If you are looking for a day tour in Istanbul, you may think of Princes’ Islands. Büyükada is the largest one and is a popular touristic location. Büyükada is especially beautiful in the spring months when you can walk around its colorful streets, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy beautiful views filled with flowers. However, visiting Büyükada can be an unforgettable experience during any season of the year.
There is a lot to do and to see in Buyukada. But where do we start? There are several must-see places that will help you enjoy this day. After exploring Buyukada’s streets, we highly recommend checking out its historic sites. Make sure to visit Trotsky’s house, the Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, and Hagia Yorgi Hill. To relieve the tiredness of the day, you can have a nice dinner on the hill while watching the sunset.
1. How to get to Buyukada
If you are going to start your one day tour in Istanbul from Sabiha Gökçen airport, you can get to Büyükada very easy. You can receive an IstanbulKart from the ticket machines at the bus stops. First, you need to get to Kartal, you need to take the E9 line, the trip will last approximately 30 min and cost 15.33TL. You can also get to Kartal by taxi, it will cost about 120-180TL. Then need to take one of the Prenstur ferries, which go to Princes’ Islands every hour. You can buy a ticket at the ticket office for only 32TL. After a 30-minute ferry ride full of stunning views of the Bosphorus and Istanbul, you will come to Buyukada.
Getting to Buyukada from Istanbul Airport will take a bit longer. There is a Kadikoy shuttle “Havaist” departing from the parking lot at Istanbul Airport. You can buy tickets online. The price is 57TL. Another option is to take a taxi, it will cost about 400-500TL.
2. Buyukada Streets
During the summer, Buyukada streets get crowded. That is why, the best time to visit Buyukada is in the spring, when the weather begins to get warm, and in autumn, when the weather is not that hot anymore. Buyukada (by the way, means Big Island in Turkish) is a part of Istanbul, but it has a spacious atmosphere that is very different from the atmosphere of big cities like Istanbul. From the first moment when you step into the island, you will feel peace and tranquility. You can explore the city of Buyukada on foot or rent a bicycle. Bike rental fees vary, but usually, it is 20-40 TL per hour. It is a great experience to ride on a bike through the colorful and historic streets of Buyukada.
3. Yunus Dondurmaci
If you get tired of pedaling, enjoy delicious ice cream and take a pause. There are many shops where you can buy ice cream, but Yunus Dondurma is one of the best ice cream shops in Buyukada. Yunus Dondurma is basically a family business. They make ice cream with fresh seasonal fruits. You can find the Yunus’s cart in front of the Anadolu Club (Anadolu Kulubü).
4. Trotsky House
Don’t forget to visit Trotsky’s house after walking around the streets of Buyukada. Trotsky House, originally known as the Sevastopol mansion, was built in the late 19th century. After the Marxist activist and politician Leon Trotsky moved to Istanbul, he started living in this house. Since then, the house was named by people as Trotsky’s house, it is an interesting building surrounded by sea views and greenery. Trotsky is known to have had the best days of his life here. Trotsky, who lived here for four years, also wrote many of his books here. Unfortunately, now it is not possible to visit the museum because the building is privately owned, but it can be opened as a museum in the future.
5. Greek Orphanage
When you leave Trotsky’s house, get ready to go to another end of the island. It’s only 2km away, but the slopes are so steep, and the roads aren’t suitable for hiking, so walking to the other side of the island is tiring. You can also rent a bicycle to climb the hill. Even if you get tired of pedaling, keep in mind that the unique nature views are everywhere around you, and don’t forget to enjoy them. The Greek orphanage Prinkipo has a very interesting history. Originally built as a hotel in the late 19th century, the building was later used as an orphanage. It was shut down in 1964 and has not continued its operation since then. You cannot go inside the building, it is prohibited due to the risk of collapse. But you need to see this stunning building, which is one of the largest wooden structures in the world, to see the traces of history. If you’re lucky, locals who have been there can tell you some scary stories about this abandoned building.
6. Hagia Yorgi Church
Hagia Yorgi Church is located at the highest point of the island, so transportation there is quite difficult. The roads are rough, so you’ll have to spend most of your day’s tour here. You can choose an electric car to climb this hill since the road is quite difficult for riding a bicycle. If you choose an electric car, the price is as follows 15 TL +12 TL per kilometer. Until 2022 there were also horse phaetons, but likely they were banned. Once you reach Hagia Yorgi Hill, you need to climb another steep hill to reach the church. It is hard but absolutely worth it. Before you get to the top of the hill, you will see numerous small stalls selling jewelry. You can buy one to make a wish when you are at the top. After the 15-minute climb, you will reach the spectacular views that will help you to take all your tiredness away. Keep in mind that a lot of people visit Hagia Yorgi on April 23rd and September 24th, and if you are visiting this historic building, not for worship purposes, we suggest picking another date for your visit.
7. Hagia Yorgi Kir Lokantasi
If you are looking for a place to eat in Buyukada, along your adventure from one side of the island to the other, this venue is a great choice. You can relax and have a pleasing meal while looking at the great sea view right here. It is a better alternative to the beach restaurants as here you can feel the spirit of Büyükada and Hagia Yorgi. When you finish your meal and see the beautiful sunset, there are still bicycle and electric car options for going down the hill. Or you can walk down the hill since it will be much easier than climbing up. To say goodbye to Buyukada you can have a cup of tea at the beachside. But don’t miss the last ferry!