The Western Suburbs are a collection of Istanbul neighbourhoods, lying west of the Old City walls and sprawling across the Thracian (European) peninsula. They're residential, from rough slums to plush apartments but mostly bland burbs. The Marmara Sea coast has a string of resorts which the city has now engulfed; here and inland is commuter belt. The Black Sea coast has small resorts, lagoons and beaches and is less developed. Inland is rural, scarred here and there by quarries. In 2005 the city boundaries were extended to engulf "Istanbul Province" on both the European and Asian sides, so the "Western Suburbs" and scope of this page now reach 50 km west to the edge of Tekirdağ Province.
These suburbs are the main ports of entry into the city, as the major airport, the main bus station (otogar) and (for the time being) the European mainline railway terminus are all here. By car you cross this district on the way to central Istanbul from Gallipoli, Bulgaria or Greece.
Local transport radiates out from city centre, east-west. There are some north-south links near the centre, but not further out. Travelling between this area and Istanbul airport either means doubling back via the centre, or a taxi ride across the peninsula.
- 1 Istanbul Airport (IST IATA). Istanbul's chief airport, and the main port of entry into Turkey. 30 km northwest of the city in Arnavutköy, on the Europe-side Black Sea coast. It was partly opened in Oct 2018 and fully in April 2019. It has a very wide range of international flights, by Turkish Airlines and other carriers, and domestic flights at least daily to all the major Turkish cities.
The city's former main airport "Atatürk" closed in April 2019. Beware out-of-date road signage, maps, and crooked taxi drivers who will try to take you to what is now a demolition site.
2 Istanbul Halkali is the terminus for overnight trains from Bucharest and Sofia. There are regional trains once a day from the border town of Kapikule via Edirne and one from Uzunköprü. Halkali is also the western terminus of the cross-city Marmaray train. This runs 06:00-23:00 every 15 mins via some three dozen stations, including Sirkeci in the heart of the Old City, under the Bosphorus to Kadıköy, then out east to Pendik (for SAW Airport) and Gebze. A few high speed YHT trains from Ankara terminate here, though most terminate Asia-side in Söğütlüçeşme.
Metro line M1 (red) runs from Aksaray downtown and runs northwest to Esenler bus station. It then divides: one branch goes west towards Kirazli, connecting with T1 (blue) from downtown and M3 north to Başakşehir. The other branch goes south to Zeytinburnu transport interchange via Bakırköy (though the station is 3 km north of that township) and Ataköy. Tramline T1 runs from near Kirazli via Zeytinburnu to Aksaray then Sirkeci in the old city. A crosstown bus runs from Beylikdüzü to the west via Zeytinburnu to Söğütlüçeşme on the Asian side.
Buses from Europe, Thrace and Gallipoli terminate at 3 Esenler bus station (Esenler Otogar). The most useful local bus lines are:
- 71T Taksim-Ataköy (via Aksaray in old city and Bakırköy)
- 72T Taksim-Yeşilköy (via Aksaray in old city and Bakırköy)
- 81 Eminönü-Yeşilköy (via the coast road)
- 94A Beyazıt-Bakırköy
The hybrid bendy Metrobüs runs up the centre strip of the main highway north of Bakırköy. These depart from Mecidiyeköy and cut travel time dramatically.
The main dolmuş routes, which run virtually round the clock, are from Taksim to Bakırköy, Ataköy and Yeşilköy
The IDO fast ferries no longer ply along the Marmara coast.
- 1 Sea Life Istanbul (Turkuazoo), Forum İstanbul no:3, Kocatepe (inside Forum İstanbul shopping mall; metro: Kocatepe), ☏ . M-F 10:00-19:00, Sa Su 10:00-20:00. Aquarium where you walk through transparent tunnels underwater. It's small compared to Istanbul Aquarium in Yeşilköy, an hour will be plenty, and their combi-tickets with Madame Tussauds and Legoland indicate their target audience. Online adult 50 TL, child 39 TL, walk-up prices higher.
- 2 Yeşilköy (formerly San Stefano or Ayastefanos) is a mostly upscale suburb on the coast of the Sea of Marmara, just south of Atatürk Airport. It was a multicultural village during the Ottoman period — the legacy of which still lives on in numerous churches of different Christian denominations dotting its streets — and later a seaside resort. Town centre has colourful wooden houses with highly decorative exteriors from the turn of the 20th century, especially around the railway station (itself a historic building) and the main street leading to it (which has many restaurants and cafes.) The main sights are the aviation museum and Istanbul Aquarium (not related to Sea Life). Get here on the Marmaray. Traffic in Yeşilköy is often congested, and parking very hard to find.
- 3 Aviation Museum (Hava Kuvvetleri Müzesi), Eski Haavalimani Cd, Yeşilköy (just north of Yeşilköy station on Marmaray metro line), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A military-based museum with various warplanes, helicopters, and weapons used by Turkish Air Force, and also civilian air transport and examples of Turkish aeronautics from Ottoman era onward. 8.50 TL, under 18 free.
- 4 Istanbul Akvaryum, Şenlikköy Mahallesi, 34153 Bakırköy (Off coast highway to Halkali, 1 km west of Yeşilköy centre). Daily 10:00-20:00. Much bigger aquarium than Sea Life, with over 1500 species. 3 cafes and large parking lot. Online adult 77 TL.
- Two lagoons indent the Marmara coast west of Yeşilköy. The suburb of Küçükçekmece lies between the "little lagoon" of that name, and Ataturk airport. Its Halkali railway station is the terminus of trains from Sofia and Bucharest. There are lakeside areas for strolling and cycling but you wouldn't make a special trip.
- Büyükçekmece, the "big lagoon" and township, has more to offer. The main attraction is the small circular 5 Kültür Park on the lakefront. Much of its content is modern, including the amphitheatre and sculpture. But behind the amphitheatre are the old baths, and on the park's southeast rim is the caravanserai: Büyükçekmece was traditionally the first overnight stop for caravans trekking west to Europe from Constantinople, or their last stop eastbound. Also known as Kurşunlu Han, the "lead inn" as that's what it was roofed with, it's now a cultural centre: see if there is an exhibition on, and in any case try to peek inside at the architecture supporting the roof. Next to it is Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque, with its kerbside minaret artistically carved out of a single piece of rock, and a large fountain to provide water to the arriving caravans.
- Stretching west from the park is the impressive 16th-century stone bridge, with four humps and 28 arches spanning the channel between lagoon and sea. It's worth walking across the entire (breezy!) span via the three islets to the quiet western end, even though beyond is industrial gap site, with the modern highway roaring to the south. In the park, the pillbox menacing the bridge was part of the "Çakmak Line", the World War II fortifications stretching from here to Terkos which were Istanbul's last line of defence from the west. The pillbox exterior is colourfully decorated but the interior is closed.
- There are lots of cafes around the park, and restaurants along the banks of the lagoon's outlet channel. There's nothing of note in modern downtown Büyükçekmece, which now includes Mimarsinan the settlement west of the channel: coastal ferries call here. Buses and dolmuşes from Taksim in the city centre run along the modern highway, continuing west towards Silivri.
- 6 Çatalca is a small town 40 km west of central Istanbul and 15 km north of Büyükçekmece that had a substantial Greek population until the 1920s transfers. Spared from destruction in the Balkan wars which foreshadowed the Great War, the old quarter has many historic wooden buildings and fountains in leafy squares. A short stretch of the old town walls still stand just north of the centre. The town's main sight is the Population Transfer Museum (Mübadele Müzesi), Bahar Sk 4 (100 m west of town centre). M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. Housed in a red brick neoclassical building erected as a Greek tavern, this museum commemorates the forced population transfer of 1922–26, whereby Greeks living in Turkey were expelled to Greece, while the Turks of Greece were expelled to Turkey.
- 7 İnceğiz Caves (İnceğiz Mağaraları) are actually a Byzantine monastery complex carved into a cliff, set in a lush valley. The site is free, but May-Sept there's a 5 TL toll for cars on the access roads. There's a picnic area, pity about all the trash, and a couple of restaurants nearby. Minibuses run from Çatalca to İnceğiz village 1 km north of the monastery.
- There's a string of small resorts and beaches along the Black Sea coast. Those furthest east, Rumelifeneri and Kilyos, are described under Istanbul/Bosphorus. These continue west along the coast to Arnavutköy. This formerly quiet area (not to be confused with the downtown district of the same name) now hosts Istanbul's new airport, so it's likely to become rapidly industrialised.
- The Anastasian Wall (Anastasius Suru, Ἀναστάσειον Τεῖχος) was a defensive wall built in the 5th century to protect Constantinople from barbarian attack from the west. It ran for 56 km from Evcik on the Black Sea coast right across the Thracian peninsula to Silivri on the Marmara coast. Unlike the better-known Hadrian's Wall in England, it was neither well-constructed nor well-garrisoned, so the barbarians gleefully overran it, and it was abandoned in the 7th century. Much of the stone was looted or recycled for later buildings, and little remains of its southern half. The northern half has lasted better, with little forts and substantial masonry, such as the section leading to 8 Evcik beach (signposted "Evcik Plaji").
- 9 Yalıköy (formerly Podima) is the most interesting of the resorts along this part of the coast. The beach has multi-coloured stones much used as garden mosaics in the city. (Modern quarries nearby still extract these for the Turkish glass industry.) The town has restaurants and accommodation, and bus #404 runs here from Çatalca.
- 10 Çilingoz Nature Park has a sandy beach backed by forest where a creek runs out. 12 TL/car daily use, 23 TL/car night stays, camping available April-Sept. This is as far as you can go in a standard car. With 4WD you can lurch and jolt further west along the forest dirt roads to 11 Pirate Cove (Korsan Koyu), a small and very isolated beach surrounded by rock cliffs, and the relatively developed beach at 12 Kastro. The village of 13 Binkılıç has accommodation and old wooden houses: Bus #402 runs here from Çatalca. Past Binkılıç, the highway eventually reaches Saray in the neighbouring province of Tekirdağ.
- 14 Silivri is a resort on the Marmara coast. It's the westernmost part of Istanbul, between Çatalca and the province of Tekirdağ. There are some remnants of the Anastasian wall here, the scrappy ruins of a castle, an ancient cistern, the Piri Paşa Mosque, and Uzunköprü the long aqueduct.
- Swimming and beach activities in the series of little beach resorts, and middle-of-the-forest beaches with no facilities, along the Black Sea coast west of the Bosphorus. Beware of strong currents when swimming anywhere along this coast. The Marmara coast also has resorts which are much more built up.
- Forest hikes and cycling: best areas are in Çilingoz Nature Reserve.
- 1 Yeşilköy (Green Village) Market. Wednesday. Far less chaotic market in the west with about 2,000 stalls to be explored.
- 2 Galleria, Ataköy (on the coast avenue, 15-20 min walk from Bakırköy), ☏ . The first modern shopping mall of Turkey, opened in the 1980s.
- 3 Carousel, Halit Ziya Uşaklığil Cad. 1, Bakırköy (in downtown Bakırköy), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10:00-22:00. Shopping mall in Bakırköy.
- 4 Olivium Outlet Center, Prof. Dr. Muammer Aksoy Cad. 1/1, Zeytinburnu (Bus lines: 93 from Eminönü, 93C from Beyazıt, 93M from Mecidiyeköy, 93T from Taksim; get off at the 'Adliye' stop), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. An outlet center.
These are mostly near the transport hubs, set back from the beach front.
There's a string of places around the harbour/marina of all the resorts along the Marmara coast. The main concentrations are in Yeşilköy/Bakırköy south of the old airport, Büyükçekmece both sides of the lagoon, and away west to Silivri.
- 1 Beyti, Orman Sk 8, Florya (300 m north of Florya metro station (no trains)), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 11:30-23:00. Expensive and a bit of a way out, but its meat dishes draw consistently admiring reviews. 50 - 150 TL per person.
- 2 Yüksel Balık Lokantası, Liman Sk 3, Yeşilköy (Just west of ferry pier), ☏ . Daily 08:00-00:00. Steep prices but great seafood. They'll advise on what is the best fish for the season and other dishes. US$50 per person.
You're never far from a beer in all the conurbations of this district.
Hotels in this district are mostly upmarket.
- 1 Çınar Hotel, Şevketiye Mah. Fener Mevkii, Yeşilköy, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-star hotel with indoor and outdoor swimming pools located on the waterfront of Yeşilköy. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms, air-con, balcony, internet connection, safebox, and cable TV. B&B doubles from €70.
- 2 Radisson Blu Airport Hotel, E-5 Karayolu, Sefaköy, ☏ . 5-star hotel B&B doubles from €50.
- 3 Grand Hotel Avcilar, E 5 yanyol no 66, 34320, Avcılar (By public transport or by car), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Istanbul hotel with 68 deluxe rooms. B&B doubles from €30.
There are some sections of waterfront park between Bakırköy and old city walls, where you may feel uncomfortable due to the homeless people and inhalant abusers—best avoided at night.
- Bus and train termini for long-distance destinations to the west are all in this district.
- Regional transport runs into Eastern Thrace, notably Saray, Vize, and Kıyıköy on the Black Sea, and Lake Terkos.
- Tekirdağ is the provincial capital to the west, a pleasant coastal town noted for its meatballs and raki.
- By car, continue west of Tekirdağ to Keşan, then either carry on west to the Greek border, or turn south down the Gallipoli peninsula.
- The beautiful city of Edirne is a former Ottoman capital near the Bulgarian border.