The historic market is the most colorful place in the district of Kadıköy on the Anatolian side, offering a chance to shop 24/7. With the surrounding social and cultural venues, it attracts everyone from movie buffs to foodies and bookworms.
It was 35 years ago, in Kadıköy market, during the time I started primary school, that I started to realize meals are not only eaten at home but can also be enjoyed on a table outside. After finishing two portions of meatballs with my mother at the historic Tarihî İnegöl Köftecisi, we’d cross the street and treat ourselves to some profiteroles at Hacı Bekir. Regardless of my age, I will always remember those two tables, the delicious menus, and the lively atmosphere of the market.
Even back then, Kadıköy market was one of the most popular spots on the Anatolian side of the city. Blending tradition with novelty, it continues to write a story for a special audience of its own.
Kadıköy market can briefly be described as such: when you stand in front of the Great Post Office and have your back to Beşiktaş Pier, you will see Sarraf Ali Street on the right, Söğütlüçeşme Street on the left, and Moda Street up ahead – the area spanning these streets is the market. According to the numbers given by Ali Geçgel, the president of the Foundation of the Historic Kadıköy market, there are more than 300 business organizations with a sense of the shopkeeping tradition. However, it’s not just a place that can be singled out in architectural plans or maps - we’re also talking about a common spirit. Therefore, one should also consider the nearby theaters, cinemas, and sports halls scattered around the market towards Altıyol, Bahariye Street, and Moda.
Maybe it’s this spirit that helps the local shopkeepers survive despite all hardship. Bookstores, fishermen, antique dealers, delicatessens… Or the secondhand bookstore İmge Sahaf which invites you on a journey with the volumes of old magazines, each page opening up to a different point in time. It’s more like a room that fills you with peace the moment you step inside. As you browse for a vintage stroller on the ever-lively Antikacılar (Antique Dealers) Street, you can come across an original painting by Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu. The bookstore Mephisto, one of the “experienced youths” of the market, is among those that managed to renew themselves while preserving their essence. Another striking example of this transformation would be the movie theater Rexx, which began its journey as Reks, on the upper part of the market.
Of course, the legends have a special place. For instance, Hacı Bekir and Baylan patisseries, standing across from each other like two monuments on Muvakkıthane Street. The same street used to host Kars Pastanesi and Cemilzade, but now, the remaining two are the ones keeping this “sweet competition” alive. Since 1961, Baylan has been sweetening our palates with kup griye (whipped cream, honey, almonds, caramel sauce over vanilla and caramel ice cream) and adisababası (fruit, frozen cream, vanilla, and pistachio parfait), and its garden in the back is still peaceful. Working here for 54 years, Ligor Sistrini says something we will hear in most of the shops in Kadıköy market: “Some of our customers met their spouses here, and now they’re bringing their grandchildren. You cannot find this happiness anywhere else.”
I continue along the same street and stop at the square. There’s an interesting story about the crocodile statue here. Greek historian Strabo talked about “a spring a little further from the sea where small crocodiles live.” It’s believed that the spring he mentions is Kurbağalıdere Stream. Although some believe that the animal Strabo was talking about was a lizard, after the placement of the statue in 2007, the statue of the crocodile managed to carve itself a place as a local symbol.
History and a culture of coexistence are among the defining characteristics of the district’s all-embracing spirit. This is further proved by the religious structures that have been neighbors for 400 years. Osmanağa Mosque serves as the market’s northern gate. When you enter the street by the mosque and walk a little further to the first square, you’ll see the Greek Orthodox Church of Ayia Efimia. The other square hosts the Armenian Church of Surp Takavor, originally opened as Surp Asdvadzadzin in the 18th century.
I arrive at the junction of Muvakkıthane and Güneşli Bahçe Streets. Some see this as a border between the old and the new. To my right is a series of cafés and restaurants, whose number has strikingly increased in the last 5-6 years, in the direction of Moda. I choose to turn left, towards the fishermen, grocers, and other shopkeepers.
I pass by the sparkling olives of delicatessens, the scent of coffee from Brezilya Kuruyemişçisi, and the colorful spice sellers towards the pickle shop, Özcan Turşuları. Levent Özcan, the fourth-generation manager of the shop, welcomes me with a glass of pickle juice as he does all customers. Özcan believes that the market is where both new local explorers and tourists are introduced to traditional shopping. “Those who don’t know or have forgotten about the tradition of saying thank you after shopping feel happy in this shop.”
Believed to have a very long past, the market is still quite strong nowadays thanks to the shopping culture passed down from one generation to the next. Most of them learned this routine from their parents. There’s a loyal community who shop at Yalçındağ for meat and Pak for liver, or buy some fish and ingredients for a green salad, and treat themselves to some conversation and lahmacun (thin Turkish pizza with spicy meat topping) at Halil before heading home.
Of course, the market is not just about dining. It’s also an ideal place to meet every need – despite the decreasing alternatives – and to spend a satisfying day. After a slightly uphill stroll, you’ll enter Tellalzade Street, resembling a corridor lined with antique dealers and where time seems to fly by. For those with a more modern taste, the design and souvenir shops are scattered among them like small surprises!
Kadıköy is also the home of Fenerbahçe, one of the most popular sports clubs in Turkey. On game nights, the excitement of Fenerbahçe Ülker Stadium, about a kilometer away, is enough to overspill into the neighboring market. The club fans add the colors yellow and navy to the market's idiosyncratic kaleidoscope of colors. The market’s upper street neighbor is Caferağa Sports Hall which hosts exciting basketball matches.
In terms of culture and arts, the market deserves as much attention as the rest of Kadıköy, a district known for its countless alternatives. Bookstores are filled with works reflecting the district’s cultural diversity. The shops in Akmar Passage are like a treasure in terms of books and music. If you’d like to listen to some music, a number of venues on Neşet Ömer Street promise a lively night. Of course, one should not forget about theater which has played a great role in the intellectual history of the district. Kadıköy would not be what it is if it weren’t for Haldun Taner Stage, which calmly watches the market from the seaside, or the private theater halls stretching from here to Süreyya Opera on Bahariye Street.
Time to end our tour around the market! I think I deserve a mille-feuille dessert at Beyaz Fırın. But something’s missing. I find my phone and call my son. How would this tradition stay alive if we don’t pass it down to our children?