Visiting the Asian side of Istanbul

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In case you didn’t know, Istanbul spans two continents. The main historical sights of the city and all the ‘must sees’ (the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace (pictured above), Grand Bazaar etc) are on the European side and it’s also the side where most visitors (including me) opt to stay.

I spent a lot of my time last week catching the ferry to the Asian side and hanging out over there. There’s not a lot of sights to see there as such, but it does have a more laidback and less touristy vibe.

After the OTT attention of the touts around Sultanahmet (where I’m staying), constantly harassing me to eat in their restaurant/visit their friend’s carpet shop/go for a drink with them, etc, the relative indifference of the shopkeepers around Kadıköy was a blessed relief.

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Getting off the ferry at Uskudar on the Asian side

I simply got the ferry over to either Üsküdar or Kadıköy (Kadıköy was my favourite) and from there wandered around discovering new places. The metro goes there too, but is not nearly as much fun.

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Waiting to board the ferry to Kadakoy

A short walk down from Üsküdar pier (or a bus from Kadıköy) is the Maiden’s Tower.

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Maiden’s Tower

The legend is that a king had it built to house his daughter in order to protect her from a prophecy that said she would be bitten by a snake before her 18th birthday and would die. Theory being that a tower in the middle of the sea would be safe from snakes.

After she turned 18 they went out to bring her back, taking baskets of food for a grand feast. However a snake had been hiding in a basket, bit the girl and she died. Proving that you can’t beat fate.

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In case you’re having trouble imagining what a young princess dying from a snakebite would look like, a visit to the tower offers you this helpful suggestion

(a more likely reason for the tower is that it was built to warn mariners of a high sandbank).

You can take a boat out to visit the tower, but to be honest there wasn’t much to see there. There was a restaurant and a display with some stories about the tower, which you could read on the internet/in a guidebook just as easily. It costs TL20 (around 6 euros) to visit.

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If you want to appreciate the tower without paying €6, there is a cafe on the riverbank right opposite.  You can bring your own food here if you want, have a picnic and just buy drinks.  It’s a nice spot.  Apparently in the evening it becomes a bit of a make-out spot, where young men bring their girlfriends in the hope that they will be feeling romantic.

Kadıköy has a busy market, complete with lots of cafes, shops and some bars. From there you can easily walk down to the Moda area, a ‘trendy’ bohemian part full of cafes (waffles seemed popular), vintage shops with odd whimsical window displays and eventually a great view of the Bosporous.

I immediately decided this was where I wanted to live, but this was before I had been to the Cihangir district on the European side, which I also declared as somewhere I wanted to live. Now I’m undecided, although it turns out I’m not staying anyway, so it doesn’t matter. More of that next time.

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If you take the ferry into Kadikoy you will see this impressive building as you arrive.  This is Haydarpasa station, at one time the first port of call for many migrants arriving in Istanbul from the Asian side.  The station has been closed for some time now for ‘renovation’ and its future seems a little uncertain.  It was originally a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm 11, which explains the German Gothic style.

2 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah. I have often wondered what a woman would look like after she had been bit by a snake, so thank you for clearing that up for me. All that OTT attention would really annoy me so I am pleased you have found somewhere more relaxing. I went to see Inferno this week, the new Tom Hanks film. Not very good in my opinion, but some of that was filmed in Istanbul. Didn’t see you mind lol. Love and hugs xxx

    • There’s a sauna where part of Indiana Jones was filmed, but I haven’t been there yet. No those kind of ‘boy’ films are not my type of thing really.
      Istanbul is an amazing city; I just made a bad choice when deciding on the area I wanted to live. But it’s ok.
      xx

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