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Istanbul: Taking a Ferry to Asia! / Ciya Sofrasi Restaurant Review

Istanbul: Taking a Ferry to Asia! / Ciya Sofrasi Restaurant Review

by jeffreySeptember 4, 2014
This entry is part [part not set] of 13 in the series Turkey/Portugal

While most of the touristy parts of Istanbul are on the European side, no trip to the ancient bi-continental city would be complete without popping over to Asia. Part of our journey was curiosity, part was for a “been there, done that” sense of accomplishment but, mostly, we went to sample a restaurant that we heard great things about, Çiya Sofrası.

Trying to figure out how to get there, we had a few options:  either a standard passenger ferry or a tourist boat. We didn’t necessarily have to take the full-on tourist-only tour of the Bosphorus and, after a bit of research, figured that our best bet was just to take the ferry that the locals take across the famous strait. For some reference, here’s one of the less expensive tour options, operated by the main ferry company:


The “Full Bosphorus Cruise” lasts appx 8 hours and costs 25 TL (~$11.64) roundtrip, the “Short Circle Cruise” takes 2 hours and costs just 10 TL (~$4.66)

Put this head-to-head against the do-it-yourself option of just taking a ferry with the locals for 3 TL (~$1.40) one-way and it’s quite a tempting option. Plus, if you take the “Short Circle Cruise,” it never actually drops you off on the Asian side to explore, it’s mainly just a 2 hour boat ride. You can use Şehir Hatları, the Istanbul ferry company’s direct website for the most current information: http://sehirhatlari.com.tr/en.

In addition to the official ferry company, there are many other tours that you could take ranging in price from ~$58 USD for a 3 hours morning cruise (Bosphorus Tour) to ~$454 USD for a private yacht rental that accommodates up to 12 (Zoe Yacht). You might be able to see why we were all over the ~$1.40 option.

We hopped the tram a few stops down to the pier where the ferries depart for all regions of Istanbul. Our destination was just across the Bosphorus, called Kadıköy. Since we knew we wanted to check out the restaurant, we figured that a quick hop over from the Eminönü terminal to the Kadikoy terminal (nearest to the restaurant) made the most sense. The short 15 min ride landed us in Asia for the first time on our trip. There is only one bridge for cars between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, but it is pretty far north in the city so passenger ferries (and a few car ferries, too) make up the difference.

Eminönü to Kadikoy

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We were staying in Sultanahmet-Old City, so the walk to Eminönü terminal was quite an easy one, as it is very close to all of the major sites.

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You can easily buy a ferry ticket at the stations




After a quick ~15 minute ride across the Bosphorus, we made it to Kadıköy.

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Our immediate impression of the eastern bank was that there were far less obvious tourists walking around. Both good and bad; it just means we stick out a little more (and by “we” I mean just me since McCown had already been asked if she is from Turkey and I’ve been accused of being German at least once).

Getting tired of all the seemingly same restaurants in the touristy area, we wanted to hunt down some good, fresh local cuisine.

Çiya Sofrası Restaurant

Just like the diversity of people, the food is a clash between Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For example:  lamb soup with mint leaves and dumplings. But the predominant cooking style is definitely more Mediterranean than anything–hummus, stuffed grape leaves and a kind of taziki yogurt sauce are offered at nearly all restaurants.


They’re set up with a salad bar of sorts that is a pay-by-weight system, we didn’t waste any time and dove right in.


A few of the dishes had a cayenne pepper-fueled kick to them


Lots of fresh Mediterranean options


The rest of the menu is a la carte; this is where you’ll order the hot dishes. We starting ordering away and were not disappointed.

SIS BEREK (NIZIP (G. ANTEP): 12 TL: Dough, ground beef, walnut, chickpeas, mint, strained yogurt. They called it a Ravioli, more like a soupy dish with dumplings. Great mint flavor. Great broth, probably more of the eastern Europe dumpling meets mediterranean flavors of mint, chickpeas etc.

SIS BEREK (NIZIP (G. ANTEP): 12 TL, Dough, ground beef, walnut, chickpeas, mint, strained yogurt. They called it a ravioli but it’s more like a soupy dish with dumplings. With a great mint flavor and great broth, I’d say it’s more of the eastern European dumpling meets Mediterranean flavors of mint, chickpeas, etc.

STUFFED VEGETABLES (NIZIP): 12 TL: Eggplant, pepper, ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, pepper, spices and mint. Eggplant and pepper stuffed with ground beef rice etc.  Lots of flavor in the rice/meat stuffing. Good but a little cold.

STUFFED VEGETABLES (NIZIP): 12 TL, Eggplant, pepper, ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, pepper, spices and mint. Basically, eggplant and pepper stuffed with ground beef, rice, etc. There was plenty of flavor in the rice/meat stuffing and overall it was good, albeit a little cold.

KEREBIC (DOGU AKDENIZ): 4 TL: Flour, coven root, pistachio, semolina. Hard, densely packed pistachio in middle.

KEREBIC (DOGU AKDENIZ): 4 TL, Flour, coven root, pistachio, semolina. A pretty dry pastry made with hard, densely packed pistachio in middle and served atop a light cream. This was right up my alley, not too sweet but still considered a dessert.

SOBIYET (G.ANTEP): 8 TL A kind of baklava. Pistachio style baklava. Super fresh compared to a traditional. Not as flaky. But still super sweet with the thick sugary syrup all over it. Washed it down with Oregano tea. Didn't know you'd ever want to steep oregano. Tastes like you'd imagine. A little bitter.

SOBIYET (G.ANTEP): 8 TL, A kind of pistachio-style baklava. Super fresh compared to the traditional style. It was not as flaky but still super sweet with the thick sugary syrup all over it. Washed it down with Oregano tea. I didn’t know you’d ever want to steep oregano? The tea tastes like you’d imagine: a little bitter.

The people have all been exceedingly friendly here, similar to what we experienced in the small island town on Mykonos (Greek isle). For example, when we couldn’t find this restaurant, we stopped to ask for directions in a small B&B style hotel and the owner sent the bell boy to lead us down the street for a few minutes to the front door of the place–not bad for hospitality!

Ferry Haydarpaşa Gari to Eminönü

The return trip was a bit longer. Not wanting to double back to the Kadıköy station, we explored a bit to the north and took the return ferry from Haydarpaşa:


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After making it back to Europe, we set off immediately for the ‘Mısır Çarşısı’ — the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. It’s a covered market selling anything and everything for locals and tourists alike. The biggest item they offer (which is likely exclusively for tourists) is spices, which is sort of what the place is known for. Although we didn’t purchase anything, it was well worth the trip– the spice market is one of the must-sees in Istanbul because not too much has changed from the old days.

BOTTOM LINE: No trip to Istanbul is complete without taking the iconic “ferry to Asia.” In our opinion your best bet is using the official passenger ferry company, Şehir Hatları which will give you a 2 hour cruise with amazing view of the city for under $5.

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