Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands, a lovely archipelago just off the city’s Asian shore, offer what we believe to be the best travel bargain anywhere in the world. Whenever we’re in need of a vacation but can’t afford the airfare, a ferry awaits to take us to the islands. For the price of just a few liras, we’re transported to a small slice of traffic-free paradise where, if we manage to get away from the crowds and explore some of the islands’ quiet backstreets, we feel as if we’ve found our way back to the late 19th century and an Istanbul that no longer exists on the mainland.
We’re especially fond of the islands in springtime, when their Judas, mimosa and wild plum trees are starting to bloom and a walk along one of their tranquil trails serves as the perfect cure for the lingering effects of the Istanbul winter blues. Of course, a good meal is essential any time of the year and we’ve been lucky enough to find a few spots on the islands that are worthy destinations in and of themselves. For those planning a visit to the Princes’ Islands, some suggestions below:
Burgazada – Kalpazankaya Restaurant
Burgazada is the smallest and least visited of the Princes’ Islands. The island has few easily accessible beaches and picnic spots, but what it does have is a laid-back atmosphere and several charming waterfront restaurants and cafes in the harbor. Better yet, Burgaz is home to Kalpazankaya Restaurant, an out-of-the-way, open-air meyhane on the island’s backside that will quickly help you forget about the crowded mass of humanity left behind on the ferry.
Getting to Kalpazankaya is easy: take the road that leads to the right when leaving the ferry terminal and continue walking along that road for about 30 minutes until it comes to an end. In front of you, sitting in splendid isolation on a hillside overlooking the blue waters of the Marmara Sea and a small pebble beach below, is the restaurant, a collection of vine-shaded terraces with rickety wooden tables and chairs…. (Click here  to read the rest of the review.)
Heybeliada – Heyamola Ada Lokantası
The new-offshore-kid-in-town, Heyamola Ada Lokanatası, is a perfect storm of inspired food, chill ambiance, and small-label Turkish wines, all at ridiculously low prices. Heyamola is reason in and of itself to plan a day trip to the Princes’ Islands, and if you are already organizing your island adventure, this place is a compelling argument for ditching the ferry at Heybeli Island, often overlooked in favor of the more popular Büyükada….(Click here  to read the rest of the review.)
Büyükada – Club Mavi
Considering you’re on an island, you probably want to eat somewhere with a view of the sea. Most visitors to Büyükada end up getting lured to the row of busy fish restaurants found just beside Büyükada’s ferry terminal. All have seaside terraces with a view of Istanbul’s rapidly developing Asian shore (and of the occasional piece of urban flotsam and jetsam that drifts by) and similar, predictable menus with decently made, but uninspiring food.
A more pleasant (but not cheap) island experience, though, can be had by hailing one of Buyukada’s numerous horse carriages and asking the driver to take you to Club Mavi, a restaurant and hotel located inside a rambling old house on the island’s undeveloped backside…. (Click here  to read the rest of this review.)
Büyükada – SofrAda
One of the questions that we frequently ask ourselves during visits to Büyükada is, just where do the locals eat? The seaside fish restaurants are too pricey, while even the “budget” places away from the sea are clearly aimed at the tourist trade.
We recently found the answer to our question in the form of SofrAda Restoran, a homey version of an esnaf lokantası, located on a small side street near the aromatic lot where the horse carriages are parked while their drivers wait for rides….(Click here  to read the rest of the review.)