The best time I had living in Istanbul was in the Moda neighborhood of Kadıköy. Moda has a phenomenal location near the sea, is cosmopolitan and open-minded, there’s much less traffic and congestion than in most parts of Istanbul, and the choice and variety of restaurants and bars is excellent. It truly feels like a real neighborhood and there are plenty of things to discover while exploring the area.
I’ll start with the Bull. This life-sized statue of a bull is a popular meeting point and point of reference. When you tell someone who knows Kadıköy “turn left at the Bull” or “meet me at the Bull”, they know exactly what you’re talking about. The Bull is a short walk inland from the ferry terminal and Kadıköy Merkez.
Follow the tram tracks (a historic tram runs through Moda) and turn left on the first street. This is Ali Suavi Sokak. There’s a monument dedicated to Ali Suavi, an Ottoman political activist who was the first Turk to die in the name of democracy back in 1878. There are several art and book shops on this street along with the Surp Levon Armenian Catholic Church.
A few blocks up on the left is Süreyya Operası, an opera house built by Süreyya Paşa. It originally opened in 1927 as a theater, served as a movie theatre from 1930 to 2005, and was reopened as an opera house in 2007.
The next block up contains the ruins of Köçeoğlu Hamamı, a bath house built in 1840. All that remains is the arch from the entrance.
One block further ahead to the right is the back of Agia Triada Greek Orthodox Church. It’s a beautiful church with a high domed interior. It’s worth popping inside if it’s open.
Kadife Sokak, also known as Barlar Sokak, is a block from the church. It may not look like much during the day but at night it comes alive. There are several bars and cafés to choose from, some located in colorful Ottoman homes. I spent many great nights here enjoying beers with friends. It’s also home to the Rexx, a great old place to watch movies, and the Rexx Büfe, my favorite place for kokoreç.
Scattered in the more residential parts of Moda are a few more interesting sites, such as a private Greek primary school, which at the time of my first visit had just one student.
The All Saints Anglican Church, now the Istanbul Presbyterian Church, is nearby. It was built by the British in 1878, and most of the congregation is now made up of Turkish Christians. A French Catholic church, Église de l’Assomption, sits behind a large fence in the same area. These churches are both located a half block from the Moda Camii, a mosque built in 1962.
Although the population of Christians and Jews has decreased significantly since the end of the Ottoman Empire, especially after the 1955 Greek pogrom, the fact that these churches are still operating with a solid worshipper base is a testament to the tolerance of this cosmopolitan area.
At the south end of Moda, there is Koço Meyhane, a Greek taverna popular with locals. The owner of the restaurant also cares for a holy water spring next door.
Along the sea is a small pier that juts out into the Marmara Sea. There’s a city-owned restaurant with great food and reasonable prices located at the end of it. It’s called the Tarihi Moda İskelesi.
From the south end, there are two seaside paths. If you walk to the west, you will have incredible views of the old city on the European side. I enjoyed coming here at night with my friends. We would sit on the rocks with some beers, enjoy the view, and talk for hours.
If you walk to the east, you’ll get great views of Fenerbahçe and Kalamış Marina.
Finally, Moda has a great little park with a tea garden to sit and relax in the shade. This is called Moda Parkı. There are also nice views of the sea from the tea garden.