So you’ve many of the main sights in Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. You’ve also done some of the lesser known sights such as Chora Church, the Basilica Cistern, Istiklal, and Rustem Pasha Mosque. Now you’re tired. But you still have some time left and there still is the other side of the Bosphorus that you haven’t seen yet. The big question is – is Istanbul’s Asian side worth a look? I say “but of course!”

I liked the Asian side of Istanbul because it was very much not touristy and was a chance to see every day Istanbullu life. It’s a regular city, probably like the one that you come from, and it is these similarities with just enough differences that make an afternoon spent here a very pleasant one. So hop onto the ferry and come on over to Istanbul’s Asian side. Here are five free things to do in one afternoon:

Ferry Dock

As you approach the dock after a breezy ride across the Bosphorus, keep an eye out to your left. You will see a pretty neat building (which may or may not be open) – it’s Haydarpaşa Terminal. Built in 1909, this historic railway station is an emblem of a bygone era that will spark your imagination if you have an ounce of romance in your soul. If not, then the ferry dock is also interesting for the people watching as there are so many people strolling and hurrying about. If people watching is not your thing either, well there are plenty of simit stands from which you can buy a snack.

View from Moda

If you’ve managed to find the historic tram (ask around or by the dock, there is an information stand where someone may…or may not…be able to answer your questions), take it to the neighbourhood of Moda. There you’ll find a çay bahçesi or tea garden called Moda Çay Bahçesi. Now, I do suggest getting a cup of çay and relaxing for a while but if you want to strictly keep this free, there is a set of stairs on the other side of the tea garden that takes you down to a xyz. And here you have a phenomenal view of the European side of Istanbul with many of its iconic buildings laid out for your viewing pleasure.


If the Grand Bazaar, the Arasta Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar were all to touristy for you, check out the many markets on the Asian side of Istanbul. Here you may find some touristy items for sale but it will be predominately things like fruits and vegetables, fish, and household goods – in other words, locals shop here.

Street Art

I love street art. With the exception of Istiklal, I didn’t see much of it on the European side of Istanbul. But I found plenty on the Asian side, much to my delight. Done well street art really does enliven a place, demonstrates the creativity or mindset of its inhabitants. A great way to see what is important to those who live around here!


This was my favourite part of this part of Istanbul but unfortunately, not of those who I was travelling with. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as I wanted here. But I’m saving it for next time. There is an ENTIRE street of antique shops! I stumbled onto it just as we stumbled onto the antique section in the Grand Bazaar. Window shopping here is the way to keep this list in the “free” zone but I know next time, it won’t be free for me, that’s for sure!

What else is there to do, free, on Istanbul’s Asian side?