I still remember the first time I visited Kadikoy in Istanbul, more than ten years ago. It was my first big backpacking trip, and I was giddy with excitement at being able to go all the way to Asia just by taking a short ferry ride from my hotel in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district.
Once the novelty of exploring a new continent wore off, I quickly grew to love Kadikoy and Moda, two of the neighborhoods on the Asian side of Istanbul. These areas just felt cool: they had quirky attractions, trendy coffeeshops, independent boutiques and young Istanbulites going about their daily lives, free from the crowds I’d previously encountered in Sultanahmet and Taskim.
On my most recent trip to Istanbul I made a point of spending two days in Kadikoy and Moda, really slowing down, wandering through all the pretty streets and stepping inside every cafe, restaurant, store and attraction that caught my eye. It was a great two days, and I highly recommend that you include Kadikoy and Moda on your Istanbul itinerary as well!
All About Kadikoy and Moda
Today, Kadikoy is one of Istanbul’s trendiest districts, and Moda (one specific neighborhood in Kadikoy) is its coolest quarter. This is where young, trend-focused Istanbulites come to see and be seen, to shop, to eat and especially to drink!
But Kadikoy wasn’t always a hotspot. One of the oldest settlements on the Asian side of the city, Kadikoy was inhabited as early as seven thousand years ago, and was passed from conqueror to conqueror until it fell firmly under Ottoman control in the 1300s. Like many areas of Istanbul, the multicultural history is reflected in the wide array of religious buildings, including churches and mosques, that still stand throughout the neighborhood.
Over the next several hundred years, Kadikoy grew as both a popular market destination (due to its easy access to both agricultural areas to the East and the Bosporus Strait) and as a residential area for people willing to commute to the European side for work each day.
Now, Kadikoy is an arts, culture, shopping, entertainment, education and sports hub. While it lacks many of the monumental architectural and historical landmarks of the European side of the city, Kadikoy offers visitors a look into modern Turkish life, and a day spent in the heart of Kadikoy and Moda is an essential addition to any Istanbul itinerary.
Things to Do in Kadikoy and Moda
There are many interesting things to do in Kadikoy and Moda, but they’re not as touristy as many of the other attractions on the European side of the city. In some ways, Kadikoy is similar to Fener and Balat, two other historic neighborhoods where local life goes on without excessive crowds of tourists.
Kadikoy and Moda are best enjoyed on foot, freely strolling around the waterfront area, the busy market and the tree-lined residential streets. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the streets, because even if you miss out on one of these things to do in Kadikoy, you’ll surely stumble across something else that is equally beautiful and interesting!
Ride the Historic Kadikoy Tram
The best way to get your bearings when you arrive in Kadikoy is to hop on board the neighborhood’s historic tram, which makes a circular journey through central Kadikoy and Moda. The whole circle takes about twenty minutes, and depending on the season there could be one or two trams running on the line.
Much less busy than the historic trams on the European side’s Istikal Cadesi, the Kadikoy-Moda tram is likely to have space for you to comfortably sit and watch the neighborhood through the windows. Just pay on board with your Istanbulkart and enjoy the ride!
Shop for Antiques
I’ve always found Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar overwhelming. It’s crowded, it’s dark, the touts are relentless and it looks like half the stuff in the market was made three days earlier in a factory in China. If you prefer to shop for inexpensive antiques in a more low-key, authentic environment, check out Tellalzade Sokak in Kadikoy, a narrow street lined with antique shops operated by old guys who might not even look up from their game of backgammon as you enter their shops.
Creative commons photo via Mr. Brown.
See Istanbul’s Iconic Train Station
It’s impossible not to notice the Haydarpasa Train Station when you take the ferry to Kadikoy. Perched at the water’s edge, this used to be the terminus for the famous Orient Express, a grandiose train station welcoming the well-heeled to Istanbul. When I recently visited Istanbul the station was closed for major renovations, but it was scheduled to be reopened very soon. When it is open, visitors will be able to take in the station’s luxurious interior (dating back to 1909) and even hop on a regional or national train.
Check out the Churches of Kadikoy
There is a dense cluster of churches, temples and mosques in Kadikoy, making it easy to explore some of the city’s religious diversity without long walks or busy crowds. I’ve always been drawn to the pretty Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, which was heavily damaged during ethnic violence in the 1950s but beautifully restored in the early 2000s. Nearby, some people believe that the Osman Aga Mosque sits on the site that once housed the first mosque in all of Istanbul (although that claim is highly contentious). A few blocks away there is an Armenian church, a Protestant church, a French Catholic church and several synagogues. A number of the religious buildings are open only by appointment, so contact them in advance if you’re specifically wanting to visit for prayer.
Sip Tea by the Sea at the Moda Tea Garden
In Turkey, the tea garden, or çay bahçesi, is the most popular gathering place for locals who want to get together for a conversation or catch-up over a never-ending stream of tiny cups of Turkish tea. One of the most famous tea gardens in Istanbul is the Moda Tea Garden, a waterfront tea garden in Kadikoy with lots of large trees to provide shade, and glimpses of the Marmara Sea below. The Moda Tea Garden is very large, so even if you don’t see a waterfront table when you enter, keep walking further and further into the gardens and you’re likely to find a front-row seat somewhere!
Walk Along the Waterfront
Just down the hill from the Moda Tea Gardens (there’s a stairway in the gardens, and there are other access points throughout the residential community at the top of the hill) there is a waterfront pathway that runs through several different parks, all the way back to the main market and port area. If you’re a fitness-minded traveler this is the perfect place to go for a morning jog, but if you’re like me, it’s also just a great place to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh sea air.
Grab a Coffee at an Iconic Coffeeshop
I feel like it’s cheating to list “drink tea” and “drink coffee” as two separate items on this list, but I’m going to exercise some restraint by not listing “drink beer” as a separate item, so there’s that. Kadikoy and Moda are known for their coffee scene, with some of the city’s top coffee shops dotted around their streets. I am not a coffee aficionada so I went for the kitsch option at Walter’s Coffee Roastery, a Breaking Bad-themed cafe that is well equipped for digital nomads to spend a few hours getting work done. If you are more concerned about the origins of your beans than the WiFi speed, Montag Coffee and Coffee Manifesto are both good options. If I’m not working, I always prefer to grab a seat outside, as this really is the perfect part of the city for people-watching!
Learn About a Top Turkish Musician
Kadikoy’s most famous museum used to be the Florence Nightengale Museum (near the Haydarpasa Train Station) but with reports that it is now permanently closed, there’s all the more reason to check out one of Kadikoy’s more unique museums: the Baris Manco Museum. Baris Manco was a Turkish musician in the 1970s and 1980s (check out one of his videos here) who pioneered Turkish rock and hosted a Turkish television program for children. He passed away in his house in 1999, and a few years later the building was reopened as a museum celebrating his life and works.
Whet Your Palate at the Kadikoy Market
Literally just writing this is making my tummy grumble! For many people, Kadikoy is the culinary heart of Istanbul, and there’s no better place to get lost in the world of Turkish cooking than in the Kadikoy Market. In addition to the abundance of fresh fish and produce, you can also find independent shops that make and sell traditional Turkish foods, ranging from pickled everything (shown above!) to Turkish delight to honey, jams, jellies and more… I wrote about this in depth in my review of my Istanbul food tour, which was led by Istanbul on Food. If you don’t have time for a full-day food tour, make the time! If you really can’t make the time, they also offer a three-hour street food tour of the neighborhood. Like always, I took the tour “undercover” without disclosing I was a blogger, and I don’t make any money if you book with them… I just really recommend it!
Take in a Turkish Football Match
Can we just talk about how the official name of this building is the Ülker Stadyumu Fenerbahçe Şükrü Saracoğlu Spor Kompleksi? Because as a language geek, that string of letters and symbols makes me very happy. This is the home stadium for Istanbul’s popular Fenerbahçe football team (soccer, if you’re joining me from North America!), with space for more than 50,000 fans to watch the game. While I didn’t attend a football game myself, it’s easy to pick up tickets online during the football season. I’m writing this during the Coronavirus shut-down, but my understanding is that when things get back to normal it should also be possible to book a stadium tour if you’re very interested in the building or the football club’s history.
Restaurants in Kadikoy and Moda
If you want to sample everything that Kadikoy and Moda have to offer culinary travelers, sign up for a full-day, two-continent Istanbul food tour. The tour starts on the European side but more than 2/3 of the day is spent in Kadikoy, exploring the intersection between food and culture in this part of the city.
Ten years passed between my first meal at Ciya Sofrasi in Kadikoy and my most recent two visits, and it’s just as good as I remember. Specializing in regional, rural and historic Turkish recipes, you can make like me and load up on appetizers (meze) or you can order a proper multi-course Turkish meal (including both meat and vegetarian options for your main dish). There are two locations on the same block and the only difference is the ambiance. If you’re like me and prefer to sit outside, people-watching in Kadikoy, make your choice based on which table has the best view!
Other Restaurants in Kadikoy
To be honest, Ciya Sofrasi is pretty much the only place I ever eat in Kadikoy because I love their vegetarian options that much! However, there are some other popular restaurants in this neighborhood:
- Iskender Kebab – Outside of Turkey, many kebab restaurants use this family name in their branding, but inside Turkey the family running this restaurant owns the trademark and claims to have invented the particular cooking technique used on their signature skewered meat. Don’t ask me, I’m a vegetarian.
- Basta! Street Food Bar – Gaining hype at the time of my most recent trip to Istanbul, this popular Kadikoy restaurant has more than 20,000 Instagram followers and a loyal customer base who come for flavorful wraps (including one vegetarian option) served street-food style, but cooked with ingredients and techniques usually reserved for fine dining.
- Kadikoy Ruhha – Every meal doesn’t have to be a special event, and if you want quick, easy, down-home Turkish basics, Kadikoy Ruhha is the most popular stop in the neighborhood for lahmacun (flatbread topped with minced meat) and pide (oval-shaped flatbread pizzas).
- Muhtelif Mekan – I haven’t eaten here, but it know I have a lot of vegan and vegetarian readers, and this Kadikoy cat cafe has a fun menu of 100% vegan dishes, including quesadillas, wraps and salads.
- Meshur Dondurmacı Ali Usta – How are you not full yet? If you still have room for ice cream, this Moda ice cream parlor is one of the city’s best, with handcrafted flavors using traditional Turkish ingredients like pistachios and saffron. It gets very busy, so prepare to queue!
Hotels in Kadikoy and Moda
On my previous trips to Istanbul I’ve always stayed in Sultanahmet, but the next time I go I will be looking to expand my hotel horizons, and will probably stay in Kadikoy because it’s such a great location for dining and nightlife, and for my third trip to Istanbul I’d like to have a more authentic local experience.
While I was exploring Kadikoy and Moda I kept some notes about which hotels seemed comfortable and well-located.
I think that my top choice would be the Doubletree by Hilton Istanbul – Moda. I am always amazed by the breakfast selections at Doubletree hotels, and I know this hotel does its breakfast buffet right (confirm availability of the buffet service before booking!). It also has a stunning rooftop pool and an onsite Turkish bath, so you don’t have to go far to get a good scrub! I walked past it on my return from the Moda Tea Gardens and I have to say that it is one of the most centrally-located hotels in the area, making it perfect for transportation connections around the city.
If I wasn’t booking at the Doubletree, there are two other nearby independent hotels that I would consider. Loka Suites is an independent boutique hotel with beautifully-decorated (and air conditioned!) guestrooms, and a sunny breakfast terrace. Just around the corner, the Marist Hotel Kadikoy is a little bit more simple, but again, it’s affordably priced and it also has an onsite hammam.
For solo travelers and budget travelers, check out yolohostel in Kadikoy. This is one of the top-rated hostels in all of Istanbul, with a blend of private rooms and dorms, all with attached private bathrooms. There’s also a street-level cafe and chill out area. This one is a little further back from the ferries, but it’s still only a ten-minute walk through a charming neighborhood.
Getting to Kadikoy and Moda
Kadikoy is in Asia, on the opposite side of the Bosporus Strait from Sultanahmet and Taksim. It’s most easily reached by taking one of the regular ferries that travel from Eminou and Karakoy (the neighborhoods at opposite ends of the Galata Bridge) to the Kadikoy pier. The trip takes about twenty minutes, and boats depart every fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on the time of day. The fare between Eminou or Karakoy and Kadikoy is usually 3 TL, and must be paid with a valid Istanbulkart.
Ferry service typically ends around 11:00 pm. After that, transportation options between Kadikoy and the European side include dolmus (a shared taxi, often operated by a minivan) or a private taxi. There is dolmus service between Kadikoy and Taksim, but as stops can be somewhat flexible you’ll need to ask a local where to catch it. Taxis are taxis, and the fare will be at least 60 TL to travel from Kadikoy to Taksim, and at least 75 TL from Kadikoy to Sultanahmet. At that price, it’s worth coming back a little bit earlier!
Thinking about a trip to Istanbul, Turkey? I’ve got lots of posts about Turkey’s coolest city:
Have you been to Kadikoy and Moda on Istanbul’s Asian side? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!