Resting at the foot of the vast Bosphorus Bridge connecting Europe to Asia, most of the cobblestone pavements in this small enclave will lead you towards a strip of kumpir (baked, stuffed potatoes) stalls staffed by young men calling out to passersby. Grab a seat by the benches near the neo-Baroque Ortaköy Mosque facing the Bosphorus and feast on the most calorific potatoes in town.

  • Ortaköy kumpirciler meydani


​​An 18th-century madrasah tea garden, Çorlulu Ali Paşa is a few steps from the Beyazit tramway stop. During the day you’ll find older men from the mosque next door in the vibrant, smoky courtyard flipping through wrinkled newspapers as a sheesha haze envelops them. By night, the vine-covered, lantern-lit area is filled with tiny wooden chairs scattered around knee-level tables, as a younger crowd chats, smokes and drinks. The madrasah itself has two entrances and numerous Oriental trinkets can be purchased therein.

  • Yeniçeriler Caddesi 36/28, Beyazit, +90 212 519 2341. Open daily 7am-2am


The closest island to İstanbul, named “Henna Island” after the reddish-hued cliffs ringing it, is also the smallest. In some ways, however, it is the most “authentic,” as the absence of accommodation and lack of things to do can put off potential visitors. This is fine for those who want to do nothing more than enjoy a waterfront meal around the iskele (quay) area, or perhaps rent a bicycle and head around the coast road to the southeast of the island, (around 15 minutes by bike, or 40 minutes walking) to Kınalıadı Turizm Plajı, a stony but free beach. Here you can rent a sun lounge and umbrella for TL 10, and admire the view out to sea. There’s a posh pay beach next door with its own pool.


​​Known to the Greeks as Prinkipo, Büyükada (Big Island) is indeed by some margin the largest of the Princes’ Islands, and a long fayton tour around it costs TL 60, a shorter version TL 50. It’s home to the very finest late 19th and early 20th century houses, best seen on Çankaya Caddesi, which runs to the south and west of the main settlement/quay, and the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George, perched atop a steep hill towards the south of the island. The ascent will test the fittest cyclist (great bikes available from Trek, at 23 Nisan Caddesi, just behind the quay), but there are donkeys available for the idle. There’s a welcome cafe, the Yücatepe Kır Gazino, next to the monastery. The island is only some 14 kilometers around, and reasonably level apart from the ascent of Yücetepe.