Located on the Marmara Sea coast on the Asian Side of town, the Kadıköy district and its Moda neighbourhood in particular have soared in popularity over the past few years, leading us to name it one of the 50 coolest neighbourhoods in the world. Hundreds of new bars, cafés, restaurants and shops have opened here, making the area a must-see for those really wanting to get a feel of how the city hangs out these days. While it may be the apple of the eye for an ever-increasing number of Istanbulites, Kadıköy still features a more relaxed vibe than the bustling European side, a fact quite evident upon first visit. If you’re still not convinced, taking a ferry there might just be the best way to soak up Istanbul's inimitable views.
Kadıköy's best restaurants
Nestled inside the Haydarpaşa Train Station, one of Istanbul’s most treasured historical landmarks, Mythos always makes for a memorable night out with its offer of delicious meze, expertly grilled fish and free-flowing rakı in a nostalgic setting. While the train station is currently undergoing major renovations after a 2010 fire damaged the roof and top floors, Mythos remains very much open and is a Kadıköy favorite that can get packed every night of the week during the warmer months.
Kadıköy's beloved Italian eatery Aida is one of those place that feels more like a home than a restaurant. Inside, you’ll be greeted by a piano and family portraits lined along the staircase before being served an authentic Italian meal on dinnerware that looks as if it came from your grandmother’s house. We start with the appetizer plate with fried rice balls in a bolognaise sauce, meatballs and fava bean crocchettes, which strikes us as an inventive way to serve fava beans by breading and frying them. The seafood and shrimp fettuccine is fresh and perfectly al dente. Aida also makes its own breads and ice cream, though our favorite treat was the tiramisu made with Quarta coffee imported from Italy.
Çiya serves a variety of Anatolian dishes (mostly Eastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Anatolian), all made with ingredients imported from their native regions. Their wide selection of delicious dishes are accompanied by an assortment of herbs, most of which you’ve probably never have heard of. The two-storey venue offers such unusual dishes as şıhılmahşi (stuffed zucchini from the Kilis region), mualle (aubergine and lentil stew with pomegranate molasses), maş (mung bean) soup, malhıtalı (red lentil) soup, firik (grilled wheat) rice, sitti simidi (thin cracked wheat rice), and yeşil erik tavası (green plum stew).
Bonkis doesn’t have a set “menu,” per se, but on weekends you’ll find focaccia sandwiches (Saturdays) and burgers (Sundays). The burgers here are easily some of the best in Istanbul, served with a 120-g beef patty, cheese, mushrooms and caramelized onions as well as your choice of two sauces, with options like homemade tomato paste and eggplant pesto. The homemade breads are soft without being too greasy, which makes them the perfect complement to the beef patty covered in sauce. We also love that the burgers are served with green onion-potato salad instead of French fries.
This sister restaurant to Bağdat Caddesi eatery Rotisserie Noir serves a French-inspired menu in a setting that’s much more spacious than the original. In contrast to the predominantly black décor of Rotisserie, Brasserie Noir boasts white tablecloths and chic red chairs as well as live music for dinner service. Our favorite starters include the shredded beef taco (21 TL) and the goat cheese tart with caramelized onions (19 TL). Those who enjoy sweet-and-savory dishes should try the pide with Roquefort and pears (29 TL). Red meat is the highlight of the menu here as it is at Rotisserie: in addition to sumptuous dishes like lamb karski (49 TL) and Noir beef cutlets (41 TL), you’ll also find specialty meats like uykuluk (sweetbread, 30 TL). Brasserie builds on the good word of mouth Rotisserie achieved through its expertise in cooking techniques: in other words, you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to make reservations if you’d like to visit for Sunday brunch.
While it's unusual for an eatery with the word ‘meyhane’ in its name to not offer any fish, the idea here isn’t to have a full family meal; it’s to have a couple of bites to accompany your drink. Warm starters like kokoreç (seasoned, skewered lamb’s intestines), uykuluk (sweetbread) and döner kavurma (braised lamb) more than make up for the menu's lack of a main course. As for the meze, we suggest trying the fried eggplant topped with yogurt, garlic and tomato paste sauce; the haydari (yogurt spread seasoned with garlic, mint and dill), which is just as thick as it should be.
With over 50 flavours and decades of history under it's belt, Ali Usta's fame extends well beyond Moda. While his recipes are kept secret, the only thing we know is that they haven’t changed a bit in all these years. If you’re fortunate enough to be here in the colder months, we definitely recommend getting the traditional winter beverage salep with your ice cream.
Those studying gastronomy in college are often recommended not to open their own restaurant shortly after graduation. Two alums of the Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts at Yeditepe University, Naz Tiryaki and Emre Çeri, took this lesson to heart, choosing to forgo lavish plates in favor of a snack bar specializing in mini burgers that resemble the American slider. Five of the six burgers on the menu come with 70-g beef patties, and most feature a variety of toppings – with the exception of the popular şamburger, which comes with a bold pistachio sauce that offsets the need for any cheese or additional garnishes.
Reinventing the humble dürüm (wrap) with gourmet influences, chefs Kaan Sakarya and Derin Arıbaş say that what sets the quality of their dürüm apart is their meat cooking technique as well as the spices and sauces they use. The ribs in their beef dürüm are slow-cooked for seven to eight hours, while the pickles and mustard sauce served alongside it are made using the chefs’ own recipes. Basta! also serves dürüm with homemade chorizo, smoked chicken and a daily-changing variety of vegetarian ingredients. The chefs’ talent really shines through in the desserts, like the vanilla sütlaç (rice pudding).
Situated in an old two-storey house in Koşuyolu, this brand new meyhane is a gem among a handful of fish restaurants offering more or less the same meals. Sakar Zeybek offers a daily menu of Aegean and Greek recipes, made with ingredients that are almost all brought from the owners’ homeland of Muğla on the southern coast. Since this is a meyhane, the most frequently consumed drink is obviously the rakı – to do the space justice, we highly recommend ordering a bottle of Sarı Zeybek and making a night of it with friends and family.
Kadıköy's best bars, clubs and live music venues
Ever since setting up shop on the bar street Kadife Sokak in 1999, this iconic establishment has had a pioneering role in Kadıköy’s transformation into Istanbul’s hippest neighbourhood. Antique velvet armchairs, good music and cozy dim lighting make Arkaoda a great place to chill with friends for hours at a time. A cosy café by day and an ever-popular bar/club by night, Arkaoda is our favourite watering hole on Kadife Sokak, Kadıköy’s main bar street, and has a calendar peppered with a diverse selection of underground DJs from Istanbul and abroad, with live shows taking place on the upper floor.
Opened in late 2016, Bina/Havuz is one of Kadıköy's most popular hangouts and regularly hosts talks, screenings, performance and other events curated by independent magazine Bant. The bottom floor garden is a wide open, smartly-designed space with plenty of room to wind down with friends over a few drinks, while the ground floor hosts DJs until well after midnight.
A newcomer to the Istanbul jazz scene, The Badau opened its doors two years ago in the increasingly popular neighborhood of Yeldeğirmeni in Kadıköy. The charming, intimate setting is rounded out by an ambitious, creative menu. Jazz lovers take note.
One of many new arrivals in Kadıköy, the massive Dorock XL hosts concerts of Turkey's top musical acts and encapsulates a spacious lounge with indoor and outdoor seating. When bands aren't playing, the floor is likely to turn into a dance party even on weekdays – a testament to Dorock's popularity.
Featuring multiple floors of cozy, dark seating with exposed brick walls, Karga is a great place to enjoy drinks with friends or quietly nurse one in a corner by yourself. Also one of the best venues for independent music on the Asian side, the top floor of the bar is home to the KargART stage which hosts several live concerts a week during the school year, spanning all genres of music imaginable.
Having closed the doors of its previous location in Beyoğlu, the established blues bar Ağaç Ev moved across town and set up shop in the corner bar formerly occupied by Shaft, an iconic rock bar that went down the hill over the years before shutting down in 2017. Having revamped the dilapidated Shaft space, the Ağaç Ev folks offer live blues every night of the week with no cover charge.
The sister venue of Kadıköy favourites Arkaoda, Bina and Dün, Yer is a warm café with good food, refreshing cocktails and a pleasant atmosphere. The harmony of disharmony reigns in the décor and the owners emphasise that they try to stay away from a standard café menu, preferring instead to serve a few of their favourite dishes done well. Yer’s tour de force is the pasta, made, cut and cooked fresh, right in their own kitchen.
Get your caffeine fix at Kadıköy's third wave cafés
Their dessert menu and counter will take your breath away the moment you walk in. Take a look at the library at the entrance; you can leave the book you finished and head out with a new one. The apple crumble and date cake are competing with each other for best flavor. Don’t worry about which one to pick, order them both and enjoy.
Kev serves all sorts of hot and iced coffees, homemade lemonades and iced teas as well as frozen beverages. If you happen to go for breakfast, we recommend the stacked pancakes, which can be made sweet with jam and chocolate or savory with ham and cheese. In the mood for a full meal? Try the crispy mantı (Turkish ravioli with minced meat) served with yogurt and spices.
Nowdays there are countless coffee shops in Kadıköy, and new ones seem to be opening all the time. Opened in 2013, Tunca Bey's tiny stand Çekirdek was one of the pioneers. In the small space, he manages to deftly fit a roaster and oven, roasting his own beans and preparing his own desserts, which include a sumptious cheesecake. Stop by for a perfect espresso, a bag of Çekirdek's beans and Tunca Bey's million-dollar smile.
Things to do in Kadıköy
Kadıköy's Tellalzade Street is home to a cluster of shops selling vintage telescopes, glasses, gaslamps, record players, radios and hidden gems waiting to be found underneath piles of dusty goods. You'll be dazzled by the ornate coffee cups on display here. Be sure to also check out the nearby Kadıköy Antiques Bazaar, where you'll find shops dealing in finer ornaments and antique furniture.
Located at the edge of Kadıköy's main bar street, Rexx is one of Istanbul's few remaining classic, independent cinemas. Offering a variety of domestic and international films, Rexx also hosts festivals and independent film screenings. Once called the Apollon Theatre, where Afife Jale, Turkey’s first female theatre actress, took the stage in the early 20th century, Rexx Cinema has a history dating back to the 1870s. One of our favourite things about the nostalgic theatre is its terrace, where moviegoers can enjoy a smoke break or a breath of fresh air during the intermission that occurs during screenings.
Opened in 1967, the family-run Kadıköy Sineması is one of Istanbul's oldest cinemas and the only surviving one to maintain its original decor – most notably the auditorium's striking ribbed ceiling and steep seating, which provides a clear view of the curtain regardless of how tall the person is sitting in front of you. Undoubtedly one of the best places to catch a film on the Asian side, Kadıköy Sineması is nestled in an arcade on the main shopping street in Kadıköy and regularly screens an array of domestic, international and independent films.
Housed in a beautiful building built by the politician Süreyya İlmen Pasha in 1927, the Süreyya Opera House is the prime location to catch an opera or a ballet on the Asian side of Istanbul. Due to the fact that its stage remained incomplete, Süreyya functioned as a movie theatre and wedding hall for many years until its restoration in 2007, when it was finally re-opened to fulfill its original purpose. Nostalgia gleams from the walls of this building and its art deco foyer, which was modeled after the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris.