My desire to find French street in Istanbul started when I read an article that described it as French influence in Turkey. The equivalent of China town in New York. I imagined a chance to experience two cultures within one destination. My interest had spiked. The nearest insight I have gained of France was passing through on a coach ride to and from Germany, so I placed French street on my list of things to do.
However once I arrived in Istanbul, it soon dawned on me that this street was not the famous and continental image that I had conjured up in my head. Speaking to locals, no one seemed to know where it was. I am sure they were thinking, “Daft cow – this is Turkey, not France”. The conversation started going places when I mentioned the proper Turkish name of the street – Cezayir Sokak. The locals still shrugged their shoulders though. “It is somewhere to eat, drink and be happy,” they said. No indication of why it was different from any other places in Istanbul.
Arriving at French Street in Istanbul
We eventually found it on the back streets leading off Istikal Avenue. A narrow and steep passage way dominated on both sides with high buildings.
As we walked down, Turkish waiters immediately rushed out to request our presence in their establishments. We chose somewhere to eat and drink, but the menu arrived, and it listed the same old dishes that appear everywhere else.
I looked at the buildings but nothing seemed unique and out of the ordinary. Even the live singer was nothing different, although he was very good at his job.
I had to ask the waiter why it was called French street. Ok, the pink cushions and bright canopies made for lovely décor, even though it was a bit garish in my opinion. A couple of restaurants had French names, however nothing else gave me the feeling of France. The waiter, like everyone else, just shrugged his shoulders and could not enlighten me why.
Upon my return, I felt massively deceived but had to discover why the street achieved its nickname. Apparently, it is all down to the bare design. In 2004, the street was renovated with the help of Parisian architects. The stones of the street were laid according to their instructions, and the coal gas lamps were imported from France. They made a couple of other tweaks here and there and hey presto, we have a French street in Istanbul!
My Opinion of Cezayir Sokak
Go there if you want a nice night out in professional establishments. Other than that, do not expect anything more. We received good service and delicious food in comfortable surroundings, which softened the disappointment. You could argue that I had unrealistic expectations, however other websites do state sentences such as “If you want a taste of France, head to French Street”
French street is Turkish restaurants, manned by Turkish waiters, who are obsessed with decorating their establishments in bright purple, pink and red colors.
Nothing more than that.
Readers question: Have you been to French Street and do you agree with me?
Have you been to other places whose reputation is misleading?