Just a short ferry ride away from Istanbul’s European side and lying right on the shores of the Bosporus, Çengelköy is a pleasant and cozy neighborhood that is the perfect place to spend a sunny spring afternoon or escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city
ÜSKÜDAR, ÇENGELKÖY FOTOĞRAF: EMİN ÖZMEN
Are you planning a trip to Istanbul? Spring is the perfect time to explore this beautiful and historic city. While visitors plan their itineraries, it is almost certain that some of the first stops will include heading straight to the historical Sultanahmet district in order to witness the stunning architecture of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, while others might choose to spend the day walking around the historical grounds of Topkapı Palace.No matter where one chooses to go, there is always something intriguing to see, taste and buy, which makes Istanbul one of the world’s most favorite cities to explore. One of the special things about the city is that it spans two continents, Europe and Asia, so one can just jump on a ferry and spend the day exploring another continent.
Some visitors may not know that there are many historical and picturesque neighborhoods that line the shores of the Bosporus on the Asian side of the city. All are unique with their stories, interesting cuisine and lovely views, offering a laid-back atmosphere that make it the perfect way to spend a sunny spring day.
One spot that will surely capture your heart is the charming village of Çengelköy, which means “hook village” in Turkish. Just a short ferry ride away from the European side, this pleasant, little neighborhood is nestled in a quiet bay in the district of Üsküdar, and lies right on the shores of the Bosporus. This cozy town is rich in character, and is the perfect place to spend a sunny spring afternoon or escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city.Çengelköy’s name is well-suited for the pleasing town, as it is located in a little hook in a small bay. The village has existed since the 5th century, and is famous for its wooden Ottoman homes and seaside mansions.
Many of the original mansions have been destroyed by fires over the years, but the Sadullah Pasha seaside mansion, built in 1783, is one of the few to have survived to the present day. Stroll down to the water to see the old wooden homes lining the shore, as well as many wooden fishing boats, where local men line the docks with their fishing gear and set up for a full day of casting.
The town is composed of cobblestone streets lined with enticing pastry shops, small boutiques and tranquil tea gardens. As you stroll around the neighborhood, the smell of freshly-baked bread and pastries fill the air and tempt you to taste everything you see in shop windows. Locals also set up stands in a small courtyard by the water selling various handmade items such as jewelry and clothing, which you can browse and shop at your own pace. On weekends, the tiny streets are busy with families, couples and friends that come to enjoy Çengelköy’s relaxing, laid-back atmosphere.
Besides beautiful views, Çengelköy offers a delicious variety of Turkish food, and any visitor will easily be able to spot the popular items.
This town is known for its delicious börek, which is said to be some of the tastiest in Istanbul. On the main street, you will find Çengelköy Börekçisi, a shop specializing in homemade börek, which comes in a variety of savory flavors. Locals flock to this location on weekends to enjoy this popular pastry in Çengelköy’s famous tea gardens.
Walk a little further on the main road and you will be sure to see people eating huge potatoes with a fork. This popular fast-food item is called “kumpir,” and is basically a baked potato with various fillings. The huge potato is baked, split down the middle and then the insides are mixed with butter and cheese. The potatoes are topped with piles of toppings of your choice and sold on the street. Locals then take their tasty customized Kumpir down to the water’s edge and grab a seat on a bench to enjoy the view.
Craving chocolate? Tucked around a corner, you will find the romantic Çikolata Kahve. This cute cafe is the perfect place to go to get your chocolate fix, and offers a quiet spot to sit and enjoy your afternoon while people-watching. The cafe makes its own chocolates that come in a variety of delightful flavors that you can take home or enjoy on the spot. They serve a signature homemade sicak cikolata (hot chocolate) and serve Turkish coffee made with chocolate, paired with a shot of rose water and a little treat on the side. The presentation is charming and the tastes are delightful, which makes it a must-try.
In Turkey, any time is teatime, and Çengelköy is known for its many relaxing tea gardens that look out over the blue waters of the Bosporus. Tarihi Çengelköy Çınaraltı is a favorite among locals, and is the perfect place to sit and relax on a warm spring day. Enjoy your çay (tea) under the shade of the enormous chinar tree, which the cafe takes its name from. It is said that this famous tree was planted in 1220 A.D., well before Ottoman rule, so one can just imagine how many people over the course of history have sat under this giant, venerable tree. Set against the water, the tea garden offers a perfect view, providing a relaxing place to sit and chat with friends while petting the many stray cats that wander in to socialize on the patio.
When it is time to eat, many people visit Sütiş Restaurant, which has been in business since 1953, and offers a fantastic patio right on the water to enjoy your meal while watching the boats pass by. The restaurant strives to produce products with all natural ingredients, incorporating local items such as cheese, meat and organic homemade jams. Known for its milk puddings and desserts, the restaurant uses a unique blend of cow, water buffalo and goat milk, which arrives daily from a local farm.
After enjoying the day in this intriguing neighborhood, one may want to spend the night. Çengelköy is known for having some interesting boutique hotels, and is home to the highly sought after Sumahan on the Water boutique hotel. Sumahan lies in a renovated, 19th century distillery and sits right on the shores of the Bosporus. Its contemporary rooms all have a clear view of the water, and original elements, such as wood beam ceilings and fireplaces, were kept to add character.
If you happen to be there to catch the sunset, Çengelköy’s shores offer a wide-open view of a pink summer sky with a clear view of Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge and stunning skyline. After returning to the busy European side of Istanbul, Çengelköy is sure to remain in your thoughts as a perfect place to spend a lazy day.