Soak up the vibe of Istanbul's Kadıköy
Artsy, eclectic Istanbulites and expats flock into the Asian side for the trendy Kadıköy with its lively cafes, galleries, bars, shops, and eateries. Soaring in popularity over the past few years, Kadıköy has been named as one of the 50 coolest neighbourhoods in the world by TimeOut magazine. Here are what to do for a worthy explore in the town.
People visiting Kadıköy by sea meet first the piers that are the gateways to the European side. Travelling by ferry is a unique experience where you'll enjoy the beautiful scenery and get to feed the seagulls. Indispensable are Turkish tea & simit of course.
Start your tour with coastal sights.
The most remarkable monument welcoming you is the castle-like, neo-renaissance styled building Haydarpaşa Railway Station. Constructed in 1909 by German architects for the Berlin-Bagdad railway project, it is an imposing edifice on the Asian waterfront of the Bosphorus. The beautiful interior is an interesting contrast to the Germanic exterior, with a semi-domed ceiling tiled walls. No longer functioning as a railway station nor a pier, the building currently houses temporary fairs & markets. What a shame to miss the beautiful interiors and lose the convenience to some prospect hotel 🙁 But don't worry, here's where the archives come handy 🙂
Haldun Taner Stage was originallly constructed as the first modern market hall in Istanbul in 1927. Served as fire department and depot for scrap vehicles later in the years, the building was assigned to Istanbul University for use as conservatory after its complete renovation in 1984. Part of it is a theatre venue owned by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and operated by its City Theatres division. The theatre is named after the Turkish playwright Haldun Taner.
Go shopping on the cobblestone-paved Bahariye Avenue. Albeit an old area, the Opera Onur Passage was once the favorite of shopping lovers. Today, the passage seems a bit deserted, but its regular customers still peruse these local businesses for affordable shopping.
Riffle through history on Antikacılar Sokağı.
On your way up to Bahariye, Tellalzade Sokak is lined with antique vendors, ranging from finer ornaments & antique furniture to cluttered jumbles of vintage magazines, records, glassware and jewellery.
Nazım Hikmet Cultural Center is only one of the places dedicated to the poet Nazım Hikmet in Istanbul. The "romantic communist” was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. The building of the center originally served as the school of Surp Levon Armenian Catholic Church. Besides a bookshop, the center has a tea garden, an oasis of tranquility next to the busy shopping street Bahariye Avenue.
Marvel at history of the cultural heart of the Asian side.
Once called the Apollon Theatre, where Afife Jale, Turkey’s first female theatre actress, took the stage in the early 20th century, Rexx Cinema has a history dating back to the 1870s. Offering a variety of domestic and international films, Rexx also hosts festivals and independent film screenings.
Established in 1927 as the first musical theatre on Istanbul’s Anatolian side, Süreyya Opera House was built by the politician Süreyya İlmen Pasha. Its art deco foyer was modeled after the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris. However, it functioned as a movie theatre and wedding hall due to the fact that its stage faced acoustic problems. In 2007, it was finally re-opened to fulfill its original purpose. You can get tickets for shows including classical music concerts, ballet performances and operas.
The busy street of Bahariye is home to a former hammam named Köçeoğlu. Only an arc remains of the hammam that was built during Sultan Adbülhamit II era in 1840.
Learn the history behind the statues!
The Bull Statue is one of the most popular symbols and meeting points of Kadiköy. The Fighting Bull Statue is made by the French artist Isidore Bonheur in Paris, in 1860s to symbolise the war won by France againts Germany. A decade later when Germany won the war against France, the statue has moved to Germany. In 1917, the German Emperor gave the Bull Statue as a present to Ittihat and Terakki Community and the community gifted it to Enver Pasha. It wasn't until 50 years, that the Bull Statue was remembered. It began its journey within different districts of Istanbul. From Taksim to Emirgan, Beylerbeyi to Yıldız, the statue has survived the last 150 years finally ending up in Kadıköy. No other statue has been tortured as much,trust me.
What could possibly be the story of the crocodile statue, right? The author of history’s first book of geography (Geographika), Strabo from Amasya, talks about the existence small crocodiles in 28 BC near today’s Uzunçayır (Longmeadow) area before the stream bed of “Kurbağalıdere” (the Frogs Creek).
Discover the religious gems of Kadıköy!
According to the 1882 census non-Muslim minorities were the majority in Kadıköy in those days. Of the population of 7,000 26 percent were Greek, 26 percent Armenian, 4 percent Jewish and 42 percent Muslim. Hence the town is rich of churches than mosques in fact. Most of the Jews in Istanbul arrived from Spain in 1492. Sultan Bayezid II had sent ships to save the Sephardic Jews of Spain from the Catholic Inquisition and granted them permission to settle in the Ottoman Empire.
Osman Ağa Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Kadiköy. The mosque was built during the era of the Sultan I.Ahmed (1603-1617) by Osman Ağa and the wooden construction was renewed by Sultan II. Mahmud in 1811.
Agia Efimia Greek Orthodox Church is located at the Kadiköy Market area square. The Church dates back to 1694. According to the legend, Ayia Efemia was killed in 305, due to his resistance to the community's Pagan belief and his choice of the Christianity.
The Gregorian Armenian Church of Surp Takavor (or Advazazin), built in the late 19th century, contains two beautifully carved tombs.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity), is housed in an imposing building dating from 1902, built 20 years later than its twin in Taksim.
Surp Levon Armenian Catholic Church's original wooden chapel built in 1899 has been replaced with today's structure in 1911, when it became insufficient to fulfill needs. Father Mikael who has been in charge for the past 10 years is beloved and popular among the community.
The Protestant Church of Kadıköy serves for two different communities; The Seventh Day Adventists on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and the rest of the days with Anatolia Protestants.
Enjoy Kadıköy's living streets!
The unforgettable poems of the master poet Cemal Süreya continue to be read enthusiastically, even on the streets of Kadıköy, in fact right in front of where he lived.
Two Hearts by Cemal Süreya
The shortest way between two hearts:
Extending to each other and occasionally
Touching another by finger tips only.
I'm running to the place of stairs,
Waiting is the body-acquiring of time;
I've got here very early, I can't find you,
It feels like something is being rehearsed.
Birds are gathering to migrate
I wish I would have loved you just for this.
Be sure to also check out the nearby neighborhood of Moda.
Take the nostaljic tram to and from Moda. The waterfront below is ideal for a stroll, especially with an ice-cream cone from the famous Dondurmacı Ali Usta in hand. Tea gardens will offer you great views of Marmara Sea. The neighborhood, especially Neşe Street, is also home to several underrated architectural treasures.
Indulge your senses in the Kadıköy Produce Market.
Walking through the outdoor market itself is an experience with the hustle and bustle of locals and vendors. Not just fish, An aromatic, colourful and alluring showcase of the best fresh produce in the city, the market is foodie central for locals.
The produce market, aka, Çarşı is also home vintage boutiques and art galleries.
Once a popular place with the heavy metal fans, Akmar Passage is now a passage with many second-hand and new bookstores. A popular place for students and book lovers.
Make sure to drop by Çiya Restaurant if you’re feeling hungry as you’ll find a variety of Anatolian dishes (mostly Eastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Anatolian), all made with ingredients imported from their native regions.
If you prefer something rather fast, Basta is the place for you. The two young chefs have met while working in fine-dining restaurants in France and have applied their culinary training to the humble dürüm, turning it into an extraordinary wrap.
Viktor Levi Wine House, a former Greek mansion, functioned as a private clinic, mainly a maternity ward. The place is named after Jewish journalist, publisher and wine entrepreneur Viktor Levi who published the papers in Judeo Spanish. He started as a salesman of sardines and decided on grapes realizing the higher profit margin. He started in 1914, first in Galata and moved next to the British embassy on the European side of town. The building was partly damaged by the suicide truck bomb attack in November 2003 by al-Qaeda against the British involvement of the American military invasion of Iraq. Although the former venue survived another 8 years, the owners decided to go on only with the new building in Kadıköy built in 2004.
The Baylan Patisserie is a tender reminder of the days when local places got classed up with European vibes in the first days of republic. Originally called L’Orient, the patisserie is a fruit labor of Istanbul bakers, Filip and Yorgi, who have been to Belgium to learn it from first hand. Baylan serves a special Turkish ice cream called kup griye "coup grillet" with caramel, almond and pistachio and "Adisababa", a chocolate-coated ice cream fruitcake.
For later in the night, check out the massive Dorock XL that hosts concerts of Turkey's top musical acts. Karga is a great venue to enjoy independent music or drinks in its cozy atmosphere.
Kadıköy is famous for its murals and a whole festival dedicated to them. Organized with the support of Kadıköy Municipality, Mural Istanbul Festival welcomes world-wide famous artists since 2012. Especially Yeldeğirmeni neighborhood is like an open-air museum, this and recent developments earn the neighborhood a deeper look with a blog post alone. If you're interested in graffiti though, you can check out my blog post on street art.
Ready to find out more?
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