The Bosphorus is the embodiment of Istanbul, with its sloping banks dotted with elegant private mansions, palace parks, and centuries-old groves.
From the Black Sea in the north to the Sea of Marmara in the south, this strait is 19 miles (30 kilometers) long.
Istanbul is romantically evocative but somewhat fanciful when described as a city that straddles two continents because of the urban sprawl that spans Europe to the west and Asia to the east.
Technically, it does, but the city also has other waterways besides the Bosphorus. The Golden Horn, or Haliç as it is more commonly known locally, branches off to the northwest just before it reaches the Sea of Marmara. It ultimately dwindles inland dissimilar to the Ocean of Marmara, which prompts the Aegean Ocean by means of the restricted Dardanelles Waterway.
Tankers and container ships waiting patiently for their turn to pass along the shipping route can be seen all day and night along the horizon near the Princess Islands.
In a similar fashion, Istanbul residents also wait in automobiles, buses, trains, and ferries. Istanbul has a population of just shy of 16 million as of 2021. A lot of people live on one side of the city and work on the other, so a lot of people are constantly moving around.
At any time of day, it can be chaotic to follow the city’s tangled road map. At times, it seems impossible that anyone ever gets anywhere, but they do, crossing continents via road, rail, ship, bridge, and tunnel.
The process is as follows:
Martyrs Bridge, July 15
After a failed 2016 coup, this elegant structure was renamed the 15 July Martyrs Bridge. However, locals still affectionately refer to it as Boaziçi Köprüsü, which translates to “the First Bridge.”
The only means of crossing from Europe to Asia in Istanbul prior to its opening on October 29, 1973, the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, was via ferry.
Drivers were able to traverse the sleek new 1,560-meter (5,118-foot) steel suspension bridge high above the raging Bosphorus and take in panoramic views of Topkapi Palace and the Sea of Marmara in the distance.
The Büyük Mecediye Mosque, which was built in the 19th century and stands at the water’s edge in Ortaköy, was popular with walkers when the bridge first opened.
The bridge is currently only accessible to pedestrians on one day per year, when thousands of people register to run the Istanbul Marathon. The remainder of the time drivers pay under 50 pennies to cross.’
Bridge of Fatih Sultan Mehmet
On July 3, 1988, the second bridge that connects the two continents opened and was named after Fatih Sultan Mehmet, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror. He’s the person who rode into town in 1453 and laid out Ottoman rule in Constantinople, then capital of the Byzantine Realm.It is a gravity-anchored steel suspension bridge that is sometimes referred to as FSM Köprüsü. It is similar in length to the First Bridge and has a similar toll fee for use.
It connects Hsarüstü in the west to Kavack in the east at the Bosphorus strait’s narrowest point, where Persian King Darius I is said to have built a floating bridge in 512 B.C.E. The traffic deck of the current structure hangs 200 feet above the water.
It offers stunning views of the Bosphorus, but drivers are the only ones who can appreciate them, which is a welcome distraction when stuck in weekend midnight traffic.
Bridge over Yavuz Sultan Selim
Near the Black Sea, a third suspension bridge across the Bosphorus opened in 2016. This one is named after Yavuz Sultan Selim, Mehmet the Conqueror’s grandson, which is fitting considering his interest in transportation. The Ottoman fleet and Haliç Tershanesi, or the Golden Horn shipyards, were rebuilt by the sultan in the 16th century.
The bridge broke numerous records when it was finished. It is the widest suspension bridge in the world, with a single deck slab that is 58.8 meters wide. It can also carry a double-track railway line and eight lanes of traffic. With a height of over 322 meters, it is also the fifth tallest bridge in the world.
On clear days, drivers can see for miles out to the Black Sea from the bridge, which was built for trucks and long-distance traffic traveling to central Anatolia and beyond. The bridge charges a basic car toll of around $1.
1915 Annakale Bridge
The impressive “annakale 1915 Köprüsü,” which connects Gelibolu on the European side of the Dardanelles with Lapseki in Asia, is the most recent route to connect the two continents.
It currently holds the record for the longest suspension bridge span, measuring just shy of 2.3 miles.
The structure soars across the Straits, replacing a one-hour ferry ride (which, with waiting time, can take up to five hours) with a six-minute drive at 50 mph.
Due to the cost of nearly US$11 per car, it is less popular with locals because it was built for speed rather than views.
In honor of the day Turkey defeated the Allies in a battle for control of this vital waterway in 1915, the bridge opened on March 18, 2022.
Tunnel to Eurasia
The underwater section of the Eurasia Tunnel, which is 5.3 kilometers (3.3 miles) long and is called Avrasya Tüneli in Turkish, is a big draw for those who like engineering. However, the tunnel’s main draw is that it is the quickest way to get from one side of Istanbul to the other.
It has a speed limit of 70 kilometers per hour and isn’t very pretty. It was completed in December 2016 as part of a longer nine-mile road link between Europe’s Kazlçeşme and Asia’s Göztepe, reducing travel time from 100 minutes to 15 minutes.
Until commercial flights were moved from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport, which is more than 27 miles northwest of central Istanbul’s Taksim Square and costs approximately $2.85 per car, the tunnel also became the most practical link between the city’s two airports, Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen.
With a charge of about $2.85 per vehicle, the Eurasia Passage is the most costly method for crossing the Bosphorus.
The Hzl Geçiş Sistemi is used to collect toll payments, just like it is used for bridge crossings. This system, abbreviated as HGS, makes use of specialized windshield stickers that are scanned automatically as vehicles pass through toll gates.
Particularly if you intend to drive across a border, having sufficient credit in your account is essential. If you haven’t paid your fines, don’t go! But don’t worry. You can use a handy app to keep track of your credit and usage.
This underground, intercontinental train administration was bound to happen. Sultan Abdülmecid I came up with the idea in 1860 to build an undersea bridge across the strait, but he died before he could do anything about it.
When French engineers proposed it to Abdul Hamid II in 1892, another sultan was interested, but nothing happened.
After more than a century, interest resurfaced, and in 2004, construction on the 13.6-kilometer tunnel began.
The rail service didn’t start until October 29, 2013, despite best efforts. When nearly every meter of excavation yielded archaeological finds, some of which dated back 8,000 years, deadlines were pushed back.
Six more years passed before each of the line’s stations could be used.
The world’s deepest immersed tunnel connects Kazlçeşme on the European side with Ayrlk eşmesi on the Asian side. At its lowest point, the tunnel drops up to 200 feet below sea level.
An Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart) is all a traveler needs to board the Marmaray. Accessible at all significant public vehicle center points and little stands all through the city, it permits the carrier to bounce on and off all methods of public vehicle freely.
Although taking a ferry across the Bosphorus is one of the best travel experiences, it is not the quickest way to travel between the continents.
Sit on the railing with your feet up and the wind in your hair as you take a sip of Turkish tea and a bite of simit, a sesame seed-covered sourdough ring, and watch Istanbul’s minaret-lined skyline pass by.
Heaven on earth.
During the Ottoman Empire, the “City Lines’ Ferries,” or “ehir Hatlar Vapular,” were established in 1844. Their ferries traverse the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara, and the Princes’ Islands in addition to traversing the Bosphorus.
On longer trips to Bursa, Yalova, and Mudanya, as well as the shorter trip between Sirkeci and Harem, they also transport cars and passengers.
In contrast to buses, Istanbul’s public transportation options include ferries, which are synonymous with style and atmosphere.
Buses go everywhere, including a route with 78 stops and 63 miles, but they are frequently overcrowded and frequently stuck in traffic.
However, one thing they share with the ferries is that neither of them travel through the night. Late-night minibuses are the way to go if you want to get from one side of the Bosphorus to the other quickly and cheaply in the early hours.
Nighttime shared minibuses
Similar to dolmuş, shared minibuses in Istanbul are small, privately operated buses that follow predetermined routes but pick up and drop off passengers as needed.
Both are funded by cash. Dolmuş derives their name from the Turkish word for “stuffed.” In contrast, yellow minibuses only take as many people as there are seats, so their capacity to carry passengers is limited to the number of bodies they can fit in.
Partygoers head to the minibus stop in Taksim Square after a night out on the European side of the city. Since most of the drivers seem to want to race in Formula One, once they’re full, it’s usually time to get home quickly.