During hot summer months, Istanbul – one of Europe’s highest populated cities – can feel sweltering. Luckily, it’s a city built around the swelling Bosporous, and you’re never far from a beach. Whether it’s a retreat on the dazzling Black Sea or a quiet Mediterranean port, here’s our list of the best spots to cool down.
Best for An escape from Istanbul city blare – motorised vehicles are banned on all nine islands. Enjoy instead the charming creak and clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages, one of the chief modes of transport.
Who goes Cyclists searching for beautiful coast-hugging trails, and yachters eager for a day on azure, crystalline waters.
Don’t miss The Victorian-style villas that recall its days as a playground for wealthy vacationers from the city.
Do try Top off a day of sightseeing by relaxing underneath the leafy canopy at Secret Garden Restaurant on Büyükada, the largest of the islands. The glow of its fairy lights and the fountain’s twinkling lilt are sure to enhance your scrumptious supper.
Getting there Less than an hour by sea bus from Kabataş or Bostanci. Around an hour and a half by ferry.
Best for A family picnic on soft, springy grass by the sand, or a couple of nights camping beneath a star-filled sky.
Who goes Families looking for peace, quality time and enough space in the secluded cove for kids to enjoy summer to the fullest.
Don’t miss Free all-day rides to a pontoon in the middle of the cove, where you can spread out a large towel and drink up the sun, or jump to your heart’s content and splash around in the turquoise waves.
Do try Fresh fish and seafood offered daily at the Uzunya Beach Club’s restaurant. The laidback vibe provides the perfect place for lounging and basking in post-sun sluggishness.
Getting there An hour’s drive from the centre of Istanbul.
Best for Exploring a quaint Turkish town and ancient landmarks on the cliffs of northernmost Istanbul.
Who goes Experienced swimmers and day-trippers on the lookout for a pristine picnic spot: white-sand beach, rocky harbour, or a café in the historic village.
Don’t miss The largest lighthouse in Turkey, dating back to 1860. During the Crimean War, it guided ships to Istanbul’s coast, and today it is open to the public.
Do try The wine selection at Iyot Restaurant, to accompany a tasty dinner overlooking the bay and the harbour’s 14th-century castle, silhouetted against the horizon like an old, weatherworn sentry. And pick up some Şile cotton – the area is famous for it.
Getting there Take a bus from Harem via Üsküdar, or drive a little over an hour.
Best for A day of salty and sandy activity, from windsurfing and kite boarding to catamaran sailing and beach volleyball, among a thousand vibrant umbrellas.
Who goes Sun-soaked sports lovers and students relishing their summer freedom by taking advantage of the beach’s university discounts.
Don’t miss A pristine view of the sun setting over the Black Sea, its rays highlighting the many colourful kites flitting here and there on the wind.
Do try Mediterranean delights with a stunning seaside view at Mehtap Balık Restaurant – its meze and calamari are especially recommended.
Getting there A 30-minute drive from Istanbul Airport, or an hour by public transport from the city centre.
Best for A longer excursion away from Istanbul’s hustle and bustle, and an early bedtime; let the babble of the two merging rivers lull you to sleep.
Who goes Well-heeled Turks for a weekend getaway, and nature lovers who want to watch darting fish and pick fruit from the banks of the serenely drifting brook.
Don’t miss A guided snorkelling excursion into the deep blue, where you’re sure to spot vivid fish beneath the foamy waves.
Do try Fresh coffee and a delectable breakfast at Park Mandalin Restaurant, on a quaint wooden dock above the river.
Getting there About three hours by car from Istanbul’s centre. It’s also well worth an overnight visit.