Artsy, eclectic Istanbullus flock to the city’s once-sleepy Asian side and its lively cafes, galleries, bars, shops, and restaurants. For visitors staying near the historic sights of Sultanahmet, a scenic ferry ride across continents is all it takes to join them. The central parts of the Kadıköy district are the hub of all this activity with densely packed markets, relaxed tree-lined streets, and eye-catching walls filled with the large-scale works by Mural Istanbul artists as well as politically tinged graffiti. Here’s where to start your explorations of Istanbul’s "other side".

A tree-lined street with many people passing by. Some are sat outside a cafe to the left. The tree has colourful lanterns hanging from the branches
Kadıköy's leafy Moda area © Radiokafka / Shutterstock

Indulge your senses in the Kadıköy Pazarı

With its vibrant displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, colourful dried pepper and aubergine husks hanging from stalls, and fishmongers calling out the catch of the day, the Kadıköy Produce Market is a feast for the senses. Nibble your way through with tastes of olives, dried fruits, pickle juice, and fresh-off-the-comb honey, or sit down for a heartier repast while watching the crowds go by at Çiya Sofrası, known for its regional Turkish cuisine, or the no-frills lahmacun and pide (flatbread topped with meat or vegetables) shop Borsam Taşfırın.

Pay tribute to a Turkish rock great at the Barış Manço Evi

One of the leading lights of the Anatolian rock genre, which mixed traditional instruments with psychedelic sounds in the 1960s and 1970s, the late singer-songwriter Barış Manço is beloved in Turkey. (There’s even an Istanbul ferry named after him.) His music is piped through his former home in the leafy Moda section of Kadıköy, now a museum filled with collections of his family photos, recordings, personal effects, paintings, gifts from fans abroad, and flamboyant stage costumes.

A shot across the rooftops. A church is in the foreground, with a minaret in the distance
Kadıköy rooftops © aydinsert / Shutterstock

Get a caffeine boost at Montag Coffee Roasters

The worn steps next to a mobile-phone accessory shop don’t look very enticing, but as the message written on them promises, they lead to good coffee. Just one of a slew of ‘third-wave’ coffee shops sweeping the area, Montag Coffee Roasters offers siphon and pour-over coffee along with cappuccinos and espressos. And yes, there’s traditional Turkish coffee too. The cosy upstairs cafe overlooks a bustling square centred around a quirky Kadıköy landmark: a small statue of a crocodile.

Explore art and community at ArtHere

With its long shared work tables, paintings on the walls, and books and magazines scattered about, ArtHere may look like a typical cafe, but this artist-run space is that and much more. Founded by a Syrian photographer, it serves as gallery, studio, community centre, and even temporary housing for Syrian artists to work with their Turkish and international counterparts. At least once a month ArtHere hosts a movie night, musical performance, artist talk, or workshop for a polyglot public audience.

The side of a building is covered in a massive mural depicting a figure surrounded by plants. Instead of a face, the figure has a pink rose
Kadıköy street art © Radiokafka / Shutterstock

Try Turkish fast food with a gourmet twist at Basta

The two young chefs behind Basta Street Food Bar met while working in fine-dining restaurants in France and have now applied their culinary training to the humble dürüm, a Turkish fast-food classic. But this is no ordinary grilled meat rolled up in a thin flatbread wrap. Instead you’ll find creative combos like homemade lamb ‘chorizo’ sausage with hummus – as well as a hearty, healthy salad of the day that’s a welcome break from the typical tomato-cucumber-onion combo.

Rifle through antiques on Antikacılar Sokağı

Cobblestone-paved Tellalzade Sokak, or Antique Dealer's Street, near the Kadıköy Produce Market, is lined with antique vendors, ranging from stuffy showrooms of gaudy furniture and lamps to cluttered jumbles of vintage magazines, records, glassware, jewellery and ephemera. You can easily while away a couple of hours browsing here – and pick up some old photos of Istanbul or a classic portrait of Atatürk, the revered founder of the Turkish Republic, for a souvenir.

A large stone building with a rounded tower on one corner
Haydarpaşa Railway Station is a Kadıköy landmark © Sadik Gulec / Shutterstock

Get in the collective spirit at NADAS and Halka

They may not draw the big-name artists and deep-pocketed collectors of the swish art galleries in Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı, but the independent arts and culture initiatives Halka Art Project and NADAS offer something else: the chance to engage with local artists, buy affordable works, and join in activities. NADAS is home to weekly yoga and drawing/painting classes in English, while Halka hosts artist talks by international participants in their residency programme and eco-friendly food and gardening workshops led by the Istanbul Permaculture Collective.

Unwind at the Moda Çay Bahçesi

To get a million-dollar view for pocket change, head to the Moda Çay Bahçesi (Moda Tea Garden), a cluster of outdoor purveyors of tea, coffee and light snacks scattered around a promontory overlooking the Marmara Sea. It’s a simple venue with plastic chairs and tables, but between the big trees creating a lush canopy above and the mesmerising sight of the sparkling water, there’s no more relaxing place in Kadıköy – or perhaps even all of Istanbul. The waterfront below is ideal for a stroll, especially with an ice-cream cone from Meshur Dondurmacı Ali Usta in hand.

Catch a show at the Süreyya Opera House

The grand Süreyya Opera House, inspired by the glamorous theatres of Europe, was built in 1927 and lovingly restored in 2006–7. In additional to performances by the Turkish State Opera and Ballet, it also hosts classical-music concerts and other events. More of a film buff? The humbler Rexx Cinema is another neighbourhood institution, showing first-run and indie movies alike, and often hosting festival screenings (where Turkish films usually come with English subtitles).

Party the night away on Barlar Sokak

Quiet during the day, Kadife Sokak – better known as Barlar Sokak, or "Bars Street" – is hopping after dark with music-lovers and revellers. Though Kadıköy nightlife has spilled well beyond the confines of this short strip, bar/performance spaces like Arkaoda, with its large back garden, BİNA and Karga, whose intimate nooks are spread throughout a rambling old house, are still firm favourites.

You might also like:

The best free things to do in İstanbul
How to spend a perfect weekend in İstanbul

Article first published in December 2016, and last updated in November 2019

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

This article was first published Dec 19, 2016 and updated Nov 5, 2019.

Explore related stories

Chora the capital of Amorgos island in Greece; Shutterstock ID 125430083; GL: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: Best places to go in Europe; name: Alex Butler
Chora the capital of Amorgos island in Greece

Tips & Advice

27 of the best places to visit in Europe 

Jun 12, 2024 • 12 min read