Divan patisserie chain. Once you enter, you need to go one floor down to the main café area and there you are at the same level as the water. Floor to ceiling glass doors open in summer for a terrace feel. This is not the trendiest place in Bebek but still one of my favourites for the stunning location, the wonderful freshly baked pastries and simple but tasty café food of salad, sandwiches and a choice of main courses. You can spend a couple of hours easily here with your newspaper, laptop, book or friends. The ground floor patisserie sells wonderful mouth watering food. http://www.divan.com.tr/gastronomi/bebek/default.asp?sxx=0
Starbucks : Starbucks, recommended and trendy usually do not belong to the same sentence but if you see
this Starbucks you may change your mind and agree with me!! I am not a huge fan of Starbucks but this one is in the most stunning location, on a couple of terraces over the Bosphorous with great views. Food and drink is, well, Starbucks but the service is more like a café, they even have a ‘small’ choice of coffee, smaller than the usual ‘tall’ as Turkish people find their large milky coffees too big. Free wifi is a bonus. Its summer terrace is the place to be with a cold frappe under the green starbucks umbrellas.
Bebek Hotel : This small old hotel has a lovely terrace with a popular bar and a nice seafood restaurant called Les Ambassadeurs http://www.bebekhotel.com.tr/
Other restaurants on this side are Bebek Balikcisi (a good seafood restaurant) http://www.bebekbalikci.net/indexenglish.html and Bebek Point , another seafood restaurant http://www.makaragroup.net/default.asp?pid=4&lng=1
There are many more cafes on this side but the only other one I will mention is the old Bebek Kahve, near the park and the mosque, which was standing there on its own before all the others, faithfully serving the Bogazici students with copious amounts of strong black tea and backgammon. I heard it went upmarket now which is a shame.
The water side of Bebek is nice, with views, etc but when you sit in one of those cafes it means that you can’t see the street and the people and more importantly they can’t see you!!!
Popular Pavement Cafes :
Now these cafes are the place to be. With pavement terraces and tables these places are ideal locations for people watching, if you can ignore the continuous traffic fumes of course. The most popular ones are:
Lucca : Great trendy modern café, with a small terrace area (ok, ok pavement if you’re going to be pedantic). For good café food, afternoon cocktails and celebrity spotting http://www.luccastyle.com/index_eng.htm
Midpoint : A large popular restaurant, part of a popular chain. Very crowded at any time of the day, not one of my favourite places, but people seem to love it!
House Café : Juts off the main road, House café has many branches in all popular locations of Istanbul. Eclectic décor, good food and service, this is always a nice place to be.
A new place just opened near midpoint, an old building converted into a restaurant with a lovely garden, terraces but can’t recall its name at the moment, will report on this soon. Also ‘Kirinti’ is building a brand new place near Midpoint which I can’t wait. Kirinti started off as a small ‘bufe’ in Moda and was the meeting point for the Asian side with mouth watering sandwiches and in the last couple of years got very popular with branches in Nisantasi and Baghdat Street.
Other Bebek Institutions:
Bebek is also renowned for its ‘Badem Ezmesi’ which means marzipan. Sold in a small shop called ‘Meshur Bebek Badem Ezmecisi’ specializing in marzipan for a very very long time. The taste is wonderful, even if you don’t normally like marzipan like me.
Minidondurma : This is a tiny tiny ice cream shop (about 1sqm) which has been going on for around 40 years serving excellent home made ice cream. A must do in bebek. http://minidondurma.com/
Gunes Dondurma : Another ice cream shop at the edge of the bay. We used to come here when I was a kid so remains as one of my favourite ice cream places in Istanbul for their hot chocolate and pistachio dipped home made ice cream.
Bebek also has a few small shops and boutiques such as the Vakko accessories shop for scarves and ties, a lovely olive oil shop and 2 excellent greengrocers, famous for being the most expensive greengrocers in Istanbul, hence Turkey (I thought they were outrageous as well, that was before I moved to London and seen the price for a pound of cherries!!!)
Bebek Bay is fairly small and the buildings on the water side finish with the ice cream shops and then there is a nice walkway by the Bosphorous to the north towards the Rumeli fortress and this is a lovely walk after all that ice cream, cocktails and marzipan.
Bebek is very popular on the weekends and the road very narrow which means that the traffic is always horrendous. Many of the cafes have valet parking, the roads are narrow and hilly (some literally one car wide, you need to tuck your mirrors if you have a wide car) and people like driving (or rather standing still in traffic) in their cars up and down which adds to the traffic. If this is something you wish to avoid, on weekdays the place is much lovelier. Nighttime in bebek is nice as well, for dinner, after dinner drinks or for a lovely coffee but this is not a destination for a night of clubbing. Ideal for a chilled out Istanbul summer evening.
Going down to Bebek and sitting in one of the seaside cafes is one of the first things when I go to Istanbul and I would really recommend this as part of a general trip to the Bosphorous, starting from Ortakoy up to the Rumeli Fortress on a lovely sunny day, spending a couple of hours in the cafes in Bebek on the way and to see Istanbul living at its best.