Facing old Istanbul across the straits, Üsküdar, once known as Scutari, was romanticised in the paintings of John Frederick Lewis, reproduced in the cover story in Cornucopia 45. His painting of A Kibab Shop exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858, ‘encapsulate the fascination that the “exotic east” held for the west,’ wrote Briony Llewellyn in the accompanying text. No less romantic in history are the formidable-looking Selimiye Barracks, where Florence Nightingale attended the wounded during the Crimean War. Today the Turkish army continues its military use.
The old quarter of Üsküdar lies beside the busy waterfront where ferries ply back and forth across the Bosphorus. Üsküdar’s famous meydan has been a bit of a mess for the past few years thanks to the new metro works that one day will see the Maramary trains from the city centre emerging from beneath the waves. Among the architectural treasures is Sinan’s Mihrimah Sultan Camii of 1547, built for Suleyman’s daughter, and, up the hill, the beautifully tiled Çinili Cami. Just to the south of the centre is the Salacak district, where the cafe-lined seafront promenade is popular for its sweeping views of old Istanbul opposite. Just off the coast is Kız Kulesi, Maiden’s Tower, an island lighthouse that has been a marker to shipping since Byzantine times and now has an upmarket restaurant.
By boat from Eminönü, Kabataş or Beşiktaş is best, unless you want an excuse to take the First Bosphorus Bridge. Two of the best mosques are on the meydan, the Atik Valide Sultan Mosque is up the hill. A taxi would be in order.
Dolmuşes and buses hurtle up and down the Bosphorus. Jump on one for Üsküdar.
Kanaat in Üsküdar for a classic Istanbul lunch. And to Ismet Baba in Kuzguncuk for an old-fashioned meyhane.