Where the well-heeled shopper meets the expense-account lunch, these three quarters are a short hop by metro or taxi from Taksim Square. Although these days many of the more elegant apartments house professionals and their practices rather than families, the back streets and arcades – with their pastry shops, sushi joints and delicatessens – still cater to a discerning gentility. Harbiye is where the street from Taksim Square, Cumhuriyet Caddesi, divides and becomes Halaskargazi Caddesi and Valikonağı Caddesi. Nişantaşı takes its name from a modest obelisk at the crossroads of Valikonağı Caddesi and Teşvikiye Caddesi/Rumeli Caddesi – it recalls a particularly well shot arrow. Life (and death) revolve around the gigantic American Hospital, further down Valikonağı Caddesi, but hidden behind the old English High School, and the 19th-century Teşvikiye Camii. Maçka has Abdi İpekçi Caddesi – Istanbul’s Bond Street – at its core, and looks out over a wooded park little changed since Zonaro sketched it circa 1900. Follow Rumeli Caddesi to its traffic snarled conclusion and you arrive at the Osmanbey metro station, where part 2 of the story begins.
Nişantaşı, now a byword in urban chic, takes its name from a surprisingly rustic incident late in the eighteenth century, when the Sultan erected a little obelisk to mark the descent of a particularly well-shot arrow. Today’s high-fliers aim for Kenzo or Armani. And alongside the other international labels that have set up shop – Gucci, Prada, Vuitton, DKNY, Burberry – are the more innovative names in Turkish fashion and food.
Two of the smartest addresses are Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi and Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi, two parrallel streets running downhill from Valikonağı Caddesi. The terrace of Delicatessen on the former is a suitably prominent place to be seen having an aloof coffee, or plate of charcuterie. Beymen and Park Samdan are closer to the shopping action. The nearby Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall has the best classical concerts, routinely fusing Western and Turkish styles to laudable effect.
Bostan Sokak leads to the crossroad on Teşvikiye Caddesi, scene the finalé of Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book. The elegant neighbourhood mosque was built by the same architects as the Dolmabahçe Palace. The House Cafe in a building on one corner of the mosque complex is dry for obvious reasons. The beautiful people meet there for coffee, or a recovery brunch behind dark glasses. Almost opposite it is a pedestrianised street with a number of restaurants and cafés - including the original House Café, recently refurbished. The gallery in Milli Reasürans Pasajı around the corner has consistently interesting exhibitions and produces wonderful catalogues.
If you walk uphill from the mosque, keeping it behind you or on your right, you enter Nişantaşı proper. The familiar names in fashion give way to independent boutiques and antique dealers, and the glitz gives way to a more neighbourly refinement. Two essential stops to make: Yastik by Rifat Özbek for exquisite cushion covers, and Kantin for lunch.
Dolmuşes: Nişantaşı has three handy ranks with dolmuşes: the one at Atiye Sokak (next to the Teşvikiye Mosque) goes to and from Taksim (next to The Marmara Hotel); the one in Akkavak Sokak goes to Eminönü and the Old City; and the one in Şakayık Sokak crosses the Bosphorus to Kadıköy. Osmanbey metro station is close by. Walk along Rumeli Caddesi, or come through the rag trade district in the backstreets, where even windows on the 5th floor are dressed!
Smart meeting places include the soothing terrace of Borsa, one of the city’s most serious Turkish restaurants; Loft, the new Mediterranean-style restaurant (both in the Lutfi Kırdar Conference Centre); Park Şamdan, an old favourite at the bottom of Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi; Beymen Brasserie, where a beautiful crowd spills onto Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi; and Caffe Armani, which conceals a luxurious terrace. Excellent local restaurants include Hacıbey (Teşvikiye Cad 156), which only does lamb on pide dripping with yoghurt and tomatoes, and Kantin in Akkavak Sokak (round the corner from the Nişantaşı crossroads), which does a delicious, wafer-thin pizza called çıtır. Like many cafés in the district it looks into a leafy, breezy courtyard you would never dream existed.