Things to do in Istanbul – Walk across Galata Bridge
For a nice view of Istanbul take a stroll across the Galata Bridge. The bridge spans the Golden Horn, a naturally protected harbor and inlet of the Bosphorus River, filled with fishing boats, tour boats, and ferries.
The first bridge on or near this site (there were a total of five), known as the New Bridge (Cisr-i Cedid), was built in 1845 at the request of Valide Sultan Bezm-i Âlem. It’s said that for an earlier bridge project on the Golden Horn, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were invited to submit designs. Leonardo submitted his drawing which was never used, and Michelangelo declined the invitation.
The current Galata Bridge, connecting the Old City (former Byzantium) to the south with the New City to the north, was built in 1992.
This rather unattractive, drawbridge is a wide structure with two levels, consisting of six automobile lanes, two tram tracks, and pedestrian walkways.
The upper level is busy with automobile and tram traffic, and lined with fishermen casting into the water below. It’s hard to get a photo of the cityscape without the fishing lines in the shot. Some of these guys do provide a bit of entertainment, as they toss the small fish up into the air for the seagulls.
The lower level is lined with eateries and here you’ll be fighting off the restaurant guys trying to solicit your patronage. You’ll also have a hard time getting a shot of the skyline, since all of those fishing lines from above will show up in your photos.
The docks at the base of the bridge on the south side have several floating kitchens – boats where you can buy freshly grilled fish sandwiches (Balik ekmek).
These seem to be very popular, however, we recommend the sandwiches from Osmanli Balikçisi a few steps away on the lower level of the bridge. To us the fish and salad at Osmanli appeared much more appealing and the dining area was spacious and comfortable. Note: we do not recommend any of the other eating establishments on the bridge.
A walk across Galata Bridge is an interesting way to experience the local color and characters of Istanbul. However, being surrounded by fishermen, shifty shoeshine guys (see Travel Tip below), and the men trying to entice you to dine in their establishment, may make some people feel a bit uneasy. If the thought of this makes you too uncomfortable, skip the walk across the bridge.
Ignore the ‘clumsy’ shoeshine guys whose habit it is to drop their supplies (usually a brush) while walking. They’ve perfected this scam, targeted at western tourists, knowing that we’re likely to inform them that they’ve dropped something. As a gesture of gratitude for this kindness, they’ll offer to shine your shoes, for which they expect payment in cash (not coins). The best way to handle them is to ignore the dropped object and just keep walking.