There’s more to Istanbul than the old quarter’s Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Take just a short walk across the Galata bridge and find another, more modern world.
Don’t be tempted to power walk across the Galeta Bridge. Take your time, slow down, and look around, there’s a whole lot going on along the way. Restaurants line the bridge on a lower level and up top, there are almost always a group of men standing, smoking and fishing.
Once you’re on the other side of the bridge, look to your left and below you’ll see a fish market. If you have the time, head down there, take a look and maybe grab a fish sandwich or some fried anchovies.
At this point you have two choices; walk up to see the Galeta Tower or take the historic Funicular to Istiklal Caddesi.
Look up with your back to the bridge and you can’t miss the Galeta Tower which dates back to the 6th century. You’ll walk up some very picturesque, but steep and winding streets, before you get to the tower’s base. By the time we got there it was late (ok, we were winded) so we didn’t climb the tower for the view.
Another option, instead of walking up the hill, is to take the funicular up to Istiklal Caddessi, Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street. The entrance to the funicular is down by the fish market at Karakoy, so taking it will bypass the Galeta Tower. Built in 1875 by the French, it’s worth it to take once, of only to see the beautiful tile work and ride in the historic underground railway.
Once at the top, head out of the funicular station to your right and you’ll be on Istiklal Caddesi which has historic trolly cars running down the center of the street.
If you have time, take a walk through the picturesque neighborhood of Beyoglu. We stayed in this area and loved it. It’s become the home to artists, actors and young professionals in the past few years and is filled with trendy shops and restaurants. The historic buildings and hilly streets remind me very much of San Francisco.
The Istanbul Modern Museum is well worth a visit if you enjoy modern art. It sits on the waterfront right near the Tophane tram stop. We could see it from our apartment (the tall grey building in the bottom right photo below). My only quibble is the museum does not allow photos at all inside.