The Süleymaniye Mosque dominates the Old City skyline, crowning it with the most elegant cascade of domes of any Ottoman mosque. The surrounding area is a treasure-trove, where the connoisseur goes for a ramble after ticking the sights at the tip of the peninsular off the to-do list.
Istanbul University, with its tall neoclassical fire tower built in the 1830s, stands between two great imperial mosques, ascetic refuges from the glitter of the Grand Bazaar or the Spice market below it. The Beyazıt Camii is formidably dark and austere; the mosque of its founder’s grandson, Süleyman the Magnificent, towers over the Golden Horn, at the centre of a renaissance model city carved in stone. Visiting the older one first you being to understand the famous architect Sinan’s transformation of Ottoman architecture, from catacomb to cathedral.
The district surrounding the Süleymaniye was once the most desirable in all of Istanbul, and some of old wooden houses are being restored. The most moving example, now open to the public, belonged to the painters Feyhaman and Güzin Duran. Other old fashioned treats include Vefa Bozacı who sell boza – fermented millet – in winter, and şıra - fermented grape juice – in summer.
And just when you thought shopping was over, along comes IMC. The listed 1960s shopping arcades at the foot of the hill below the Süleymaniye is the epicentre of Istanbul’s music industry. Kalan, producers of most of the CDs available from Cornucopia, are here. But this is also the place to get useful things made, like stripy deck-chairs. Always worth a browse. More fun than IKEA, and equally inventive.
Stroll along the ridge of the hill from Beyazit and the Grand Bazaar via the University Gardens for the best views and sights along the way. Coming from the other direction, the walk up the hill from Eminönü is a reasonable climb if you’re feeling fit. Otherwise best to take a taxi - they can drop you close to the Süleymaniye and it is all downhill from there.
Ali Baba Kanaat on the corner by the Süleymaniye’s graveyard is famous for its beans and rice (kuru fasulye), and you have to try Vefa Bozacısı for a refuelling or refreshing drink. For something more substantial head back towards Eminönü and the Spice Bazaar for Hamdi’s superb South-Eastern fare, or the tiles and the view at Pandeli - in the bazaar itself.