If you’re looking for a day trip from Istanbul that’s sure to leave a lasting impression, the Princes Islands are a must-visit destination. With its charming atmosphere, peaceful surroundings, and historic architecture, these islands are a true gem of Turkey. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventurous outing, the Princes’ Islands have something to offer for everyone.
What’s Special About Princes’ Islands?
The Princes Islands are a group of nine small islands located off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. These islands have a rich history and were once a popular destination for the Ottoman elite who sought refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. Today, the islands are known for their car-free streets, charming architecture, and stunning natural beauty.
Looking for more ideas for a day trip from Istanbul? Check our guide.
Where is the Princes Islands?
The Princes Islands are located off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. The islands are easily accessible by ferry from the Kabatas, Kadikoy, Besiktas, and Eminonu piers in Istanbul. The ferry ride takes around an hour and offers breathtaking views of the city and the sea. See the location >>
To find the ways to get to Princes Islands, read How to Get to Princes Islands from Istanbul and Back: Full Ferries Guide (2023)
You can find more information about Princes Islands in our full guide.
How Many Princes Islands?
The Princes Islands consist of nine small islands, each with its own unique charm and attractions. The most popular islands for tourists are Büyükada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Kınalıada.
If you’re planning a trip to the Princes Islands, here are some recommendations for the most attractive islands to visit:
Büyükada is the largest of the Princes Islands and is known for its charming streets, historic mansions, and stunning natural beauty. Take a tour of the island by electric vehicle or bike, relax on one of the island’s many beaches, or spend the night at the Splendid Palace Hotel.
Burgazada is a small but charming island known for its quiet streets, picturesque views, and historic attractions. Visit the Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum, take a tour of the island by electric vehicle or bike, and visit the Burgazada Mosque and the Hristos Monastery & Church.
Heybeliada is a peaceful island known for its beautiful beaches, historic architecture, and tranquil atmosphere. Relax on one of the island’s many beaches, visit the Heybeliada Sanatorium, and explore the island by electric vehicle or bike.
Kınalıada is the smallest of the Princes Islands but is still worth a visit for its beautiful beaches, historic architecture, and charming atmosphere. Visit the island’s churches, go to the beach, or enjoy the stunning views from the Cinar, Tesvikiye, and Hristo hills.
Discover the Enchantment of Princes’ Islands
Immerse yourself in serenity; embark on a Princes’ Islands Tour. Let expert guides unravel the Islands’ rich tapestry, steeped in history and brimming with natural beauty:
Things to Do & See at the Princes’ Islands
Roam Every Street on the Island
Büyükada is the largest of the Princes Islands and is known for its charming streets, historic mansions, and stunning natural beauty. Take a stroll through the island’s car-free streets, admire the architecture of the island’s historic mansions, and take in the stunning views of the sea.
Tour of the Island with an Electric Vehicle or Bike
One of the best ways to explore Büyükada is by taking a tour with an electric vehicle or a bike. This way, you can cover more ground and explore the island at your own pace. You’ll be able to see some of the island’s hidden gems, such as secluded beaches and hidden coves that are not accessible by foot. You can rent an electric vehicle or a bike from one of the many rental shops on the island.
If you’re a beach lover, then Büyükada has plenty of options for you. There are several beaches on the island, including the popular Aya Nikola Beach and the quieter Yörükali Beach. The beaches are a great place to relax and soak up the sun, and they offer stunning views of the sea. You can rent sun loungers and umbrellas, and there are several cafes and restaurants nearby where you can grab a bite to eat.
Büyükada is also famous for its historic pavilions. These grand mansions were built in the 19th century by wealthy Istanbulites as summer homes. Many of the pavilions are now open to the public and can be visited as museums. Some of the most famous pavilions include the Princes Fahriye Pavilion, the Yalı Pavilion, and the Splendid Palace Hotel.
Spend a Night at Splendid Palace Hotel
Speaking of the Splendid Palace Hotel, if you’re looking for a unique place to stay on Büyükada, then this historic hotel is the perfect choice. The hotel was built in the early 20th century and has hosted many famous guests over the years, including Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. The hotel has been beautifully restored and offers stunning views of the sea.
Go to Aya Yorgi Monastery
Aya Yorgi Monastery is a must-visit attraction on Büyükada. The monastery is located on the top of the island’s highest hill and offers stunning panoramic views of the sea and the surrounding islands. The monastery was originally built in the Byzantine era and was later renovated by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Visit the Islands’ Museum
The Islands’ Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the Princes’ Islands. The museum is located in a historic mansion and has exhibits on the island’s natural history, as well as its history as a summer retreat for Istanbul’s wealthy elite. The museum also has a collection of artifacts from the Byzantine era.
Sail Away on a Dream: Princes’ Islands Cruise
Embark on an enchanting journey across the azure waves. A Princes’ Islands cruise offers resplendent vistas and the allure of the open sea. Revel in the luxury of a guided tour, eschewing bustling public ferries for the tranquility of a private vessel.
Explore Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum in Burgazada
Burgazada is the second largest of the Princes’ Islands and is known for its picturesque streets and charming old houses. One of the must-visit attractions on Burgazada is the Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum. Sait Faik was a famous Turkish writer who lived on the island for many years. The museum is dedicated to his life and works and has exhibits on his writings and personal belongings.
Tour of the Island with an Electric Vehicle or Bike
As with Büyükada, one of the best ways to explore Burgazada is by taking a tour with an electric vehicle or a bike. You can rent an electric vehicle or a bike from one of the rental shops on the island and explore the island’s hidden corners and charming streets.
Visit the Burgazada Mosque and the Hristos Monastery & Church
Burgazada is also known for its religious monuments.
The Burgazada Mosque is a beautiful Ottoman-era mosque located in the center of the island. It was built in the 19th century and is known for its stunning blue tiles and intricate woodwork. The mosque is still in use and visitors are welcome outside of prayer times.
The Hristos Monastery & Church is a historic Greek Orthodox monastery located on the southern side of the island. The monastery dates back to the Byzantine era and was rebuilt several times over the centuries. The church is known for its beautiful frescoes and is still an active place of worship.
Hike to the Island’s Hilltop
If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, take a hike up to the hilltop on Büyükada. The hike is steep and can be challenging, but the views from the top are absolutely stunning. You can see the entire island as well as the surrounding sea and islands.
Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
One of the most charming things about the Princes’ Islands is the absence of cars. The only vehicles allowed on the islands are bicycles, electric vehicles, and horse-drawn carriages. Taking a horse-drawn carriage ride is a great way to explore the islands at a leisurely pace. The carriages can be found near the ferry terminals and can take you on a tour of the island’s main sights.
Enjoy Local Cuisine
Finally, make sure to indulge in the local cuisine while on the islands. There are several restaurants on the islands that serve delicious seafood and traditional Turkish dishes. Some of the must-try dishes include fish and meze, grilled octopus, and Turkish coffee. Don’t forget to try the island’s famous marzipan, a sweet almond-based treat that is a local specialty.
Visit the Heybeliada Naval High School
Heybeliada is the third largest of the Princes’ Islands and is known for its naval history. One of the must-visit attractions on Heybeliada is the Naval High School. The school was founded in 1773 and is one of the oldest military schools in the world. The campus is located on a hill and has stunning views of the sea and the surrounding islands. Visitors are allowed to tour the campus and learn about the history of the school.
Explore the Island’s Beaches
Heybeliada has several beaches that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing. One of the most popular beaches on the island is the Halki Beach, which has crystal clear water and stunning views of the sea. The beach is located on the eastern side of the island and can be reached by taking a short hike from the town center.
Enjoy a Seafood Feast
Heybeliada is famous for its seafood. There are several seafood restaurants on the island that serve fresh fish and other seafood dishes. Make sure to try the island’s famous fish soup and grilled fish, which are both local specialties.
Attend the Heybeliada Festival
If you happen to visit the island during the summer, make sure to attend the Heybeliada Festival. The festival is a celebration of the island’s culture and history and includes music, dance, and other cultural events. The festival is held in July and August and is a great way to experience the island’s vibrant culture.
Visit The Ismet Inönü House
The Ismet Inönü House is a historic building located on the southern side of the island. It was the former home of Ismet Inönü, a prominent Turkish statesman who served as the country’s second president. The building has been converted into a museum and has exhibits on Inönü’s life and achievements.
The Greek Orphanage is a historic building located on the eastern side of the island. It was originally built as an orphanage for Greek children, but it was later used as a military hospital during World War I. The building is now abandoned, but it is still an impressive sight and a reminder of the island’s multicultural past.
Explore the Island by Bike or Foot
Heybeliada is a relatively small island, which makes it a perfect destination for exploring on foot or by bike. You can rent a bike on the island or simply walk around and discover the island’s hidden corners and charming streets. Don’t miss out on visiting the island’s historic sites, such as the Heybeliada Naval High School and the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Halki.
Visit Heybeliada Sanatorium
Heybeliada Sanatorium is a historic building located on the northern side of the island. It was originally built as a military hospital in the 19th century and later converted into a sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis. The building is now abandoned, but it is still an impressive sight and a reminder of the island’s past.
Experience the Island’s Nightlife
Heybeliada is a great place to experience Istanbul’s nightlife away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The island has several bars and cafes that are perfect for a night out. Don’t miss out on trying the island’s famous rakı, a traditional Turkish anise-flavored alcoholic drink that is often served with meze.
Go to the Beach in Kınalıada
Kınalıada is the smallest of the Princes’ Islands, but it still has its fair share of attractions. One of the most popular activities on the island is going to the beach. There are several beaches on the island, including Ayazma Beach and Nakibey Beach, both of which are popular with locals and visitors alike.
Enjoy the View from the Cinar, Tesvikiye and Hristo Hills
Kınalıada is known for its beautiful hills and panoramic views. Three hills, Cinar, Tesvikiye, and Hristo, are particularly popular for their breathtaking views of the sea and the surrounding islands. You can hike up to these hills for a scenic view or simply sit back and relax at one of the cafes or restaurants in the area.
See the Churches of Kınalıada
Kınalıada has several churches that are worth visiting. One of the most famous is the St. Stephen Church, which was built in the 19th century and is still an active place of worship. The church is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful frescoes.
Sedef Island is a small, uninhabited island located near Büyükada. The island is known for its crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches, and it’s a popular destination for day trips from Istanbul. You can take a boat tour to the island and spend the day swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the island’s natural beauty.
Where to Stay on the Princes’ Islands: Best Hotels
There are several hotels and guesthouses on the Princes’ Islands that cater to different budgets and preferences. Some of the best options include:
- Splendid Palace Hotel: a luxurious hotel located on Büyükada with a pool, spa, and stunning sea views.
- Buyukada Cankaya Hotel: a historic hotel located in a beautiful mansion on Büyükada. The hotel has a garden, terrace, and sea views.
- Ada Palas Hotel: a boutique hotel located on Heybeliada with a historic ambiance and beautiful sea views.
- Noya Kosk: a budget-friendly hotel located on Kınalıada with a garden and terrace.
What and Where to Eat and Drink on the Princes’ Islands: Best Restaurants
The Princes’ Islands are known for their seafood and traditional Turkish cuisine. Some of the best restaurants on the islands include:
- Ada Kaprisi: a seafood restaurant located on Büyükada with stunning sea views and delicious seafood dishes.
- Heyamola Ada Restaurant: a restaurant located on Heybeliada with a beautiful garden and delicious Turkish cuisine.
- Akasya Restaurant: a restaurant located on Kınalıada with beautiful sea views and delicious seafood dishes.
- Leb-i Derya: a rooftop bar and restaurant located on Büyükada with stunning sea views and a great selection of drinks and meze.
How to Get to the Princes’ Islands?
The Princes’ Islands are accessible by ferry from Istanbul. There are regular ferry services from several ports in Istanbul, including Kabatas, Kadikoy, and Bostanci. The ferries run daily and the journey takes between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the departure port and the destination island.
Read also: How to Get to Princes Islands from Istanbul and Back: Full Ferries Guide (2023)
In conclusion, the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul offer a unique and charming experience for visitors. From historical landmarks to beautiful beaches, there is something for everyone on these islands. Whether you want to explore the rich history and culture, relax on the beaches, or indulge in the local cuisine, the Princes’ Islands have it all.