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Peaceful Places in Istanbul

(Last Updated On: October 3, 2015)

We’d have been overwhelmed during our recent visit if not for Context Travel’s thoughtful walking tours, which brought us to peaceful places in Istanbul.

Having secured impossibly inexpensive seats on a long haul flight out of Istanbul, we’d decided to give the city another chance after a not so positive layover last year. Surely we shouldn’t judge any place solely on its airport, right? When Context Travel offered to show us around during our Istanbul stay, we were very eager to join their immersion walking tours: An Istanbul Guide to the Asian Side and Cosmopolis: Istiklal Street, which focuses on the former European “diplomatic zone.” These two experiences, we hoped, would give us an in-depth, first-timers’ look. But there was an entirely unanticipated benefit! On each of these walking tours we were able to experience very peaceful places in Istanbul. These proved to be the perfect antidote we so desperately needed for a city and cultural energy that didn’t always sync up.

Reviewing our Instagram gallery, we were reminded just how many peaceful places in Istanbul we’d experienced and thought it would be fun to share them with you in this post.

Peaceful Places in Istanbul with Context Travel Immersion Walking Tours

peaceful places in Istanbul: tahtireven sedan chair

Tahtireven sedan chair in Istanbul. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Sirkeci Train Terminal is a very busy place today. Our docent, Alexandra Pruscha, met us here before we crossed the Bosphorus together by ferry to the Asian side. There was virtually no one in the historical section of the station, which made it easy to imagine the magnificent Orient Express train arriving in noisier days gone by: whistles and steam, discharging passengers, servants, and mounds of luggage, carriages and tahtirevan sedan chairs waiting to take them onward. Nowadays you can just about hear these echoes of the past in this beautiful space.

Beautiful 19th century details at Sirkeci Terminal in Istanbul. #istanbullife A photo posted by PassingThru (@passingthrucom) on

As it turned out, we were arriving at the ferry terminal in the magical hours between commuter traffic and tourist stampede. We love being on the water, and so we’re counting this as one of the peaceful places in Istanbul, too!

Arriving on the Asian side, we spent time on the waterfront in the conservative Uskudar and historical Kuzguncuk neighborhoods. Alexandra had lived in Kuzguncuk and she explained the concept of mahalle – the fabric of the neighborhood where everyone plays a role and is cared for. There is a surprising amount of greenery here, and residents are very proud of their collective activism which allowed for new community garden plots on Bostan street. We liked the 19th-century wooden houses and quiet streets. This was probably our favorite of the peaceful places in Istanbul.

Cat nap in an Üsküdar neighborhood window on the Asian side of Istanbul. #uskudar #istanbullife

A photo posted by PassingThru (@passingthrucom) on

Back on the “European side” in the Beyoglu (Pera) district our Cosmopolis tour with docent Nurcin Ileri focused on Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street), which can be visited by over 3 million people a day on busy weekends. This was the center of politics and commerce during the 19th century. Today Istiklal is a popular pedestrian street with an amalgam of architectural styles in buildings which range from former diplomatic residences and embassies to early department stores and hotels. A warren of interior passageways between blocks provides intimate environments for shopping, worship, dining, and socializing. These were among the most fascinating and surprising of the peaceful places in Istanbul we were shown.

One of the fascinating aspects of our tours with Context Travel is that the backgrounds of each of our docents were somewhat reversed in terms of the subject matter they shared with us. Alexandra is from Vienna and has lived in Istanbul for the last six years. Nurcin is a student from a smaller city who came to Istanbul for university. Both had an amazing amount of knowledge which was shared anecdotally and entirely by memory. If you’re visiting Istanbul, these two tours are a great way to introduce you to the city’s complex transcontinental facets. Or perhaps you’ll find, as we did, that the peaceful places in Istanbul become your favorite memories.

Pinnable Image:

peaceful places in Istanbul

Tips and Practicalities:

Context Travel brings “together local specialists with curious travelers to educate and impassion them; to allow them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history and culture that makes these capitals, destinations.” Context provides specialty tours in more than 30 cities and four continents. We are delighted to be part of Context Travel’s network of Deep Travelers: bloggers and content creators who travel responsibly and thoughtfully. Context Travel’s Cosmopolis – Istiklal Street and Istanbul Immersion: The Asian Side walking tours are both 3 hours in length. Pricing is $71/pp for small group of no more than 6. Also available as a private tour for $305.

We were the guests of Context Travel for both tours.

Tips for Trip Success

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Bruno B

Tuesday 22nd of March 2016

Thanks for this different perspective on Istanbul. Definitely a very rich city!

alison abbott

Friday 9th of October 2015

Context does such a great job on their tours and the guides always have so much information at the tip of their tongues. It's important to find quiet places Whenever you travel and I loved the way you used Instagram to illustrate your post.

Betsy Wuebker

Saturday 10th of October 2015

Hi Alison - Yes, we really would have had an altogether different impression of the city without these two tours. Thanks!

The GypsyNesters

Saturday 10th of October 2015

Wow, you found some really nice out of the way places in Istanbul. We didn't see any of these on our visit. There's always a good reason to go back.

Betsy Wuebker

Saturday 10th of October 2015

Hi GypsyNesters - Yes, we were very fortunate to have great guidance with Context Travel. :)

Marilyn Jones

Friday 9th of October 2015

I had never added Istanbul to my list of places to visit -- until now! Your descriptions, advice and glorious photos make it seem so inviting! Thank you!

Betsy Wuebker

Saturday 10th of October 2015

Hi Marilyn - Thanks! We enjoyed these quieter places as an antidote.


Thursday 8th of October 2015

Lovely photo array, I have a hard time selecting a favorite. You definitely captured the peaceful points in Istanbul and what a great perspective with which to explore the city. We've talked many times about visiting Turkey. We haven't made it yet, but maybe one day. There's always so many fabulous places to visit, right?!

Betsy Wuebker

Thursday 8th of October 2015

Hi Patti - You're right! There are many, many places still to visit and the list keeps getting longer! :)

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