Amid the vibrant energy of Istanbul, the Princes’ Islands beckon as serene sanctuaries, offering respite from city life with their historical charm, crystal-clear waters and breathtaking vistas
Taking a break from the chaos of the metropolis and the hustle of life in Istanbul and immersing yourself in the embrace of nature, breathing in the fresh air and witnessing beautiful sunsets accompanied by the smell of the sea is not that difficult.
The Princes’ Island district, one of Istanbul’s districts with its coastlines on the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, especially comes to mind as a weekend getaway as summer approaches. Although the islands welcome many visitors regardless of the season, they receive special attention during the summer months.
The ease of transportation is the main factor contributing to these short getaways. You can easily reach the islands by taking ferries from various locations such as Kabataş, Eminönü and Karaköy on the European side, and Kadıköy, Kartal, Bostancı, Maltepe and Avcılar on the Anatolian side.
The district comprises a total of nine islands, referred to as the Princes’ Island. The name is known to date back to the Roman Empire period when princes were exiled to these islands.
Let’s start with the largest and most visited island among the Princes’ Islands, Büyükada, which means big island in English. Known for its two hills, the Hill of Jesus and the Grand Hill, Büyükada is the largest and most populous island in terms of size.
Both locals and foreign tourists flock to the island, especially during the summer, and you can explore it by walking or renting a bicycle. Being the farthest from Istanbul, Büyükada gets quite crowded, especially on weekends. Those who prefer a more serene experience should consider visiting during weekdays.
Regardless of whether you visit on weekdays or weekends, there are several must-see places on the island. You should definitely visit the Historical Greek Orphanage, which is claimed to be the largest wooden building in the world, and the Aya Yorgi Church, where you can witness the best sunset. I must mention that reaching the Aya Yorgi Church on this hill requires climbing a steep slope. According to a legend, you have to climb this hill silently and barefoot.
Other places you can visit in Büyükada include the Museum of the Princes’ Islands, the Monastery of St. George Koudonas, the house of Reşat Nuri Güntekin and Fabiato Mansion.
Apart from these sites, stroll through the streets of Büyükada adorned with bougainvilleas and get lost in its historical mansions. Watch the magnificent view of the island from the Adakule, which serves as the island’s fire tower.
Of course, many people may want to come to the island to swim and enjoy the sea. For this purpose, Nakibey and Blue Beaches, and Prenses Bay are among the places you can go.
Heybeliada is the second largest island among the Princes’ Islands, and its name comes from its appearance resembling a dropped saddlebag. Throughout history, the island has been home to various cultures, reflecting both Greek and Turkish influences. Heybeliada is calmer than Büyükada and offers several must-see places.
In Heybeliada, you can visit the Aya Yorgi Cliff Monastery, Bet Yaakov Synagogue, İsmet İnönü’s House, Halki Seminary, the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar Museum and Değirmenburnu.
You can also find wonderful spots to swim on the island, Alman Cove, with its crystal-clear waters, is one of the most popular beaches on Heybeliada.
Like on other islands, you must also try the seafood on Heybeliada. Fava, fish soup and shrimp salad are among the island’s most famous delicacies.
Burgazada’s name comes from the Greek word “pyrgos,” meaning tower. After the Turks conquered the island, the name was changed to Burgaz. Known for its watchtower on Bayraktepe in the past, Burgazada is perhaps the most peaceful and tranquil island among the Princes’ Islands.
You can visit the house of Sait Faik Abasıyanık, one of the important figures in Turkish literature, which has been transformed into a museum. You can explore his personal belongings, photographs, and letters and witness a part of his life journey.
In addition to these historical sites, you can find excellent places to swim on Burgazada.
Kınalıada is the smallest of the Princes’ Islands and is named after its reddish soil. Kinalıada has been used for the construction of the Istanbul Walls, the Tophane Pavilion and the Port of Haydarpaşa.
The island’s skyline resembles a reddish hue from a distance because of its topography. It has three hills: Çınar Hill at an elevation of 115 meters (377 feet), Teşrifiye Hill, 5 meters lower and Monastery Hill, which stands at 93 meters.
You can explore Kınalıada on foot in about half an hour.
You can visit Knalıada Mosque, Panayia Greek Orthodox Church, Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Armenian Church, and Hristos Hill and Monastery, which is known as one of the most beautiful spots for watching the view.
With its tranquility and cleanliness, Kinalıada offers peaceful and enjoyable times on its beaches.
The Princes’ Islands remain a popular tourist destination for both Istanbul residents and foreign tourists. Located at a close distance to Istanbul, the Princes’ Islands stand in the middle of the Marmara Sea like a hidden paradise waiting to be discovered throughout the seasons.
Sedef Island is the smallest of the Prince Islands and the last one with residential areas. Most of the island comprises private properties, and there are not many historical sites to visit. Due to the low number of visitors, the sea and beaches are quite clean on Sedef Island, and you can spend a peaceful and enjoyable time at places like Elio Sedef, Sedef Liya and Sedef Island beaches.
The Prince Islands are always popular tourist destinations for both Istanbulites and foreign tourists. Being close to Istanbul, the Princes’ Islands, including Sedef Island, are highly sought after and considered hidden paradises waiting to be explored in the middle of the Marmara Sea in all seasons.