The Asian Side of Istanbul
By Viator, June 2014
Many visitors combine a visit to the Asian shore with a Bosphorus cruise or a day trip to Beylerbeyi Sarayi, the summer palace of the sultans, but there is also much more to see here. For those short on time, the two main districts you’ll want to focus on are Üsküdar and Kadiköy. Üsküdar has the densest collection of architectural gems, including some beautiful mosques, monuments and synagogues. Kadiköy, on the other hand, has a bustling market center, a Tuesday bazaar, an opera house and some of the city’s best restaurants.
Here’s a list of things worth checking out for those who want to explore the Asian side of Istanbul:
The best way to start your exploration of Asian Istanbul is to take a ferry to Kadıköy and visit the open-air market. It’s great place to spend a few hours browsing and shopping, with plenty of nice pastry shops, bookstores and cafés to relax in. Tuesday is when the market is most lively, but there’s always a daily Kadıköy market, which is much closer to the ferry pier but a little less exciting.
Kadıköy Nostalgic Tram
While in Kadıköy, you should also consider a ride on the historic tram that runs between Kadikoy and Moda. This Nostalgic Tram connects the busy Kadikoy Market to Altiyol, and runs all the way to Moda — one of the nicest districts on the Asian side of Istanbul. As the tram makes a loop, it’s a great way to explore the area.
Haydarpaşa Railway Station
If you take the ferry to Kadıköy, your first stop on the Asian side will be in front of the enormous and gorgeous Haydarpaşa Railway Station. Built between 1906 and 1908, this neoclassical building was a gift to the Ottoman Sultan from Kaiser Wilhelm II and served as an important link in the Istanbul-Baghdad and Istanbul-Damascus-Medina rail network during the 19th century. It remains the busiest rail terminal in Turkey.
Bağdat Caddesi (Bagdad Avenue) is the most famous street on the Asian side of Istanbul, easily reached by any mini-bus heading to Bostancı. Upper-class residential areas surround the avenue, but the street itself is like a big open-air shopping mall, well-known for its posh brand-name shops, department stores and superb restaurants, cafes and bars. The atmosphere is relaxed and stylish, and most of the stores are open every day of the week. Bağdat Caddesi runs 3.7 miles from Bostancı to Kızıltoprak, almost parallel with the coastline. The main spots are between Suadiye district and Erenkoy district.
Founded as a Greek colony in the 7th century BC, Üsküdar grew to a prominent place as one of the three communities outside the city walls of Byzantine Constantinople, and was heavily populated by Turks during the Ottoman Empire. Today it is know for its many beautiful mosques, fountains, waterside mansions and palaces, the most famous of which are the Ostrorog House, Edib Efendi Mansion, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Beylerbeyi Palace, Beylerbeyi Mosque, Yeni Valide Mosque, Hidiv Kiosk and the Ahmet III Fountain on Üsküdar Square. The area has also served as a major burial ground throughout its history and many large, impressive cemeteries remain, including Karacaahmet Mezarlığı (one of Istanbul's largest cemeteries), Bülbülderesi Mezarlığı and a number of Jewish and Christian graveyards. You can reach Üsküdar Square via a ferry from Eminönü or Beşiktaş, or take a taxi from Kadıköy.
The Maiden Tower
The Maiden's Tower (Kız Kulesi) dates back to Istanbul’s medieval Byzantine period, but only opened its doors to the public in 2000. Rising atop a small islet some 200 meters (660 feet) from the coast of Üsküdar, the tower remains a landmark image of Turkey today, featured in many pictures and paintings. It even made an appearance as the secret hideout of the villain Elektra in the James Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’. Besides its historical value, the tower also has a bar, cafe and restaurant, as well as one of the best views in the city. You can reach the Maiden Tower by boat from Üsküdar-Salacak, or from Ortaköy and Kabataş on the European side.