How do you see more of Istanbul by public transport? Istanbul is truly one of the greatest cities in the world to visit. Steeped in history, culture but also a modern metropolis that is the commercial capital of Turkiye (Turkey). Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Bosphorus, the splendor of the Suleymaniye mosque and the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar and much much more. It is also one of the best cities to navigate by public transport with a vast array of options with some being destinations in themselves. There are also plenty of places where you can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. The city is a feast of all the senses and you will want to come back for more.


Istanbul Transport Map

Note – The map contains the transport lines that would be of interest and due to time constraints not all are included. The Metrobus map is on a separate map.

Weather in Istanbul

temperature monthly rainfall Istanbul Turkey
Monthly average temperature and rainfall in Istanbul
Rainy days Sunshine hours monthly Istanbul
Rainy days and sunny hours in Istanbul
Istanbul, TR
12:26 pm, June 18, 2022
few clouds
Wind: 28 Km/h
Sunrise: 05:31
Sunset: 20:38

Summers can be very hot and dry in Istanbul.  Traveling by ferry and hanging out in the malls are a good option during the midday. There are many other indoor attractions as well to keep cool.  Mornings and late afternoons are usually somewhat cooler so best to plan more walking based activities around these times. The spring and autumn seasons are generally the best for visiting Istanbul and winters can often be cold and damp.


Getting to Istanbul

Istanbul has two international airports which are the busiest in the country. Istanbul International Airport (IIA) is the largest and was opened in 2019. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SGIA) is the second airport located on the Asian side of the city. As of 2021 there are no mass transit connections to either airport. A new M11 metro line is due to be in service connecting to IIA in 2022. In 2023 an extension of the Marmaray suburban line is expected to run to IIA. In the meantime, there is a HAVAİST bus service every 30-40 minutes from Taksim to IIA.

For SGIA an extension of the M4 metro line from Kadıköy is expected to be open in 2022. The best way to get to SGIA prior to the new metro is by Havas Bus which leaves every 90 minutes from Taksim and Kadıköy. There are a number of city buses that also connect with the airport but these, although cheaper, are far more crowded.

Future hub

Istanbul is a major city and transport hub so there are flights to many cities in Europe as well as intercontinental connections. In fact, Turkish Airlines is aiming to challenge the middle eastern carriers as a hub and spoke airline connecting mostly Asia and Europe. This ambition could be noteworthy as most connections between Istanbul and Europe would only require smaller narrowbody jets. This allows for greater flexibility with times and destinations.

For those requiring COVID tests there are good facilities at both airports for both PCR (90 minutes) and Antigen (20 minutes) tests. Always check on the destination country’s COVID entry rules as these can change quickly providing a nasty surprise. At SGIA the facility is located in the floor below the check-in counters.

Covid test centre istanbul airport Turkey antogen PCR
Click on picture for more details on COVID test centre at Istanbul Airport

Istanbul is also a train hub with many long-distance journeys starting from here. The high speed train – Yüksek Hızlı Tren (YHT) – connects the city with the capital Ankara in around four hours. There are no international connections by rail from Istanbul currently.

Travel times by bus to/from Istanbul

DestinationTimeDaily Frequency
Ankara6-7 hours100+
Izmir6.5 - 9.5 hours100+
Bursa3-4 hours100+
Denizli (for Pamukkale)9-12 hours50
Antalya11-14 hours50
Gaziantep16-18 hours60 (mostly nightly)
Nevşehir (for Cappadocia)11-12 hours10 (mostly nightly)
Diyarbakır18-21 hours20
Trabzon16-18 hours

Being the largest city and main commercial centre, Istanbul is well connected with the rest of Turkiye (Turkey) through its extensive bus network. The main bus station (otogar) is connected by the metro M1 line. Some buses stop just outside the station and limited signage can make it confusing getting out. The ticketing offices can be very daunting given the massive number of them and touts calling out destinations. It is advisable to use an online booking system such as

Getting around Istanbul by public transport

It is a challenge to think of another place in the world that has such a diverse range of public transport options to get around the city. There are trams, metros, suburban rail, ferries, a bus rapid transit as well as funicular railways. A comprehensive bus system also operates throughout Istanbul. As almost all attractions can be reached by some form of mass transit, getting around the city is both efficient and often fun.


Click here for chart on mass transit development in Istanbul

You can purchase individual tickets or a group of tickets to travel.  Sometimes queues can be long and are more expensive than using the Istanbulkart. This is the smart card that can be topped up and used on all forms of public transport. Sadly, it can be difficult, although not impossible, to purchase an Istanbulkart. As of 2021 most vending machines at metro stations did not provide one. The writer obtained a card at one of the funicular stations after a few hours visiting many stations and kiosks without success. Ticket machines have menus in English and other languages and can be accessed by clicking on a flag.

Once you obtain your card, please make sure you register your HES code at the following website.

IstanbulKart Istanbul travel
Istanbalkart (serial number erased)
Buy ticket Istanbul turkey
Ticket vending machine

The price of tickets is in Turkish Lira but given the fluctuations in exchange rates the cost of travelling when converting to US dollars or Euro can vary considerably. At the end of 2021 you could get around much of Istanbul for a day and spend only a little more than one Euro equivalent.


The ferries are the most pleasant way of travelling most of the year although they can be busy during weekends and peak times. There are regular sailings between the main ports on both the European and Asian sides and many onward connections with other transport options. The trams can also be a nice way to travel and see the sights on the way with most (but not all) travelling overground. The metro is the fastest way of getting around but much of the system is below ground. Another very interesting mode is by Metrobus which is a successful bus rapid transport system.

Tram Line T1 (Kabataş to Bağcılar)

The line opened in 1992 but with several extensions being added up until 2011. T1 now covers 18.5 kilometres and is the most interesting line in terms of attractions for visitors. Conversely, around half of the line to the west is of little interest. It is the only form of mass transit that travels through the historical centre of Istanbul.

Kabataş – Fındıklı – Tophane stations

The terminal station at Kabataş is important as it connects directly with the ferry port of the same name. This ferry has regular sailings to Kadıköy on the Asian side of the city. Also, it is the main port on the European side that sails to the Prince’s Islands, a very popular getaway archipelago. From Kabataş you can also easily reach Taksim Square using the modern funicular railway. This can be accessed directly from the tram station. Apart from connections there is little else to do in Kabataş.

The tram runs close to the coast but is mostly blocked by port activities and commercial buildings. At Tophane station is a small park and the Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque Complex which was constructed in 1580. It was named after a grand admiral of the Ottoman navy. It was originally was located directly on the sea before significant land reclamation took place. The complex contains a mosque, fountain and hammam (traditional bathhouse).

On the other side of the tram line from the mosque is the Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center which was originally an armory proding canonballs for the Ottoman army from the 13th Century. It has had various uses since then but finally in 1992 is became property of a university and was converted into an arts centre.

Kabataş kabatas tram station Istanbul
Kabataş tram station
Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque Complex
Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center
Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center
Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center

Karaköy station

The next stop is one of the most interesting areas to visit in Istanbul. It has a rich, multicultural history with strong Genoese as well as Ottoman influences. As well as an important harbour it has also served as the commercial district of the city as evidenced by Bankalar Caddesi (Bank Street). Today Karaköy is a popular tourist attraction with the Galata Tower as the main drawcard which is the best surviving structure of Genoese fortifications.

The area has become somewhat trendy in the past two decades since the building of the Museum of Modern Art. Karaköy is a place to watch the world go by at the busy ferry terminals or watch the locals trying to catch fish on Galata Bridge. There are of course a whole host of dining options. It is also a place to grab a cheap simit (bread snack) to keep you going during your walk.

Nearby the tram station is the funicular railway that takes you uphill to Beyoğlu terminal and the beginning of the well know Istikal shopping street as well as Şişhane metro station. It is also highly recommended to walk along the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn. If the weather is too hot or rainy the there is a covered lower level where many (highly priced) restaurants can be found. There are many ferries that can be accessed from this busy harbour area.

Karaköy tram station
Karaköy Galata Bridge karakoy Istanbul Turkey visit
Galata bridge

Eminönü station

 The station is in the district where much of the original city of Byzantium once stood. It is around 15 minutes-walk to the Suleymaniye Mosque, the largest in the city until 2019. The area around Eminönü used to have charm with a relaxing walk along the shore during sunset while devouring a cheap and delicious Balık Ekmek (fish sandwich) from one of the many boats. Sadly, that treat has now been banned and the area has become very busy as an important interchange between ferry, tram and bus services. Delve directly south from the tram stop and you will then find yourself at the beginning of a labyrinth of old streets and busy markets.

One of the most prominent attractions is the Mısır Çarşısı or Spice Bazzar which is second in size to the Grand Bazaar as a covered market. Built in 1660 it was and still to come degree remains the hub of the spice trade in the city. Over time many other types of shops are now located there.

Eminönü eminonu Istanbul visit travel tourism
Eminönü view from bridge
Tram station at Eminönü
Entrance Eminönü Spice Bazaar

Sirkeci station

The next stations run through the heart of the historical area of Istanbul. Take your pick where you wish to alight as they all lead to a treasure of exploration opportunities. They are nestled within countless hotels and hostels in all price categories with many interesting boutique options. Given the number of visitors that stay in these locations there are a wide range of food and drink options serving most budgets. The streets are lively both day and night.

Sirkeci is nearby to the Marmaray (suburban Rail) station of the same name. This line takes you to Söğütlüçeşme station on the Asian side of the city which is the main terminal for the YHT to Ankara. The immediate area is very busy even by Istanbul’s bustling standards.

Gülhane station

is next to a pleasant, walled park of the same name and can provide a bit of respite from the busy streets although the park itself can also get busy at weekends. The station is also a short walk from Topkapi Palace Museum which was built in 1478 and served as the residence and administration of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire until 1853. In 1924 it was converted into a museum although this is limited to a small number of rooms accessible by the public.

Sultanahmet station

The station is the closest to one of the most important tourist attractions in the city the Hagia Sophia mosque.  Built in the 6th Century, this iconic building has gravitated from being a mosque to church based on the religious beliefs of the rulers to a secular museum in 1935. In 2020 the building underwent reversion back to a mosque despite condemnation by UNESCO to which the building has protected status.

Close by the mosque is the Fountain Sultan Ahmed III which is a beautiful rococo style building which was built in 1729 to provide water to passers-by. You will see public drinking taps all over Turkey.

Sultanahmet tram Istanbul
Sultanahmet station
Sultanahmet Fountain of Sultan Ahmed Istanbul visit travel
Fountain Sultan Ahmed III

Çemberlitaş station

Column of Constantine Çemberlitaş tram station Istanbul
Column of Constantine

The route runs along Divan Yolu street, the main road passing along the southern stretch of the line heading west. It is interesting to walk as there are plenty of side streets especially to the north to check out. It is also less touristy than the northern and eastern sections of Fatih district. The highlight of Çemberlitaş station is the Column of Constantine, built in 328 AD. This eye-catching monument was built to dedicate Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine.

Like many structures in Istanbul, the column has had a colorful history with various modifications especially after a number of natural calamities such as a fire and a hurricane. However, it still stands proudly today. Close by is the Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque built at the end of the 15th Century and Çemberlitaş Hamamı (bathhouse), one of Istanbul’s most popular bathing establishments.


Beyazıt (Kapalıçarşı) station

The road then changes name to Yeniçeriler street and the station Beyazıt is the stop for the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) one of the largest covered markets in the world covering over three hectares. It was built in 1461 to stimulate the economy after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. As the Ottoman empire spread to three continents the market became an important entrepot for trade as well as having many caravanserais (roadside inns for travelers).

To the south of the road is an area containing a wide variety of hotels. You can also walk to the southern coast facing the Sea of Mamara although this is not very interesting. A highway and port take up much of the space although it is quieter than its bustling northern counterpart. There are several cheaper but good restaurants located here. Better views can be had from locations further west using the Metrobus.

Also by the station is the Çorlulu Ali Pasha Mosque complex built in the 18th Century. The complex contains some interesting shops in the entrance. It is a fairly peaceful place to spend some time.

Çorlulu Ali Pasha Mosque complex Istanbul visit
Çorlulu Ali Pasha Mosque complex
Grand Bazaar Kapalı Çarşı Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı tram station
Grand Bazaar entrance
Interior of Grand Bazaar

İstanbul Üniversitesi Laleli – Aksaray – Yusufpaşa – Haseki – Fındıkzade stations

There are fewer actual attractions further along the line, but it is still a vibrant area. İstanbul Üniversitesi Laleli is named after the university with around 70,000 students.  The area contains many hotels mostly in the mid-range bracket. Aksaray was a key commercial centre for the Ottoman Empire and the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque was built 1872 to cater for the merchants. Pertevniyal Valide refers to the mother of the sultan at the time who arranged for its construction.

The street widens to a more regular main road and the tram becomes more of a light rail form of transit. A 10-minute walk from Fındıkzade station will take you to Historia shopping mall, a fairly small but very popular gathering place. It is also a short walk from the Aksaray metro line 1 station.

İstanbul Üniversitesi - Laleli station area
Aksaray tram station Istanbul
Aksaray Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque
Fındıkzade Findikzade tram station Istanbul
Fındıkzade tram station

Çapa-Şehremini – Pazartekke – Topkapı – Cevizlibağ stations

The tram continues along the wide Turgut Özal Millet road with the normal assortment of residences and commercial activity. All three stations are a short stride to some of the sections of the Theodosian Walls. These is one of the most interesting but less visited structures in Istanbul. The walls were built in the 5th Century and had a total length of 6.5 kilometres stretching from the Sea of Mamara to the Golden Horn. They only had two breaches during their successful protection of Constantinople from a whole host of invaders for 800 years. These included the Bulgars, the Russians, Slavs, Arabs and the Huns (led by Atilla of course!) before succumbing to the Ottomans. The fortifications are believed to be the largest and sturdiest ever built in ancient or medieval history.

By these stations you can visit two of the gates that were built to allow people to pass across the wall. Just north of Pazartekke is the Topkapı Sur Kapısı (Gate of Romanus) and closer to Topkapı and Cevizlibağ stations is the Yenikapı Mevlevi Lodge (Gate of Rhesios). The area around the wall contains some pleasant park spaces as well as cheap local restaurants and good value hotels.

Pazartekke tram station istanbul
Pazartekke tram station
Theodosian Walls Topkapı Sur Kapısı (Gate of Romanus) Istanbul
Topkapı Sur Kapısı (Gate of Romanus)
Theodosian Walls Istanbul
Part of Theodosian Wall heading north

Merkezefendi to Bağcılar terminal station

The line carries on for 12 more stations and there is very little of interest for travelers. However, the line continues to be overground and so if you are trying to kill some time or escape the heat in summer or cold/rain in winter then the rest of line allows you to see the regular goings on in the city. This is less evident in the touristy areas of the eastern section of the line. So perhaps take the tram to the last stop at Bağcılar and walk a couple of stops before hopping back on for the return journey. Or perhaps a quick (or longer if you are a trader) break at Akıncılar or Güngören stations in the heart of a large wholesale market neighbourhood.

Metro Line M2 - (Hacıosman- Yenikapı)


The M2 line opened in 1999 which, after some extensions, now has a total of 16 stations.  Almost the whole of the line is underground apart from an overland crossing of a bridge.  It has a length of 23.5 kilometres and is the busiest line of the Istanbul Metro system as it connects with the central business district of the city along Buyukdere Avenue.  However, for a leisure visitor it also has a number of stations that link up to some must-visit attractions in the city.

Hacıosman – Darüşşafaka – Atatürk Oto Sanayi – İtü Ayazağa stations

The first two stations of the line at the north link with entrances to Atatürk Kent Ormanı (Atatürk City Forest). Originally named Hacıosman Grove, it was reopened in 2020. The park is more than 1,000 acres in area and is a great way to escape from the hectic city.

Atatürk Oto Sanayi serves an industrial estate of the same name. İtü Ayazağa  is the main station for Istanbul Technical University, one of the most prominent educational institutions in Turkiye and also one of the oldest as it was established in 1773. It has over 3,000 international students.

Atatürk Kent Ormanı

Sanayi Mahallesi- (Seyrantepe) – 4. Levent – Levent stations

At Sanayi Mahallesi there is a special shuttle service to Seyrantepe station where TT arena / Nef stadium is located which is home to Galatasaray football club. They are the most successful team in the country and the only Turkish winner of a UEFA cup competition. At 4. Levant station is Istanbul Sapphire a 54-story skyscraper with a shopping centre & observation terrace with a simulated helicopter ride. It was, until 2016, Turkiye’s tallest building. Levent station is situated among three shopping malls namely MetroCity AVM, ÖzdilekPark Istanbul Shopping Mall and Kanyon shopping mall. The area is also one of the main commercial and financial hubs in the city. Levent is the terminal station for the short four-line M6 metro.

Istanbul Sapphire .
ÖzdilekPark Istanbul
MetroCity AVM

Gayrettepe – Şişli/MecidiyeköyOsmanbey stations

The station has connections with the Metrobus and will soon be a key interchange with the upcoming M11 line which goes to the Istanbul Airport. There is a direct link with Zorlu Center which is a mixed-use development containing a luxury orientated mall with over 200 stores as well as the 5-star Raffles hotel, an office building and residence.

The complex also includes Zorlu PSM, the largest performing arts center in the city. The overall development has many aesthetic features including an open plan public square and is generally a nice place to wander around and grab a bite to eat or have a drink.

At Şişli/Mecidiyeköy is the Istanbul Cevahir, a shopping mall with a gross leasable area of 110,000 square metres. The station also connects with the Metrobus and the M7 metro line heading westwards. Osmanbey is along the busy Halaskargazi street heading south to Taksim. It is pleasant to walk along the wide pavement and enjoy the non-touristy hustle and bustle of the city. There are a multitude of enticing places to eat and drink along the way.

Zorlu Centre
Interior Zorlu Centre
Istanbul Cevahir

Taksim station

Taksim Square is one of the main tourist destinations in Istanbul. The area was originally a reservoir serving the city but has now become a key gathering place for outdoor public events. On some occasions it can be the stage for protests which accounts for the heavy police presence at times. In the centre of the square is the Republic Monument built in 1928 to commemorate the founding of the republic five years earlier. Also in the square is Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (Atatürk Cultural Centre) and Taksim Square Mosque. The metro station also contains the stop for the modern funicular railway to Kabataş down below. This is where you can take a ferry or hop on the tram. The nostalgia tram starts in Taksim and runs along İstiklal Caddesi the most popular shopping street in the city. There are many upmarket hotels in the vicinity plus a choice of western style fast food restaurants as well as more authentic Turkish cuisine.
Taksim Square Istanbul Turkey visit travel
Taksim Square
Taksim Nostalgia Tram Istanbul Trkey visit travel tourism
Nostalgia Tram at Taksim

Şişhane – Haliç stations

Şişhane is at the other end of İstiklal Caddesi and is close to the terminal stop of the nostalgia railway from Taksim. Also nearby is the original funicular railway terminal from Karaköy. It forms part of an enjoyable circular trip using various forms of local transport. Being in a key tourist spot there are the usual array of refreshment and dining options as well as mid-scale and budget hotels. A short walk is the Galata Mevlevi Lodge museum which is renowned for its Whirling Dervishes.

Haliç station is located in the middle of the bridge built specifically for the metro.  It is accessible from both sides of the Golden Horn via pedestrian footpaths running in parallel to the line.

Vezneciler  station

Vezneciler station takes you into the heart of the historical Fatih district of Istanbul. This is the closest mass transit to the famous Suleymaniye Mosque, inaugurated in 1557 this was the largest mosque in the city until 2019.  It was built as a tribute to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan in the Ottoman Empire. The mosque is a delightful place to visit with many great views overlooking the city and some excellent Turkish restaurants close by. The mosque is around 750 metres from the station.

Vezneciler is a short walk from the M1 tram stop Laleli – Üniversite and many hotels are located nearby heading west from the station.

Yenikapı station

Yenikapı is the largest mass transit station in Turkiye and terminal stop for the M2. It is named Yenikapı Aktarma Merkezi (Yenikapı Transfer Center) and is a hub that connects the M2 metro line with the M1 line, the Marmaray suburban line and the Metrobus (bus rapid transit).  It is also a short walk from the Yenkapi Ferry Terminal which has services within Istanbul as well as a fast ferry service to the city of Bursa and coastal towns of Bandırma and Yalova.

Although you are likely to pass through if travelling a lot in Istanbul there is little to entice you to exit the station. The historical area of Fatih is around a kilometre away.

Şişhane Istanbul
Road near Şişhane
Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul visit travel
Suleymaniye Mosque
View from Suleymaniye Mosque