Welcome to the second article in our series on Istanbul, written for Fethiye Times by Ola Khamitsevich

In the first article in the series, we discovered some lovely places on the European side of Istanbul. Click here to read the first article if you missed it.

Now let me introduce to you the, less explored by tourists, but nevertheless wonderful, Asian side.

Each year more and more tourists prefer to visit greener and quieter parts of the City. Kadıköy and Üsküdar are slowly becoming more popular with tourists (in a good way of course!) but as I keep telling potential visitors to Istanbul (and even myself) there’s even more to the City than one can expect!

Let’s uncover a few stunning places on the eastern bank of the Bosphorus.

Getting there

There are many ways to get from the European to the Asian side; by Marmaray, the underground train, by taxi\car over one of 3 bridges or under – by the recently constructed Eurasia underground road tunnel, by ferries, by bus, by minibus (dolmuş) or even by double decker. These are well known, and not always comfortable, ways for any visitors.

Why not try something more traditional and fascinating – a taxi boat!

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
A taxi boat waiting for passengers – Photograph by Busra Yildiz

Let me clarify what a taxi boat is so you won’t wave to every motor boat passing by. A taxi boat isn’t as common as a ferry, it takes fewer passengers and, unlike a taxi cab,  it doesn’t stop “somewhere here, please”. In the first part of this article, we talked about shore areas like Bebek or Emirgan. In those places look for a taxi boat sign. Also, don’t forget to ask where it moors on the opposite side as they all have their own routes.

Kanlıca, Beykoz and the old tree.

I would recommend you take a taxi boat from Emirgan as it stops at the neighbourhood called Kanlıca which is famous for its yoghurt. Treat yourself and don’t forget to ask for sugar powder or honey!

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
Beykoz ferry station – Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

North of Kanlıca is the wonderful and underrated, Beykoz.

If you are tired of big city vibes, Beykoz is the best place to be! Even though it’s part of Istanbul, lifestyle here is more laid back. Locals fish in their old boats or drink tea in traditional tea places. They rarely see any visitors, so be prepared for some friendly staring. Life is so peaceful over here. For a moment one forgets about traffic, pollution and enormous numbers of people. Enjoy this place where the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara join together as one.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
The Bosphorus Strait -Where the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara meet – Photograph by Ola Khamitsevich

It’s beyond my understanding why this lovely area is so unpopular even among Turks. It has everything we all desire; seaside walks, green parks, lots of fish and, most important, cheap prices! Where else in the City one can have a cup of Turkish tea for just 1 TL? 

While in Beykoz visit Yalıköy (”village of yalıs”). Yalı in Turkish means a wooden mansion located near the seaside. In Imperial times, Ottoman nobility lived in yalıs that could be found on both sides of the City. The Ottoman Sultans summer residence, Küçüksu Palace, is also here.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
Küçüksu Palace, the summer residence of sultanas – Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

The oldest tree

Go from Beykoz towards Üsküdar and stop in a neighbourhood called Çengelköy. Have some tea at Tarihi Çınaraltı, a large family tea garden where the oldest tree in Istanbul is located. The tree is older than the Ottoman Empire itself. I wonder what it would say if it could talk!

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
The oldest tree in the city – Photograph courtesy of Tarihi Çınaraltı

Kuzguncuk and Üsküdar

Kuzguncuk is a magnificent place to explore. It’s within walking distance of Üsküdar ferry station and Marmaray metro. The neighbourhood is full of European style houses and as a result, holds the ‘best place for wedding photoshoot’ title.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
These houses are the most popular wedding photo shoot spot. Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

It is that popular among ladies in white gowns, that some houses have a sign saying ‘no photos’ 

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
Photography is forbidden sign – Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

While you are in Üsküdar center go towards The Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi) to relax on these comfortable cushions and drink tea.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
A view of the tea garden and it’s bleacher-like seating

Kadıköy and Caddebostan

Kadıköy is the very center of the Asian side. It’s getting more and more popular among tourists and some prefer to stay here rather than in Taksim or Sultanahmet. It can be described as a student place; the crowd is young, the area full of bars, cafes, snack places and restaurants. Here is the home of the only store in Istanbul that has a wide range of foreign alcohol beverages, from Polish or Czech beer to real Greek ouzo.

The most visited area in Kadıköy is Moda –  a street that ends up near the sea side. There’s also a lovely park with the same name, where during the summer, students sit on the grass drinking beer, playing the guitar, talking, enjoying the sea view and playing with local cats.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
Sunset in Moda attracts lots of people – Photograph by Ola Khamitsevich

Caddebostan is one of the most modern and the most magnificent places, not only on the Asian side but in all of Istanbul. It’s a very long promenade with cycling and even running lines (a rare thing in Istanbul!). The road even has a tiny beach, although it is tricky to get there without a car. The only way to reach the beach by public transport is to take a dolmuş (minibus) from Kadıköy.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part two)
Photograph by Caddebostan

After visiting all these places and feeling their atmosphere, I’m sure you will agree with me that Istanbul truly has something magical, mysterious, enchanting. The irresistible charm of the City has to be experienced.

They say “to see Paris and die” I would add to this “not before you visit Istanbul!”