Walk across this historic bridge to spot famous Istanbul landmarks and watch the sunset from a bar full of Turkish men contemplating life while sharing a water pipe.
The Galata Bridge is an historic bridge that crosses the Golden Horn inlet, connecting Istanbul’s Old City with the northern districts. Follow the locals who cross between the two districts in droves and pause to spot famous city landmarks and to enjoy a spectacular sunset.
Leonardo da Vinci created the first design for a bridge at this location in 1502; however, it was considered to be too ambitious. The locals had to wait until 1854 for a bridge to connect the Old City with the northern suburbs. The current, fifth version of the Galata Bridge has two levels, spans 1,600 feet (490 meters) and was built in 1994.
Any time of day you can see the locals cross over on foot, by car or in a tram. Watch fishermen cast a line into the water below. Negotiate with street vendors for a good price for a snack or souvenir. Find a space between the fishermen for the unique opportunity to look west toward Europe and east toward Asia.
Walk down to the bridge’s lower level to find teahouses, bars and restaurants. You’ll also find traditional cafés, where you can try the Turkish nargile or hookah. Smoking the water pipe stoked up with aromatic tobacco is an acquired taste, but the local men clearly love it. Take a seat at an outdoor terrace and look out over Istanbul’s seven hills and the Golden Horn. A good time to visit the bridge is at sunset, when the city’s mosques and bazaars are silhouetted against the backdrop of a reddening sky.
Don’t miss the attractions at either end of the bridge. Go to the southern end to shop for spices and nuts, cheeses and meats at the Egyptian Market and to visit the so-called New Mosque, which actually dates back to 1597. At the northern end you’ll find a busy fish market, where you can eat the famous Galata Bridge fish sandwich.
An alternative way to see the bridge is to step aboard one of the passenger ferries that travel between the docks at Eminönü and Karaköy.