Underrated Places in Istanbul That You Shouldn’t Miss

1) Big Çamlıca Hill (Büyük Çamlıca Tepesi)

Big Çamlıca Hill (Büyük Çamlıca Tepesi) is one of the most important promenade places in Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea and is approximately 265 meters above sea level. With its lush green nature, historic trees, colorful flowers, unique Bosphorus view and constantly breezing pure air, Big Çamlıca Hill is one of the most beautiful hills of the city.

In the Big Çamlıca Hill, there are a few social facilities run by the Istanbul Municipality which are established on an area of ​​3000 square meters on top of the Big Çamlıca Hill. The Çamlıca Social Facilities include a 400 square meter indoor restaurant area, as well as the Ottoman Cafeteria and the Garden Cafeteria with various buffets.

With its mansions, fountains, tea gardens, historical monumental trees, restaurants, hiking trails, colorful flowers and historical atmosphere, the Big Çamlıca Hill is one of the frequently visited places not only for Istanbulites but also for tourists coming from different countries of the world. The restaurant section of Çamlıca Social Facilities, which is a reminiscent of Ottoman mansions with traditional motifs adorning the walls, offers the most beloved and delicious examples of Turkish Cuisine to its visitors.

2) Kadıköy

Haydarpasa Train Station in Kadıköy

Located in the Southern part of the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is one of the prettiest and coolest districts in the city. Even though Kadıköy is in the Asian side, thanks to it’s streets full of street artists and public art, you may find yourself thinking that you are in a European capital city. Kadıköy is known as the entertainment center of the Anatolian side. It has a long history and a unique culture that makes it very different than those other recently developed districts.

Thanks to it’s vibrant life during the day and night, Kadıköy is not also serves as the number one entertainment destination for those living in Anatolian side, but it also attracts thousands of visitors from the European side everyday, who are looking for something different.

Streets of Kadıköy are full of cafes, restaurants, bars and taverns. New establishments are opening everyday with unique menus and business models. All kinds of eating and drinking options are available from street foods to upscale dining venues. If you are one of those “cook it yourself” persons, you can find plenty of shops as well, which sells fresh vegetables, fish, meat and deli.

Without getting bored and noticing how the time passes, you can spend an entire day in Kadıköy. Art and entertainment scene in Kadıköy is very vibrant and offers many alternatives such as operas, theatres, concerts, stand up shows and galleries.

If you want to chill out and relieve the stress of a long day at work, just grab your picnic blanket and go to one of the parks in Kadıköy seaside. Moda park, Yoğurtçu Park, Caddebostan seaside and Fenerbahçe seaside are the most popular parks in Kadıköy and usually full of people in long summer nights.

Places worth seeing in Kadıköy are countless but if you are planning a visit, make sure you have visited at least some of the places listed below. In addition to these places, we will also write detailed guides about the mosques, churches, museums and entertainment venues in Kadıköy very soon.

  • Haydarpaşa Train Staion
  • Kadıköy Bazaar
  • Bahariye Street
  • Kadıköy Bull Statue
  • Süreyya Opera House
  • Moda Park
  • Fenerbahçe Park
  • Bağdat Avenue

3) Pierre Loti Hill

Pierre Loti Hill is the point where the magnificent view of the Golden Horn is displayed in the best way. The hill, which is named after the famous French writer Pierre Loti, is reached by stairs or cable car extending up through the cemeteries next to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

At the end of the road, Pierre Loti Coffee House welcomes its visitors as the best known place on the hill. The coffee was known as the Rabia Women’s Coffee House until the end of the 19th century. Pierre Loti, who sees Turkey as a second homeland, came frequently to the coffeehouse at Pierre Loti hill at that time. It is said that Loti wrote his novel of the same name about his love for Aziyade whom he met in Istanbul. And since that day, the name of the coffeehouse is called Pierre Loti. The hill where the coffeehouse is located is later called Pierre Loti Hill in memory of Loti.

There are many historical buildings on the Pierre Loti Hill, which is frequently visited by almost all foreigners and travelers who came to Istanbul in the 19th century. The two-inscribed wooden Kasgari Tekke, Colak Hasan Tekke, Sıbyan Mektebi (primary school), the famous Dilek Kuyusu (Wishing Well) are some of them. In his travel book called Seyahatname, famous Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi wrotes that; “The wishes of those who looks at well can be seen in the well”. There is also a historical cistern in the region, which was thought to have been built during the Byzantine period and used during the Ottoman period.

On top of the Pierre Loti Hill, which offers a visual feast accompanied by a brewed tea at every hour of the day, there are also Ayvansaray, Sütlüce, Eyüp, Balat, Hasköy and Fener mansions bearing the names of nearby districts. These wooden mansions built in accordance with the Ottoman-Turkish architecture within the scope of the project initiated by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 1997 in order to welcome domestic and foreign tourists.

4) Üsküdar

Üsküdar is one of the oldest districts in Istanbul with a history which dates back to 1000 bc. Since the ancient times, Üskadar has always been an important crossroad for stopovers and trade. For both Byzantian and Ottoman Empires,Üsküdar was the starting point of the trade routes going into Asia and Middle East. Even today, Üsküdar maintains it’s position of being one of the most lively districts in the city. Yet, it offers many calm and quite parks and seasides where you can enjoy the scenery of the Bosphorus and beautiful hills covered with trees.

Since Üsküdar is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, many tourist visiting Istanbul don’t have enough time to visit Üsküdar. However, there are couple of must see locations in Üsküdar which are highly underrated. Üsküdar is home to many historic buildings and locations which are in the landmark status and some of them are even known globally.

Compared to the touristic places in European side of the city, Üsküdar doesn’t have much tourists walking around and therefore it’s hard to come across those classic tourist oriented places and scams. You can enjoy real Turkish food and observe the daily life of local people while exploring Üsküdar. Due to mass tourism and tourist oriented streets, other popular places in İstanbul can not give you the same feeling that you will experience in Üsküdar.

If you are planning a visit to Istanbul and have enough time to explore the depths of the city, make sure you include the places below which are all located in Üsküdar and all accessible via public transportation:

  • Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi)
  • Fountain of Ahmet III
  • Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
  • Yeni Valide Mosque
  • Şemsi Paşa Mosque
  • Beylerbeyi Palace
  • Fethi Paşa Park and Grove
  • Big Çamlıca Hill
  • Kuzguncuk Neighborhood
  • Çengelköy Neighborhood
  • Kuleli Military School
  • Beylerbeyi Neighborhood
  • Üsküdar Fish and Vegetable market

5) Balat and Fener

Balat and Fener are small neighborhoods in the Fatih district of Istanbul, located on the European side of the city. These small neighborhoods on the west bank of the Golden Horn was once home to the Jewish and Greek Orthodox communities of Istanbul.

There are only a few neighborhoods left in Istanbul where you can feel the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city. These two neighborhoods are one of those few places where you can trace the footprints of the people from different cultures who once lived there. Both Balat and Fener are full of hidden gems that are waiting for you to discover. In recent years, Balat and Fener tours became very popular thanks to the openings of new restaurants, cafes, taverns and diners. Streets of Balat and Fener are full of beautiful  old houses, churches, mosques and synagogues. Hence, photography tours to Balat and Fener are also quite popular among both amateur and professional photographers.

If you are looking for an authentic experince in your Istanbul visit, Balat and Fener neighborhoods must be in your list. There are lots of eating and dining options to choose from in this part of the city which will make your trip more tasteful. Both Balat and Fener are easily accessible via taxi or public transportation and very close to the other touristic places in the European side of Istanbul.

Written by emreozmen

Blogger, traveller, car and aviation enthusiast living in Istanbul. Writing about automobiles on otomobiltavsiyesi.com and about Istanbul on 10thingstodoinistanbul.com
Twitter: @emreozmen93

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