Istanbul, the vibrant and bustling city that straddles Europe and Asia, is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and delicious food. But beyond the tourist attractions and busy streets, there are also plenty of laid-back and relaxing spots where locals and visitors alike can unwind and chill out.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful park, a cozy cafe, or a serene seaside escape, Istanbul has something for everyone. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the best places to chill in Istanbul, so you can slow down and enjoy the city at a more relaxed pace.
EMIRGAN PARK (EMIRGAN KORUSU)
One of our favorite spots in the city
Nestled away on the northern banks of the Bosphorus, this park transports you to what seems like an entirely new part of the world. The hilly green space boasts a plethora of trees, flowers, bushes, squirrels, benches and picnic tables. When you find gaps in the trees, you are greeted with an inspirational view of the Bosphorus below you. A man-made lake complete with fountains, waterfalls and fish is the perfect place to sit back and let your thoughts carry you away from the rest of the world.
It is also very romantic. But that’s not what this post is about, so let’s not go there. An old bird sanctuary that has been converted in a restaurant is perched (no pun intended) near the top of the park with a birds-eye view (pun definitely intended) of the green space below. If you need to clear your head, Emirgan park is the remedy you’ve been searching for.
Nature in the middle of the old town
Apparently I tend to associate parks with chilling, because this is another one. This park is actually one of our favorite places in Sultanahmet, precisely because it doesn’t feel like it is in Sultanahmet. Hidden below Topkapi Palace, it is full of locals of all ages. The expansive area contains fountains and, if you walk far enough, a close-up view of the sea. We recommend it as a nice place for a picnic or for a much needed escape from all the hustle and bustle on the streets just a few hundred meters away.
Gulhane Park (Rosehouse Park, in English) was originally a part of Topkapi Palace until it was opened to the public in 1912; it is easy to get to and really should be on everybody’s Old Town itinerary (but it never is). Interesting fact: the first statue of Ataturk was erected in this park in 1926.
PIERRE LOTI CAFE
Named after a French novelist and naval officer
An intimate cafe with an inspiring, picturesque view of the Golden Horn and Eyup; the moment you sit down your imagination will take over. Thoughts of all the people that have fallen in love with this city before you because of views like this one will captivate you and take you to distant histories and long-gone Empires. Jullien Viaud, a French novelist and naval officer, was so in love with this cafe that it was renamed after his pen name, Pierre Loti, in the 19th century. It is about a 15-minute walk or short tram ride from Eyup. If you choose not to walk, we highly recommend going back down the hill by foot as you will pass through a beautiful cemetery on your way.
CAMLICA TEA HOUSE
You can chill on the Asian side too!
At 267 meters tall, Camlica hill, located on the Asian side of the city, is the highest point in Istanbul. Tucked away into hill’s pine grove is this small, homely tea house. Take in views that spane from the Bosphorus, to the Black Sea, to the Sea of Marmara, to the Prince Islands, to the snow covered ridges of Uludag as you sip on one of Turkey’s most famed beverages. If you are here at evening you will be fortunate enough to watch the sun set almost directly behind the mosques and minarets that dot Istanbul’s Old Town across from you, creating a striking, flaming silhouette of the majestic city.
A weird one, but just hear me out
The atmosphere and environment inside the mosque almost seem to physically lift the stresses and burdens of life off of your shoulders. It doesn’t have anything to do with religion, and you can enter regardless of your religious beliefs, but it is a functioning mosque to this day. Surrounded by so many people calling upon a higher power and enveloped in almost complete silence, you will naturally reconnect with your thoughts. Go ahead and bask in the natural light streaming through the dome and admire the tile work for as long as necessary, or until the next call to prayer, at which point you will have to leave and make way for practicing Muslims.