The Asian part of Istanbul
The Asian part of Istanbul is mostly residential, a less touristy area than the western part. Nonetheless, this area preserves extraordinary panoramas, grandiose monuments and fascinating neighborhoods that are slowly witnessing rapid development from all points of view.
From Üsküdar with its beautiful mosques, in Kadikoy with its markets and cafes, up to fashion and its huge port. And let’s not forget the fashion district. Here, together with Kadiköy, the Brooklyn of Istanbul was baptized which, in 2013, after the Gezy Park protests, the anti-government uprising that was one of the most important events in recent Turkish history, moved the entire nightlife of the city .
Just a vapur from Eminönü or a short trip under the sea with the underground metro and the journey can finally begin.
Kadiköy is the nerve center of Asia, it is the Anatolian Taksim as well as the site of the ancient Greek colony of Calededonia, founded in 676 BC, nine years before the creation of Byzantion. Just think, Kadiköy was already inhabited in the Neolithic era. Caldedonia, however, failed to develop with respect to Byzantion. However, today Kadiköy is a very busy area that still retains the traditions and atmosphere typical of the past. From its lively market of fish, vegetables and fresh and dried fruit and spices, to the bakeries that sell simit, the nineteenth-century-looking patisseries at all hours, up to the thousands of cafes, restaurants and hipster clubs. And remember, at the market don’t hesitate to ask to taste before you buy!
In addition to its intense liveliness, Kadiköy is full of very ancient historical places such as the Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Euphemia where, in 451, the Council of Chalcedon was held (Kadiköy is the Turkish name of the Greek colony of Calchedòn).
Among the more recent historical attractions is the iconic Haydarpaşa train station overlooking the Bosphorus. Built by the Germans in the early twentieth century, it was the gateway to the city of the East for a century. An exceptional and silent place, which testifies to the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into the Turkish Republic. Not only that, it was also described by Agatha Christie in the first pages of Murder on the Orient Express. The station was closed in 2012 for a restoration, but is slowly returning to be an important arrival point for scheduled trains. This was thanks to a massive popular campaign against the government’s decision to transform the station into a cruise ship terminal.
Finish your Kadiköy sightseeing tour aboard the traditional vintage tram that crosses the pedestrian zone, or you can opt for a leisurely stroll along the seafront to the elegant Moda district.
One of the coolest areas of Asian Istanbul. Specifically, Moda is a favorite Sunday afternoon destination, when locals flock to its restaurants, boutique cafes and ice cream parlors.
Not only that: the district is rapidly replacing Beyoglu in the list of the trendiest areas of Istanbul: here you can find crowds of young people every night, not just on Sundays, and this is where the best clubs in the city are concentrated. Between large windows overlooking the Marmara Sea and large parks, the interior, populated with low houses, smells of positive energy between markets and shops of all kinds.
For a perfect evening, sip a good çay on the banks of Moda, an endless expanse of tables always crowded with locals enjoying the breeze in front of the spectacular panorama of the whole European shore, down there to the Princes’ Islands. You might also happen to see on the sea, a few tens of meters from the shore, rows of balloons floating, typical of a very popular shooting game in Turkey. On the pier, in fact, there are many people who, gun in hand, try to make them explode.
Usküdar is known as a very traditional neighborhood, one of the most conservative neighborhoods in all of Istanbul, where most of the women have their heads covered with colored scarves or covered with full veils.
Walking along the seafront you can get to Salacack where, on an islet, stands the Maiden’s Tower, the symbol of Istanbul, the ideal place to wait for the sunset while admiring the skyline of the city while sipping a cay on the steps. The Tower was initially built by the Persians to control traffic on the Bosphorus and was later converted into a fortress under the Byzantine emperor Alexius I and then used mainly as a lighthouse. Today, there is a restaurant inside.
There are more than 180 mosques in this district. Returning to the ferry dock you can pay a visit to the mosemşi Paşa mosque, the smallest mosque in all of Istanbul, built by the genius of Mimar Sinar, and then head to that of Mihrimah Sultan, the mosque of darkness (or of the Moon), the largest and most famous. Another large and beautiful mosque is that of Yeni Valide built between 1708 and 1710.
You can then continue the tour through the streets of the Uskudar market, enjoying a good coffee in one of the many bars in the neighborhood.
Also not to be missed is the Florence Nightingale Museum: in the northwest tower of the Selimiye barracks, in fact, there is a moving tribute to the courageous Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), who in 1854 gathered a group of 38 women and set up a hospital in Istanbul to treat thousands of Turkish and Allied soldiers wounded during the Crimean War, laying the foundations of modern infra-estics.
And to top it off, also enjoy an astonishing view from Büyük Çamlica, a park that stretches out at the highest point in Istanbul.
Kuzguncuk is an old fishing suburb directly overlooking the Bosphorus. It is the only neighborhood in which the Ottoman houses have been completely renovated and which are now perfectly preserved. The neighborhood, unlike many others in the city, was saved from decay in the 1980s thanks to Perihan Abla, protagonist of the homonymous fiction, so popular that Kuzguncuck was even given a street name.
Kuzguncuk has been for several centuries inhabited mostly by Jews who, having fled from Spain in 1492, have safeguarded their particular language, Judeo-Spanish (or Ladin). There were also Armenians and Greek Orthodox. However, Kuzguncuk preserved its multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature only until the 1950s: many Jews moved to Israel after its foundation, the rums (the Greek Orthodox with Ottoman and later Turkish citizenship) and the Armenians fled after the ultra-nationalist pogrom of 6-7 September 1955, which mainly targeted businesses and places of worship. The inhabitants of the past have been replaced by immigrants from Anatolia.
Today the neighborhood has a bohemian atmosphere, a meeting point for young intellectuals, artists, bloggers and the most prominent designers from all over Istanbul. There is a calm and relaxed atmosphere among its cobbled streets and brightly colored houses. The churches, synagogues and mosque (built only in 1952, in the courtyard of an Armenian church and with the contribution of the Armenian community) are still standing side by side.
It is extremely pleasant to stroll through the narrow streets of the neighborhood, without haste and aimlessly, and then stop in its typical cafes and outdoor restaurants. Small curiosity: Kuzguncuk has recently been the set for some Turkish television series with international success, which is why fans come here to admire the places hoping to meet their favorite actors.