Kuzguncuk Travel Guide: Istanbul’s Coziest Neighborhood (What to Do, Where to Stay, + More!)

While Istanbul is going through a major transformation with its pop-up concrete jungles and new skyscrapers, there’s one neighborhood that has managed to protect its culture and history. In fact, many locals say that Kuzguncuk is one of the few places in the city where the unique spirit of Istanbul is preserved! 

If you’re looking to get off the beaten track and discover one of the last hidden gems in Istanbul, then you’ll definitely fall in love with Kuzguncuk. 

Located on the quiet Bosphorus waterfront coast of Istanbul’s Asian side, Kuzguncuk is known for its traditiona`l (and colorful!) wooden houses, narrow streets, and neighborhood-like stores and restaurants — many who have been a staple in the area for 50 years! 

Kuzguncuk has quite a unique history, as it was originally a small fishing village where Jews, Greeks, Armenians, and Muslims peacefully coexisted for many centuries. Thanks to this multiculturalism, Kuzguncuk became quite cosmopolitan — and is one of the few places that retain its traditional charm to this day (the other ones are Arnavutköy and Balat). 

Thanks to its compact size, you can easily visit Kuzguncuk in one day and, if you have time, be sure to visit neighboring attractions like Beylerbeyi Palace and Nakkaştepe Park. 

If you’re excited to visit this colorful gem, our Kuzguncuk travel guide has everything you need to know, from how to get here to the best things to do in Kuzguncuk, where to eat, where to stay in Kuzguncuk, and much more. Along the way, we’ve also added some interesting fun facts, useful travel tips, and even some of our favorite hidden gems in Kuzguncuk. 🙂 

Kuzguncuk — a veritable stage with its storefront characters, pampered strays, conspicuous intellectuals and photo-happy sightseers.

Kuzguncuk Fun Facts

📍 There are a few theories as to how Kuzguncuk got its name: According to famous travel blogger writer Evliya Çelebi, the name was inspired by a dervish named Kuzgun Baba who lived in the area many centuries ago.

Other people think the name comes from the Turkish word for ‘little raven’ (if you walk around you’ll hear their ubiquitous kaw kaw sound). However, the most logical explanation comes from its former Greek name, Khrysokeramos, which means ‘golden tiles.’ It was alleged that Kuzguncuk had a church with a gold-tiled roof that was built by Emperor Justinian (the same guy who ordered the Hagia Sophia to be built).

📍 Kuzguncuk has no police station! The neighborhood had such a low crime rate that the police station was moved elsewhere.

📍 The district’s historical streets and Ottoman-era architecture make it a popular location for TV series and films, which contribute to its artistic significance and cult status. Some TV shows that were filmed in Kuzguncuk include Perihan Abla and Ekmek Teknesi, which has a restaurant with the same name that’s located on the main street. Who knows, maybe you’ll see a film crew when you visit. 🙂 

Kuzguncuk: The Basics

Where is Kuzguncuk?

Kuzguncuk is a small neighborhood located on the Asian side of Istanbul. It’s part of the larger Üsküdar district (and only 2.5 kilometers from ​​central Üsküdar!) — you could even combine the two neighborhoods into a fun day trip. 

Here’s a quick look at where Kuzguncuk is:

How to get to Kuzguncuk 

From Sultanahmet (Istanbul Old Town) — If you’re staying around the Old Town, the easiest way to get from Sultanahmet to Kuzguncuk is to go to Sirkeci station and take the Marmaray (light rail) to Üsküdar station. From there, transfer to the M5 metro (the purple line) and go in the direction of ‘Çekmeköy’. Get off at the next station (Fıstıkağacı). From there, it’s a pleasant 10-minute downhill walk. 

From Beyoglu / Galata — Staying in Istanbul’s vibrant Beyoglu district? You’re in luck — you get to enjoy a beautiful ferry ride as part of your commute to Kuzguncuk. 😉 

Go to Karaköy pier and take the Üsküdar – Karaköy – Eminönü ferry line. There are departures every 20 minutes or so (until 18:35) — click here for the timetable and make sure you click ‘Eminonu Departure’. After getting off at Uskudar pier, make your way to the Uskudar M5 metro station (the purple line) and go in the direction of ‘Çekmeköy’. Get off at the next station (Fıstıkağacı). From there, it’s a pleasant 10-minute downhill walk. 

From the Asian side — If you’re in Kadiköy (good choice 😉), you have two options:

Option 1: Take the Kadıköy – Üsküdar – Ortaköy ferry line from Kadikoy pier. Click here for the timetables (make sure you choose ‘Kadikoy Departure’). Get off at ​​Üsküdar pier and follow the instructions above (take the M5 metro towards Çekmeköy, get off at Fıstıkağacı station, and walk down to Kuzguncuk). 

Option 2: There are multiple bus routes that go from Kadikoy to Kuzguncuk. For example, you can take the 12A, 14M, or 15F bus. 

A Short History of Kuzguncuk

Kuzguncuk began as a small and unassuming fishing village many centuries ago. The first settlers here were Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 1400s, who were followed by Greeks, Armenians, and finally Turks. 

In fact, the first Jewish settlement in the Asian part of Istanbul was Kuzguncuk and at one point, it was even called ‘Little Jerusalem’ thanks to its large Jewish population.

The neighborhood’s demographic composition was reflected in its array of religious buildings, with mosques, churches, and synagogues standing within close proximity of each other. (You can read more about this below, under What To Do in Kuzguncuk).

Unfortunately, Kuzguncuk also suffered some setbacks. There was a large fire in 1864, and many of the buildings around the neighborhood had to be rebuilt. Likewise, the many pogroms between 1920 to 1955 caused many members of Kuzgucuk’s minority groups (including Jews, Greeks, and Armenians) to move out. While the neighborhood is still very prestigious and cosmopolitan, nowadays mostly Turkish and expats live in Kuzguncuk. 

What to do in Kuzguncuk

Stroll Along İcadiye Street

Considered the main street of Kuzguncuk, İcadiye Street (İcadiye Caddesi) is a lively street that’s brimming with restaurants, cafes, boutique stores, bakeries, antique stores, and so much more. We recommend enjoying a leisurely stroll while walking the entire distance of the street (it’s less than 1 kilometer / 0.6 miles in length) and stopping at any places that catch your fancy — and there are many! 

Once you’re done exploring İcadiye Street, it’s time to get further acquainted with Kuzguncuk’s charming history by wandering its parallel streets. Which brings us to our next point…

Go Hunting For Colorful Houses

Vibrant, whimsical, and picturesque are just some of the words used to describe the historical houses of Kuzguncuk. Indeed, these charmingly colorful houses can be found all around the neighborhood, and it feels like a fun scavenger hunt trying to find them all.

Kuzguncuk houses are characterized by their unique shape, where the upper floors are larger than the ground floor (i.e. they have overhanging bay windows). On the outside, you’ll typically find a shiplap-style design, very intricate details, and vibrant colors. However, make no mistake: while the houses of Kuzguncuk have similar characteristics, they’re all unique in their own way! 

To get you started, we recommend checking out Üryanizade Street, Perihan Abla Street, and Simitçi Tahir Street — and from there, see where your curiosity takes you. We’re sure you’ll find a lot of opportunities for street photography in Kuzguncuk. 

One thing to note, however: please be respectful of the locals who live in the houses and don’t take photos in their driveway/porch. 🙂  

Visit Nail Kitabevi 

Istanbul has no shortage of book cafes, and Nail Kitabevi is certainly no exception. In fact, it’s no wonder why Nail Kitabevi is often cited as one of the best places to visit in Kuzguncuk!

Oh right, where were we? 

Nail Kitabevi is half cafe and half bookstore: you can sit on one of the cushions by the window, read your book, and drink your coffee in a cozy and peaceful atmosphere. Of course, you can also pop in and find your next great read — while most of the books are Turkish, there are a handful that are in English as well. 🙂 

Browse the Specialty Shops

As we mentioned in the intro, Kuzguncuk has a charmingly quaint neighborhood atmosphere — and that includes the numerous speciality shops and boutiques as well. Kuzguncuk’s artisanal shops are the perfect place if you want to buy a bespoke gift or souvenir (or treat yourself to something nice!). Here are our favorites:

🪞 Homemade Aromatherapi – From the moment you step into this store (which looks like an upscale apothecary), you’ll be pleasantly greeted with a medley of scents and aromas — it is, after all, an aromatherapy store! Founded more than 10 years ago, this store stocks organic and cold-pressed oils, hair care, perfumes, makeup and face creams, essential oil blends, candles, home products, pet products, and much more. 

🪞 Yirmiyedi Kuzguncuk – One of the most popular concept stores in Istanbul, Yirmiyedi is an absolute delight when it comes to shopping. The store is located in a historical building from the 1860s, and there are two floors filled with handmade products from local Turkish artists (no wonder the store’s motto is ‘A celebration of design’!). We particularly love their selection of candles, cups, and notebooks, but you really can’t go wrong here. 🙂 

The colorful interior of Antico Pavone

🪞 Antico Pavone – Tucked away on a quiet street, this tastefully stylish antique store is like a Kinder Surprise — you’ll never know what you’ll find inside. 🙂 The owners are super friendly and have an amazing collection of well-curated goodies, from paintings to furniture, smaller knickknacks, home goods, and even a separate room in the back with clothing and jewelry! 

🪞 Vanilin Chocolate – Artisanal chocolate? Sign us up! This adorable company is simultaneously a cafe and chocolate store that sells hand-made chocolates in dozens of different flavors and styles (including a few unique varieties like spicy chocolate and lavender chocolate!) 

Learn More About Kuzguncuk’s Unique Religious History

There’s an old saying that goes, In Kuzguncuk, it’s possible to see a mosque in one corner, a synagogue in another corner, and a church in another corner — and it’s still true to this day! Just stand at the main bus stop and you’ll see Kuzguncuk Mosque, Bet Ya’akov Synagogue, and the Church of St. Gregory

Even if you’re not religious, it’s worth taking a peek inside and looking at the beautiful details of Kuzguncuk’s religious buildings. 🙂 

As we mentioned above in A Short History of Kuzguncuk, Kuzguncuk was one of the few predominantly non-Muslim districts — so much so that the first mosque was built in the 1950s! This is quite a rarity, as some of the oldest mosques in Istanbul date to the mid-1400s — an entire five centuries before Kuzguncuk’s mosque.

If you’re going to Kuzguncuk by ferry, one of the first buildings you’ll notice is the Üryanizade Mosque, which actually started out as a mesjid (small mosque) in 1860. It’s one of the most unique mosques in Istanbul thanks to its wooden minaret, which is reminiscent of the yali (waterside mansions) nearby. 

After disembarking and crossing the road, you’ll see the Beth Ya’akov Synagogue where the main road into Kuzguncuk begins. Beth Ya’akov was built in 1878 as a summer synagogue (in winter, they moved to another synagogue on Yakup Street) and, despite most of the original Jewish population moving away, the synagogue holds regular Saturday services by descendants.

As you walk up Icadiye Street, the beautiful belltower of the Church of Hagios Panteleimon rises from the skyline. This Greek Orthodox church was originally built in the early 1800s, while the detached bell tower, which also doubles as an entrance gate, was added in 1911.

If you decide to visit Kuzguncuk as a ‘day trip’ from Istanbul, then we also recommend visiting the surrounding attractions as well. Here are a few to add to your Kuzguncuk itinerary: 

Nakkaştepe National Garden 

Did you know that some of the most beautiful Bosphorus views are just a short 15-minute walk from Kuzguncuk? 

While it’s quite an uphill hike, it’s all worth it in the end! Before you start walking, however, we recommend buying a bottle of water from one of the nearby corner stores (called tekel), because you’re going to need it. 🙂 

Nakkaştepe National Garden is a huge 90,000-square meter park set on the hills of Üsküdar. Entrance is free and the park includes picnic areas, tennis courts, a pond, children’s playgrounds, an adventure park, and a panoramic view terrace (look for the suspension bridge). If it’s a nice day outside, we recommend buying some pastries from a cafe or bakery, going up to Nakkaştepe, and enjoying a picnic. 

Beylerbeyi Palace 

This grandiose mansion stands as the Asian side’s answer to the renowned Dolmabahçe Palace, divided only by the Bosphorus, in a friendly rivalry that has been going on for more than 150 years.

Beylerbeyi Palace was built in the early 1860s as a summer residence for the sultan, as well as a distinguished place to house diplomats, foreign guests, and heads of state. Some famous visitors include the Shah of Iran (Naser al-Din Shah Qajar), the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Empress Eugénie of France. In fact, Eugénie was so inspired by the palace that she took some design notes and modeled parts of the Tuileries Palace after Beylerbeyi. 

The palace has a mere (😉) 26 rooms, which are divided into men’s and women’s quarters. Inside, there’s a large marble pool on the ground floor, while the upstairs is embroidered with Moorish-style woodwork, glass chandeliers imported from Italy, and carpet from Ankara.

The Beylerbeyi Palace is open to the public and costs a modest sum to enter. As part of your ticket, you’ll get an audio guide to ‘show’ you through the palace, and you’ll have access to the lovely backyard as well. Don’t forget to take a photo in front of the famous marble gates that open up to the Bosphorus! 

Abdülmecit Efendi Köşkü 

This beautiful yellow-hued mansion is a place that was, quite literally, built for art. It was allegedly built by architect Alexandre Vallaury, who also created many of the beautiful buildings around Galata (such as SALT Galata, which you can read more about in our Karaköy Neighborhood Guide :)). 

The building was originally used as a hunting lodge for an Egyptian royal, but eventually bought by Prince Abdülmecid Efendi (whose father was Abdulaziz, the 32nd sultan of the Ottoman Empire). Since Prince Abdülmecid was very far from becoming a successor to the Ottoman Empire, he instead decided to chill out in this mansion, admire art, collect butterflies (seriously), read French magazines, and generally enjoy life. 

Prince Abdülmecid was really into the art scene, and enjoyed painting, writing, and hosting other intellectuals in the mansion’s salon.​​​​ Speaking of which, the prince was quite an accomplished artist and is even considered one of the most important painters of late period Ottoman art! 

After the Ottoman Empire fell, the mansion came under state protection, but was eventually restored in the 1980s. Nowadays, the mansion’s story has a happy ending because it’s still doing the same thing that it did more than a century ago: exhibiting art. 🙂 

The mansion is open every day except Mondays, and entrance is free. There are usually two or three exhibits per year, typically on topics like art, fashion, history, and more — we definitely recommend making this a stop in your itinerary! 

Where to Eat & Drink in Kuzguncuk

Of course, you shouldn’t miss the chance to dine at one of the many Kuzguncuk restaurants or cafes around the neighborhood. We recommend…

The delicious cheesecake at San Sebastian Mutfagi

🍳 Cinaralti Cafe – This cafe has been a main staple of Kuzguncuk for nearly 40 years, especially thanks to its beautiful views of the Bosphorus. Cinaralti is known for its breakfast plates and toast — and as a nice bonus, the prices are very reasonable! 

🌯 Metet Kozde Doner – If you’re looking to try Turkey’s famous doner, this is the place. Metet Kozde Doner has been featured in numerous food shows and travel guides thanks to its juicy doner kebabs. 

🍰 San Sebastian Mutfagi – If you can’t get enough of Istanbul’s trendy San Sebastian cheesecakes, this cafe specializes in this delicious dessert. 🙂 The second floor is a nice reprieve from the busy and bustling atmosphere of Kuzguncuk, plus it has a nice view as well!

🐟 İsmet Baba Fish Restaurant — Founded in 1951 by the residents of the neighborhood, İsmet Baba is a historical and casual fish restaurant where you can eat delicious fish and appetizers accompanied by a Bosphorus view.

🥐 Le Cafe Bleu – After stepping foot in this cafe, you’ll be second-guessing yourself if you’re in France or Kuzguncuk! This small yet beautiful building is home to a quintessential French cafe, with treats like croissants, sandwiches, quiches, tarts, eclairs, and much more. There’s also a well-curated gift shop inside if you’re looking for a souvenir.

🍪 Tarihi Kuzguncuk Fırını — Translated to Historical Kuzguncuk Bakery, this sweet spot is famous for its baked treats. Try the mushroom cookies! (Which, by the way, aren’t made from mushrooms. They take their name from the shape :))

☕️ Glow Coffee – Last but certainly not least, this is our favorite cafe in Kuzguncuk! Glow Coffee is the perfect balance of past and present — it’s set in part of an old Armenian church, yet the menu features third-wave cafe favorites and a lovely variety of desserts. We typically order the salted caramel latte or salep. 

Where to Stay in Kuzguncuk

Since Kuzguncuk is a fairly small neighborhood, there aren’t as many hotels and accommodations compared to other areas. We’ve compiled a list of hotels in Kuzguncuk, as well as those in nearby neighborhoods like Üsküdar and Beylerbeyi. 

Kuzguncuk Bosphorus Hotel

You can’t get any more central than the Kuzguncuk Bosphorus Hotel — it’s located right on the waterfront. 🙂 This hotel is actually made up of four separate apartments, each featuring multiple bedrooms, a kitchenette, and a cozy living room. We recommend the Apartment with Terrace, as it has a stunning view of the entire Bosphorus! 

Ottoman Suites

This cozy hotel is nestled in a traditional 120 year old wooden house and features beautiful traditional architecture. The hotel is located on a quiet street that’s a short walk into Kuzguncuk, and a delicious Turkish breakfast spread is included.

Delightful Apartment with Backyard and Bosphorus View

Like the name says, this delightful apartment has everything you need to feel like a Kuzguncuk local. 🙂

It’s especially a great choice if you prefer apartments over hotels, as it has two spacious bedrooms, a chic living room, and a kitchen. And the views, oh the views! With such amazing panoramas of the Bosphorus, you’ll never want to leave. 

Be careful, though — the apartment is often sold out, so book fast! 

Slightly further, we have these two amazing accommodations… 

Bosphorus Palace Hotel

Remember Abdülmecit Efendi Köşkü? This gorgeous waterside palace was built by the same architect in the early 1900s and renovated in 1996, and nowadays it serves as a delightfully stunning hotel! 

The rooms are decorated in a Neo-Ottoman design, with high ceilings, Italian furniture, marble bathrooms, and 18-karat gold leaf details. 

If the Bosphorus Palace feels like a boutique hotel, that’s because it is — there are only 12 rooms, each with its own unique design. We especially fell in love with the Palace Room with Bosphorus View, as it opens up to a 180-degree view of the water. 😍

Sakine Hanim Mansion

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stay in one of those historical waterfront mansions (called yalı), then you’re in luck! This magnificent historical landmark, built in the 19th century, was restored and converted into a boutique hotel. 

Sakine Hanim Mansion is located right in between two cozy neighborhoods, Çengelköy and Beylerbeyi (both within walking distance!), and has an outdoor terrace, garden, and friendly staff. 

Kuzguncuk Q & A

What makes Kuzguncuk a must-visit neighborhood in Istanbul?
Kuzguncuk is known for its picturesque streets, historical wooden houses, and a warm, village-like atmosphere right in the heart of Istanbul. Its diverse cultural heritage, scenic Bosphorus views, and vibrant local life make it a unique spot away from the city’s bustle.

What are the top attractions in Kuzguncuk?
Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kuzguncuk are the colorful historical houses, the various religious sites (churches, synagogues, and mosques) that reflect the neighborhood’s multicultural past, the surrounding Beylerbeyi Palace, and the charming waterfront with its stunning views of the Bosphorus.

What is the best time of year to visit Kuzguncuk?
Kuzguncuk is charming year-round, but spring and autumn offer the most pleasant weather for exploring its outdoor attractions. Summers can be quite vibrant when the flowers bloom, while winter has a quieter, more introspective charm.

How can I reach Kuzguncuk?
Kuzguncuk is easily accessible by public transport. You can take a ferry, the Marmaray light rail, or a metro to Üsküdar and then take a short bus or taxi ride to Kuzguncuk. Check out the How to Get to Kuzguncuk for more information. 

Are there any accommodation options in Kuzguncuk?
While Kuzguncuk is more of a residential neighborhood, there are a few boutique hotels and guesthouses. We particularly like Ottoman Suites and the Bosphorus Palace Hotel.

Photo Credits: Multiple Colorful Houses – Süheyl Burak  | Yirmiyedi store – Yirmiyedi | Mosque – Şeyma D. | Church – John Lubbock | Beylerbeyi – Milli Saraylar Başkanlığı | Abdülmecit Efendi Köşkü – Koç Bayi


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