Use Public Transportation in Istanbul to Reach Most Places of Interest

Picture of the nostalgic tram in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information, Transportation

Public transportation in Istanbul has improved for the better over the past few years. Most people still take taxis to commute between the various points of interest, but it’s often not the best choice.

In this article I’ll point out the benefits of using public transportation, what the common lines are for tourists, when they operate, and what sightseeing spots they service. You will be amazed.

Public Transportation as the Smart Alternative

It’s an understatement to say that Istanbul traffic is a problem. The latest renovation works of Taksim Square make it even worse. Roads are always heavily used, and gridlocks are common from 07:00 till 10:00 in the morning, and again starting 16:00 until often late in the evening. This makes public transportation a nice alternative.

I will only focus on metro, tramway and funicular systems because buses will be stuck in traffic just like taxis. This is also by no means an overview of every public transportation line Istanbul has to offer, but merely the most interesting ones for tourists.

Please scroll to the bottom of this article for a large map with all the lines and the relevant sightseeing spots at the different stops.

When to Use Public Transportation or a Taxi?

  • physical condition — By default, using public transportation requires you to walk a bit more. Some run underground, so be prepared to take stairs although most such stops have moving staircases. Decide according to your physical condition.
  • fares — The fare to take public transportation is about 2 TL per person per ride. So, let’s take the following example. The cab fare to get from Sultanahmet to Taksim is 11 TL, regardless of the amount of people in the cab. From Sultanahmet to Taksim by public transportation requires you to first take the tramway, followed by a funicular. The trip for one person costs just under 4 TL. So, the latter is a great idea when traveling alone, as a couple or even as a party of three. Yes, even three people during rush hour because you’ll win time and money since the taxi meter also adds small amounts when standing still in traffic.
  • time of the day — Most lines operate between 06:00 and 23:00 (see details below), so outside of these hours you must rely on a taxi which is safer at that time of day anyway.

How to Pay for Public Transportation?

There are basically two ways to pay for the fare: either you get a token (jeton) from the sales booth or vending machines (jetonmatik), or you use the Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart) — an electronic boarding pass. If you use a token you’ll pay 3 TL per ride, with an Istanbul Card you only pay 1,95 TL per ride, and get discounts for every transfer you make. So I strongly suggest you to get an Istanbul Kart.

T1 – Kabataş-Bağcılar Tramway Line

T1 - Kabataş-Bağcılar Tramway Line in Istanbul, Turkey.

T1 – Kabataş-Bağcılar.

This is probably the most important line. This air-conditioned tramway basically connects Sultanahmet with Beyoğlu and Taksim (by funicular). This line has many stops of interest to tourist:

  • Beyazit — Grand Bazaar, Süleymaniye Mosque
  • Sultanahmet — Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, etc.
  • Sirkeci — train station
  • Eminönü — Spice Bazaar, ferry docks
  • Karakoy — connection to Tünel (T), which brings you to the end of Istiklal Caddesi
  • Tophane — Witt Istanbul Hotel (walk up the hill), Istanbul Modern, water pipe (nargile) establishments, cruise ship docks
  • Kabataş — connection to Taksim via funicular (F1), fast ferry or sea bus docks to the Princes’ Islands and Kadıköy, 5 min. walk to Dolmabahçe Palace

First train: 06:00
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every two minutes during rush hour

T – Karaköy-Tünel Funicular

T - Karaköy-Tünel Funicular in Istanbul, Turkey.

T – Karaköy-Tünel.

This is actually the third oldest passenger underground railway system in the world. The look of the trains still reflects this. This funicular takes you in 90 seconds 573 meters uphill to Tünel, at the end of Istiklal Caddesi. From there you can easily reach Galata by walking downhill or have a stroll on Istiklal Caddesi. Alternatively, you could take the nostalgic tramway (NT) until Taksim Square.

First train: 07:00
Last train: 21:00
Frequency: every two minutes

F1 – Taksim-Kabataş Funicular

F1 - Taksim-Kabataş Funicular in Istanbul, Turkey.

F1 – Taksim-Kabataş.

In June 2006 this long anticipated connection between Kabataş and Taksim was taken in use. This modern air conditioned funicular ride takes only 2,5 minutes. From Kabataş you can walk to Dolmahbaçe Palace, take the fast ferry boats to Kadıköy or the Princes’ Islands, and connect to the T1 tramway line to Eminönü, Sultanahmet, Grand Bazaar, etc.

First train: 06:15
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every three minutes during rush hour

M2 – Şişhane-Hacıosman Metro Line

M2 - Şişhane-Hacıosman Metro Line in Istanbul, Turkey.

M2 – Şişhane-Hacıosman.

This line, the first real metro Istanbul had, consists of 12 stops over a 17 kilometer stretch. The metro, daily taken by about 250.000 people, is very safe and clean. The most important stops for tourists are:

  • Taksim — the place itself, Cihangir, Galata, Witt Istanbul Hotel (walk down the hill), connection to Kabataş via funicular (F1) and Eminönü/Sultanahmet via tramway (T1)
  • Osmanbey — a small walk to Nişantaşı, a fashionable shopping area with lots of nice cafés and restaurants
  • Leventshopping centers such as Metrocity, Kanyon, and Akmerkez (additional walk or short taxi ride required)
  • İTÜ Ayazağa — İstinye Park shopping center (additional walk or short taxi ride required)

First train: 06:15
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every four minutes during rush hour

Public Transportation Map for Tourists

Public transportation map for tourists in Istanbul, Turkey.

Public transportation map for tourists in Istanbul, Turkey.

Photo Sources [1] [2]

What's Next

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Immigration Solicitors in Canterbury March 27, 2013 at 4:35 am

Hello there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this website.

Reply

Nanaa March 31, 2013 at 8:21 am

Hi there! This is such an amazing website! It clears so many of my doubt!. Looking forward for my honeymoon in Mid Dec this year! :)

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 1, 2013 at 7:48 am

Hi Nanaa,

Glad to hear this. Thanks for sharing.

Erlend

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Georgia Kourabis May 23, 2013 at 12:56 am

Hi!
Thank you for your website.Answered most of my questions.
My husband and I will be arriving in Istanbul on 12/8 and want to know how to get to
Gokceada on 13/8/13 from Taksim.We know Truva bus goes directly but could not get any further information from ringing them direct or from their website.
Are you able to help?
Thanks
Georgia

Reply

Erlend Geerts May 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Georgia,

I’m not familiar with trips to Gökçeada, but a quick look on their site learned me they indeed have daily trips from Istanbul. However, the pick-up point Otogar, not Taksim.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Jason June 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm

You are a godsend Erlend, and i’m not even religious.

Reply

website June 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I’ve been surfing around online more than nine hrs right now, and after seeing your site. I definitely haven’t encountered any interesting posts such as yours. Honestly, I think that if more bloggers and siteowners generated content like your website, the web would be even more beneficial than it already is.

Reply

Luisa August 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Thanks for your tips! They helped me a lot!

Reply

Ushmita August 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hi Erlend.

Thank you for the very informative website. Most of my questions and concerns were answered here. I am needing a bit of advice. I am due to attend an event at the Istanbul Convention Centre for a period of 4 days. I would like to know: What is the best mode of transportation if we are to travel from Taksim to Harbiye. I would like to buy the Istanbulkart from the airport, and so would need to know if it can be used for any mode of transport ti the ICC. Please advise.

Thanks in advance.

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi Ushmita,

Sure, you can use the Istanbul Kart for that. The convention center is 100 meter from the Harbiye bus stop on the Taksim–Şişli line, and 500 meter from the Osmanbey metro station of the M2 Şişhane Hacıosman line. Actually, Osmanbey is the first stop if you take the metro in Taksim.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Ushmita August 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi again Erlend,

I cannot thank you enough for confirming this. We are 2 single ladies traveling for the first time to Istanbul, and we were worried about how to get around effectively. But your website has really been informative, and gives the new traveler all the relevant information. Have a great weekend.

Reply

Freya August 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hello Erlend,

Your website is very helpful, thanks for taking the time to making it so clear and informative.

I organize study trips for university students in Paris and I have a trip to Istanbul in October for a group of about 12 students and their 2 professors. I have already organized a trip to Istanbul last year (and went on the trip–amazing city!) during which we had hired private mini-buses and used the metro system only once (and it was indeed quicker). This time around, I would like the group to use public transportation when possible to avoid traffic delays and because it is cheaper than private bus hire–however, the token system is not great for a university-sponsored trip as there is no paper receipt for the transaction and it is frankly inconvenient to have to buy tokens for 15 people. So I would like to arrange for the professors to have the Istanbul Cards. Do you know where exactly in the airport one can purchase the Istanbulkart? Is there anyway to buy it from travel agencies abroad?

Thanks very much in advance for your assistance!

Freya

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 24, 2013 at 8:33 am

Hi Freya,

I think you made a wise choice.

You can buy these cards at the airport at the metro floor, which is located under the airport arrival terminal. There are moving staircases to get there.

I don’t know of any agency selling the Istanbul Cards abroad.

Have a nice trip,
Erlend

Reply

Freya September 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Thank you, Erlend! I will tell the professors to get the Istanbul Cards at the airport.

Reply

Lara August 29, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Dear Erlend,
I wish I had discovered your website earlier and I would have saved my family and I some trouble and disappointment. We booked a self catering apartment in Soyak olympiakent because of the facilities for our 10day stay in Istanbul. The last four days were for a conference at the Istanbul convention Center. We found out we were in the middle of nowhere and have paid heavily each time we went to city Center. Please how can we get get to the Istanbul Convention Center easily and less expensive. I am trying to make best of a bad situation now because we have not been enjoying our stay.
Thank you for your prompt response.

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Hi Lara,

Your flat is indeed located a bit far from the city center. Try to ask locals how to get by (mini) bus to the closest T1 Bağcılar-Kabataş tram stop. From there take it all the way to Kabataş. From there you can take a short taxi ride to the convention center, or take the funicular to Taksim square. From there on you can walk, or take the metro for one stop, and walk from there.

Good luck,
Erlend

Reply

Lara September 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Thanks a lot.

Reply

Dr Memon September 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Really amazing site,very informative money and time saving,i really appreciate th people who did this incredible job.THANKYOU& SUPERB.

Reply

J.Herremans September 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

I arrive in Istanbul on a cruise and spend only 5 hours there. I travel on a Belgian passport,do I need a visa and if so can I get it there ?

Thank you

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi,

Yes, you’ll need a tourist visa, which you can obtain at the port customs for a small fee.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Tim October 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Hi Erlend,
Thank you very much for the very informative and interesting wed site. My wife and I are traveling to Istanbul in November, and your column has given me a lot of very useful tips and help.
But, I do have a question. Where can I get a Istanbul Kart for taking the public transport? And how much is it? How does it work?
Looking forward to hearing your advise.
Tim

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 7, 2013 at 7:47 am

Hi Tim,

Here is all there is to know about the Istanbul Kart: http://www.wittistanbul.com/magazine/how-to-get-an-istanbul-kart-and-is-it-worth-it/

I hope this helps,
Erlend

Reply

Ifor November 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Hi,

Great site. Lots if very useful info on Istanbul. My family and I will be visiting Istanbul this X’mas/New Year week and I want to know how to ride the bus/train/tram from this apartment in Avcilar. Its on Gumuspala Mah. Kasap Ahmet Sok #19 Avcilar Istanbul, 34310. ( 9.5 km from ataturk airport.) Is this a safe place to stay at? If you know the area at all? I know its atleast 30 km away and they have a bus stop close to the hotel. Trying to see if its worth the savings to travel 1 hour to the tourist spots. Since we are only there to see the sites and eat the food and maybe a show, we are not really in too much of a hurry that is why we are considering this far apartment /hotel. Thanks in advance for your response.

Ifor

Reply

Erlend Geerts November 13, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Hi Ifor,

If you’re here for tourist/sightseeing purposes, I would strongly recommend to find accommodation much closer to the city center. The commute will make you forget the nice experience you had during the day.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Ime-Abasi January 22, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Hi Erlend,
I really appreciate your write-up on most things in Turkey, i currently was granted visa to visit the UK, which i hope to do in March this year and since i’ll be using the Turkish national flyer (turkish airlines) i’m thinking of dropping by for 3 days in Istanbul and do some shopping, since my country Nigeria is one of the countries listed for the Turkish e-visa category (having a valid UK visa). I’ve been sceptical about this trip for a while now and just happened to come accross your site which has aided me gather so much information that will make my stay less hectic. I have even printed so many of your articles in preparation for this adventure. I would love it if you could advice me on where one could go shopping for quality clothing materials (suits, shirts, jeans) and footwears at the most rock bottom prices, Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Kind Regards
Ime

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 23, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Hi Ime,

Glad to hear that our site made you feel more at ease about your upcoming trip.

As you may have learned from the comments, we unfortunately don’t give info about sales, discounts or shop (or restaurants and bars) price listings.

Have a nice stay,
Erlend

Reply

Juan February 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Just one word: CONGRAULATIONS!
By far the website for tourists going to Istanbul!

Sorry, two words: THANKS! :-)

Juan

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Hi Juan,

Thanks a lot for sharing, this means a lot to us.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

chris February 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Hi..I am going to visit Istanbul next month and i would like to know how to get in Istanbul Cevahir Shopping Center by metro from Taksim Square..Thank you very mutch and your site is amazing and very helpfull..!!! CONGRAULATIONS..!!!

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Hi Chris,

Use the M2 line and get off at the Mecidiyeköy/Şişli stop. Follow direction inside the metro station.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Gezim February 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Hi Erlend. Sorry, I’m gonna bug you one more time my man. I know, it might sound selfish, but the only stupid question is the one not asked, right? . We have a layover of about 20 hours. Decided to stay close to Ataturk (7:30 a.m. departure). Being the kind of person that don’t take it too kindly getting ripped off and being taken for a ride around a foreign city, me and my 16 year old would like to use public transportation from our hotel to Sultanahmet ( Grand Baazar, Blue Mosque area). It would be greatly appreciated if you can find a couple of minutes to tell us how to get there via public transp. ( metro and/ or tram ). The hotel address is : Han Hostel Airport North(descent reviews for a one night stay)
Degirmenbahce Caddesi, Turgut Reis Sokak, No:3, Yenibosna, Bahcelievler, 34197 Istanbul. Thank you so much in advance. Peace.

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi Gezim,

I would take the hotel shuttle or a taxi to the airport. There take the metro in the direction of Zeytinburnu, where you will get off and hop on the tramway in the direction of Eminönü or Kabataş. Get off at the Sultanahmet stop.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Happy Ong February 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

My dad and I will be visiting Istanbul 3rd quarter of this year. Your page is very helpful. As I am the one responsible for the itinerary, this blog gives me insight on how to explore the place efficiently. Thank you!

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 23, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thanks a lot for sharing this.

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Kathryn February 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Hi Erlend,

I am travelling to Istanbul this weekend with my husband. We are thinking of arranging a car and driver to pick us up from the airport. Can you recommend any good companies please?

Also, we’d like to do a walking tour – possibly a foodie walking tour or something other than normal tourist sites. Any recommendations?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Kathryn

p.s. I know it’s been said many times before but your website is great.

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

Hi Kathryn,

Have you seen this article on a Turkish food course I once took? She also organisms food tours. Just follow the link to her website in the article.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Ahmer March 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Hi Erlend,
I am staying in a hotel in Fatih area and I’ll be travelling to Airport to catch my flight at 7 PM on Monday Mar 17. What time you recommend keeping the commute and other traffic around this time for me to leave for airport (Attaturk Intl)?

Due to luggage I cannot avoid Taxi option.

Thanks,
Ahmer

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Hi Ahmer,

You need to be there minimum two hours before your flight. Leave a 16:00 and you should be fine.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Margaret April 7, 2014 at 6:49 am

Hello from down under. I will going to Turkey with my sister next month and was worried about getting around with her as she has very bad lungs from a life time of smoking. You site has put my mind at ease and will will be using the train not expensive taxis. Thank you.

Reply

Maja April 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

Dear Erlend,
This site is really great, offering soooo much information, so thank you in advance for giving answer to some of my questions :)
My name is Maja, I’m from B&H (Bosnia) and company I work for is going to send me together with my co-worker to Istanbul, to visit TOSH EXPO fair. The fair will be hold in Halic Congress Center (5th May-7th May). So my question would be: which is the easiest way of transport to the Congress center? Since, both of us, are first time visiting the Istanbul and Turkey! Unfortunately, we haven’t booked hotel yet, so I just need general information and alternative solutions :) just to avoid being clueless in unknown city!
Thank you and
best regards,
Maja.

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hi Maja,

The Haliç Congress Center is located at the Golden Horn, close to the E5 highway bridge. This is not the city center, but equally far away from Taksim as Sultanahmet.

There are many transportation alternatives, including buses, ferries and of course taxis.

There is lodgement close to the center, in which case you will need transportation in the evening to Taksim let’s say for dinner and nightlife. The problem is that public transportation slows down after 10 pm.

Or you can go the other way around, stay in Beyoglu and use public transportation to reach the congress center, and are closer to the hotel in the evenings.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Corinne Hasdai June 12, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Is it possible to get from Taksim to Etiler by Metro?

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Erlend Geerts June 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

Hi Corinne,

There is not metro to Etiler, but you can get close by taking the metro to Levent and either walk or take a taxi from there.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Susan July 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Hi Erlend,

Very informative. I have one question though would you suggest taking the hop off/hop on bus or better to take trams, ferries or public buses?

Also, how to got from And Hotel to Topkapi :)

Thank you so much.

Regards,
Susan

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Hi Susan,

Just use public transportation. Trams, metros, and ferries don’t get stuck in traffic.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Susan July 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

Thank you Erlend.

Reply

ILDS July 15, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Dear,
My first time visiting Istanbul and travelling alone since my friend travelled earlier than me. Can you please help me the cheapest way by public transport / train of going to Taksim from Atuturk Airport. I will be arriving at 10:30 morning then leaving again at 9:00 pm going to Athens.

Appreciate your cooperation. Thank you so much…

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Hi,

I would take the Havataş Shuttle, easy, cheap, and comfortable

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Marva July 18, 2014 at 3:39 am

Oh my. This is a great resource for me. There will 4 of us traveling together in September. We will be on a cruise. Our ship docks at the Yolcu Salonu (“Passenger Terminal”) in Karakoy. We want to visit the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, the Cistern and the Grand Bazaar. I am really torn on whether to take a taxi or the tram. We will not be there long so want to make sure we make the best use of our time. I did read that if there are any mobility problems at all the taxi is probably the best way. One of our travelers has no trouble walking but needs frequent breaks. What would be your best advice? Thanks so much.

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Marva,

Without any doubt, the tramway. Cheap, no traffic, air conditioned.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Salma July 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hi Erlend,

I can’t thank you enough for all the info you’ve provided here! I’m visiting Istanbul with my mom next week and your website has been more than perfectly helpful with planning of the trip :)

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Hi Salma,

I’m glad I could help. Thanks a lot for the compliments.

Have a nice holiday,
Erlend

Reply

Helen July 31, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Thankyou so much for all this incredibly useful information. It has certainly made my trip here in Istanbul so much easier in terms of using public transport plus the info on the Princes Islands. For your info I am here for a month, a 62 year old australian female.

Reply

uma sundar August 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Dear Erlend,
Thank you for all the useful information. Please tell me the best mode of public transportation to get from Taksim square to Halic congress centre.
Thank you,
Uma

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 16, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Hi Uma,

Please this previous comment on how to reach the Haliç congress center.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Wasan August 20, 2014 at 6:10 am

Hi, I am travelling with my family to Istanbul next week for 7 nights – we will be staying at the Golden Way Hotel in Esenler. We will be spending most of our time in city center – there will be 5 of us travelling and want to limit using the taxi as much as we can – are there good and easy public transport links from our hotel to the center.
I would be very grateful if you can advise me as this is our first visit and I am a bit anxious.

Many thanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 23, 2014 at 1:27 am

Hi Wasan,

You should ask your hotel, since there is a new metro line under construction or already in use from that area. I haven’t been able to check it out myself yet. Do keep in mind though that you’re not close to the city center. Avoid taxis, except for getting to the closest public transportation stop.

Have a nice stay,
Erlend

Reply

Wasan August 24, 2014 at 12:11 am

Hi Erlend

Thanks for your reply, the Metro line near the hotel is working and it’s about a 5 minutes drive away.

Regards
Wasan

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Louis August 27, 2014 at 7:04 am

Hi Erlend

I am going to exchange in Sabanci University from September, and I’ve found a nice apartment near the Tuzla Station (Postal Code 34940), but I don’t know if there is any public transportation between the apartment and Sabanci. Can you help me?

Thanks a lot.

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Hi Louis,

You better ask the university. It’s not uncommon that they have there own shuttles to certain drop off points. If not, they surely can give you more details about current public transportation in the area.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Chetak August 29, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Hi,
Thanks for the information here. Can you please give some information about the ferries? I am traveling next week. I am living in Uskudar near the Bosphorus. What would be the best way to get into the city? Are there any metros that run across the sea?

Many thanks.

Regards,
Chetak

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 29, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Hi Chetak,

You could use the Marmara railway, a train/metro under the Bosphorus. You can catch it in Üsküdar and the next stop is Sirkeci/Eminönü. There you can hop on the tramway to Sultanahmet or Kabataş / Beyoglu.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

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