Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 World Cup in my back yard: Istanbul


Over the past 10 years The Turkish national football team has enjoyed its greatest triumphs on the international stage. In the 2002 World Cup Turkey made it to the semi-finals where a 1–0 defeat against eventual tournament winners, Brazil, forced Turkey into the third place match where they won the bronze medal after a 3–2 victory over South Korea. In the 2008 Euro Turkey again made it to the semi-finals, this time against Germany. With just 14 outfield players available as a result of injuries and suspensions, Turkey scored first and were 2–2 in the last minute of the match, until Germany scored a third goal in the last few seconds thus eliminating the Turks.

With the increased profile that the 2008 Euro delivered, expectations were high for another fine result at the 2010 World Cup (June 11-July 11) in South Africa. Unfortunately Turkey had a mixed qualifying campaign and missed out on a play-off berth.

While pride in their national team may have diminished as a result of Turkey’s absence from the tournament, rest assured local interest in the beautiful game has not waned. So, if you are looking for a hot spot here in Istanbul to watch the tournament, we can point you in the right direction. We have found some great spots on either side of the Bosphorus, where, depending on your budget, you can hoot, holler and act like a hooligan in support of your favourite squad. The establishments mentioned in this feature do not charge an entrance fee to watch the games. Reserve your table(s) ahead of time and enjoy the matches.


The North Shield Pub - Sultanahment
A popular chain of English style pubs for tourists and expats alike is The North Shield Pub, of which Istanbul lays claim to five franchises (in Ataşehir, Baçheşehir, Yeşilköy, Sultanahmet and Fındıkzade). The Sultanahmet location is a few paces from the Gulhane tram stop and is the perfect venue to come watch the Final after a day of sightseeing. Once inside, you will have your choice of nine 36-inch television screens to glue your eyes too. A unique space in the pub is up the four steps underneath the “Napoli” scarf. There you will find an intimate room with space for eight (though Pub Manager, Zafer, says they have squeezed fifteen patrons up there for the biggest matches) to sit on comfy couches and watch the game on the TV that hangs above the mantle. Be sure to call ahead to reserve this space.

10-satellites pull in game feeds from all over the world allowing guests to choose the language they would like to hear the match broadcast in. Free Wi-fi will also allow you to check-in with friends online during the game.

During The World Cup a new menu will be added, including Turkish mezza’s. Zafer encourages guests to try the Lamb Skewer/şiş kebap (19.50 TL) and the Sultan Kebab (25 TL). He generously adds that a free coffee and dessert follows dinner. Beer prices/0.5L are 8.50 TL for Efes, 10 TL for Gusta and 11TL for Miller.

The North Shield Pub - Sultanahmet
(0212) 527-0931
Ebussuud Caddesi No:2 Sultanahmet
Open every day from 11.00-02.00

The Irish Centre
Located in the heart of Beyoğlu, at the intersection of Nevizade Sokak and Balo Sokak, The Irish Centre offers two full floors of football fanaticism. In 2008, this family-run bar was voted by a national newspaper as the #1 place to watch a football match in Istanbul.

Popular Irish music will be turned down in favour of the final World Cup matches. Most of the televisions are on the second floor. At the back of the bar a projector screen will be pulled down in front of the stage. This screen can also be seen from a perch on the second floor.

Hailing his bar as the only authentic and truly Irish Bar in Istanbul, owner Eamon, highly recommends the Fish & Chips (17.50 TL) with a 0.5L Efes (8.50 TL), and, if there is no match, Sundays at 10pm you can stop by to watch him perform traditional Irish folk tunes. Sláinte!

The Irish Centre
İstiklal Cad. Balo Sok. No: 26 Beyoğlu
Open every day from 12.00-02.00


Ekvator Cafe
Located in Beyoglu, just a few blocks from Taksim Square, the Ekvator Café is a 3-storey gem. During weekdays in the summer beer is 3 TL and we are told that this special will be offered during the World Cup. Traditionally guests will grab a beer and fries at the bar then head to one of the 12 LCD screens, 3 plasma-screens, or 3 projectors. No matter where you sit you won’t miss a single second. The crowd here is mostly younger foreigners and locals. Ekvator offers a great atmosphere without causing you to break your budget. Take a break from kebaps to try the mostly Mexican and South American cuisine, consisting of nachos (13 TL), fajitas (18-22 TL) and quesadillas (15 TL). The colourful website gives you a good taste of what the Ekvator Café is all about. Salud!

Ekvator Cafe
(0212) 243 97 42
Küçükparmakkapı Sokak 7, Beyoğlu
Open every day from 09.00-02.00.


If you prefer the local experience, the watering holes close to the stadiums are excellent and affordable choices for the most hardcore fans.

Mackolik Complex
The white and cream coloured Ottoman mansion near the west side of Fenerbahçe Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Kadikoy, offers a 100% local experience. With 7 satellites beaming to 20 screens throughout the facility, this renovated mansion is designed for those wanting a stadium-quality experience.
If you want to take a smoke break or watch the game outside, there is space enough for 120 in the garden patio. Co-owner, Erdem, recommends the massive Mackolik Burger w/ Salad and Fries (16 TL), or the Meatballs w/Eggplant (16 TL).

At Mackolik the spirit of the locals will make you feel like you are truly at the game. To fully understand the communal passion exhibited for the local sports clubs, Erdem also recommends the experience of watching a Turkcell Lig 1 match at Mackolik.

Mackolik Complex
(0216) 338 65 55
Şefik Bey Sokak 1, Kadıköy
Open every day from 09.00-02.00.

There are also a plethora of sports bars and cafés all along and off of Bağdat Caddesi, the long thoroughfare that runs through the municipality of Kadikoy.

A favourite hang out for residents, Yerfıstığı (Peanuts) is located on Iskele Street just off of Bagdad Caddesi. Yerfıstığı has 9 plasma, 4 42-inch and 5 40-inch screens, making it the preferred sports watching venue in the neighbourhood. After a certain hour they will not hold your reservation, so try not to be late.

A unique feature of the bar resembles a tradition held in many American sports bars. Peanuts (hence the name Yerfıstığı) are provided and guests are encouraged to drop the shells on the ground. Try the Sigara Böreği (cheesy filo rolls) and Börek (traditional filo pastry). They also serve Schnitzel , hamburgers , chicken wings , chicken kebabs and köfte (meatballs). The Hot Appetizer plate is 10 TL.

(0216) 355 18 95
İskele Caddesi 23, Caddebostan
Open weekends from 10.00-04.00, weekdays from 10.00-03.00.


When you start the search for a perfect place to watch the big game, going to a hotel doesn’t immediately spring to mind. However, there are comfortable lodges in Istanbul that boast sporting establishments catering to higher-end clients and business travelers.

Hilton Sports Bar
If your preference is to watch the World Cup Finals in five-star quality then The Hilton Worldwide Istanbul’s Sports Bar is for you. For this event Executive Chef Andreas Scheuregger has prepared a special selection of thematic dishes such as ‘Penalty’ (Hilton Burger), ‘Free Kick’ (Club Sandwich, 24 TL) and ‘Side Line’ (Caesar Salad, 25 TL). Sink into a sofa to watch the game with a beer and light snack. At halftime you can enjoy the perfect view of the Bosphorus.

Hilton Istanbul
Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Harbiye-Istanbul

There is no shortage of places to chill-out and watch football in Istanbul. The city will have hundreds of kitschy hole-in-the-wall eateries, Kuafor’s (Barber Shops) and public spaces packed tight with locals, watching intently and screaming passionately, with every turn in the action, at tiny 13-inch tube television sets. You would need a volume of books to sum up the locales to watch a football match in this town. Nevertheless, we trust that this feature delivered an understanding that while Turkey may not be represented in the 2010 World Cup, the games will still resonate and be enjoyed all over Istanbul. The World Cup is an international and cross-cultural event of joy and celebration and we hope that by watching the matches here in Istanbul it will add to the memories of your time spent here.

N.B. In addition to, this piece is extended to feature 7 additional locales in the July issue of Time Out: Istanbul


  1. Hey Joe - in a fellow LP blogger for the world cup... Covering Amsterdam, but I am currently in Istanbul for the weekend. Interested in meetin up for the England vs USA game for a pint? You cam contact me today via my site - and I will check it this aft.

  2. Please remove Ekvator Cafe from your list. They try to charge 8.5TL for the 70CL beer yesterday. Also, they don't have sound for the football matches! How can you watch a game without the commentary. Instead, they play loud and crappy music playing the whole time.

  3. Jeff: Sorry. just got your message today. Catching Eric Clapton tonight (Sunday). Maybe some other time. All the best.

    Andy: Sorry about your experience at Ekvator. I thought it was a colourful place. 8.5 is not that bad a price for 70cl (Three-quarters of a litre). If your looking for even cheaper suds try some of the pubs toward the bottom of Nevizade Sokak. I like "Mavi Bar". Theres no TVs to catch the games but its a great spot for people watching.

  4. Hi Joe. Thanks for the reply :) I think 8.50 is good as well, but they state(d) 7 on their website for the duration of the WC. Anyway, no big deal. The no sound was the deal breaker though.

    I'm trying to find places that show the games with English commentary. I know North Shield do, but do you know any other decent priced places?

  5. Andy. Check out a place called Kraft in Beyoglu. I have been there and seen expats watching champions league on the TV by the bar. More info and pics can be seen at the link below.

    Otherwise, an English feed typically comes from a midrange locale.
    Good luck.