Escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul and embark on a delightful day trip to Büyükada. Unlike the quick stops at other tourist attractions, Büyükada deserves a full day of exploration to truly appreciate its beauty and tranquility. Although it may seem like a significant investment of time, rest assured that the experience will be well worth it.
Welcome to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes' Islands nestled in the sparkling waters of the Sea of Marmara. As you step onto this serene island, prepare to embark on a journey of enchantment and relaxation. To make the most of your Büyükada experience, look no further than the Istanbul Tourist Pass®. This all-inclusive pass grants you access to a wide array of attractions, activities, and services, ensuring a seamless and unforgettable visit to Büyükada. Discover the island's picturesque landscapes, delve into its rich history, and indulge in its charming atmosphere while enjoying the convenience and savings offered by the Istanbul Tourist Pass®. Get ready to unlock Büyükada's hidden gems and create memories that will last a lifetime.
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If you've already experienced the chaotic energy of Istanbul, rushing from one attraction to another, Büyükada offers a welcome respite. Picture waking up to a sunny day and heading to Kabataş port as early as 9:30 am to catch the ferry to Büyükada. The one-hour voyage, especially during warm weather, sets the stage for an unforgettable experience. As you disembark from the ferry, you'll be greeted with a myriad of options to fill your day.
Exploring the island's picturesque coastline is a great way to start. Take a leisurely walk, and you'll be treated to views of charming old buildings, mansions, and villas that are home to local residents. Büyükada may be the largest among the Princes' Islands, but it boasts a small population of only 7,499 residents, creating an intimate and serene atmosphere. While horse-pulled carriages are no longer available due to a ban by the Istanbul Municipality, you can rent a bike or hop on a mini electric bus for a quick tour around the island.
Once you've strolled along the coastline, it's time to immerse yourself in Büyükada's rich history. The island's name, along with the other eight Princes' Islands, is derived from its past as a place of exile for princes and royals during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. To delve deeper into this history, make sure to visit the renowned Monastery of St. George Koudounas. This historical structure, founded in 963 according to tradition (though records suggest it was built in 1751), sits atop Yüce Tepe, a hill that offers a breathtaking view of the island. The journey to the monastery requires a walk along a cobblestone path for almost a kilometer from a spot accessible by electric vehicles.
Another must-see historical gem is the Greek Orphanage, the world's largest wooden building and Europe's second-largest. Initially intended as a hotel with a casino, the plans shifted when Sultan Abdül Hamit II of the Ottoman Empire opposed the idea. Instead, the building was purchased by a Greek lady, Eleni Zarifi, who transformed it into an orphanage. Sadly, the orphanage closed its doors in 1964, and the building has since fallen into disrepair.
Büyükada has also hosted famous historical figures, including Lev David Bronstein, better known as Léon Trotsky, the Russian Marxist revolutionary. Expelled from the Soviet Union, Trotsky lived a secluded life on the island with his family between 1929 and 1933. During his stay in the Yanaros mansion, he wrote his renowned book, "History of the Russian Revolution," which was eventually published in Russia in 1997. In his notebook, he reflected on his time in Büyükada, expressing a sense of rootedness after four years spent there.
If you're interested in delving further into the island's history, visit the Museum of Princes' Islands, the city's first contemporary museum. This fascinating museum tells the story of the islands from their origins to the present day, offering thousands of documents, digital photographs, documentary films, and archival records from public institutions. While it may not boast the same level of dazzle as the Museum of Illusions in İstiklal, it is a treasure trove of knowledge waiting to be explored.
After your historical journey, it's time to bid farewell to Büyükada, unless you're captivated by its tranquil charm and decide to extend your stay overnight. The last ferry departs at 6:20 pm from Büyükada to Kabataş stop. If you choose to stay, we recommend spending the night at the ancient Hotel Splendid Palace, a century-old establishment that exudes a unique charm.
There are a couple of ways to get to Büyükada, and here are the options:
Several private boat companies operate ferries to Büyükada from various locations in Istanbul, including Beşiktaş, Kabataş, Eminönü, Yeşilköy, Kadıköy, and Bostancı. Companies like Mavi Marmara, Prens Tur, and Turyol offer regular ferry services to the island. You can check their websites for timetables and ticket prices. If you are a valued guest of the Istanbul Tourist Pass®, you can have a FREE trip to Buyukada from Kabatas, check out here to delve into more!
Şehir Hatları, a state-owned ferry company, also provides ferry services to Büyükada from Eminönü, Kadıköy, and Bostancı. The duration of the ferry ride varies depending on the departure point, ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes. You can visit their website for more information on schedules and fares.
It's important to note that ferry schedules may vary depending on the season, so it's advisable to check the timetables in advance. Additionally, it's recommended to arrive at the ferry dock early, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure a seat on the ferry.
If you have an Unlimited Public Transportation Card which is discounted by your Istanbul Tourist Pass®, you don't need to think about the ferry fares! Just enjoy your unlimited joy on the way to and in the Buyukada!
IBB Sea Taxi service is a convenient way to travel to Büyükada. You can find the boarding and disembarking points for the Sea Taxis on the İBB Sea Taxi application. The Sea Taxis have a passenger capacity of up to 10 people, allowing you to travel alone or in a group. Reservations can be made exclusively through the İBB Sea Taxi application, and you can use the service 24 hours a day, seven days a week by pre-booking. You can make advanced reservations for up to five days in advance.
The fare structure includes an initial fee and a per-mile charge based on the distance traveled. Payment for the service can be made through the İBB Sea Taxi application using a credit card. Cash payments are not accepted. The Sea Taxis are designed to accommodate passengers with wheelchairs or strollers, and they provide a safe and comfortable travel experience.
The fare tariff for İBB Sea Taxis is as follows: (July 2023)
Within the first mile: 210 TL around $8 or €7
For distances between 1 and 4 miles: 155 TL per mile (up to 4 miles)
For distances between 4 and 8 miles: 125 TL per mile (up to 8 miles)
For distances beyond 8 miles: 100 TL per mile
Please note that these fares are subject to change, so it's recommended to check the latest fare information from the İBB Sea Taxi application before your journey.
Once you arrive at Büyükada, you can explore the island on foot, rent a bike, or take public transportation to explore its attractions and enjoy its scenic beauty. Don't forget to get your Istanbul Unlimited Public Transportation Card before you go!
There are plenty of things to do in Büyükada to make the most of your visit. Here are some recommendations:
Explore the Island by Bike or on Foot: Büyükada is a car-free island, making it perfect for cycling or leisurely walks. Rent a bike or simply stroll through the charming streets, enjoying the island's scenic beauty and historic architecture.
Visit Aya Yorgi Church and Hill: Make your way to Aya Yorgi Hill, the highest point on the island. Climb up the hill to reach Aya Yorgi Church, a Greek Orthodox monastery with panoramic views of the surrounding area. Take in the breathtaking scenery and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Discover Historic Mansions: Büyükada is known for its impressive wooden mansions from the late Ottoman and early Republican periods. Wander through the streets and admire the architectural beauty of these well-preserved mansions. Some notable ones include Fabiato Pavilion, Izzet Pasha Pavilion, Con Pasha Pavilion, Mizzi Pavilion (Al Palas), and Yalman Mansion.
Relax on Büyükada Beaches: Büyükada offers several beaches where you can soak up the sun and swim in the clear waters. Some popular beaches include Yörükali Beach, Nakibey Plajı, and Princess Islands Beach Club. Spend a leisurely day by the sea, enjoying the island's natural beauty. See also our blog post about Kilyos to discover more beaches in Istanbul.
Enjoy Island Cuisine: Büyükada offers a variety of dining options to satisfy your taste buds. Indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine at local restaurants, seafood eateries, or traditional meze (appetizer) places. Don't forget to try Büyükada's famous ice cream and enjoy a refreshing drink in one of the island's tea gardens.
Visit the Museum of the Princes' Islands: Learn about the history and culture of the Princes' Islands, including Büyükada, at the Museum of the Princes' Islands. Discover artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that showcase the island's past and heritage.
Attend Cultural Events: Büyükada hosts various cultural events throughout the year, including music concerts, art exhibitions, and festivals. Check the local event calendars to see if there are any events happening during your visit.
Relax and Unwind: Büyükada is a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Take some time to relax, enjoy the island's tranquility, and embrace its slower pace of life. Find a cozy spot to read a book, have a picnic in one of the parks, or simply soak in the serene atmosphere.
Remember to check the ferry schedules to ensure you have enough time to explore Büyükada before catching the return ferry back to Istanbul.
Here are some tips to help you enjoy a day trip to Büyükada:
Plan Your Transportation: Büyükada is accessible by ferry from Istanbul. Check the ferry schedules in advance and plan your trip accordingly. It's recommended to arrive early at the ferry terminal to secure a seat, especially during weekends and holidays when it can get crowded.
Pack Essentials: Bring along essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes. Büyükada has a Mediterranean climate, so it's important to protect yourself from the sun. Also, carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated during your exploration.
Timing: Consider visiting Büyükada during weekdays or in the morning to avoid larger crowds. The island tends to be busier on weekends and holidays. Arriving early will give you more time to explore and enjoy the island at a leisurely pace.
Rent a Bicycle: Renting a bicycle is a popular way to explore Büyükada. You can easily rent one near the ferry terminal. Alternatively, you can take an electric car ride to discover the island's charm. Both options allow you to enjoy the island at a relaxed pace.
Explore Beyond the Main Streets: While Büyükada's main streets offer a variety of shops and restaurants, don't hesitate to venture into the smaller streets and explore the quieter areas of the island. You'll find hidden gems, beautiful mansions, and charming neighborhoods off the beaten path.
Enjoy the Beaches: Büyükada has several beaches where you can relax and swim. Consider packing a towel and swimwear if you plan to take a dip. Yörükali Beach and Nakibey Plajı are popular choices, but you can also explore other less crowded spots.
Try Local Cuisine: Büyükada has numerous restaurants and cafes where you can sample delicious Turkish cuisine. Try seafood dishes or enjoy traditional meze (appetizers). Don't forget to indulge in the famous Büyükada ice cream as well.
Respect the Local Culture: Büyükada is a place with rich history and cultural significance. Respect the local customs and traditions. Dress modestly, especially if you plan to visit religious sites, and be mindful of your behavior in public areas.
Capture the Memories: Büyükada's picturesque scenery and historical landmarks offer fantastic photo opportunities. Bring your camera or smartphone to capture the beautiful moments and memories of your trip.
Relax and Savor the Island's Charm: Büyükada is a serene retreat, so take the time to relax and enjoy the island's tranquility. Sit in a park, read a book, or simply soak in the ambiance. Embrace the slower pace of life and savor the island's unique charm.
Remember to check the return ferry schedule and plan your day accordingly, allowing enough time to catch your preferred ferry back to Istanbul.