Most people who travel to Istanbul tend to stay in the historical area of Sultanahmet or, perhaps, visit Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square. The Asian side is hardly ever on tourist’s lists. Despite very modern and developed, this side of the Bosphorus still has charming areas where you can experience real daily life going on without lots of tourists in the way.
After a few years visiting only the European Istanbul, I recently crossed the Bosphorus again and went on very good and informative food tour of Kadikoy on Istanbul’s Asian side, where my knowledge of the city was deliciously challenged.
I met my guide at the Karaköy pier, next to Galata Bridge, on the European side. Call me lucky, but I was the only person who turned up that chilly Sunday morning. Before we took the ferry, he bought a cup of tea and a simit, a pretzel-like bread in round shape, which is a very popular snack among the Turkish.
The ferry crossing of the Bosphorus took about 20 minutes and, despite the cold, we stayed on the deck feeding the seagulls with leftover simit, and admiring the view of the buildings and mosques on both sides of the Bosphorus. From the ferry terminal in Kadikoy, it was only a three-minute walk to Kadiköy Market.
Unlike Sultanahmet, Kadiköy has a more local feel to it, since you’ll see few tourists around. Many of the wealthier Istanbulites live on this side of the water, where there used to be many grand mansions. Sadly, they were replaced by concrete buildings. This side is also where a large Christian population, mostly Armenians, settled during the years.
We started our food tour of Kadiköy at a local charcuterie. Here we had a light breakfast with different types of local cheese, kaymak (buffalo cream with honey), stuffed vine leaves, stuffed mussels and bread.
The market itself is not huge; it only occupies two streets and has share the space with many restaurants and cafes. But it’s a real feast to the eyes: all shops sell high quality produce, beautifully displayed and at decent prices.
From freshly caught fish to sweets, including cheese, caramelized fruits, pure honey and dried fruits, I had the chance to try a lot of different produce. I must say, I’ve been to many markets in Istanbul, but this was definitely more authentic and pleasant, with no shop owners calling you to buy this or that, no hassle and no haggling.
After a couple of hours we went for lunch at Çiya Sofrası, a restaurant very popular with locals. Since I had been eating small portions all morning, we had a Turkish dish called lahmacun – a very thin, pizza-like dough topped with minced meat paste and spices. Like any food I’ve ever had in Istanbul, it didn’t disappoint!
My guide, always ready to answer my questions, took me to several shops and at one of them I tried the ever so popular pickles juice. Yes, turşu suyu, as it’s called in Turkish, is a local delicacy and, as you can imagine, not for everyone’s taste – definitely not mine! Yet, it was something I always wanted to try and finally I had that little push I needed.
To wrap up our food walking tour of Kadıköy, we went to a traditional Turkish coffee house, where we had a very strong coffee, Turkish style. A huge change from my mild cappuccino, but when in Istanbul…
During the tour, I explained to the guide about my interest in street arts. Kadıköy has some of the best murals in the whole of Istanbul, so he took me to a couple of places where I could see some works by local street artists.
It made me realise that, in Istanbul, you’ll find art not only in museums. Art is everywhere, on the street murals, restaurants and on the Turkish tables, too.
Disclaimer: The food tour of Kadıköy in Istanbul was a courtesy of Viator Travel, and is available to book on their website. The food and ferry crossings are included in the price and no other compensation was offered. As you know, all opinions and long sentences are my own.