Ferry boats connect the European and Asian sides of Istanbul

ISTANBUL: 7 tips to get around

1. Get an Istanbul Card to explore the city

Buy this card from a machine in the metro for 50TL and then top it up with money. It’s valid on the metro, tram, funicular, buses and ferries. Using the card cuts the price of journeys in half.

2. Jump onboard an istanbul ferry

Ferries cross the Bosphorus night and day to keep Istanbul’s 16 million inhabitants moving and keep the European and Asian sides of the city connected. See the minarets of the Golden Horn, and the newly-opened Çamlica Mosque on the Asian side, the biggest in Turkïye. Boats from Kadikoy on the Asian side go to either the Golden Horn or Kabatas, where you can get the funicular up to Taksim square.

3. Wear decent shoes

An obvious tip but still worth mentioning. Built across seven hills, Istanbul’s streets are steep and hazardous. Cobblestones, potholes, uneven pavements and steps, stray cats, fish juice, dusty roads…there’s plenty that could trip you up so wear decent shoes. You’ll need them to climb up the streets of colourful Balat or up to the Galata Tower.

4. Hop on, hop off an istanbul bus

The view from a double decker bus on Istanbul's suspension bridge

If you don’t have long, a hop on, hop off tour covers a lot of ground, or water, and gives you a guided tour of the city. The double-decker bus tour starts at Sultanahmet Square and takes you along the coast past the Golden Horn sites, the port area, Dolmabahce Palace and then across the 165m suspension bridge to Beylerbeyi Palace. There’s a few restaurants along the river-front for lunch. Several companies offer a hop-on, hop-off boat tour but the one we took went from Kabatas all the way up the European side to Emirgan and then back down along the Asian side. It’s a pleasant way to spend an hour or so, learning about Istanbul’s wealthier districts, spotting mini-palaces and watching boats go by. 

5. Look out for Metro exhibitions

The metro, built in 1989, is a quick way to get around. But the stations are also great exhibition spaces. We caught a black and white photography exhibition in Taksim station by Turkish artist Faik Senol. And a 200m long, 4.5m high and 4m wide underground tunnel, Yaklaşım Tüneli Taksim, is being used as a venue from 17 September to 20 November 2022 for Istanbul’s Biennial.

6. Take the tram to see istanbul’s suburbs

There’s only one tramline in Istanbul and curiosity go the better of us so we took it right to the final stop – and back again. A two-hour return journey, it was an interesting way to join the commuters to the suburbs of this extensive city. Not a necessary activity but we wanted to rest our legs and see a different side of Istanbul.

7. Avoid climbing istanbul’s seven hills

Istanbul has a couple of funicular railways to avoid too much hill-climbing. There’s one linking riverside Kabatas, where the tram terminates, to Taksim Square. Another called ‘Tunel’ links the lower district of Karakoy to Beyoglu above. There’s also a cable-car going from Eyüp up to the top of Pierre Loti hill, a good place for a different viewpoint of the city.

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