The western suburbs of Istanbul are mostly residential areas and range from multi-million villas in Florya on the coast of Marmara Sea to slums of Bağcılar in the north. In general, the districts on the Marmara coast are upscale, while the districts located farther north inland are full of buildings with no respect to building codes, and minimal aesthetic expectations (slum, in short).
These suburbs are the main ports of entry into the city, as the major airport and the main bus station (otogar) of the city are located in this district. Those travelling with their own vehicles also make it through this district first on the way to central Istanbul, when approaching from west.
Istanbul’s primary airport, Atatürk International (IST), is located near Yeşilköy, within this district. For more detailed information about how to get to the city center from the airport, see the respective section of main Istanbul article. While the nearest neighborhood to the airport is Yeşilköy, it is not possible to walk or otherwise easily get to the airport from Yeşilköy, so it is important not to catch a bus or a train with a stop in ‘Yeşilköy’ while in need of getting to the airport. Always look for the dedicated ‘Airport’ (Havaalanı/Havalimanı) stop/station. The instructions on the main Istanbul article are correct, though.
A suburban train (banliyö treni) line connects the coastal part of this district (including Bakırköy and Yeşilköy) with Sirkeci and with numerous other stations located in old city.
Trains from destinations in Europe or European Turkey don’t call at any of the stations located within this district. If you are arriving by a long-distance train, best way to get to these suburbs is to get off the (long-distance) train at Sirkeci station (last station) and then, to catch a suburban train there to your final destination.
After starting in Aksaray and running underground through the old city, southern metro line (M1) leaves the old city in Ulubatlı-Topkapı station and enters the Western Suburbs. It runs towards northwest until the main bus station (otogar) in Esenler, where the line curves towards south to meet the tram line which leaves old city in underground Topkapı station by the city walls. After the tram/metro intersection in Zeytinburnu, the metro line starts running towards west and after passing through a couple of brief underground sections and the stations of Bakırköy (which actually is located 3 km north of downtown Bakırköy), Ataköy, and Yenibosna among others, it eventually reaches its terminus at Atatürk International Airport (station: Havalimanı).
Dolmuşes operate on the following lines, almost 24 hours a day:
As anywhere else in Istanbul, there is a vast number of bus lines connecting this district with the rest of the city. The numbers of most useful lines are as follows:
- 71T Taksim-Ataköy (via Aksaray in old city and a stop a little distance away from downtown Bakırköy)
- 72T Taksim-Yeşilköy (via Aksaray in old city and a stop a little distance away from downtown Bakırköy)
- 81 Eminönü-Yeşilköy (via the avenue located directly on the coast)
- 94A Beyazıt-Bakırköy
Also very long, hybrid buses called Metrobüs which have their right-of-way ply through a route in the middle of the major highway heading west, in the north of Bakırköy. They depart from Mecidiyeköy and cut travel time dramatically.
- 1 Turkuazoo, Forum İstanbul no:3, Kocatepe (inside Forum İstanbul shopping mall; metro: Kartaltepe-Kocatepe station on southern (Aksaray-Airport) metro line), ☎ . M-F 10:00-18:00, Sa-Su 100:00-19:00. A huge aquarium where you walk through transparent tunnels underwater. 25 TL, students: 18 TL.
2 Yeşilköy (formerly known as San Stefano, and Ayastefanos in Turkish, after the Christian saint) is a mostly upscale suburb on the coast of the Sea of Marmara, just south of the Atatürk International Airport (which used to share the name of the suburb previously) and west of Bakırköy. A multicultural village during the Ottoman period — the legacy of which still lives on in numerous churches of different Christian denominations dotting its streets, all dedicated to St Stephen — and later a seaside resort, it is easy to forget that you are in a metropolis of millions of people while taking a walk in the park along the beach, especially in winter. The historic core of Yeşilköy has numbers of colourful wooden rowhouses with highly decorative exteriors dating back to the turn of the 20th century, especially around the train station (which itself is a pleasant historic building), the main street of the suburb leading from the station towards the coast (İstasyon Caddesi), as well as near the seafront. There also used to be a monument of typically Russian architecture here, to mark the southernmost extent of the Russian occupation during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, but it was blown up after Turkey declared war on Russia during the World War I, with no traces to be seen today (the video record of its demolition is considered to be the first Turkish film; no known copies of this record remain to this day). A few museums are also nearby:
- 3 Aviation Museum (Havacılık Müzesi), Yeşilköy (north of downtown Yeşilköy, close to 'Yeşilköy' station on suburban train line), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. W-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 many samples of Turkish aeronautics history, starting from Ottoman era are among the exhibition. 3.50 TL (there is a further fee of 6 TL to take photos).
A wide selection of restaurants and cafes is available in the centre, around İstasyon Caddesi.
There are various public transport options from the city centre, but surprisingly none from the nearby airport from which a 10-min taxi ride will come in handy.
- Bus: #72T from Taksim and Bakırköy, #81 from Eminönü
- Dolmuş: from Taksim
- Trains from Sirkeci used to be the easiest mode of transportation from the city centre, but the services were stopped due to Marmaray track renovations, and as of 2015 the former railbed in Yeşilköy is devoid of any tracks with no date being set for when the services will resume.
Self-driving travellers will want to note that the traffic can be very congested in Yeşilköy, especially in the evenings, and the parking space is extremely hard to come by.
On a peninsula between the Sea of Marmara and the Lake Büyükçekmece (more like a lagoon, though, with a narrow opening to the sea), Büyükçekmece was once a rural setting, then a quick escape for sea, sun & fun for Istanbulites, and is now practically a suburb on the western fringes of the ever-expanding urban sprawl of Istanbul. If you have a couple hours to spare, the small and well landscaped 4 Kültür Park on the lakefront, which unexpectedly has several historic sights, is quite worth the trip there (you may need to set aside a couple hours more for the transport, though, depending on where you start from).
The biggest attraction here is the 636-m long stone bridge, built in the 16th century, the era of Suleiman the Magnicifent. With its four humps and 28 arches, it crosses the channel system between the lake (the main body of which is now behind the dyke to the north of the bridge) and the sea, connecting with three small islands along its way. Make sure you've walked the entire structure, since the lonely western end, adjacent to vacant lots in an industrial zone, is much more atmospheric. The eastwards walk along the bridge is also more attractive, since you will have the view of the tall TV tower on the hill in front of you. In winter, you'll have the bridge almost only to yourself and your footsteps on the lichen covered ancient stones, but, as both sides of the bridge are open water, the wind can be quite strong, so dress appropriately.
Just facing the eastern end of the bridge at the park is a pillbox dating back to the World War II, with its embrasure directly aiming at the bridge. This is a part of a series of military installations along the rolling hills between the Lakes Büyükçekmece and Terkos—which have always been the last major defence line of Istanbul against the potential invaders from the west—collectively named the Çakmak Line, after the then-chief of the general staff. The pillbox is now decorated with colourful bird and fish illustrations on the outside, but the inside is not open to the public.
Further from the bridge is the Lead Inn (Kurşunlu Han; its roof was originally covered with lead), the last caravanserai on the trade route to Istanbul from Europe. It has been renovated and now operates as a cultural centre run by the town council of Büyükçekmece. Check out if there is an exhibition at the time of your visit so you can take a peek inside, especially the stately wooden structure that carries the roof.
Across the narrow alley from the caravanserai is the mosque named after Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, the Ottoman grand-vizier of the 16th century. What is most interesting about the mosque is its streetside minaret, artistically carved out of a single piece of rock. The information sign in front of it says there is another such minaret in Egypt, but does not name which.
On the outer walls of the mosque yard facing the park is a large fountain named after the Sultan Suleiman, which should be providing water to the thirsty travellers that had crossed the bridge.
All over the park is littered by numerous modern sculptures, of including Sinan, the architect of the bridge, mosque, and the caravanserai, Suleiman the Magnicifent, and various Turkish musicians, poets, and folk heroes. There is also a large modern amphitheatre well mingled with the surroundings, where the local summer festival is held, on the lakeside end of the park. On the landside behind the amphitheatre is an old bathhouse, still in operation.
Numerous cafes surround the park, where you can grab a quick snack and drink. A number of fish restaurants can also be found along the channel that links the lake with the sea.
Out of the park, the road leads into the downtown Büyükçekmece, which is not ugly, but also nothing of especial note. Southwest of Büyükçekmece is the former Greek fishermen village of Mimarsinan. While this may sound promising, it is nowadays an untidy collection of low income housing dominated by the cement plant near the western end of the bridge, and, save for a few fish restaurants, a couple of stone-built warehouses, and a renovated wooden house on its back alleys, it has no stories left to tell from the days it was called Kallikratia, so you can simply skip here.
Many buses departing from the stops next to the Yenibosna station of the M1 line (Aksaray-Airport), as well as most minibuses from the terminal station of the Metrobüs BRT system do stop at the highway crossing through Büyükçekmece, from which the Kültür Park is an easy 10-minute walk away. Frequent buses continue on to Silivri in the west, from where you can catch connecting buses to destinations in Thrace.
Have an ice cream in Büyükçekmece coastline from İsmail Şafak.
Have a dinner in Büyükçekmece Albatros Restaurant.
- 1 Galleria, Ataköy (on the coast avenue. 15-20 min walk from Bakırköy), ☎ . The first modern shopping mall of Turkey, opened in the 1980s.
- 2 Carousel, Halit Ziya Uşaklığil Cad. 1, Bakırköy (in downtown Bakırköy), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00-22:00. Shopping mall in Bakırköy.
- 3 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: , e-mail: email@example.com. An outlet center.
- 1 Beyti Restaurant, Orman Sk 8, Florya, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su. One of the best restaurants in Istanbul, favoured by diners thanks to its delicious meat in the 45's at Küçükçekmece, in a pleasant environment, is like a monument of tradition remembered by people at every age. It has an honourable and respectable level on Turkish and international press. 50 - 150 TL per person.
- 2 Yüksel Balık Lokantası, Liman Sk 3, Yeşilköy, ☎ . Great seafood. They can give great advice on what is the best fish for the season and other dishes in general. Around US$50 per person.
Accommodation in this district are mostly upscale and located around the airport.
- 1 Çınar Hotel, Şevketiye Mah. Fener Mevkii, Yeşilköy, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 5-star hotel with indoor and outdoor swimming pools located on the waterfront of Yeşilköy, close to the airport. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms, air-con, balcony, internet connection, safebox, and cable TV.
- 2 Radisson SAS Conference and Airport Hotel, E-5 Karayolu, Sefaköy, ☎ . 5-star hotel located close to the airport. Free airport shuttles are provided.
- 3 Grand Hotel Avcilar, E 5 yanyol no 66, 34320, Avcılar, Istanbul (By publc transport or by car), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Istanbul hotel near Ataturk Airport with 68 delux rooms US$30.
With the closure of relatively central Ataköy caravan park, the only place where you can tow your caravan in the city is now located in Selimpaşa, officially a village until recently, though given that there is no open fields in between it is practically a suburb of the rapidly expanding city. However, it is still a good 40 km away from central parts of the city but fortunately there are 6-lane highways and motorways connecting it to central Istanbul, as well as fairly frequent public buses (though the actual caravan park is located a little away from public bus lines), so transportation won't be a problem.
- Istanbul Mocamp, Selimpaşa (quit the motorway (TEM/E80/O-3) in 'Selimpaşa' exit, and then follow 'Ortaköy' signs; or if on the coastal highway of D100, make the sharp U-turn towards Ortaköy as soon as entering Selimpaşa; after about driving 200 m on the road to Ortaköy, turn right towards Ovayenice immediately in front of those five identical villas; after about driving 4 km on the road to Ovayenice, take the right turn towards Poyraz Çiftliği (there is a sign indicating the road), Mocamp is located 800 m ahead on the left on this road), ☎ , (mobile), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Offers hot and cold water, flush toilets, showers, kitchen, electricity hook-up, laundry, swimming pool, children playground, cafe, and pay phones in a setting with a distant sea view. Adults €4 each, no credit cards accepted.
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.