The Asian side (referring primarily to the districts abutting the Bosphorus) is a quiet and predominantly upper-class residential area short (but not completely devoid) of historical interest and heavy on views. Many visitors combine a Bosphorus cruise or a day trip to Beylerbeyi Sarayi, the summer palace of the sultans, with lunch at one of the more charming boat landings (Anadolu Hisari, Çengelköy, famous for its cucumbers and persimmons, Kanlica, where people flock for yogurt from heaven, or Pasalimani), or perhaps a walk up to Çamlica Hill for a panorama of both the Marmara and Black seas. But because it's a good 22-plus km (14 miles) to cover the entire length of the Bosphorus from Anadolu Kavagi to Kadiköy, anyone wishing to spend a day in Istanbul in Asia is going to have to make some tough choices. To get the best out of a day (or half-day) trip over, plan to tackle one or two neighborhoods in relative proximity.
The district Üsküdar has the densest collection of architecturally outstanding mosques, monuments, and synagogues, while Kadiköy bustles with a market center, a Tuesday bazaar, an opera house, and some seriously good lokantas. The tree-lined shopping section along Bagdat Caddesi is frequently touted as a destination, but frankly has nothing exceptional to offer a foreigner accustomed to a cosmopolitan shopping day out.
Yogurt of the Gods -- It's a long way to go for a cup of yogurt, but I'm glad (after several years of pining) I did. The Tarihi Kanlica Yogurdu has been churning out this creamy ambrosia since 1893. For a few TL, you can get a 200-gram (small) serving; sprinkle some confectionary sugar atop each bite for a decadent (or healthy, depending on how you look at it) treat. Open daily 8am to 11pm.
Hop on the Bosphorus cruise boat at Eminönü (departures at 10:35am and 1:35pm in summer) or at any stop along the route on its way up the Bosphorus. (Visit www.ido.com.tr.) Or take a ferry from Eminönü, Karaköy, or Besiktas to Üsküdar and take bus no. 15 or 15P north along the Bosphorus road to Kanlica.
A Look at the Past
Chrysopolis (City of Gold) was a suburb of ancient Calcedonia (modern Kadiköy). Its history parallels that of Byzantium, but because it was geographically vulnerable to a long parade of armies with ambition, none of the monuments to this era remain.
Chrysopolis was the site of Constantine's final and victorious battle over Licinius in A.D. 324. The city fell to the Persians in A.D. 626, and in turn to the Arabs in A.D. 710 and A.D. 782, but none of these raiding armies succeeded in taking Constantinople, protected behind high defensive walls on the other side of the Bosphorus. Later, it was from here in 1204 that the Crusaders launched their successful attack on the city.
After retaking Constantinople, several Byzantine emperors were forced to hunker down here in the palace of Scutarion (from Scutarion, it's not a far journey until you get the name Üsküdar), the location of which remains unknown. Today, Üsküdar is a commercial and residential suburb of Istanbul, mostly populated by conservative-minded Turks drawn to the density of mosques located here. During Ottoman times, the main Square of the Falconers was the departure point for the imperial caravan as it set out on its annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The sights selected for inclusion here are the bare-bones highlights of the neighborhood and are all within easy reach of the Üsküdar ferry landing.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.