İstanbul cruise terminal

In 2021 a project that had been many years in the planning finally opened at the point where Karaköy joins up with Tophane. The Galataport is a huge modern cruise-ship terminal just along the road from where the old 19th-century steamer terminal used to be and has space to accommodate three ships at any one time. To cater for them a large retail complex of shops and restaurants has opened with many familiar Turkish and international brand names featured.

Restored Paket Postanesi with its French-style roof

At the same time, the creation of the port cleared a space behind the Nusretiye (Victory) Cami, creating a new square on the site of what was once an artillery parade ground. Its centrepiece is Istanbul’s first clocktower which was transported here from its earlier site behind the old Istanbul Modern art gallery. Along the northern, water side of the square stands the İstanbul Modern building designed by Renzo Piano with, running along the western side, the new home for the Istanbul Resim ve Heykel Müzesi (Painting and Sculpture Museum). On the southern, inland side of the square stands the early 19th-century Nusretiye Cami alongside the pretty little Tophane Kasrı (Tophane Pavilion)  designed by the British architect, William Smith, in 1852 where the sultan could rest while reviewing his troops. On the eastern corner of the square stands the 16th-century, Sinan-designed Kılıç Ali Paşa Cami and the lovely fruit-and-flower-decorated Tophane Çeşmesi (fountain).

At the Karaköy end access to the Galataport is via the beautifully restored Paket Postanesi (Parcel Post Office) which originally opened in 1911 as the customs house and passenger terminal for the harbour; the larger domed hall was for first-class passengers, the two smaller halls for second and third-class passengers. It was designed by an engineer named S. Saboureaux. Later it became a maritime hospital and then the sorting office for parcels arriving in the city before being left to rot.

The complex also contains a couple of small venues for temporary art exhibitions.

The project has had a transformative impact on Istanbul, shifting some of the tourist focus away from Sultanhmet and Taksim, and pushing up rents and property prices in the surrounding areas. Predictably therefore it has as many foes as fans.

İstanbul Modern

Housed inside a purpose-built modern gallery, the İstanbul Modern (admission fee, closed Mondays) is a gorgeous, light-filled gallery where paintings are displayed thematically. Come here to get a feel for what the Turkish art of the last 150 years has had to offer.

Names to conjure with include Abdülmecid Efendi (1868-1944), Şeker Ahmet Paşa (1841-1907), Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), İbrahim Çallı (1882-1960), Hamit Görele (1894-1980), and Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901-1991).

The basement is devoted to changing art and photographic exhibitions, although the False Ceiling of books by Richard Wentworth is a venerable survivor from the 1995 İstanbul Biennial.

In front of the Modern stands a six-metre-high sculpture called Runner by the British artist, Tony Cragg.

Transport info

The Galataport is accessible via the Ti tram from Sultanahmet to Taksim, or via the funicular to and then the T1 tram from Taksim Square via Kabataş. It’s within flat and easy walking distance of Karaköy and Galata Bridge.

Nearby areas

Boğazkesen Caddesi


Galata Bridge



Kemeraltı Caddesi





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