If you ever come to Istanbul, skip walking through Laleli neighbourhood! Not because it may be dangerous, dirty or anything, but sellers will drink your blood to lure you to their clothing and textile stores where they will rob you of prices. Don’t be surprised if they know how to speak more languages and even your native language. Namely, I experienced it all.
Laleli is a neighborhood of Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey, lying between Beyazıt and Aksaray. It is known for its large textile wholesaling business and is home to the Literature and Science Faculties of Istanbul University, designed by Sedad Hakkı Eldem and Emin Onat in the 1940s. It is served by a stop on the T1 tram line which runs along the Ordu Caddesi.
My hotel was in Aksaray, and the places I went to werea few miles away. I had a subway ticket, but I didn’t want to travel by tram or subway. I was walking, I wanted my steps to be counted and I wanted to experience Istanbul as it is, busy, noisy and tiring.If you like crowded streets, full of garbage, illegal shops, restaurant menus with no prices and street prostitutes, then Aksaray may be the perfect place for you.The food in the restaurants is OK, as are the prices! Lot of Meat, a huge amount of spices, ayran and Turkish traditional music.
Traveling every day from the hotel to the desired destination, I walked through Laleli Street. Starting from the first pedestrian crossing where you pray literally all the gods to save you as you cross the street to the slippery streets uphill that are watered every morning. The streets are so slippery that you need hiking poles to walk … but there aren’t that many uphills, I’m exaggerating.
Lurking in the back streets is the much older Bodrum Mosque (AKA Mesih Paşa Cami), which started life as a 10th-century Byzantine church attached to the Myreiaion Palace. Beside it is an underground cistern, probably of similar date. Both stand on the site of a lost Rotunda dating back to the fifth century which is believed to have been the second largest such circular Roman temple after the Pantheon in Rome itself.
Walking through Laleli you can notice huge shops selling textiles and clothes, also a large number of jewelry store. Most of the clothes are branded with big fashion brands that are fake. Prices of course are not there and you can negotiate. The quality is questionable, but at least you can brag about wearing a Gucci or Louis Vuitton.
You may also notice people pushing huge bags on carts (very kind gentlemen). The goods in bags are packed for the big market and exported to various countries of the world.
Cats are literally everywhere! On the street, on the head, on the bench, in the shops … and they are always kind to cuddle.
It is no coincidence to see people sitting and cooking on the ruins of an ancient Roman city that attracts the attention of tourists.
I wouldn’t recommend staying in the Laleli District simply because I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around there at night. There are much nicer areas of Istanbul to base yourself out of. It’s not all that far from Sultanahmet proper, and the tram does go to Laleli, but I wouldn’t book a hotel any further out in that direction than Beyazit.
”It’s a sprawling, beautiful city, still, in spite of the unrestrained construction where Europe and Asia meet. There’s no place like it—and for a time, until very recently, it looked like the future.” – Anthony Bourdain