A trip to Istanbul can be demanding; too many historical sights to see, too much food to taste, and too many streets to be walked. But when you just want to have a day off from the sightseeing and relax in a cute neighborhood, head to Ortaköy. This quirky and relaxed neighborhood is ideal to spend half a day during a visit to Istanbul with good food, incredible views and a cozy vibe.

Ortaköy, literally translated to “Middle Village”, is nestled between Beşiktaş, a student-heavy neighborhood that exudes young love and Kuruçeşme, the waterfront neighborhood home to the most famous clubs of Istanbul. Ortaköy is famous for its cobblestone streets that operate like an open bazaar with street vendors selling all kinds of jewelry, knickknacks, accessories and so on. It is also home to several historical buildings, such as Ortaköy Mosque, Çırağan Palace and Esma Sultan Yalısı. Ortaköy Mosque is a 19th century Neo-Baroque style mosque that was ordered by Sultan Abdulmecit to be built by the Armenian architect Nigoğayos Balyan, who also did Dolmabahçe Palace and Mosque. Çırağan Palace, built in 1871 and the home of Sultan Abdülaziz, is now one of the most luxurious hotels of Istanbul, known as Çırağan Palace Kempinski Hotel. Esma Sultan Yalısı, next to the mosque, is another historical mansion in the neighborhood. Both Çırağan and Esma Sultan host some of the most luxurious weddings in Istanbul.

Besides being home to these impressive structures, Ortaköy is one of the most chill neighborhoods in the city. Locals flock here on the weekends to browse the street vendors and to eat a specific kind of fast food; kumpir. Several well-off cafés and restaurants like Zuma Restaurant and House Cafe are located in the neighborhood but to get a real feel of Ortaköy, grab a kumpir and eat it against a view you can never get tired of; the Bosphorus. Kumpir is a fairly simple food, but popular amongst locals in all walks of life. It is a baked potato filled with butter and cheese and whipped until a perfectly creamy and gooey consistency is achieved. You can opt for this simple version or top it with an endless variety of toppings; pickles, peas, olives, corn, sausage, pickled red beets, mayonnaise and ketchup are just some of the options. This cheap and simple street food is comforting, delicious and always hits the spot. A dozen or so kumpir stands are lined up next to one another right at the entrance of Ortaköy leading towards the mosque, it is virtually impossible to pick one over another, so go with your gut or pick one where there isn’t a long line. Other fast foods you can grab in Ortaköy is gözleme, a quesadilla of sorts typically filled with cheese, and overly sugary waffles doused with fresh fruits and sweet spreads. You can grab your kumpir or gözleme and head to a çay bahçesi, a traditional tea house where sipping freshly steeped Turkish tea while playing backgammon is an everyday act.

When you’re visiting Istanbul, don’t forget to take some time to relax and take in the beauty of the city. Check out Ortaköy for a casual day, feed bits of your simit to the seagulls flocking over the Bosphorus, watch the boats go by and enjoy the simple details of everyday life in our magical city.