15 Best Things to Do in the Asian Side of Istanbul

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Written By Sean Lau

Co-Founder of The Turkey Traveler. Globetrotter, Adventurer, and Frequent Traveler to Turkey!

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Famous for straddling two continents, the incredible city of Istanbul is unlike anywhere else in the world. Most people only visit the European side which is home to the most famous mosques, the oldest covered market in the world, and some of Istanbul’s top museums.

But if you want to get off the beaten track and skip the touristy stuff, then you’ll find there are plenty of things to do in the Asian side of Istanbul, also known as the Anatolian side.

The Asian side is more local and authentic with its own unique culture, as well as boasting some artsy neighborhoods, the largest mosque in Istanbul, and some beautiful Turkish architecture.

The Asian side of the city can often be overlooked, especially for those traveling with time constraints, but if you’re thinking about exploring Istanbul’s Asian side attractions, then keep reading for some of our favorite things to do there.

Planning a trip to Istanbul last-minute?

Make sure you book your tours, places to stay, and airport transfers ahead of time to ensure availability!

Here is our recommended airport transfer in Istanbul:

  1. Airport Shuttle From Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gocken International Airport (SAW) (Super affordable!)

Here are our recommended tours in Istanbul:

  1. Luxury Bosphorus Cruise At Sunset (A must-do In Istanbul)
  2. Whirling Dervishes Show (Unique experience!)
  3. Historical Turkish Bath Experience
  4. Istanbul Food And Culture Tour

Here are our recommended places to stay in Istanbul:

  1. Magnuara Palace Hotel (Gorgeous hotel in the historic centre!)
  2. Pera Palace Hotel
  3. Cheers Hostel (Budget hostel near the Blue Mosque!)

The Best Things To Do In The Asian Side of Istanbul

1. Explore Kadikoy 

If you’re looking to uncover the vibrancy of the Anatolian side of Istanbul, Kadikoy is one of the best neighborhoods in the entire city to visit if you want a truly authentic experience.

Not only is it one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, but it is also one of the most diverse, offering lucky visitors a wonderful blend of history, modernity, and a lively vibrant atmosphere. In a sense, I guess it feels very Istanbul! 

Kadikoy Market is a must-visit for any foodie, especially if you love seafood. Kadikoy is well known for its stuffed mussels, fish sandwiches, and more. Be sure to visit Akmar Passage for a chance to discover some vintage, second hand books.

As you wander through the colorful streets, stop into the boutique shops and eateries that allow you to indulge but without the crowds you find on the European side.

Similarly, Bagdat Avenue is a bustling place. It’s essentially the main shopping street of Anatolian Istanbul. If you’re feeling a bit tired after all of your exploring, roll back the years and hop on the iconic red and white trams that roll through the district. 

2. Visit Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul

The Asian banks of the Bosphorus are home to one of the city’s most beautiful, and impressive buildings, especially when it comes to palaces in Istanbul.

Built back in 1865, the Palace was the Ottoman Sultan’s summer residence, and for good reason too. The interior is jaw-dropping, drawing influences from Baroque and Renaissance styles, and being on the banks of the Bosphorus makes for a wonderful summer escape, retreating in the equally as beautiful manicured gardens.

Visitors to Beylerbeyi Palace today can explore the marble staterooms, two pavilions, and the elegant gardens making for a nice change of pace after exploring the busy city streets. 

Related Reading: How to Get From Istanbul Airport to The Asian Side

3. Look For Street Art in Moda 


Now, technically Moda is within the Kadikoy neighborhood, but Moda is so beautiful we think it’s worthy of its own exploration.

It’s a hipster place known for its street art murals and cute, artsy cafes. It has countless restaurants, meyhanes, bars, and coffee shops, as well as quaint streets – plus its location right next to the Sea of Marmara just adds to its charm. Be sure to take a walk along the promenade and admire the views overlooking the Bosphorus.

On those warm summer nights, the main street Moda Caddesi is the place to come. It’s lively, happening, and one of those places where you definitely want to be seen. 

4. Take a boat over to Maiden’s Tower 


Peeking out of the blue waters of the Bosphorus is one of Istanbul’s most recognizable landmarks. Maiden’s Tower, or ‘Kiz Kulesi’ in Turkish is a tower on a tiny island just 200m off of the coast of Uskudar and perfectly accessible from Istanbul’s Asian side.

The tower, originally wooden, has been in place as a defense tower since the 12th century and can be visited today by catching the dedicated Tower Ferry from Uskudar.

As the tower is so old there’s plenty of history behind it, like being an important lighthouse for the ships coming into the Bosphorus, and even a quarantine station during the cholera epidemic of the mid-1800s. 

5. Pig out at Ciya Sofrasi 

If you want to experience a slice of local life in Anatolian Istanbul, then why not pay a visit to one of Anatolian Istanbul’s best restaurants? Located within Kadikoy’s famous market, Ciya Sofrasi is a name synonymous with locals and those with an all-round passion for delicious traditional Turkish and Anatolian food. 

After featuring in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, the already popular restaurant has boomed in popularity even further and is now a must-visit on any trip to the Asian side of Istanbul.

Musa Dagdeviren is credited with opening this simple but mightily effective restaurant back in 1998. The secret to its success is the sheer diversity of popular and lesser-known regional Turkish dishes that change depending on the season.

There’s a gigantic meze bar to which you can help yourself and some of the restaurant’s signature dishes include slow-cooked lamb shoulder with quince, stuffed lamb’s intestine, and traditional Lahmacun. 

6. Take a picnic to Camlica Hill 

camlica hill views

Standing mighty tall at an impressive 945 ft above sea level is Camlica Hill, one of Istanbul’s best viewpoints. Situated in the Uskudar neighborhood, this lesser-known destination in the Asian side of the city, it’s one of the more off-the-beaten-track destinations. 

Not only do you get wonderful views of the wider city and Bosphorus, but there are also plenty of cafes and small restaurants for you to relax and enjoy the view. Alternatively, you can even bring your own lunch and have a cute picnic with a view. 

If you’ve already had lunch and don’t fancy eating anything when you’re there, another top tip is to come to the hill for either sunset or sunrise. The view is spectacular and the golden orange colors over the twinkling lights of the city is an image that will stick with you for a long, long time. 

If you’re ever unsure of what to do on the Asian side of Istanbul, sitting in the park on Camlica Hill with a good book and an amazing view is certainly a good way to pass the time.

7. Marvel at Camlica Mosque 

camlica mosque

Another reason to head over to the Camlica Hill area is to marvel at the wonder that is the Camlica Mosque. This unique place of worship is not only the largest in Istanbul, but it is the largest mosque in the entire country, holding up to a staggering 63,000 people.

In true Turkish fashion, the design has been kept traditional with a beautiful blend of Ottoman and Seljuk architectural styles and is complete with 6 minarets that all represent the 6 beliefs in Islam.

Like many large mosque complexes around the world, Camlica Mosque also features a variety of interesting facilities. There’s an art gallery and even a museum that touches on the history of Islam and its civilizations of years gone past.

Combine a visit to the mosque with a picnic on Camlica Hill and you’ve got yourself a wonderful chilled day out. 

8. Visit the Sureyya Opera House

Originally built almost a century ago in 1927, the Sureyya Opera House is a much-loved piece of Istanbul culture that’s brought joy to thousands of locals over the years since its opening.

It was actually the very first ever musical theatre located on the Asian side, but intriguingly given its name, no opera performances were ever performed there. 

It was converted to a cinema in 1930 and was used as such until 2005 when it was completely refurbished as an actual operating opera house.

Since its reopening, opera concerts are performed regularly and tickets can be bought for as cheap as 10TL. We definitely recommend catching a performance at this historical venue at that price! It’s one of the top things to do in Istanbul at night

9. Sail across to the Princes’ Islands


Now, technically the Princes Islands aren’t exactly on the Asian side of Istanbul but they are 100% worth getting the boat over for. This can be done from Kadikoy and Moda on the Asian side, which is why I’ve included it. 

Istanbul is known for being such a busy and vibrant city and therefore a quick escape to the serenity of the Princes Islands is always going to be one of the best things to do.

You’ll be able to choose between four islands, Buyukada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Kinaliada. Buyukada is by far the most popular one, and you’ll get a lovely mix of natural beauty and charming historical architecture. 

Perhaps most striking is the complete absence of any motor vehicles on the islands. The only way to get around is by bicycle, walking, or shuttle bus.

10. Recharge with a Turkish Coffee at Fazil Bey’s 

Any Turkish coffee aficionado will instantly grin from ear to ear when they hear the name Fazil Bey. If you are looking for real Turkish coffee in Istanbul, then you should be looking no further than Fazil Bey’s original coffee shop, which is located within the busy Kadikoy Market.

In place for exactly 100 long years, this original branch, complete with antique coffee grinders is the place to relax and recharge with traditional Turkish coffee.

If the history behind the shop isn’t enough to lure you in, we’re positive that the strong, heady aromas will. With two stories and plenty of outdoor seating to people watch, it’s the perfect authentic Turkish pit-stop before wandering around the market. 

11. Watch a match at Fenerbahce SK

Football is taken very, very seriously in Turkey and as a result, one of the most exciting and thrilling things you can do on the Asian side of Istanbul (if you’re a football fan, of course) is to catch a match watching Fenerbahce SK. They’re one of the best teams in the country and match-day is always absolutely buzzing with excitement. 

If you’re not familiar with Fenerbahce, they regularly play in the UEFA Champions League and have some very talented players on the team so you’ll be guaranteed a high-quality, entertaining match with the famous Turkish atmosphere to match.

Soak it all in pre-game at one of the many bars in the district and then follow the crowd (literally!) to the stadium. You can purchase tickets online through passo.com.tr and you’ll need to hold a Passolig pass to enter the stadium but this can be applied for before your trip. 

12. Roam Khedive’s Palace

One of the lesser-known architectural buildings that would be excellent to visit is Khedive Palace. This beautiful Renaissance-styled building was the former residence of the last Khedive of Egypt Abbas II and was extensively restored in 1984 following the Khedive’s abandonment in the 1930s. 

The Palace is perched right on top of a hill giving it stunning views out over the Bosphorus and the surrounding gardens are immaculately kept. The best time to visit the Khedive’s Palace is in April and May when the flowers are at their best. 

13. Shop until your drop at Capitol AVM

If you’ve ticked all the must-sees off your to-do list, then a trip to one Istanbul’s largest shopping malls is always a decent idea. Capitol AVM was opened in 1992 and is the Asian side of the city’s first (and only) shopping mall and is a favorite of locals for shopping and eating. 

There’s a whole range of clothing stores and the food court is surprisingly good and you’ll be able to find a variety of things to eat at excellent prices.

There’s even a large, modern cinema where you can catch the latest movies – just make sure to check what language the film is showing in before buying tickets! 

14. Watch a show at the Istanbul State Theater

Holding a distinguished place within the city’s vibrant cultural scene is the Istanbul State Theatre, located in the Uskudar neighborhood right along the banks of the Bosphorus.

It’s a beautifully historic stone building, once an old ethyl alcohol factory, and today is arguably one of the best places to catch a show in Istanbul.

You can easily get to the State Theatre from Uskudar Metro, which is just a 12-minute walk along the promenade. 

15. Take the kids to the Istanbul Toy Museum

Located within the Goztepe neighborhood of Asian Istanbul is one of the more unique things to see and do on your trip.

Being situated in a former toy shop, The Istanbul Toy Museum is a must for any visitor with children and is one of the best museums in Istanbul.

With an incredible collection, some of which date back over 200 years, you’re guaranteed to be taken on a trip down memory lane. 

Things To Do On The Anatolian Side of Istanbul FAQs

Is the Asian side of Istanbul worth visiting?

Yes, the Asian side of Istanbul is definitely worth visiting if you want to escape the tourist crowds and explore a more authentic side of the city. It’s lively and atmospheric, with quaint cafes, street art and lots of history to explore.

How to explore Asian side of Istanbul?

You can easily explore the Asian side of Istanbul on foot, or by taking the metro. There is also an extensive bus network that connects the residential areas to the touristy hot spots.

Where is the best view of Istanbul from the Asian side?

Arguably the best views from the Asian side are from the top of Camlica Hill, which offers panoramic views of the Bosphorus and overlooks the European side. The promenade in Moda also has beautiful sea views.

Before You Go

When exploring Istanbul, the Asian side proves to be a true hidden gem that’s just waiting to be discovered. Unlike the bustling European side, the Asian side offers a unique blend of culture, history, and charm.

As you wander the vibrant Kadıköy market, you’ll find it hard to not immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.

If you’re looking to escape the tourist crowds and embark on an unforgettable journey, then head to the Asian side of Istanbul.

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