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Explore Kadıköy on Istanbul’s Asian side by catching an opera, visiting antique vendors, dancing to underground tunes and watching a famous sunset over the sea.
Kadıköy is booming with independent art spaces, music venues and colourful murals, making this neighbourhood a popular spot on Istanbul’s Anatolian side. Here are a few things to do if you’re planning on getting on a ferry across the Bosporus.
Compared to Istanbul’s European side, Kadıköy has a more relaxed vibe, which can be experienced on the Kadiköy-Moda Nostaljik Tramway. The red wagon might look like a museum artefact, but the tram line still runs and is widely used as everyday transportation. Get on the tram by the ferries, and let it take you along Bahariye Caddesi and through the colourful architecture of Moda. The line only lasts 10 stops in a 2.6-kilometre (1.6-mile) circular loop, perfect for getting a sense of the scenery.
Pro tip: Buy an Istanbulkart in the market and use it for all public transportation in the city.
The narrow streets of central Kadıköy are bustling with life, but one place manages to stand completely still. Fazıl Bey’s Turkish Coffee is a neighbourhood institution – a tiny oasis famous for roasting and grinding its own beans since 1923. The shop continues to draw coffee enthusiasts and was recently voted the third best in the country. Try a traditional Turkish coffee, and let the nostalgic Turkish songs that play here take you back in time.
Pro tip: Two types of Turkish coffee are served: strong and very strong. Ask for a şekerli Türk kahvesi if you prefer yours with sugar.
Kadıköy’s many murals light up its concrete walls. This neighbourhood is bursting with art, and its various creative communities are a great way to get a closer look. Here, you can engage with local artists, buy affordable pieces and join activities or classes. Dive into the weekly yoga and drawing classes at Circuit Istanbul, and explore exhibitions, artist meetings and workshops at Halka Sanat Projesi. Also, make sure to visit Arthere, initially founded by a Syrian photographer to support fellow nationals in creating and exhibiting art. It also organises screenings and performances and has a small café.
Pro tip: Make sure to check out their programmes online. Fall, winter and spring are usually the most active seasons.
Tellalzade Sokak, also known as the antique street, is named after its many vendors who sell vintage items. Find everything from old telescopes, record players and gas lamps to used books, photos and silver jewellery on this cobblestone street.
Pro tip: One of the best shops is Galeri Sah at No 9, which sells wooden furniture, porcelain and art.
Residents in Kadıköy are known to take pride in their district and fight for their landmarks, and the Süreyya Opera House is a good example. Dating back to 1927, it remained incomplete and never staged an opera. Instead, it operated as a movie theatre for decades and slowly fell into decay – until 80 years later when the Kadıköy Municipality launched a massive restoration. Süreyya Opera House finally reopened in 2007 and is now the best place to catch an opera, ballet or classical concert on Istanbul’s Anatolian side.
Pro tip: The programme generally runs from January to October. Visit its website or box office to book tickets.
As tourists and young Istanbulites are opening their eyes to the city’s Anatolian side, new night-time venues are constantly springing up. An old classic, however, is Arkaoda, and many believe that it had a central role in transforming Kadıköy into one of Istanbul’s hippest neighbourhoods.
This iconic bar, music and arts centre has been welcoming underground musicians and the people who like to listen to them since 1999. Kick back with a beer in the large back garden, or dance the night away to live shows on the upper floor. Arkaoda puts on a packed programme, where most events are free.
Pro tip: Arkaoda is located on Kadife Sokak, better known as Barlar Sokak (bars street), where other memorable venues are just a few steps away. Bar-hop to Karga Bar for a dark and intimate vibe, or try BİNA, which hosts DJs, talks, screenings and performances.
The smell of spices, dried fruit and freshly caught fish overwhelm the senses when you step into Güneşli Bahçe Sokak. This charming and hectic little passage located behind the Surp Takavor Church is influenced by the district’s Armenian, Greek and Albanian heritage. Find Meşhur Özcan Turşu, a shop that has specialised in pickles since 1935. Try to guess what is inside the hundreds of colourful jars at this store, and the shopkeepers will help you find the perfect jar of pickles.
Pro tip: Have a glass of pickle juice at the counter, locally known to cure hangovers miraculously. If you like it spicy, ask for “Acı”.
The Moda area might be known for its modern architecture, creative residents and coffee shops, but nothing beats its views overlooking the Sea of Marmara. Experience a sunset from above in the open-air tea garden Moda Çay Bahçesi, where tea, coffee and light snacks cost next to nothing. If you are more in the mood for a beer, go down to the shore and sit on the stones, a classically Kadıköy thing to do.
Pro tip: Time your visit with the sunset to witness this famous Moda event.