While going to the beach might not be your primary reason for visiting the historic city of Istanbul, it’s worth identifying some of the best, particularly if you’re visiting during the heat of summer.
The waters around the city are a great place to find cool respite when the mercury rises between June and September. Locals in the know head for the shores of the Black Sea, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara.
Many beaches are private, often attached to luxury hotels or exclusive clubs. However, Turkey’s public beaches are still the best places to have fun while discovering more about the local culture.
Here are nine of the best beaches in Istanbul.
In August, it can feel like most of Istanbul has made its way to the nearby resort of Büyükçekmece. Sitting on the western, European side of the city, on the Sea of Marmara, its population booms during the high summer season.
Central to its appeal is 15 miles of coastline, backed by a walking path. Behind that some of the area is still fairly rural, although Büyükçekmece itself has grown into a large city, booming with holiday apartments.
The coastal path is dotted with tea gardens, and restaurants, where fish sandwiches are a long tradition. The fish is served in a crusty bread roll with a simple salad, and squeeze of fresh lemon.
You’ll see plenty of local people swimming on Büyükçekmece’s beaches—or at least enjoying the shallower waters—as well as sunbathing.
The crowds will remind you, especially here on the European side of the city, that Turkey is still a secular state, albeit with a majority Muslim population. Bikinis are a common sight, but it’s considered polite to cover up when leaving the beach itself.
One must-see here is the historic Sultan Suleiman Bridge. Built in 1567 across the mouth of Lake Büyükçekmece, it spans three islets with four arched stone sections.
The bridge is now the centerpiece of a culture park, which holds a museum, and an amphitheater for shows. Several tea houses on the site specialize in various Turkish regional cuisines.
Read: What to Eat in Istanbul
Yeşilköy Çiroz Beach
Another Sea of Marmara resort, only 45 mins from Istanbul, Yeşilköy Çiroz has a sandy beach split into two bays. The main swimming area is delineated by buoys, well protected by lifeguards on towers, with a rescue boat for back-up.
However, being this close to the busy Bosphorus, a commercial waterway, makes many visitors wary of spending time in the water, and sunbathing is a more popular way to enjoy the sunshine. The more active play beach volleyball or soccer on the sands.
The spectacular sunsets in high season are celebrated with live music. There are also some pretty gardens to walk in or to explore by hiring electric bikes or scooters.
A busy marina is one of the focal points on the walking and cycling paths along the coast. These allow easy access to the nearby town center of upmarket Yeşilköy itself.
Yeşilköy means “Green Village”, and the tree-lined streets here maintain that idyllic image, despite the nearby presence of Atatürk International Airport. There are plenty of upscale shops, and restaurants with outside terraces from which to enjoy the passing show.
Sights to visit include the ornate Greek Orthodox Haghia Stefanos Church, which dates to 1845. The town was originally settled by Greek fishermen, when it was named Ayastefanos after Saint Stephan.
Büyükada, Princes’ Islands
The nine tranquil, car-free Princes’ Islands lie in the Sea of Marmara, some 15 miles to the southeast of the Bosphorus. These wooded islands, the former residence of the city’s elite and a popular day out with locals, are the perfect contrast to the bustle of the city.
The beaches are lovely, too, and the sea is clean. Weekdays are the best time to visit, as the islands are busy on weekends.
Take the ferry to Büyükada, the largest island, and rent a bicycle or electric car, a recent replacement from the horse-drawn carriages that once transported visitors around.
There’s plenty to see, from elegant, Victorian-era mansions to Trotsky’s former villa, and bougainvillea-tumbled stone streets around the town center.
Stroll through two nature parks, breathing in the scent of the pine trees, then head for one of the many beaches that encircle the island.
Yorukali and Naki Bey are two of the most popular, but there’s plenty of choice, from swish private beach clubs to unspoiled wooded coves with narrow strips of golden sand. Stop for fresh fish at one of the waterfront restaurants before heading back to the mainland.
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Caddebostan is on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, only a few minutes from the western end of the upmarket Bagdat Caddesi (“Baghdad Avenue”) shopping street. It looks out on the busy ferry routes along the coast, and the picturesque Princes’ Islands.
Three of the best beaches in Istanbul are here, all well protected, although only one is still public. Being the closest beach to central Istanbul, it can be crowded during holidays and weekends.
There are lifeguards, showers, changing facilities, and everything else you might expect in this upmarket neighborhood in Istanbul. The immediate area is very well supplied with excellent restaurants, cafés, and, of course, shopping.
The shallow, child-friendly water here is popular with families. Non-stop Turkish pop music blared out on public speakers at weekends adds to the lively atmosphere.
All the beaches are connected by Caddebostan Dalyan Park, which is a good place to enjoy a shaded, quieter walk. The wide coastal promenade is also well used by walkers, cyclists, and joggers.
The most interesting way to get here is by taking a ferry to Bostancı, on the eastern side of the park. It connects to the ferry terminals of Kabatas on the European side, and Kadikoy on the Asian side.
Read: Best Turkish Souvenirs to Bring Home
Ormanli Plaji is a beautiful, long beach on the Black Sea, about an hour from Istanbul. The final part of the drive takes you on quiet roads, shaded by trees, through the surprisingly green Turkish countryside.
The beach itself is pebbly, which gives way to sand closer to the sea. It’s backed by rolling, sandy hills, again covered in greenery, popular for wild camping, or family picnics.
Some of the hills are high enough to tempt paragliders, who take advantage of winds that also bring kite-boarders to the waters. That wind tends to keep the sea choppy, and the beach shelves off rapidly, so swimming is not very popular.
Most visitors tend to enjoy a picnic, or sunbathe with a hired lounger, and parasol. If you want to try paragliding, there is also a school for beginners.
In fact, one of the best ways to enjoy a day at the beach might be to sign up with an Istanbul paragliding school. They will pick you up, and drop you back, to the city.
High season also sees a lot of families coming from Istanbul, although the beach is long enough that a short walk will bring you to a more secluded stretch.
Facilities are few, although there is a beach café, and another two restaurants about ten minutes away. The nearest town is Ormanli, a two-mile drive on the road back to Istanbul.
Anadolufeneri is the site of a lighthouse marking the Asian, or Anatolian, side of the Bosphorus. Anadolu is the Turkish name for Anatolia, while Feneri means “lighthouse”.
The lighthouse was built in 1856, during the Crimean War, and is paired with Rumeli Feneri on the European side. Rumeli means “land of the Romans (Byzantines)”.
From the lighthouse, there are great views over the entrance to the Bosphorus shipping channel. The picturesque small mosque beside it dates to around 1800.
The view also takes in part of the soaring Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge across the strait. Opened in 2016, it carries both road and rail traffic, and is one of the world’s highest.
Anadolufeneri beach hugs a small cove below the lighthouse, enjoying the same view eastward towards Europe. It’s pebbly, and still used by local fishermen to haul up their boats.
It’s a quiet beach, but you probably won’t spend much time here after taking a few photos, and cooling down in the shallows. However, it’s a good addition to a sunny day enjoying the Bosphorus views, and the local fish restaurants—all just over an hour from Istanbul.
There is a much bigger, sandy beach a short distance north of the lighthouse. Although it’s very popular with families, the busy Bosphorus shipping channels mean that the water here is not safe for swimming.
Some 25 miles from central Istanbul, on the European side, Kisirkaya sits on the southern shores of the Black Sea. There are several popular beaches along this shoreline, but Kisirkaya is one of the most scenic.
High sand dunes and the choppy waves of the Black Sea make for a photogenic sight. The wind can be pretty blustery here but Kisirkaya is still the perfect place to unwind from the city’s famous, but chaotic energy.
The shallow, sandy bottom may tempt you into the water on hot, calmer days. Be careful, as there are strong currents, so keep an eye out for the lifeguards’ warnings.
Showers and other facilities are a fairly recent addition, and the beach retains its wild aura in many parts. Besides walking, you might be tempted to explore the beach by arranging a ride on one of its popular white horses.
If you are, do remember that walking in the soft sands can be just as hard work for them as it is for you. Your mount will thank you for keeping an eye out for its welfare, especially on very hot days. But there’s something deliciously carefree about riding along the water’s edge on a beautiful horse.
Read: Extraordinary Places to Visit in Istanbul
Ayazma Plajı Şile
Ayazma Plajı is part of Şile beach, which stretches for five miles. Ayazma itself is almost a mile long, and its wide sands are patrolled by dozens of lifeguards in season.
A major project in 2022 saw the addition of a boardwalk, fitness area, and bicycle path. Its other facilities were also updated during this environmentally friendly renovation.
Şile is a small resort town with a population of about 10,000 within the Istanbul metropolitan area. Famed for its beaches, it sits on the Black Sea coast about 90 minutes from the city’s European side.
Besides its beaches, Şile is best known for a very fine cotton cloth. The almost transparent muslin is embroidered locally to make lovely, cool summer shirts, blouses, or head scarves.
Made by hand, it’s washed in the Black Sea, and dried on the salty sands. This process is said to ensure you never sweat while wearing it.
You can put that to the test in high season, when the sands of Ayazma Plajı are packed with city-dwellers escaping the heat of Istanbul. Its popularity means you’re never far from a restaurant, café or ice-cream shop.
A small fee (slightly higher on weekends) has recently been introduced for entry to the beach. However, that includes the cost of a sunbed and sunshade, which are essentials anyway.
Ağva is a small resort sitting where two rivers enter the Black Sea (Ağva means “between the rivers”). Starting in front of the town is Ağva Plajı, lined here with well-organized loungers and sunshades.
Across the western stream is a much longer, wilder stretch of sandy beach, backed by a vast wooded area. Two hours from Istanbul, this natural spot is popular with hikers, and campers, and the whole is a good place to escape the more crowded town beach.
Almost a mile in total length, the beach has plenty of room for sunbathing, picnicking, fishing, and other beach activities. Like most of these southern Black Sea resorts, the waves are usually too choppy to allow safe swimming, although lifeguards are plentiful.
However, the shallow water is ideal for children and for a cooling paddle. Walking the beach in the salty air is reputedly beneficial for rheumatic diseases.
As well as its beachfront, boat or kayak trips on the shady Göksu River are a good way to beat the summer heat. The whole package makes Ağva one of İstanbul’s most popular summer resorts, packing it out in August especially.
The town has a history going back nearly 3,000 years, and has several interesting historic sites, including three mosques. It’s also noted for its fish restaurants.
Has this guide to Istanbul’s best beaches reminded you of this historic city’s many charms? If so, browse our cruises to Istanbul to find the perfect vacation for your next visit.