Üsküdar, Istanbul, Turkey

Üsküdar, once known as Scutari, is a large district on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus in metropolitan Istanbul.

For visitors to IstanbulÜsküdar is important for its mosques and its transport possibilities.

Üsküdar Transport

The ferry docks are prominent all along the shore of the Üsküdar plaza: the Şehir Hatları ferries, the TurYolferries and the Dentur Avrasya ferries going to EminönüKaraköyKabataş and BeşiktaşMore…

Just inland from the ferry docks are numerous bus and minibus stops and taxi stands good for trips north and south along the Bosphorus shore, and eastward into Istanbul‘s Anatolian suburbs.

The Marmaray has a station near the ferry docks in Üsküdar (map). Although the Marmaray train under the Bosphorus is the fastest way to travel between Europe and Asia, I still prefer the ferries.

About 2.5 km (1.5 miles) south along the shore from the Üsküdar ferry dock is the Harem Otogar, with intercity buses to all of Anatolian Turkey and beyond. About 2.5 km (1.5 miles) farther south is Kadıköy, with its Metro and city bus terminals, and its docks for ferries to Eminönüand Karaköy.

What to See & Do

Üsküdar’s mosques include the Mihrimah Sultan Camii(1547), a work designed the great Mimar Sinan for Mihrimah Sultan, the favorite daughter of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. (Mihrimah Sultan’s other mosque, near the city walls, is even more spectacular. )

Sunset, Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
Sunset beneath the Bosphorus Bridge joining European and Asian Istanbul.

Her mosque, nicely restored, is on the north side of the plaza just opposite the ferry docks.

North of the mosque itself is its Dar-üş Şifa, or Health Center. You enter this building by a doorway that could have come from Seljuk Turkish times, but when you get inside you find a shiny, ultra-modern up-to-the-minute medical clinic—a wonderful continuation of usage of an ancient building with modern technology.

On the southern side of the plaza is the Yeni Valide Camii (or Valide-i Cedid Camii, “Mosque of the New Queen Mother,” 1710) a later Ottoman mosque that’s part of a full mosque complex (külliye) including several other charitable service buildings.

In late 2014, the Yeni Valide is closed for renovations.

The Queen Mother of the mosque’s name, by the way, was Gülnüş Emetullah Hatun, mother of Sultan Ahmet III (builder of the Sultanahmet [Blue] Mosque).

Inland up a hill is the charming small Tiled Mosque (Çinili Cami), well worth a visit to see its exquisite İznik colored tiles, especially if you have not visited the even more exquisite Rüstem Pasha Mosque near the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar in Eminönü. Unfortunately it, too, is completely closed for renovations in late 2014, and work may take a few years.

Kuzguncuk

Now the second-largest city in Europe (after Moscow), Istanbul has lost a lot of its antique charm to urbanization. To get a glimpse of what Istanbul used to be, take a bus or taxi north along the shore from Üsküdar to Kuzguncuk and stroll inland along İcadiye Caddesi, the main street shaded by huge sycamore trees.

On your left, a synagogue. Farther along, on your right, a Greek Orthodox church. Here and there, Turkish coffee- and tea-houses and little eateries. The pace is slow, the ambience relaxed.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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