Istanbul: The Asian Side

Istanbul is an enormous city of 14 million people and is separated into three sections by water.  The Golden Horn divides the European side into two while the Bosphorus Strait intersects the European and Asian side.  Istanbul is the only city in the world to span two continents.

In previous posts I wrote about the Sultanahmet (the Old City) and Beyoĝlu (the European Quarter).  This post will focus on things to do on the Asian Side of the city.

Take a Boat on the Bosphorus

First and foremost, take the ferry across Bosphorus Strait.  A visit to Istanbul would be incomplete without traveling on the Bosphorus.  The ferry leaves from several locations regularly, about every 10 minutes.  It costs around 3.50TL with the Istanbul Kart card which may be purchased at a ferry terminal kiosk.

I took a morning ferry from Eminönü on a dreary day with the forecast for improved weather after lunch.  This is precisely what happened, but the mistake I made is the photography on the European side is best taken in the morning, not upon the return unless arriving at sunset.  As a result, I’d consider a ride to the Asian side of Istanbul on a full, clear day.

view of the Bosphorus from Üsküdar

Stroll the Kadiköy Market

There are two main destinations on the Asian side, Kadiköy and Üsküdar.  I took the ferry to Kadiköy first.  I found this area to be very local and hard to find the market despite it being nearby.  After wandering around for a while and strolling through the market, I settled down for lunch at Caddê Karadeniz.

Kadikoy market on the asia side of Turkey

Where to Eat

Caddê Karadeniz serves traditional Turkish meals which may be selected by looking at them, a relief given most people on the Asian side didn’t speak English and the menus are in Turkish.  Having said that, one gentleman at Caddê Karadeniz did speak English, and he was very helpful.  The food was good, and I enjoyed sitting at a local place rather than the tourist restaurants in Sultanahmet.

lunch at Caddê Karadeniz

After lunch I hopped on the bus to Üsküdar, which also runs frequently.  The bus station is next to the ferry terminal, though the buses going to the north are in the second parking lot, slightly further away.  In Üsküdar, there are a handful of attractions.

Üsküdar

Maiden’s Tower

Start by walking along the promenade southwest toward the Maiden’s Tower.  The tower has been standing since ancient Greek times.  It has operated as a fort, crypt, quarantine hospital, tax collection center and a light house. 

Today the light house features a restaurant on the bottom floor and a coffee shop on the sixth floor.  It is only a 2-minute boat ride from shore.  Or for those who just want a photo of the lovely structure, a great one may be taken from shore or from the ferry when it leaves Üsküdar.

Maiden's Tower in Üsküdar

From the Maiden’s tower, about face, and return northeast along the promenade taking in all the action.  Dogs laze around in the sun, locals fish, vendors sell tourist trinkets from their trucks along, and worshipers pray at the mosque on the water front.

iskele pier in Üsküdar

Semsi Pasha Mosque

The mosque on the waterfront is called Semsi Pasha Mosque.  Constructed in 1580 for the Grand Vizier, the single-domed structure is an excellent example of Ottoman design.  Semsi Pasha, whose tomb is at the mosque, wished for a place where birds would not fly.  As a result, the location is at an intersection of winds from the north and the south which creates a bird free zone.

Semsi Pasha Mosque in Üsküdar

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque

From the mosque continue northeast through the heart of Üsküdar to Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, also known as Iskele Mosque due to its proximity to Iskele pier.  This mosque was constructed by the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent between 1546-48.  It is a blend of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture and sits on a raised platform for a nice view of the pier.

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Üsküdar

Fethi Pasha Korusu

Further along the Bosphorus, away from the hustle and bustle of Üsküdar is Fethi Pasha Korusu, a city park.  It requires walking along the busy street, but once there, the hillside park with a café and a network of trails provides an escape from it all.

Fethi Pasha Korusu - city park outside of Üsküdar

Take a Side Trip to Kuzguncuk

The park is equidistant between Üsküdar and Kuzguncuk.  Kuzguncuk is a quaint town with a main street of coffee shops, restaurants, and retail.  It is best known for the colorful houses and is a lovely place for a peaceful stroll.  Also, for history buffs, it is also not too far from the Beylerbeyi Palace.

For me the Asian side of Istanbul, without many major tourist sites, is more of a strolling type of place for taking in the scene.  Certainly, less touristy than the European side, it was nice to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals.  Stay tuned for my two-week countryside journey with G Adventures.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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