My brother & his girlfriend had arrived in Istanbul a few days before we did, and had spent a day visiting one of the pretty Princes’ Islands, to the south of Istanbul, which sounded like a great way to really get into the holiday mode.
We had spent the morning exploring Kadıköy and so took a ferry from there, however you can also take the ferry from Eminönü,which is more central. A return Ferry costs around 10 Lira ($1.50) with an Istanbulkart (slightly higher without) and run more than ten times daily during summer months so you will never have to wait too long to catch a ride. I would, however, recommend checking the time of the return ferries when you arrive at Princes’ islands as timing between the ferries varies hugely.
Whilst the ferry continues onto several other islands, we decided to get off at the first Island, Kinalıada, which is around 90 minutes from Eminönü, 12 kms to the south of Istanbul.
Kinalıada is also known as Henna Island owing to the distinctive red colour of its soil, and takes its other nickname as one of the Princes Islands as it was used to house exiled royalty & members of the nobility over the years, most notably emperor Romanos IV Diogenes who was exiled here in 1071.
It later found popularity with wealthy Istanbulites (including large numbers of Jews and Armenians) during Ottoman/Victorian times and there are some beautiful old Victorian buildings to be seen to this day.
In terms of things to do and see, we spent a nice afternoon just wandering around, but should you wish to, you can visit the Kinaliada Mosque (built in 1964) which is said to be a rare modern mosque that stands out for its impressive modern architecture, and there are also 2 churches; the Armenian Krikor Lusavoric Church & the Panagia Church and Christos Monastery.
There is certainly no shortage of restaurants on the island, we chose to have lunch at Mimoza Restaurant owing to its pretty seafront location.
We ordered really simply, Patlican Salatasi, a roughly mashed aubergine, a bit like babaganoush, Roka Salatasi, a simple salad of rocket and tomato, Kalamar Tava, beautifully tender fried calamari, and Karides Güveç; our first introduction to the local shrimp stew, cooked with tomatoes and cheese. Lunch, with raki and beer for 4 came in at $10 pp!
I had a lovely afternoon on Kinalıada and assuming you are spending more than a couple of days in Istanbul, it’s a fun afternoon trip to take.