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The Lost World Beneath the Palatium Cafe and Restaurant

We had no idea the treasure that dwelled under the Palatium Cafe's unassuming courtyard

It was late on Saturday night December 3, 2011. We’d only been in Istanbul a few days. We were still acclimating to the time change.

We’d woken up late. Again. Like I said, the jet lag was taking its toll. When we finally did get going, we spent the day touring Topkapi Palace.

That pooped us out. Luckily, our hotel was only a five minute walk away. We went “home” to take quick naps. That resulted in us both sleeping most of the evening away.

By the time we got up and freshened up, we were famished. Yet, even with my long nap, my legs were sore from all the walking. I just wanted to eat at one of the restaurants right by our hotel.

Ever since we arrived, we’d passed this one glass-walled restaurant every time we headed towards Sultanhamet Square. It always seemed to be doing a good business. It was right around the corner from our hotel, it was still open, and best of all it served pizza. I was crazing pizza bad.

As I was reading the menu, something other than the food caught my eye. Tucked inside the front flap was a card with what I at first thought was an ad for History Channel’s Cities of the Underworld.

Nope. It was telling about how the restaurant had been featured on the show.

What’s Under the Palatium Cafe and Restaurant

The Great Palace of Constantinople (Palatium Magnum), also known as the Sacred Palace, was the large Imperial Byzantine palace complex located in the south-eastern end of the peninsula now known as “Old Istanbul.” It served as the main royal residence of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperors from 330-1081 and was the center of imperial administration for over 800 years. Only a few remnants and fragments of its foundation have survived into the modern world. 1999 our company found one part of the palatium magnum and took us 4 years to excavate and move out 600 trucks dirt all the expense spent by Bagdogan family. For more info visit

Because I thought we were only grabbing dinner and sightseeing was over, I didn’t have my camera on me.  I copied the above from the brochure in the menu. (I was tired, but I do remember copying it word-for-word. However, the end is a little loose, isn’t it? Whether it wasn’t translated well into English to begin with or I copied it sloppily, I’m not sure now.)

At any rate, I asked our waiter about it. He explained the glass blocks in the floor looked down on the ruins they’d excavated below when the restaurant was built. He also encouraged us to go check it out.

Since I didn’t have my camera, I asked if we could come back the next day.

“Come back tomorrow night. The atmosphere is much better when it’s dark.”

I took his word for it, and after dinner the next night we stopped to tour the lost world beneath the Palatium Cafe. We ended up discovering an unexpected, free historical attraction.

Were there ghosts there? I don’t know. No one would say, but the atmosphere definitely lent the imagination to believe it would be a place spirits might roam.


Oh, and by the way, the pizza was great. Different than American-style. I got plain cheese, but they added green chilies to it, which was actually fabulous and satisfied my craving for pizza perfectly!

There were several areas of glass block that allowed diners to eat atop the ruins in the Palatium Cafe. This one was in the courtyard.


The sign that marked the entrance to the Sacred Palace


The stairs leading into the ruins below.
Descending deeper...
The main chamber of the Sacred Palace


This pathway led us through the ruins


What lies in the doorway beyond?


A room with a fabulous chandelier is what we found in the room through the door in the passageway.


What the doorway looked like from the other side.


Underworld passageways cut in the stone


Evidence of underworld architectural arches that once supported an empire above.


Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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10 thoughts on “The Lost World Beneath the Palatium Cafe and Restaurant

  1. Fabulous! How could I have missed that? Next time I’m in Istanbul, my first stop will be tha Paladium Cafe. Thanks so very much for having told me about such a great treasure.

  2. It was total luck we stumbled on, Ayngelina. I loved it. Even if I was dog-tired, hungry and it was late. Felt like one of those places we’d been guided to on purpose. In fact, a lot of the people at our hotel didn’t even know about it. We sent business to them in the form of both our hotel’s staff and other guests. LOL!

  3. It really is pretty unique selling point, isn’t it, Robin? I hadn’t considered that. I mean, they had that thing in their menu, but if you didn’t walk in their restaurant you’d have never known they were featured on that History channel show. Their outside menu might have had a little thing about too. I can’t remember. But if it did, you’d have had to stop and really look to notice it. They should’ve really sold it more!

  4. It’s good to hear that even someone seasoned at International travel experiences jet lag! Man, it’s yucky! BUT…it did lead us to this neat place so…I guess it worked out okay.

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