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Büyük Valide Han rooftop
The sultan's mother established Büyük Valide Han in 1651 as one of Istanbul's most significant Hans (shops and hotels). However, in 1567, this was also the site of the first printing press in Istanbul. There is a Shi'a mosque in the main courtyard. It's also within walking distance to some of the most magnificent mosques in Istanbul: Nuruosmaniye, Beyazit, and Hagia Sophia.
One of the few hidden gems featured in a film (Skyfall – James Bond, 2012). Bring a camera to capture the marvelous views and drink tea in the cafe.
Fener and Balat neighborhoods
These suburbs were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the historical old city in Istanbul. That list includes both the Balat District and the Fatih District. Located on the western bank of the Golden horn, you'll find a massive chunk of hidden gems in Istanbul here.
When the Jewish people fleed the Spanish Inquisition, they settled in this area which is why it's known as the Jewish Quarter of the city. As you walk around, check out the Phanar Greek Orthodox College, a private school established in 1454, a popular school for Greek families in the Ottoman era.
We admit this may not count as “secret spots in Istanbul.” It is, however, one of the more unvisited spots by tourists, which is a shame because it's one of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey. Moreover, it's the largest mosque in the city. However, what makes this a hidden gem is not the mosque but the art gallery, library, childcare sections, and museum. Moreover, it's next to the stunning Çamlıca Hill. If you're heading to the Üsküdar district anyway, why not see this woman-friendly mosque designed by two women architects?
While everyone throngs to the more famous Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, people barely know about the Arasta Bazaar that is located right behind the Blue Mosque.
Arasta Bazaar is a nice place to buy Turkish souvenirs such as carpets, ceramics, towels, spices, and Turkish delights. Since it is not as crowded as the other Istanbul markets, it is best for people who are looking for a quieter shopping experience.
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Istanbul Modern was founded in 2004 as Turkey's first museum of modern and contemporary art. Committed to sharing Turkey's artistic creativity and cultural identity with the local and international art worlds, the museum hosts a broad array of interdisciplinary activities.