• Experience Istanbul’s oldest dervish lodge with a small museum dedicated to Sufism
  • Watch the real-life mystics whirl themselves into religious ecstasy
  • Check out a cozy tavern with traditional cocktails and authentic eats

Feel the urge to escape the throng parading up and down İstiklal? Duck into the Galata Mevlevihanesi, Istanbul’s oldest dervish lodge. Set in peaceful gardens, just south of Tünel Square, the small museum dedicated to Sufism (a mystical sect of Islam) is populated with dioramas depicting various traditional rituals (imagine Madame Tussauds full of dervishes). Far more alluring are the real-life mystics who whirl themselves into a religious ecstasy every Sunday at 5 p.m. Take your place in one of the ornately carved booths lining the octagonal hall and you’ll be mesmerized by the uplifting performance. Afterwards, keep your spirits up at one of the meyhanes—cozy taverns where alcohol is liberally served—clustered around Tünel. A five-minute stroll up İstiklal is Asmalı Cavit, where the Istanbullu intelligentsia gossip over raki, the potent anise liquor known as “lion’s milk.” From the meze tray, choose the börek (phyllo triangles stuffed with spicy beef) and topik (an Armenian specialty of crushed chickpeas with cumin, raisins, and onions), but save room for slivers of lamb liver and fried calamari. The tables upstairs have the liveliest buzz.

To get to Galata Mevlevihanesi Lodge, find Galip Dede Caddesi in Tünel Square. Galip Dede Caddesi is an extension of İstiklal Caddesi. When you’re ready for food, head up the road to Asmalı Mescit Caddesi and Asmalı Cavit restaurant is on the left.

GALATA MEVLEVIHANESI: Sahkulu Mh. Galip, Dede Caddesi No:15; +90-(0)212-245-4141;, closed Mondays.

ASMALI CAVIT: 16/D Asmali Mescit Caddesi No:16/D; +90-(0)212-292-4950