Layover in Istanbul: Exploring The Asian Side Like A Local

Thanks to our multi entry visa, we were able to enjoy two unique layover experiences in Istanbul. On our layover to Central Asia, explored the European side.

On our return from Central Asia, we had another 8 hour layover Istanbul. This time we flew into SAW, the airport on the Asian side of Istanbul and decided to use the time to explore the other side of the city.

We had checked out bags through and only had light bags so opted to not store our luggage. We did see luggage storage on the far left side of the terminal upon exiting baggage claim. It is towards the direction of the Starbucks.
The bus to the Kadikoy Ferry Terminal cost 10 Lira ($2.85) for a one way fare. It’s a white bus called Havatas. Upon leaving customs and baggage claim, exit door 14/15 and walk across the two small islands to the third outside island where the buses depart.


There are also Havatas buses that depart for Taksim Square on the European side which would allow you to follow our Istanbul Layover Itinerary (European Side). All Havatas buses depart on the half hour starting at 4am. Be warned there are also E-buses that depart for both locations, but these make multiple stops along the way and do not have room for luggage storage. The E-buses are suppose to be cheaper but you really can’t beat the value of the $2.85 Havatas bus!
Upon arrival to Kadikoy Ferry Terminal, we were in the heart of “Asia Istanbul.” Whereas the European side feels like a tourist attraction, this side felt like where the locals eat, shop, and dine. We walked along the Waterside promenade, known as sahilyolu in Turkish. Across the Bosporous we saw in the distance the European coast and the iconic temples we had visited in our previous layover. With its wide pedestrian path, the miles-long seaside promenade from Fenerbahçe to Bostancı is filled local life including couples sitting holding hands on the waters edge and vendors of simit, tea, and cotton candy.
Ferries depart from here for the European side and while we toyed with the idea of a Bosporus cruise we were much more tempted by the proposition of having a Turkish afternoon as a local would.
From the terminal it is a short walk to Kadıköy Market which reminded us of a smaller fish market (like in Tokyo) and a local farmers market back home. The fish market is on the main food-shopping street, Güneşlibahçe Sokak which also houses a number of excellent şarküteris; shops specializing in dried fruits, tea and coffee; bakeries and baklava stores.


Interspersed are cafes, bars, and fish restaurants. We were tempted by the fish restaurants adjacent to the fish market. However our research had our hearts set on eating at Çiya Sofrası, which was highly recommended across several sites we researched.


It was well worth the stop! They offer a mezze bar where you can choose from an assortment of cold Turkish appetizer. You pay by weight and my beautiful mezze platter came to $1.20.


There is also a rotating selection of mains to choose from. The staff is clearly used to entertaining foreigners and we were given a clear and thorough rundown of the ordering process.


We ate outside and got to watch city life move around us, a rare moment of feeling like a local, one of our favorite things to achieve while traveling.

As we were getting ready to leave we struck up a conversation with a lady at the adjacent table and ended up staying another hour chatting with her. Her name was Violet, she is Turkish Mexican and currently working in fashion in Paris. She was here in Istanbul with her mother visiting home on a holiday.

She was interested in hearing about our shabbatical and how we came to the decision to take time off to travel. We then exchanged travel stories and tips with each other. She told us of an amazing dessert place nearby and we decided to go there together. Baylan Patisserie, established in 1919, is an Istanbul institution that Violet’s mother had introduced her to. Just a block from Ciya we walked through a delightful chocolate shop to find an backyard garden patio. There we continued our conversation over Turkish coffee and profiterol, which is in short chocolate heaven.


By the time we finished at Baylan it was time to say goodbye and head back to the airport for our flight to Greece.

At the airport we had 20 Turkish which is about $8 and Quan was able to talk Jesse into spending it on this:


Another great layover in Istanbul in the books!

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