Explore Buyukada, Istanbul: Best Things to Do, See, Dine Guide

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Discover the Buyukada Islands of Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands with our local guide. We’ll explore the secrets of this beautiful island along the Marmara sea, including the best things to do, attractions, places to see, historical sites, museums, mansions, beaches, eat, drink, stay, restaurants, shops, and give you all the info you need to plan your visit.

Formerly known as Prinkipo and the largest of the Prince Islands, Buyukada (means “grand island” in Turkish) is renowned for its natural beauty, pine forests, and the vibrant purple Judas trees scattered across the island. Its historical mansions and tranquil atmosphere, far from the hustle and bustle of traffic, make it a notable and peaceful retreat. Among Istanbul’s Princes’ islands, Büyükada is the most preferred destination for both local and international tourists to visit and spend a pleasant day.

Top Selling Princes’ Islands Tours

You’ll find variety of day trips organized with the authorized travel agents. It can be guided tours, overnight stays, and Princes’ Islands boat tickets. We highly recommend this option especially if you are first time visitor. You’ll save yourself from the hassle of arranging the tickets, find place in between the crowds and accommodation.

Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts

About Buyukada

The central and also the farthest from the mainland among Istanbul’s islands, Büyükada was a place of exile for Byzantine princes during the Byzantine period. The island offers a nostalgic atmosphere to its visitors with its mansions and historical structures from the Ottoman period.

This beautiful island, where Greek and Turkish cultures coexist, is also notable for its architecture. One of the unique experiences offered by Büyükada is climbing to Aya Yorgi Hill and enjoying the view.

Standing out with its two scenic hills, Jesus Hill at 164 meters and Yücetepe at 202 meters, as well as the valleys and beaches between these hills, the island invites exploration. With a length of 4.3 km and a width of 1.3 km, it is possible to comfortably walk or bike around the island.

The prohibition of motor vehicles on Büyükada adds a unique peace and quiet to the island. Visitors used to prefer the famous horse-drawn carriages for touring, but since a significant decision made in August 2020, electric vehicles now serve the islands.

Quick History

The history of Büyükada dates back to the 6th century. In 565, Byzantine Emperor Justin II built a monastery on the island, which was expanded in the late 8th century. Subsequently, the island became a place of exile. Princes and statesmen were sent to the island due to power struggles and political disputes, giving the Prince Islands their name.

No Regrets Booking Advice

Under Ottoman rule, Büyükada became a tranquil and peaceful place until the Young Turks era in 1909. After the deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, many palace officials were exiled to the islands. In 1929, the famous Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was exiled here by Stalin and was assassinated in his home on the island in 1933.

Top Things to Do, Places to See

Buyukada is an ideal escape for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty. The island greets visitors with its historical pier, bustling marketplace, tea gardens, cafes, mussel sellers, and famous fish restaurants, creating a very pleasant atmosphere.

There are numerous places to visit and activities to do on Buyukada. One of the highest points on the island, Aya Yorgi Hill, is a favorite spot for visitors, especially for its sunset views. The Aya Yorgi Church and Monastery, located at the top, are both historically and religiously significant sites. You can reach the hill by renting an electric vehicle or a bicycle or by walking and enjoying the nature.

Another important spot on Buyukada is the Buyukada Clock Tower and its surroundings. Located in the pier square, this historical clock tower is one of the island’s symbols. Additionally, Princess Bay and Yörük Ali Beach on the southeast side of the island are ideal spots for enjoying the sea and sun. Nature walks, bike tours, and enjoying the sea are among the activities you can do on Buyukada.

When you visit Buyukada, some of the must-see places and activities include:

  • Touring the island with electric vehicles or bicycles
  • Enjoying the sea and beach in Buyukada during the summer
  • Visiting Aya Yorgi Church and Monastery
  • Exploring the Greek Orphanage
  • Visiting the Adalar Museum
  • Dining at seaside restaurants

These activities and sites provide a comprehensive experience of the island’s charm and history.

Historical Buyukada Pier

When you step onto Buyukada, the first place that will greet you is the Historical Buyukada Pier. Built in 1914, this beautiful structure stands out with its architectural details and elegant design. The pier reflects the historical texture of the island, incorporating influences from Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau styles.

The cafes and ice cream shops around the pier offer visitors a pleasant break. Sitting at the pier and enjoying the sea view helps you immediately adapt to Buyukada’s unique atmosphere. The pier is not just a transportation hub but also a meeting point for both island residents and visitors.

Nizam Neighborhood

One of the oldest and most prestigious areas of Buyukada, Nizam Neighborhood, is famous for its historical mansions and tranquil streets. With its calm and peaceful atmosphere, it is one of the most desirable residential areas on the island. The neighborhood extends towards the highest points of the island, offering visitors magnificent sea views. Nizam Neighborhood also houses the finest examples of Ottoman and Republican-era architecture.

Walking through the neighborhood, you can stroll among beautiful mansions and villas. Flower-filled gardens, wide streets, and historic buildings enhance the charm of the area.

Island Mansions

Buyukada is famous for its historical mansions and villas. Scattered all over the island, these elegant structures carry architectural traces from the Ottoman and Republican periods. The mansions, generally made of wood, are notable for their large gardens and ornate balconies. Seeing these mansions while walking through the island’s streets is one of the best ways to discover the island’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Among the most striking mansions is the Splendid Mansion, also known as the Splendid Palace Hotel, built in 1908. This magnificent structure, with its white and red colors, round windows, and large veranda, is one of the island’s symbols. Another significant mansion is the Mizzi Mansion, notable for its red brick facade and monumental corner tower.

Aya Yorgi Kilisesi ve Manastırı

Aya Yorgi Church and Monastery is one of the must-see places when you visit Buyukada. It tops the list of places to visit on the island. The structure, originally built as a small church in 1751, served as a monastery for many years.

Located at the highest point of the island, known as Aya Yorgi Hill, at 202 meters, the church continues to serve as a place of worship and holds significant importance for Orthodox Christians.

It is visited by many local and foreign tourists every year on April 23 and September 24. According to belief, those who walk to Aya Yorgi are considered semi-pilgrims. The steep path takes about 20 minutes on foot.

To reach Aya Yorgi Church and Hill, you need to go to an area called Lunapark by bike or electric vehicle. It is about 3 km from the coast. From Lunapark, there is a steep path to walk up to Aya Yorgi, which takes about 20 minutes.

At the top, besides the Aya Yorgi Church, there is also a cafe where you can enjoy magnificent views. Watching the sunset from here is a unique pleasure.

Greek Orphanage

The building, dating back to 1898, was initially intended to be built as a hotel by the famous architect Alexandre Vallaury, but he couldn’t get the necessary permits from Sultan Abdulhamid II and put it up for sale.

It was later purchased by the wealthy Zarifi family of the Greek community and used as a Greek Orphanage from 1911 to 1964. It has not been in use since 1964.

Holding the title of one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, this structure is among the impressive sights you should see when you come to Buyukada. Located on İsa Hill, it offers stunning views.

Reşat Nuri Güntekin’s House

The house where the famous Turkish author Reşat Nuri Güntekin, best known for his novel “Çalıkuşu,” once lived, is a special stop for literature lovers. This house, where the author penned many of his works, offers an opportunity to understand his creativity and life more closely.

The house stands out with its simple architecture and historical ambiance. Known for inspiring Güntekin’s works, the house features a serene garden and a sea view. Although it is private property today, it can be seen from the outside.

Adalar Museum

The Adalar Museum (Island Museum) is a perfect stop for those who want to explore the history and culture of the Prince Islands. Opened in 2010, the museum showcases the natural and cultural heritage of the islands. It presents important events, famous residents, and rich marine life throughout the islands’ history.

As Istanbul’s first contemporary city museum, the Adalar Museum features hundreds of objects, thousands of documents and photographs, along with film and oral history records in its permanent and temporary exhibitions.

It is an ideal place for those looking for a different activity on Buyukada. Located in Aya Nikola, the museum is open every day from 09:30 to 17:30.

Dil Cape

Dil Cape, one of Buyukada’s most popular picnic areas, is a paradise for nature lovers. Located on the western tip of the island, this beautiful area is surrounded by pine trees, making it perfect for picnics and nature walks. You can spend a peaceful day here, enjoying the island’s natural beauty.

Dil Cape features walking paths and rest areas. You can also swim in the small coves in the area to cool off. The panoramic views offered by Dil Cape are particularly enchanting at sunset.

Tahta Saray

Tahta Saray (Wooden Palace) is one of Buyukada’s most striking buildings. With its wooden architecture and historical ambiance, this structure is a significant part of the island’s rich past. Built in the 19th century, Tahta Saray belonged to an important family of the era and still retains its grandeur today.

Located at one of Buyukada’s high points, this structure offers panoramic views of the island. Though it is private property today, it can be seen from the outside.

Hamidiye Mosque

Hamidiye Mosque is one of Buyukada’s important religious structures. Built in 1895 by Sultan Abdulhamid II, the mosque is located in the center of the island and is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture. Its elegant minaret and dome add a distinct beauty to the island’s skyline.

Eytam School

Eytam School is an important structure shedding light on Buyukada’s educational history. Built during the Ottoman period for the education of orphaned children, this school has played a significant role in education since the 19th century. The building’s historical texture and architecture transport visitors to the past.

The school’s large courtyard and classrooms reflect the educational philosophy and conditions of the time. Still used for educational purposes today, this building holds an important place in Büyükada’s social and cultural development. Eytam School is one of the island’s historical riches and a must-see for those interested in educational history.

Island Tour with Electric Vehicles

One of the most popular activities recommended when you visit Buyukada is taking a tour around the island with electric vehicles. This allows you to explore Buyukada from top to bottom, enjoying beautiful sea and nature views.


Following the disease that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of horses, carriages were banned in the islands, and since August 2020, island tours have been conducted with electric vehicles.

There are a total of 40 13-seater and 20 3-seater electric vehicles serving the islands. These vehicles can travel at a maximum speed of 25 kilometers per hour.

Island Tour by Bicycle

One of the best options to explore Buyukada away from the crowd and with pleasure is to rent a bicycle. You can pedal around the island’s beautiful spots, stop wherever you want, and enjoy drinks at lovely cafes with scenic views.

When you arrive at the island and head towards the market from the pier, you can find many places to rent bicycles.

Beaches and Beach Clubs

Buyukada is one of the islands offering the most beach and beach club options. Buyukada’s beaches, with their beautiful sea and beach facilities, are preferred by both adults and families with children.

Among the most popular beaches and beach clubs on Buyukada are Yörük Ali Beach, Princess Beach, Nakibey Beach, Kumsal Family Beach, and Aya Nikola Beach.

Dining in Buyukada – Popular Spots

Buyukada offers a wide range of dining options for its visitors. There are numerous quality places where you can enjoy food and drinks, especially along the coast and in the market area. The island is also famous for its fish restaurants along the shore and ice cream shops in the summer.

One of Buyukada’s famous treats is its ice cream, a must-try for visitors. Additionally, the fresh cookies and jams sold in the island’s bakeries are quite popular.

One of the island’s most renowned restaurants is Eskibağ Teras, known for its seafood and magnificent view. Here, you can savor fresh fish and mezes.

Another great spot in the heart of Buyukada is Ada Kahvaltı Bahçesi, which is ideal for breakfast. You can enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast in a peaceful environment surrounded by nature.

There are also many quality cafes and patisseries on the island. One notable spot is Chocowhite, famous for its delicious desserts and coffee.

Shopping in Buyukada – What to Buy?

Buyukada not only impresses with its natural beauty and historical texture but also offers a delightful shopping experience. The island hosts many shops selling local products and handmade souvenirs. Especially around the pier and in the market area, you can find boutique stores offering island-specific souvenirs, jewelry, and decorative items.

Local producers offer organic olive oil, honey, and spices, which can make wonderful gifts for yourself or your loved ones. The island market also provides a wide range of shopping options, from fresh fruits and vegetables to handmade products.

Accommodation in Buyukada – Where to Stay?

Buyukada offers a rich variety of accommodation options suitable for every budget. The island provides a peaceful and comfortable stay experience with its boutique hotels, pensions, and historical mansions.

Ada Palas Büyükada, a popular hotel housed in a historical mansion with a central location, stands out with its stylish and comfortable rooms and friendly service, making your vacation unforgettable.

Splendid Palace Hotel, with its nostalgic atmosphere and magnificent architecture, is another highlight. This hotel combines historical charm with modern comfort and offers a captivating accommodation experience with its sea-view rooms.

For those seeking a more economical option, Palmiye Pansiyon is an ideal choice with its clean and comfortable rooms.

How to Get to Buyukada? Transportation

It is easy to reach Buyukada via ferry and motorboat services organized from various points in Istanbul. The most commonly used routes to Buyukada are ferries and motorboats departing from Bostancı, Kadıköy, Kabataş, Eminönü, and Beşiktaş piers.

You can directly reach Büyükada from Eminönü, Beşiktaş, Kabataş, Kadıköy, and Bostancı using city line ferries.

Transportation from Bostancı Pier to Büyükada takes about 40 minutes. There are regular services from Bostancı, operated by different companies like Şehir Hatları Public Ferries, Mavi MarmaraDentur Avrasya and Prens Tur, making it a convenient option, especially for those coming from the Asian side.

Ferry services from Kadıköy Pier to Büyükada take about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Ferry services from Kabataş, Eminönü, and Beşiktaş piers take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. These options are ideal for those coming from the European side, allowing you to enjoy a pleasant sea journey to the island.

Additionally, you can reach Büyükada directly by passenger motorboats from Eminönü, Yeşilköy, Beşiktaş, Kabataş, Bostancı, Kartal.

You can also read more from our How to Get to Buyukada, Princes’ Islands: Best Options Guide page.

Upon arrival at Buyukada, bike rental services are available at the pier, offering a convenient option for those who want to explore the island by bike.

* You’ll need IstanbulKart to pay.

* Check en.sehirhatlari.istanbul for all above routes, timetables and prices.

Princes’ Islands (Adalar) by Private Boats

Round-Trip Ticket for Princes’ Island Ferry & Audio Guide

You’ll have about 75 minutes ferry ride to the Princes’ Island, the Buyukada. While you have a fantastic Bosphorus ride, you can admire the beautiful skyline of Istanbul at the open air deck, enjoy refreshments from the kiosk or listen to the stories about the Bosphorus from the audio guide app on your smartphone.

  • Round Trip Tickets mostly Include: Round-Trip ticket to the Princes’ Island, Fast track entry on boat from the online ticket window, audio guide app for IOS and Android in 10 languages: English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese

You can pick one of the best ones below

  1. Round-Trip Ticket for Princes’ Island Ferry & Audio Guide
  2. Princes’ Islands Cruise w/Music, Lunch & Transfer
  3. Full-Day Princes Island Tour with Lunch from Istanbul

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