Bar scene: Istanbul

Have sips in several great neighborhoods


Special to The Miami Herald

If you used one word to describe Istanbul, it would have to be hospitality. The idea of inviting a friend or a stranger in for tea is a cornerstone of the culture, and as such, it’s bred an incredible sense of service in the country. During the day, you are welcomed into stores with calls of “come have tea,” from local salesmen. At night, it’s a similar pitch with wine and the native spirit, Raki.

With 14 million residents, Istanbul is one of the most densely populated places in Europe, so it’s best to pick a specific neighborhood. Sultanahmet (The Old City) and Beyoðlu (surrounding the famous Istiklal Avenue) are both rife with drinking options.


The city is sprawling, with tile-roofed houses wrapping along the coast, and communities built inland up and down the green hills. At sunset, the silhouettes of mosques stand out in black relief along the skyline, their domes and spires creating an endless mural of curves and spikes. Aim high. Literally.

Defne Restaurant, in Sultanahmet, is a quick walk from the famous Blue Mosque and has a great front patio for people watching. If you climb the three flights up the spiral staircase inside, you alight to an incredible view of the water and the city lights beyond. If you go, you’ll also get to know the staff, who all love to pepper you with questions about your home country and are equally happy to help you learn a bit of their own language. The fare is hearty Turkish, with a bit of Western flair in the presentation. The beer is ice cold and comes in large glasses, and their rooftop seating includes long couches, meaning you can truly relax over drinks.

Try: Efes Beer. The most common label in Turkey, it’s that nation’s equivalent of Bud Light. It’s a great choice for cutting through the rich oils and spices of Turkish food. About $3.50.

Details: 011-0212-458-9161;


Directly opposite Istanbul’s oldest hotel, the luxurious Pera Palace in the Beyoðlu neighborhood, is a dainty little spot with stained glass windows, high-top street-side tables and eloquent takes on Turkish cuisine. It’s tightly packed in the small space, which simply means you’ll get a good whiff of what your neighbors ordered — particularly when it’s one of lamb dishes like their exceptional sirloin. They also offer a lovely degustation menu and a simple glass of the house red, white or rose wine will run about $8 American.

Definitely drink: Some Raki. A common pre-dinner request in Turkey, it’s an anise-flavored spirit (similar to absinthe or ouzo) meant to pair with the meze. They offer more than a dozen labels.

Details:; 011-0212-252-8302

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

Suga at the Conrad in Dubai is elegant, with swank furnishings.

    Bar scene: United Arab Emirates

    Craft cocktails are on the rise in Dubai

    Cocktails and Muslim culture don’t exactly go hand in hand. On a recent trip to Dubai, however, I was shocked to find a flourishing cocktail scene. Some of the newest bars are focusing on fresh juices, homemade syrups, tinctures and tonics, serving up modern craft cocktails.

The 13-foot-tall Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens stands atop the Great Stair Hall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Pennsylvania: Philadelphia museum’s golden goddess glows again

    Golden goddess glows again

In a Croatian museum, broken objects symbolize broken relationships.

    Rick Steves

    Europe’s oddball museums broaden perspectives

    You could spend a lifetime in Europe’s grand museums — the Louvre, the British Museum, and many others. But I also like to take in a destination’s more idiosyncratic sights, getting a bead on the quirkier side of the local culture. It’s my nature as a travel writer to look for the rustic, old-fashioned, and odd bits that fall through the cracks.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category