Istanbul, a city of remarkable diversity, beckons travelers to uncover its hidden gems and iconic sights. From the charming Pierre Loti Café, offering breathtaking panoramas, to the vibrant harmony of Ortakoy and the amazing aquatic wonders at the Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium, each destination paints a unique facet of Istanbul’s charm. Delve into the history and heritage of the Little Hagia Sophia, a timeless treasure. And, if you have time then ascend Camlica Hill for an unrivaled view of the city. Embark on a journey through Istanbul’s lesser-known marvels, where history, culture, and stunning landscapes beautifully merge.

Istanbul hidden gems: Pierre Loti Cafe

Pierre Loti Café: A Hidden Gem with Stunning Istanbul Views

Nestled away from the tourist crowds, Pierre Loti Café is a stunning retreat that promises a unique perspective of Istanbul. Tucked in Eyüp’s Golden Horn neighborhood, this cafeteria offers unrivaled panoramic views, stretching from the Golden Horn to Galata Tower. It’s no wonder that famed French novelist and naval officer Pierre Loti found his muse here.

Pierre Loti Cafe: A Hidden Gem With Stunning Istanbul Views
People enjoying Turkish tea, coffee, and the view of the Golden Horn from the famous hilltop Pierre Lotti Cafe. It is one of the best places for Istanbul panoramic views.
Pierre Loti Café: A Hidden Gem With Stunning Istanbul Views
The cafe offers a mesmerizing panoramic view of the city, particularly highlighting the serene waters of the Golden Horn. From this vantage point, behold the meandering Golden Horn winding through Istanbul’s historic heart, offering a picturesque spectacle.

Travelers seeking a unique perspective of Istanbul’s iconic Golden Horn, artists searching for inspiration amid the breathtaking views, and history enthusiasts drawn to the cafe’s rich connection to French novelist Pierre Loti have all found their way to this establishment.

Golden Horn
Tip: You can take the chair lift to reach the hilltop and then walk down the hill to save your energy to explore the area further.
Pierre Loti Cafe: Istanbul panoramic view over Golden Horn
As you sip your tea or coffee, the Golden Horn’s tranquil beauty unfolds before you, making this view from Pierre Loti Café an unforgettable Istanbul experience.

Ortakoy: Where Vibrancy Meets Coexistence

Ortakoy, located beneath the iconic Bosphorus Bridge, is a lively and magnetic neighborhood nestled within Besiktas, Istanbul. It’s a bustling hub renowned for its eclectic mix of cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and even a local favorite – baked potatoes! The district also showcases a testament to Turkey’s religious harmony with a mosque, a church, and a synagogue standing harmoniously side by side, exemplifying coexistence at its finest.

Istanbul hidden gems: Ortaköy
The Ortaköy Mosque, also known as the Büyük Mecidiye Camii, is one of the neighborhood’s most famous landmarks. This architectural marvel was commissioned by Sultan Abdulmecid I and was completed in the mid-19th century. Its stunning Baroque and Neo-Baroque design elements make it a must-visit site.
Istanbul hidden gems: Ortakoy
The Bosphorus Bridge is one of the three suspension bridges spanning the Bosphorus strait, connecting Istanbul beside Europe and Asia.
Istanbul hidden gems: Ortakoy
Ortaköy has a thriving art scene with numerous galleries showcasing the work of local artists. The neighborhood’s creative spirit is palpable, and it often hosts art festivals and exhibitions.
Istanbul hidden gems: Ortaköy
In close proximity to the Ortakoy Mosque, you’ll find a church and a synagogue. This triad of religious structures beautifully exemplifies Turkey’s tradition of tolerance and coexistence.
Istanbul hidden gems: Ortakoy
Ortakoy is renowned for offering some of the most breathtaking views of the Bosphorus Bridge. From the shores of Ortakoy, visitors can witness the bridge’s majestic span.

This architectural gem predates the famous Hagia Sophia and served as an inspiration for its larger counterpart.

Little Hagia Sophia: A Hidden Gem of Istanbul’s Byzantine Heritage

Tucked away in the heart of Istanbul, just a brief stroll from the Sultanahmet Mosque, lies the “Little Hagia Sophia.” This unassuming gem, Istanbul’s oldest surviving early Byzantine monument, holds whispered tales of ancient Byzantine opulence. Commissioned by the visionary East Roman Emperor Justinian in the 530s, it was originally known as the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, gracing the shores of the Sea of Marmara near the city’s southern walls. Its transformation into a mosque in 1504 marked a pivotal chapter in its storied history.

Little Hagia Sophia, also known as Küçük Ayasofya, is a historic mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
Little Hagia Sophia is a hidden treasure, often overlooked by tourists, making it a less crowded site to explore.

Due to the passage of time and extensive restoration work, remnants of the original interior decor have faded into history. However, one poignant relic remains—a graceful inscription that reveres Emperor Justinian, his beloved wife Theodora, and the revered Saint Sergius.

Visiting the Little Hagia Sophia is akin to stepping into a time capsule, where Byzantine grandeur converges with Ottoman legacy. Beneath its unassuming exterior, this mosque carries a world of history and culture, awaiting exploration by history enthusiasts and travelers. It is truly one of hidden gems of Istanbul.

It was originally built in the 6th century as a church, known as the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

The mosque features an elegant interior with well-preserved marble and intricate designs.

It’s renowned for its graceful dome and charming courtyard, offering a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.

Sea Life Istanbul Aquarium

Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium: Dive into a World of Aquatic Wonders

Formerly known as Turkuazoo, the Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium is a titan among Europe’s aquariums. Established in 2009 and situated in the Bayrampasa district within Forum Istanbul, it boasts a captivating collection of over 10,000 fish representing 1,000 different species across 40 mesmerizing exhibits that transport you to diverse aquatic realms. Ideal for family outings, this aquarium promises a day of educational entertainment.

Sea Life Istanbul Aquarium
The aquarium is home to a remarkable collection of over 10,000 sea creatures representing approximately 1,000 different species.
Sea Life Istanbul Aquarium

Sea Life Istanbul Aquarium offers interactive experiences, including the opportunity to touch and interact with some of the marine animals, providing a hands-on and educational adventure for visitors of all ages.

Sea Life Istanbul
Visitors can explore 40 captivating exhibits that take them on a journey through diverse marine environments.
Sea Life Istanbul
Sea Life Istanbul.
The aquarium regularly hosts special events, workshops, and educational programs, making it an ideal destination for families and marine enthusiasts alike.

Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium is not only an educational and entertaining destination but also actively involved in marine conservation efforts.

Camlica Hill: A Bosphorus Viewpoint Like No Other

Camlica Hill, situated in the Uskudar district near the Bosphorus suspension bridge, is a place where two hills graciously overlook the majestic Bosphorus Strait and the expansive Marmara Sea. This spot ranks among Istanbul’s top tourist attractions, offering a sweeping panoramic view that captures the essence of the city. Adorned with teahouses, cafes, and a charming restaurant, Çamlıca Hill is nestled within a public park adorned with old trees, blooming flower gardens, and several fountains.

Camlica Hill offers the most stunning panoramic views of Istanbul, located just 3 kilometers from the 15 July Martyrs Bridge. It’s the perfect spot to relax and take in the breathtaking Istanbul panorama, making it a popular destination for breakfast and dinner on weekends.
Since the Ottoman era, Çamlıca Hill has been a cherished spot to admire Istanbul from a bird’s eye perspective, inspiring poems, songs, and literary works. Its unique vantage point showcases the Bosphorus, Princes Islands, Golden Horn, and the European side of Istanbul.
This spot ranks among Istanbul’s top tourist attractions, offering a sweeping panoramic view that captures the essence of the city.

Camlica Hill is not only a hotspot for tourists but also a haven for bird watchers. It attracts migratory birds, making it a sought-after location for bird enthusiasts, particularly during the spring months.

Stay updated

Receive email updates whenever a new story is published.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Fine Art and Travel Photography by Asif Naqvi

Photography is not just about capturing images; it’s a fascinating journey of exploration and observation that connects us with surrounding realities. It is the art of seeing, exploring, and imagining the world around us through a lens. I strongly believe in the ability of images to stimulate thoughts and evoke emotions. Each frame captures a moment in time and tells a story, allowing the viewer to become immersed in the visual narrative commonly known as storytelling.

It is all about seeing, observing, and making visual notes.

Having ventured into the realm of imagination, I stepped into the real world and discovered a newfound appreciation for nature. Grand landscapes, delicate flora, and fascinating fauna inspire me to see the world anew, with open eyes and heart.

As I make my way back to human civilization, I wander through diverse cultures and untrodden paths. I find inspiration in the essence of each place and its people. Travel photography, for me, is a way to connect with the soul of a destination.

My photography is not just an expression of my vision, but an invitation to see the world from a different angle.

I am always seeking fresh perspectives, hence pushing the boundaries of my art to capture those elusive moments that resonate deeply with my audience. My photography is not just an expression of my vision, but an invitation to see the world from a different angle, to find beauty in the seemingly mundane, and to appreciate the manners of our existence.

Join me on this artistic journey at, where we’ll embark on an adventure through images. They stir the spirit, ignite the imagination, and inspire a deeper appreciation for the marvels that surround us.

With boundless enthusiasm and a camera in hand,

⸻ Aksgar Asif Naqvi

Aks Gar ( عکس گر ): a Persian/Urdu compound word to describe an image maker or a photographer.

Explore the captivating world through the lens of Asif Naqvi with his fine art and travel photography.


Please feel free to reach out whether you have questions, feedback, or just want to say hello. You can use the contact form below to send a message directly.