There are plenty of places in Istanbul to get a good view, but few give you a full panorama and actually manage to take your breath away. That is until you visit Camlica Hill.
In my travel guide, I explain the allure and practicalities of visiting Çamlıca Hill in Istanbul, including how to access this panoramic vantage point, what to expect in terms of views, historical significance, and modern additions such as the Çamlıca Mosque and Tower.
I also cover dining options, visiting hours, and tips for making the most of your visit while addressing considerations for children and those with disabilities to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience at one of Istanbul’s most scenic locations.
This is one of the highest points in all of Istanbul, located on the Asian side of Istanbul, which gives high hopes for the type of view you’re going to see. Trust me when I say it will literally knock you sideways in the best possible way.
You can see right over the further Anatolian side, over the huge skyscrapers and busy roads. Then, turn the other way, and you can see the sun setting over the Marmara Sea, with huge shipping tankers meandering their way toward the Bosphorus.
Turn again, and you see perhaps the most breathtaking sight – the entire European side in front of you, with a full panoramic view of the Bosphorus Bridge.
This isn’t just a pretty view; it’s a full-on jaw-dropping one.
If you’re keen to snap some pictures of your own, let’s learn more about Camlica Hill and how to visit.
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What Is Camlica Hill
Camlica Hill, also known as Çamlıca Tepesi in Turkish, is a famous hill located in Istanbul, Turkey. It is the highest point in the city. It offers breathtaking panoramic views of the stunning Istanbul skyline, the Bosphorus Strait, Sultanahmet, and iconic landmarks such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia.
Camlica Hill is a popular tourist destination and a favorite spot for locals as well, especially during sunset when the views are absolutely stunning. It also has a spacious park area where people can relax, have picnics, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Additionally, there are cafes, restaurants, and shops located on the hill where you can indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine and get souvenirs to remember your trip.
It’s definitely a place you don’t want to miss if you’re looking to capture the beauty of the city from a unique vantage point.
Visiting Camlica Hill
Camlica Hill is open all year around from 10 am until 9.30 pm. During the winter months, it can get very cold on top of the hill, so remember to wear warm clothes so you don’t end up shivering the entire time.
Personally, I don’t think the time of year matters, as long as you visit on a clear day. The best time of day is late afternoon, so you can see the changing light. That way, you’ll get a daytime view, see the fantastic sunset, and then take photos of Istanbul lit up at night.
There is plenty to do in the area, but 2-3 hours is probably enough. However, there are some great cafes and restaurants on the hill, serving toast, gözleme, pizza, burgers, and even a full Turkish breakfast. The salep, çay, and coffee are also really tasty and not at all like you would expect from an outdoor cafe.
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Things To Do At Camlica Hill
Camlica Hill is all about amazing views – did we mention how it’s the best spot to see Istanbul and the Bosphorus? But there’s a lot more to it than that. Here are some great things to do while you’re visiting.
Camlica Mosque is a short distance away from Camlica Hill itself, but it’s well worth a visit. This is the biggest mosque in the whole of Istanbul and one of the biggest in the country. The exterior is mind-blowing, and the sheer size of it will take your breath away.
You can go inside, but as I mentioned earlier, remember mosque etiquette – after all, Camilica is a working mosque. You can also walk around the outside and enjoy the architecture. It’s free to enter the mosque, but if you want to leave a donation, it will be much appreciated.
Camlica Tower – Offers A Panoramic View Of Istanbul
Camlica Tower is actually a telecommunications tower, but it has an observation deck and restaurants at the top. It’s simply huge and dominates the skyline, even from over on the European side.
The entrance fee to the tower is 375TL, and during the summer months in particular, it’s a good idea to book your tickets online to avoid the queue.
The observation deck will give you a 360-degree panorama, and on a clear day, you can see for miles. Thankfully, an elevator takes you to the top, as the tower is a huge 369 meters high – to give you an idea of scale, Galata Tower is only 63 meters.
At the top, you’ll find the fantastic 360 Kule Restaurant & Café, which serves mouth-watering dishes, both local and international. You will need to reserve a table at this restaurant, regardless of the time of day you want to go. It’s one of the most sought-after restaurants in the city, and it’s always busy.
Take Plenty Of Photos Of The Bosphorus
The number one thing to do at Camlica Hill is take plenty of photos and admire the view. The hill itself is independent of the tower, and you’ll feel like you’re so far away from the busyness of the city. It’s almost silent up there, apart from the sound of the wind and the huge flag rustling in the breeze.
You’ll need plenty of space on your phone to take endless photos, and there are some lookout points where you can have your picture taken with the best view in the background. Some points look over Sariyer, the whole of the European side, including the Bosphorus Bridge, over the Marmara, and toward the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Then, toward the back, you can see over the rest of the Asian side, which is so huge and packed with skyscrapers and large apartment buildings you’ll be quite shocked at its size. It really does give you an idea of the scale of this huge city that’s constantly growing.
I mentioned the cafes and restaurants on the hill itself, and these are worth a visit. They’re all outdoors, and you sit under the trees and enjoy the natural surroundings while enjoying a cold drink.
If you want to enjoy breakfast, you’ll need to arrive before 1 pm, but after that, there are many delicious meals and snacks on offer. If you prefer, you can grab a takeaway coffee and walk around with it in your hand.
The Do’s & Don’ts Of Visiting Camlica Hill
To get the most out of your day out, follow these do’s and don’ts:
- Use public transport or an organized tour rather than driving
- Enjoy the food from the hill itself – it’s surprisingly delicious!
- Book your table at 360 Kule Restaurant & Café as soon as you know you want to go
- Book your tickets for Camlica Tower online ahead of time
- Visit later in the afternoon to appreciate the changing light
- Have plenty of space on your camera for photographs
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Take sunscreen and a hat on hot days and warm clothing in the winter.
- Visit at the weekends or during public holidays as it will be much more crowded
- Move away from the designated pathways as there are some restricted areas around the hill, and the paths are there for your safety
- Try to drive. It’s entirely possible, but it will be more stressful than necessary
- Rush around this attraction! Take your time and enjoy this natural spot. Spending time in Istanbul can be overwhelming to the senses and Camlica Hill allows you to recharge your batteries
The History of Camlica Hill
The history of Camlica Hill dates back to ancient times, with traces of settlement found in the area dating back to the Byzantine period. However, it gained significant importance during the Ottoman period. It was during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid in the mid-19th century that the hill started to be developed as a recreational and leisure area for the royal family.
Sultan Abdulmecid ordered the construction of a pavilion, known as Çadır Pavilion (Tent Pavilion), on the hilltop in 1854. The pavilion was built in the Ottoman-Italian architectural style and served as a summer residence for the royal family. It became a popular destination for picnicking and enjoying the beautiful views of Istanbul.
Over time, Camlica Hill underwent several improvements, including the addition of walking paths, gardens, and the planting of various tree species.
Camlica Hill has become a favorite spot both for locals and tourists to relax, enjoy the serene surroundings, and admire the natural beauty, for sure one of the top attractions in Istanbul.
In recent years, Camlica Hill underwent a major transformation. A new mosque, known as the Çamlıca Mosque, was constructed and opened in 2019. It is one of the largest mosques in Turkey and has become an iconic symbol of Istanbul’s skyline.
This is a must-visit in the area, too, and the sheer size and scale are mind-blowing. You can walk around the outer area and go inside the mosque, but remember to adhere to mosque etiquette by removing shoes, covering your head (if you’re a woman), and dressing modestly.
How To Get To Camlica Hill
Here’s the downside. Getting to Camlica Hill isn’t the easiest of things, but that said, it’s more than worth the effort. The hill is located around 20 minutes by road from Uskudar, so the easiest way to get there is to head to Uskudar (by ferry from the Asian side) and then either get a taxi or bus. If you’re getting the bus, walk over the road from the ferry terminal, and you’ll see a bus station – look for any bus that says ‘Camlica Cami’ or ‘Camlica Tepesi’ on the front.
If the bus takes you to the mosque (Camlica Cami), you’ll need to take a taxi or another bus once you arrive, but it’s only a five-minute journey.
Remember, to take the bus in Istanbul, you’ll need an Istanbul Kart, which you can purchase in any transport hub and add money on it as you go. Then, beep the card as you get on the bus.
The easiest option is to drive yourself, but driving in Istanbul isn’t really recommended unless necessary. The traffic can be ridiculous, and navigating the roads if you’re not sure where you’re going can be a feat. So, other than public transport, your other option is to take a tour, which you can find from vendors in the city or online through sites like Get Your Guide and Viator.
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