Istanbul Areas Series – Uskudar

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Uskudar (Üsküdar) is one of the most treasured & authentic places to visit & see in Istanbul. Although it’s largely residential and quite heavily populated, it’s packed with culture, entity and history, the perfect place to see & feel a REAL side of Turkey. You will see men playing Rummikub inside gentlemen-clubs & cafes and women sitting together on their doorsteps or along the rocky seawall while strolling as the smell of street food fills the air.

Today, Üsküdar is known to be a more conservative family-friendly area of Istanbul, populating many practising Muslims, hence there are many beautiful Mosques to visit from old to new. It’s not the typical touristy destinations so you wouldn’t find many night clubs or bar options, for instance, however, it offers its visitors an exciting, safe, welcoming and family-friendly environment to venture into. From traditional markets and hammams to historical museums, libraries, gardens & memorable sites. You will discover that Üsküdar is home to many of Istanbul’s most phenomenal hidden gems.

Where is Uskudar?

The district of Üsküdar is situated along the Bosphorus Shore on the Asian side of Istanbul which is also often referred to as the Anatolian side. It neighbours the districts of Beykoz, Kadıköy, Ümraniye, and Ataşehir. The district of Üsküdar is one of Istanbul’s oldest-established residential areas and due to it’s affordable, central location, there are well-established communities there that consist of retired senior citizens as well as students.

Map of Uskudar Istanbul – Google Maps

Transportation To Uskudar

Üsküdar sits directly opposite the old city of Eminönü and transport across the Bosphorus is easy by taxi boats, ferry or by car. There is an overwater and underwater bridge offering good transport & connection services to and from the European side of Istanbul. Making it easy for visitors as well as many residents to commute to and from Uskudar for site seeing, shopping, work or school.

The area behind the centred ferry docks is a busy shopping district, with many restaurants and ice cream parlours and during the rush-hour, the waterfront is bustling with people running from ferryboats. The sea ride is a really relaxing and beautiful moment to get lost in deep thought & contemplation. You are sure to hear the sound of foghorns, motorboats and seagulls while enjoying one of the best views of the city.

This transportation hub is conveniently situated in one of the most prominent neighbourhoods in Üsküdar known as the historic centre (merkez). The merkez includes large historic mosques, many businesses, shops and markets.

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Uskudar, Some Interesting Facts

  • According to an ancient Greek geographer, the city previously received the name Chrysopolis because the Persian empire had a gold depository there or because it was associated with Agamemnon and Chryseis. On the other hand, according to an 18th-century writer, it received the name because of the excellence of its harbour. The city was used as a harbour and shipyard and was an important staging post in the wars between the Greeks and Persians. 
  • In the 12th century, the city changed its name to Skoutarion deriving from the nearby Emperor’s Skoutarion Palace. In 1338 the Ottoman leader Orhan Gazi took Skoutarion, giving the Ottomans a base within sight of Constantinople for the first time.
  • In the Ottoman period, Üsküdar was one of the three communities outside the city walls of Constantinople. The area was used as a major burial ground, and today many large cemeteries remain, including Karacaahmet Mezarlığı, which is one of Istanbul’s largest cemeteries.
  • Üsküdar is a municipality within the borders of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (büyükşehir). The municipality is subdivided into neighbourhoods (mahalleler). However, it’s important to note that the boundaries and names of the official neighbourhoods can randomly change from time to time so sometimes they don’t always correspond to historically recognized neighbourhoods or to what the residents perceive them to be.
  • Florence Nightingale once tended wounded British soldiers in Selimiye Barracks located in the Harem neighbourhood which is further down along the coast. Now it contains a major intercity bus terminal. There is even a Florence Nightingale Museum inside the Selimiye Barracks in Selimiye displaying items associated with Florence Nightingale and her medical work in Istanbul during the Crimean War.
  • Although Islam is the main religion in this conservative area of Turkey and the population is prominently Muslims with countless Mosques. It’s important to note the variety of other sacred religious buildings in the area such as the churches & synagogues. The churches of Üsküdar include:
    • The İlya Profiti which translates Prophet Elijah, Greek Orthodox Church in Muratreis, a present building built-in 1831.
    • The Kandilli Khristos Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi built-in 1810.
    • The Surp Garabet also known as Saint John the Baptist Armenian Church in Murat Reis.
    • The Surp Haç which translates to Holy Cross, an Armenian Church in Selami Ali (built 1676 then rebuilt in 1880)
    • The Surp Krikor Lusavoriç (Saint Gregory the Illuminator) Armenian Church in Kuzguncuk (first built 1835 then rebuilt again in 1861)
    • The Surp Yergodasan Arakelots (Twelve Apostoles) Armenian Church in Kandilli (built 1846).
    •  Synagogues in Uskudar include Bet Yaakov which was built in 1878 and Bet Nissim which was built in the 1840s.

Schools & Education In Uskudar

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There are a number of well-known schools such as the Tarabya British Schools that have their Çengelköy campus there and of course Üsküdar University that is very well rated.

Within the Bağlarbaşı and Altunizade district, we can mention Üsküdar American Academy, (formerly American Academy for Girls) one of the oldest established schools in the city, Üsküdar High School, a state school, Haydarpasha High SchoolMarmara University’s faculty of theology; as well as Burhan Felek sports complex.

These districts were formerly beautiful orchards and fruit-gardens, which later on in the 19th century, became a middle-class residential neighbourhood, housing the typical Istanbul urban mix of Greeks, Jews, Turks, and Armenians. The area still maintains an Armenian school along with the Armenian church of Surp Garabed which was built-in 1844.

You can still see the remanence of the town’s beauty today. It is still an attractive residential district with a mixture of housing and commercial property that has been converted from residential to office and business use. It is now home to the large and busy Capitol shopping and entertainment centre.

The popular Çamlıca Girls’ High School sits in a picturesque tree-lined garden situated on the top half of the attractive district of Acıbadem that also belongs to Üsküdar. This district also consists of tree-lined streets and well-planned housing areas in addition to Academic hospitals. The avenue is known for its delicious patisseries, ice-cream parlours and cafés and is the centre of one of the most pleasant neighbourhoods of Istanbul.

Places To Visit In Uskudar

Nevmekan Sahil

Nevmekan Sahil is a multi-functional building that serves as an art gallery, library, cafe and quiet study space with a Mosque, wifi and parking facilities. It’s a rare find, so make sure not to miss out on it, mark it up on your map with your top places to see in Üsküdar. 

As you walk in, you are greeted with the café and a cosy seating arrangement. There are 2 cafés positioned at opposite ends of the main floor. You’ll also see an inspiring art exhibit surrounding the central circular room and the heart of Nevmekan Sahil is, of course, the stunning library with a striking domed ceiling. This amazing space is all lined with books providing ample space for reading, studying, eating and chatting. The memorable statement the architect shows in this design really does inspire the visitor to achieve the objective of their visit. 

This library can easily be seen as one of the finest places in Istanbul. So make sure to bring a book and grab a coffee here next time you’re passing.

Address: Aziz Mahmut Hüdayi Mahallesi, No: 6 Üsküdar / İstanbul

Çeşmes & Sebils – Drinking Water Sources

Among other notable Ottoman features to be seen in Üsküdar are the many çeşmes (drinking water sources) and sebils (kiosks for distribution of drinks). One of the largest and most visible çeşmes is the fountain of Ahmet III (1728–29), an impressive marble structure in the centre of Üsküdar near the ferry docks. These places are valued and given similar recognition as Museums in the area.

Other important çeşmes of Üsküdar include: Gülnuş Emetullah Valide Sultan (1709, next to the Yeni Valide Mosque), Hüseyin Avni Pasha (1874, Paşalimanı), Mustafa III (1760, next to the Ayazma Mosque), and Selim III (1802, in Çiçekçi, Harem İskelesi Street).

Important sebils of Üsküdar include: Hacı Hüseyin Pasha (1865, near the Karacaahmet Cemetery), Halil Pasha (1617, attached to Halil Pasha’s tomb), Hudayi (first built in the 1590s but later much remodeled, near Aziz Mahmud Hudayi‘s tomb), Sadettin Efendi (1741, near the tomb of Karacaahmet Cemetery), Şeyhülislam Arif Hikmet Bey (1858, near the Kartal Baba Mosque), Valide Çinili (1640, next to the Çinili Mosque), Valide-i Cedid (1709, next to the Yeni Valide Mosque), and Ziya Bey (1866, near the tomb of Karacaahmet).

The promenade along the Bosphorus

Walking along the Bosphorus sea towards the Maiden’s Tower around sunset is the most popular activity in Üsküdar for locals as well as tourists. You will see people fishing, eating, and socializing along the promenade that boasts a breathtaking sunset view of Istanbul’s skyline where minarets penetrate the sky and fill the air with the beautiful sound of the Athan.

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The notable sites along the Bosphorus shore of Üsküdar are as follows:

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque (Iskele Mosque) – This Imperial Ottoman Mosque located in Üsküdar Square was designed by the Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan and completed in 1548. 

Şemsi Paşa Camii – Şemsi Paşa (1580) is another Imperial Ottoman Mosque designed by the architect Mimar Sinan. This waterfront mosque boasts beautiful stain glass windows inside, it can’t go unnoticed. There are 2 entrances, one facing the sea and one facing the street. 

Yeni Valide Çeşmesi – This mosque complex is particularly noteworthy, because of the ottoman bird palaces adorning its exterior.

Maiden’s Tower  – The Maiden’s Tower is also known as Leander’s Tower, located on a small island in the middle of the Bosphorus strait. Its history can be traced back to the ancient Athenians. However, much of its historical stories are romanticised with fairy taled legends. It’s still an iconic tower nonetheless that is accessible by boat and still worth the visit. There’s a restaurant in the building as well as plenty of cafés along the shore that offer outstanding views.

Experience Turkish Food – Walking up the Bosphorus shore is sure going to work up an appetite and need of a little rest. There are many popular restaurants & cafes along the way that are perfect places to satisfy both needs. They serve the most delicious doner kebabs which can be served in both paper wraps or on a plate. And if you need a thumbs up on what to order, try the İskender kebap, or the Lavaş Döner Dürum and be sure not to miss out on the Katmer dessert with chai 😉

Fethi Paşa Korusu Park

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Fethi Paşa Korusu is a large park on the hillside that extends down to the Bosphorus shore, slightly beyond Üsküdar in the area called Paşalimanı. It is named after Fetih Ahmet Paşa an Ottoman prince who had a home in the area. The parkland is in fact privately owned and let to the state on condition that it is preserved as a park. There is a café in the park, a stone waterfall that children enjoy to climb and a small stage area where on Friday summer evenings a band would often play at sunset. It’s also a popular place for young newly married couples to enjoy a romantic evening stroll.

Mosques in Üsküdar

Üsküdar is home to over 180 mosques, many of them are historic Ottoman buildings and were even built by women of the imperial harem. Among the first things you see on arriving at Uskudar by ferry are the two mosques that stand on either side of the port, both designed by Sinan, a prominent architect from the Ottoman Era. The larger one is the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, sometimes called the İskele (Dock) Mosque, built by a daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent; the smaller one is the Şemsi Pasha Mosque, built by a vizier of Suleiman. Şemsi Pasha has a small library building in the courtyard where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze of the Bosphorus.

Mosques make beautiful places to visit and explore, whether you are Muslim or not, alone, with a partner or as a family. Just remember, as with all masjids, don’t forget to take your shoes off before you enter and put them on the little cubbies provided in the entrance.

A little further inland between the fountain of Ahmet III and the Şemsi Pasha Mosque you will find the large Yeni Valide Mosque, built by Ahmet III’s mother. Uphill from the dock in the Valideiatik neighbourhood is the Atik Valide Mosque, built by Murat III’s mother and also designed by Sinan. Further uphill from there is the smaller Çinili (Tiled) Mosque. In Karacaahmet Cemetery there is also the large Şakirin Mosque that was built-in 2009.

There is also the Namazgâh Mosque (built-in 1860) that is situated in the eastern part of Üsküdar, close to the border with Ümraniye that is known to be one of the few historical wooden mosques in Istanbul.

However, last but not least, the most favourable Mosque to visit is certainly the Marmara University Faculty of Theology Mosque (Ilahiyat Camii), and surprisingly enough, not for its history, but rather for its modern innovational design. If you are at the Üsküdar metro station, you can take the M5 (Purple Line) to Bağlarbaşı Station, from there it’s just a short walk up Mahir İz Caddesi to the Mosque. 

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Situated between Marmara University and Capitol Shopping Mall, this modern mosque built in 2015 steals the limelight on Mahir İz Caddessi.

The exterior of the building really stands out with its modern geometric design, and the interior is just as divine. The dome is formed of glass and wood compositions that spiral up to a glass ceiling that allows a soft light to stream in, filling the whole space with a peaceful poetic glow. The symmetrical patterned stencil-like facade allows more light to enter the sacred space, creating beautiful reflective patterns on the carpet. You certainly don’t have to be Muslim to appreciate the flawless design of this magnificent building that illuminates an Islamic modern art.

Usually, women and men enter the mosque from 2 separate entrances, but in this case, they use the same door. However, the floors are segregated so men stay on the ground floor and women occupy the upper floor where the view is much better from the balcony and there’s a spacious cultural centre beneath the Mosque, consisting of a café, book shop, lecture rooms, and more prayer space.

Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi water front Palace (1861-1865) was built to serve as a summer residence of the Sultans and to lavishly host foreign diplomats in an impressive manner. It is located along the Bosphorus, close to the Temmuz Şehitler Köprüsü bridge.  

One of the many advantages of visiting this palace is that there is very rarely a queue, it’s usually very calming and quiet with not many other people on-site, an audio guide is provided, easy to follow and included in the entrance fee. It’s hard to find palaces in Istanbul that aren’t jam-packed with tourists, so this is one you can enjoy, especially as an educational family day out.

The striking interior furnishings boast majesty, and each room features a unique French Baccarat chandelier. From exotic carpets to grand ceilings adorned with floral motifs and Quranic calligraphy, each ornament is perfectly placed and has purpose.

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Entrance Fee: 40 Lira (adult), audio guide included

Address: Beylerbeyi Mahallesi, Abdullahağa Cd., 34676 Üsküdar/İstanbul

Visiting Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.). Closed on Mondays.

Uskudar Fish Market

Uskudar Fish Market, also known as Üsküdar Balıkçılar Çarşısı in Turkish, is an enthusiastic marketplace in the heart of the vibrant shopping area next to iskele (dock). It consists of 2 fish markets and a few kebab restaurants. It’s interesting to say that some locals are actually a bit upset about additional products other than fish, slowly finding their way into the traditional fish market. However, despite the difference of opinions, this market is an old treasure definitely worth exploring nonetheless 😉

If you love fish and seafood, you can’t miss out on a trip to this fish market. You can expect to find fish of all varieties in addition to colourful spices, freshly baked bread, dried fruits and vegetables. Sellers and customers enliven the fish market with their bargaining voices.

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Capitol Shopping Mall

Last but not least, if you are in the area and need to catch up on some modern retail therapy or top up on some European essentials, you have to pop into the Capitol Shopping Mall for some good old Boutique style shopping.

Capitol Shopping Centre, opened in 1993 in the Altunizade neighbourhood of Üsküdar, it is the first large modern shopping mall of its kind on the Asian part of Istanbul, Turkey accommodating 157 stores, cafes, restaurants in addition to a large children’s play area and entertainment centre.

It’s literally just next door to the Marmara University Faculty of Theology Mosque so you can maybe kill 2 birds with one stone and visit both of them on the same day.

In Conclusion

Uskudar is a beautiful, scenic and respectful family area of Istanbul. A quite heavily populated area in the Anatolia side housing mostly the middle working class and upper-class residents. There seem to be many students and the elderly in the area due to the cheaper living facilities, although having said that, it is one of the most expensive areas to live in on the Anatolian side. The area is classed as a majority Muslim and conservative environment with plenty of masjids and history to venture into. The district also boasts popular educational institutes from universities to schools and colleges.

We hope you have found this post useful and if you know of anything we may have missed out please feel free to include it in the comments section below.

If you are interested in living, moving or investing in a property in Uskudar, why not contact us at where we will be happy to assist you.

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