Public transport is superb in Istanbul, but our favourite by far is the funicular railway off Istiklal.
Built between 1871 – 1876 to take wealthy bankers and businessmen from their places of work in Karaköy up to Beyoğlu at the top of the hill where they lived, the Tünel Funicular is billed as the second oldest underground railway in the world – with London’s being the oldest.
When first completed there were fears it wouldn’t work as the gradient is so steep, so test runs were completed with carriages full of horses and donkeys rather than human beings. It did work and no animal lives were lost.
It was closed for many years in the middle of the last century but is now fully functioning following major refurbishment.
The photo shows the tiles in the station at Karaköy and there are brass display boards giving a detailed history of the railway in Turkish and English.
Hop on the train and you are at the top of Istiklal Caddesi in less than two minutes. If you want to visit the Galata Tower it is much easier to take the Tünel train, exit the station at the top turning right, and then take first right down Galip Dede Sokak and walk down to the Tower, rather than tackling the almost vertical streets that lead up to it from the Golden Horn.
And here’s the train. A reproduction of the original – very clean and comfy.