Princes’ Islands of Istanbul is the name given to the island collection off the Istanbul coast. It consists of 9 islands; four of which are inhabited (Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada) and five (Sedefadası, Tavşanadası, Sivriada, Kaşıkadası and Yassiada) of which are uninhabited. Owing to transportation difficulties these islands used to be used as a place of exile. It’s even rumoured that the name of the Princes’ Islands came from the fact that princes’ were exiled there. According to another rumour, the name is said to have come from the palace and monastery built by the Byzantine Emperor Justin II in Büyükada in 567. After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet the monasteries and settlements on the Princes’ Islands, which have had many names throughout history, were closed and evacuated.
The Princes’ Islands, can easily be reached by ferry services from Istanbul and are a great place to swim in the sea, breathe in the island air, get away from the crowds and spend a quiet day -especially in spring and summer. Buyukada and Heybeliada are the most touristy islands among the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul and they can be reached by ferry from Besiktas, Kadikoy, Bostanci and Eminonu. Buyukada, rich in culture and history, is home to the historically important Hagia Yorgi Church and also boasts many beaches. But if you’re in search of some peace and quiet, our advice is to stay away from Büyükada and instead head for Kınalıada. If you have the time and energy, you can visit Büyükada at an early hour and then move on to other islands.
Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul, carries traces of Greek and Turkish culture among its blue sea and green trees. The trip to Büyükada begins when the ferry docks. The Ottoman Neo-Classical movement is evident in İskele Square, the cafes and restaurants along the coast and the Clock Tower. You can explore the island on foot, by bike or carriage and you can also dine while enjoying the view of the island, famous for its historic and natural beauty, by going to Yüce Tepe. A walk around the streets of Büyükada is highly recommended too.
Built at the end of the 2nd and early 20th centuries, the kiosks are a synthesis of western architecture and Turkish architecture. Many pavilions in Art Nouveau style can be seen by following the Small Tour path.
2. Hamidiye Mosque
Under instruction from Abdülhamid II building began in 1895. The mihrab and the imitation of tiles on the walls are of particular interest.
3. Nizam Mosque, Hacı Havva Özen Mosque and Kumsal Mosque
These recent mosques were built according to the needs of the island.
4. Hagia Yorgi Church and Monastery
Built in 1751 as a small church, this has an important place in the Orthodox faith. According to the belief of the Orthodox, it is half pilgrimage to walk to the church from April 23 to September 24.
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5. Greek Orphanage
The orphanage, the largest wooden structure in Europe and the second-largest in the world, has not been used since 1964 but still maintains its grandeur.
Heybeliada consists of four hills with a maximum height of 140 metres. There are many places to visit around these hills and if you go to Çam Harbor, you will reach Sanatorium which is closed again. The island is suitable for cycling and trekking.
1. Hagia Yorgi Cliff Church
Located on a high cliff, the church attracts attention due to its pink colour. It’s located on the southern coast of the island surrounded by pines, servants and other trees.
2. Heybeliada Sanatorium
The centre offers the best tuberculosis treatment of the period due to the island’s pine forests and the therapeutic effect of the island climate.
3. Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar House
The house where Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar lived between 1912-1944 is used as a museum today. The house, where some of the author’s books and personal belongings are on display, can be visited free of charge.
Next to Burgazada Pier, you’ll find tea gardens and cafes. Sait Faik Abasıyanık’s house has a special place among the historical houses of the island, which is one of Istanbul’s favourite summer resorts. With its beautiful natural landscapes and historical churches, Burgazada is waiting to welcome you at the pier.
1. Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum
Sait Faik Abasıyanık, one of the most important writers of contemporary Turkish literature, spent a significant part of his life on this island. In the mansion where he lived between 1906 and 1954, you can see his personal belongings, library and notes.
2. Aya Yani Church
The church, which attracts attention with its dome placed on a high roller, was built in 1899. Its rich craftsmanship makes it one of the most important historical monuments the island has to offer.
Kalpazankaya, located in the west of the island, takes its name from the printing of counterfeit money which the region was famous for in the past. It’s worth a visit just for the food.
Kınalıada Mosque, built in 1964, Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church – the only Armenian church in the Princes’ Islands, Transformation Monastery, Christos Monastery and Church, Greek Orthodox Panayia Church, and mansions are all close to each other and can be visited on foot.
As the islands get smaller, they become increasingly secluded. Due to the fact that three-quarters of Sedef Island is private property, there’s not much to visit here. The advantage being it’s a very calm island. There’s a square at the exit of the pier, a restaurant and a beach.