Soğukçeşme Sokak


Running between the Topkapı Palace walls and Aya Sofya, this picturesque cobbled street is named after the Soğuk Çeşme (Cold Fountain) at its southern end. It is home to the Carpet Museum, to a row of faux-Ottoman houses functioning as a hotel and to an undoubtedly authentic restored Byzantine cistern that now operates as the hotel's restaurant.

In the 1980s the Turkish Touring & Automobile Association (Turing) acquired a row of buildings on this street and decided to demolish most of them in order to build nine re-creations of the prim Ottoman-style houses that had occupied the site in the previous two centuries. What ensued was a vitriolic battle played out on the pages of İstanbul's newspapers, with some experts arguing that the city would be left with a Disney-style architectural theme park rather than a legitimate exercise in conservation architecture. Turing eventually got the go-ahead (after the intervention of the Turkish president, no less) and in time opened all of the re-created buildings as Ayasofya Konakları, one of the city's first boutique heritage hotels. Conservation theory aside, the street is particularly attractive and worth a look.