If you want to get away from the humdrum of the city for a day or would like to get a sense of what the Black Sea region is like on your visit to Istanbul, take a day trip to Garipçe, Rumelifeneri, and Rumeli Kavağı.
Why Go There?
This is the area where the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea merge, offering fantastic views that you can’t see anywhere else in the city. You don’t have to dress to impress as the area is quite humble and low-key and whatever you eat or buy won’t hurt your budget. You’ll get a chance to mix in with the locals while enjoying lots of calm and quiet, a bit of sea breeze, and high-quality fresh fish. All you need is a car, a few friends, and a few hours to chillax.
When to Go?
Spring and summer are the best times of the year to go as the area tends to be quite windy. You can choose to go early in the morning and have breakfast there, or go later in the day for lunch or dinner.
How to Get There?
We suggest you take the longer but more scenic coastal road starting from Bebek, passing through İstinye, Yeniköy, and Sarıyer. As you head towards Kilyos from Sarıyer, you’ll see signs that direct you towards Rumelifeneri, Rumeli Kavağı, and Garipçe.
Suggested Route: Garipçe – Rumelifeneri – Rumeli Kavağı
If you head out early in the morning, stop by Meşhur Sarıyer Börekçisi in Sarıyer (check out the video here) for a take-away breakfast of börek (a kind of pastry)—we suggest the kıymalı (with meat) for the carnivorous and the şekerli (sprinkled with powdered sugar) for vegetarians. Alternatively, you can have a buffet breakfast when you reach Garipçe.
Populated largely by immigrants from the Black Sea region, Garipçe is a tiny and humble fisherman’s village made up of just a few restaurants. What you find at Garipçe may catch you by surprise as it’s quite extraordinary to reach a much less civilized, cute little village 30 minutes to an hour away (depending on traffic) from the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul. There’s not much to do around the village except for enjoying the wonderful views, the fresh air, and fresh fish. One option is Aydın Balık Restaurant located just by the water’s edge. In fact, you need to watch out for the harsh waves as you can get a bit wet from the spray. Aydın serves a variety of hot appetizers, such as fish soup and calamari, and low-priced, high-quality, fresh fish. Asmaaltı Restaurant is located in what used to be a 130-year-old bakery. Don’t turn up your nose because it doesn’t have a view of the water; it’s soothing garden, covered with leafy trees, is just as revitalizing as sitting by the waterside. In addition to a variety of fresh fish, Asmaaltı also boasts regional Black Sea specialties, such as mıhlama (a dish made with cornmeal, string cheese from the Black Sea region, and butter). Keep in mind that none of the restaurants in Garipçe or Rumelifeneri serve alcohol so if you want rakı or beer to accompany your meal, head instead to one of the restaurants in Rumeli Kavağı.
After your stop in Garipçe, drive to Rumelifeneri and check out the lighthouse. You’ll find three restaurants there: Barınak, Mendirek, and Roke. Although Roke was torn down a while ago, an open-air area is still being used. If you want to wait until you get to Rumeli Kavağı for your meal, just top by Mendirek and have a serving of their famous fried mussels.
If you’re up for some adventure, make a pit stop at the remains of the Rumeli Kavağı castle. You can hike up the walls of the castle, take a good look at the Black Sea, then go inside the walls and try to imagine what went on there in the centuries past. Behind the castle, you can sit by the rocks, listen to the sound of the waves hitting the shore. Hey, you can even assume the lotus position and elevate yourself to a state of “Aum.”
By this time, you should be getting hungry again, as all that fresh air can work up an appetite. At Rumeli Kavağı, you have quite a few options to choose from. One option is Ayder Restaurant set right by the water. The view is fantastic—the sea with a background of mountains. But it’s not just the view or the down-to-earth atmosphere that makes Ayder a great lunch spot. The mezes are all top-notch and the fish is as fresh as it can get. When ordering, ask the waiter what’s in season.
Decorated with fisherman’s nets, hanging turbots, photos of celebrity clients and their thank-you notes, Balıkçı Kahraman is one of the most famous fish restaurants of the area. Even though it doesn’t have a view of the sea, the quality of the fish compensates for the lack of ambiance—especially the turbot is a must try! The other options are İskele Balık Restaurant and Gelişli Balık Restaurant, which both feature beautiful views of the Black Sea along with fresh fish, tasty mezes, and low-key surroundings.
The Final Note
Either follow our suggested route or make up your own combination but definitely spend some time in this area to relax, de-stress, and have some fun.