Istanbul itinerary 2 days – Asian side

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Istanbul is world famous for glorious historical sites in the old city of Sultanahmet like the Blue Mosque and Topkapı Palace to name a few. Once you’ve seen them, what’s next? A completely different experience awaits with this Istanbul itinerary 2 days, based at Hotel Suadiye* on the Asian side of the city.

Istanbul itinerary day 1

Morning

After enjoying a full Turkish breakfast from the generous buffet at the hotel head to Kadıköy. Originally named Chalcedon, it’s believed the area took its name from a myth about a Greek named Byas. According to an oracle Byas was destined to found a new city away from the hustle and bustle of ancient Athens, opposite the land of the blind. Once day he happened upon Kadıköy’s modern day main harbour. The geographical lay of the land meant the coast on the opposite side of the main body of water was obscured and he realised this was the ‘land of the blind’. He abruptly turned his back on Chalcedon and went to Sultanahmet. There he laid the first stone in what became the city of Byzantium, now known as Istanbul.

Ferries at Kadikoy, wit Haydarpasha Railway Station in the background.
Interior of St Euphemia Church, Kadikoy.

Since that time Kadıköy has grown from a small market garden centre to a lively urban area. Its main attraction lies in its history as a once richly multicultural district. At one time or another wealthy Istanbullu, Greeks, White Russians, Armenians, Germans, and Anatolian and Black Sea Turks lived in Kadıköy, and all have left their mark. Some of my favourite things to do and see are the Bull, Sureyya Opera, the Yeldeğirmen area, eating tasty Turkish delight at Haci Bekir, the Orthodox Churches, and drink tea in Antique Street. You can either wander on your own or get the most out of your visit by using my audio walking tour, Stepping Back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy Walk.

Inside the private world of Baris Manco.

Indulge in a touch of Anatolian rock by visiting the Baris Manco Museum. While you’re there make sure to have a look at the building itself, the work of much-overlooked Rum architect Constantin Pappas.

Head along Moda Caddesi and lunch at one of the many small boutique cafes along the way, like Naan Bakeshop or have coffee at one of Kadıköy’s wealth of 3rd wave coffee shops such as Coffee Manifesto, or Çekirdek Coffee. Most have seating, good sandwiches, cakes, snacks and of course, terrific coffee.

Afternoon

Ali Usta ice cream selection.

Continue on to Moda and stop in at Ali Usta for a taste of real Turkish ice cream. I always have trouble deciding which flavours to pick, so it really helps that they let you have a half-and-half scoop – one scoop with two flavours. Don’t forget to say yes to the topping of nuts and chocolate. Walk to the tea gardens and grab a seat overlooking the Sea of Marmara. When you’re done taxi back to Bagdat Street for some shopping. Shops are open quite late and there’s plenty of retail therapy to be had inside Vakko, Mango, Boyner, Ipek Yol and Zara, to name a few. 

Evening

If hunger overtakes you, stay on Bagdat street and eat at one of the many contemporary Turkish eateries like Divan Pub and my forever favourite, Brasserie Polonez with great food, good wine and a wonderful, completely smoke-free outside terrace, then walk back to the hotel.

Enjoy the summer weather in the Cafe Zanzibar courtyard
Channel your inner Agatha Christie in the Cafe Zanzibar upstairs dining room

Istanbul itinerary day 2

Morning

The top of the Yeni Valide mosque bird cage tomb

The breakfasts at Hotel Suadiye offer so much choice it’s unlikely you’ll have to eat the same things twice, but you can if you like. After breakfast it’s time to head over to Üsküdar. A somewhat conservative neighbourhood, Üsküdar contains some of the best mosques in Istanbul outside of the Old City. Take your pick from Semsi Paşa, Yeni (Cedid) Valide, Çinli and Mihrimah (Sun and Moon) Sultan Mosques.

Afternoon

Funky pastel coloured houses in Kuzguncuk
Greek Orthodox church in Kuzguncuk

From Üsküdar make like a local and catch an IETT bus number 15 or minibus to Kuzguncuk, nestled on the shores of the Bosphorus. Despite improvements in transport, Kuzguncuk has maintained its small village feel. It was once home to a mixed community of Black Sea Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Today you can explore the verdant community gardens, admire an Orthodox Church, and see gravestones inscribed in Ladino. Before you begin your sightseeing, fuel up at one of the small local cafes offering organic, slow food meals, like Betty Blue, Pulat Çiftliği and Café Sitare.

Evening

Viktor Levi interior with photos of many of their famous patrons.
Enjoy the Viktor Levi garden vibes winter and summer.

Now that you’ve mastered the layout of the Asian side, make your way back to Kadıköy by bus, minibus or taxi. Have another look around and pick up some last minute souvenirs before having a meal at Viktor Levi. I talk about it in my Stepping back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy walking tour and included it in A Local’s Guide to Istanbul for the Guardian, because I really, really like it. They serve wine from their own label in a restaurant modelled on an upscale private club. The music’s great, the service is prompt and the wonderful green outdoor garden is open year round. Kadıköy’s also famous for Rakı balık restaurants, which translates as raki (Turkey’s alcoholic aniseed liquor served straight over ice or mixed with water) and fish. As well as fresh grilled fish the restaurants offer a choice of delicious mezze (Turkish starters like artichoke, eggplant in olive oil, purslane in yoghurt and many, many others). Unfortunately I don’t have the stomach for rakı but my Turkish friends tell me you get what you pay for, so cheap isn’t always the best. What I do know is that drinking rakı always leads to singing melancholy songs until the early hours of the morning. Better organise a wake-up call if you don’t want to miss your flight home!

What you need to know for your Istanbul itinerary 2 days

Hotel Suadiye is set in a small street just off the coast. The rooms are generous, decorated in classic style, and have good sized bathrooms. The breakfast includes a large selection of traditional Turkish cheeses, olives and pastries like börek and poğaça, as well as fruit, cereal, yoghurt toast, eggs and more. The multilingual staff are more than happy to help with your inquiries, call a taxi or recommend a local restaurant. There’s a comfortable lounge bar just off the lobby and a bar and fine dining establishment  on the roof terrace during summer.

Enjoy a drink or a meal on the rood top terrace.
Take a break or do some business in the comfortable ground floor bar.

For this Istanbul itinerary 2 days, Hotel Suadiye is perfectly located less than 10 minutes on foot from Bagdat Caddesi, Istanbul’s prestigious shopping street. If you need to refuel there are plenty of cafes, bars and eateries to choose from. The hotel is also a stone’s throw from a coastal walking path that runs all the way from Bostancı to Kadıköy. Hire a bicycle, go for a run or just enjoy the sound of the water as you gaze out over the Sea of Marmara. A short taxi or bus ride gets you to the bustling neighbourhoods of Kadıköy and Üsküdar, where you’ll find a fascinating mix of tradition and modernity.

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48 hours on the Asian side of Istanbul is just enough time to see what the other side of the city has to offer and leave you wanting more. Find out what else you can see on my side of town with Istanbul 50 Unsung Places.

Iyi yolculuklar. Yine bekliyorum!

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Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip to Turkey

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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*All opinions about my stay at Hotel Suadiye are my own. See disclosure policy.

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2 Comments

  1. Exhausted in a good way I hope! Save some energy because there’s even more to the Asian side than I’ve had time to write about yet!

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