Exploring Istanbul's Asian Side
Situated on the border of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a city of two halves. While the European side is home to attractions such as the Blue Mosque and Dolmabahce Palace, the Asian side offers lively neighborhoods, a scenic waterfront, shopping, and more. Here are our top picks.
Ferries run directly to Kadikoy, and the lively neighborhood makes a good starting point for exploring Istanbul’s Asian side. Browse the stalls at the famous fish market or weekly Kadikoy market; take a ride on the nostalgic tram, which runs between Kadikoy and Moda; or eat at one of the many traditional cafes, bakeries, and Turkish restaurants. Guided tours explore various aspects of the area, including a food walking tour and a small-group highlights tour.
Haydarpasa Railway Station
If your ferry docks at Kadikoy, you can’t miss the gigantic Haydarpasa railway station, which towers over the pier. Built between 1906 and 1908, the striking neoclassical building was a gift to the Ottoman Sultan from Kaiser Wilhelm II and was the starting point of the Istanbul-Baghdad and Istanbul-Damascus-Medina railway during the 20th century. Although it’s currently not used as a train terminal, it remains one of Istanbul’s most photographed landmarks.
Bağdat Caddesi (Bagdat Avenue) is the most famous street on the Asian side of Istanbul, running for almost four miles (6.4 kilometers) between the Bostanci and Kiziltoprak neighborhoods. The busiest section lies between the Suadiye and Erenkoy districts, and it’s renowned for its designer shops, department stores, and chic restaurants.
The historic heart of Asian Istanbul, Uskudar began as a Greek colony in the 7th century BC. Heavily populated by Turks during the Ottoman Empire, it was one of the most prominent communities outside the city walls of Byzantine Constantinople. Traces of its past can be seen in its many beautiful mosques, fountains, waterside mansions and palaces, among them Beylerbeyi Palace, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, and Beylerbeyi Mosque.
The Maiden Tower
Taking a Bosphorus cruise along Istanbul’s scenic waterfront offers the best views of the picturesque Maiden's Tower (Kiz Kulesi), which guards the southern end of the Bosphorus strait. The tower dates back to Istanbul’s medieval Byzantine period and sits on a tiny islet just off the coast of Uskudar. Boats run to the Maiden Tower from Uskudar-Salacak, or from Ortakoy and Kabatas on the European side.