Istanbul New Cruise Port: Galataport – Your 2024 Guide

Chasing the Donkey may include affiliate links - if you decide to make a purchase through these links, we receive a commission without any additional cost to you. Disclaimer & privacy policy.
Post author Mehmet

Written by our local expert Mehmet

Mehmet is digital nomad who was born in Istanbul, Türkiye and now calls the Balkans region his home-office.

If your cruise ship docks at the Istanbul cruise port, you may well find that the included shore excursions are expensive or lack any real character and only go to the same designated tourist attractions.

But there are so many amazing things to do on an Istanbul cruise stop that it makes sense to go it alone and find out what the city is really like. The Istanbul Galataport is right in the heart of it all, so it couldn’t be easier to make your own way around the city. In fact, the area itself is well worth exploring as an up-and-coming tourist destination in its own right.

In my guide, I give you all the info you need to navigate the Istanbul cruise port terminals AND your transportation options to see the major sights or get to the airport.

Turkey Travel Blog_Cruise Port Guide Istanbul_Galataport

Visit nearby sights like the Galata Tower, Taksim Square, and Istiklal Street. Get the best views of the city from the water on a Bosphorus Cruise, take in some cultural sights at a Whirling Dervishes show, or head out on a locally guided tour of the city’s highlights.

Just across the Golden Horn, you will find the main attractions like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace Museums.

What Port Do Cruise Ships Use In Istanbul

The Galataport Istanbul and the MSC SPLENDIDA cruise ship, docked at the Istanbul Cruise Port Guide in 2024.

New Galataport Project

Galataport Cruise Port, also called the New Galataport, is the main access point to the city for thousands of visitors each year. It’s the first underground cruise ship terminal like it in the world and can hold up to three full cruise ships at a time.

It is situated right at the entrance of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, meaning that it has fantastic access to the city and all of the sights.

As it’s one of the busiest ports in Istanbul, cruise ships can also dock a few kilometers further down at Salipazari Pier, near Dolmabahce Palace.

How Do You Get Around Istanbul From The Cruise Port

As it’s right in the heart of the city, you can easily get around on foot from any Galataport terminal. The trendy Istanbul neighborhoods of Galata, Karakoy, and the famous Tophane clock tower are all just a short stroll away.

The main tourist areas are within walking distance, roughly a 30-minute walk from the Istanbul cruise terminal.

If you don’t want to walk, you can visit the main tourist areas like Sultanahmet, Galata, and Taksim by tram. Take the Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line) from Tophane Station, or alternatively, you can also travel by public bus.

Istanbul is an easy city to get around with a network of buses, metro lines, trams, and the Marmaray. Route info is available from cruise port information.

Get a public transport card, known as an IstanbulKart, from the kiosks or yellow ticket machines at the station. Transport cards cost 70 Turkish Lira, with individual tram rides costing around 15 Turkish Lira each.

There are lots of tram stations located all along Meclis-i Mebusan Boulevard (opposite the Istanbul New Cruise terminal).

Head to the Sultanahmet district for its best attractions like the Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. The ride from Istanbul port to Sultanahmet tram stop takes around 10 minutes one way, and the trams run every 5 to 10 minutes.

There are also plenty of taxis available if you don’t want to take public transportation. A taxi to the city center should take around 10 minutes and cost no more than 100 Turkish Lira. Though they are more expensive, they are a good option if you aren’t confident in navigating your own way around the city center.

Some cruise lines may also offer an easy shuttle service to the city center for an additional fee, another convenient option if you want to save time. These are generally more expensive but can be shared with fellow passengers.

How Far Is The Cruise Terminal From Istanbul Airport

The city’s main airport, Istanbul Airport, is located in Arnavutkoy around 45 kilometres away from Istanbul city centre.

Public Transport

The best way to get from Istanbul Cruise Ship Terminal to Istanbul Airport is by public transport by metro. The journey takes about an hour. Take the T1 tram line from Karakoy to Yenikapı Metro Station, then use the M11 line to get to the airport.

There is no direct bus service at this time, though buses can be used, they will take more time.


Taxis in Istanbul

Another option is to take a taxi. Even though it’s only a 40-minute drive north of Istanbul cruise port, it is scheduled for some extra time for traffic as the city can be gridlocked in places.

It’s also best to always agree on a price with the taxi driver or ask them to turn the meter on to ensure you aren’t overcharged. The journey should cost around 250 Turkish Liras.

Private Transfer

It’s also possible to book private transfers in advance if you want complete peace of mind – although this will cost more generally. From my experience, the taxis are reliable and friendly, but if you are not confident talking to someone with a different language, this could be a good option.


Brands We Use And Trust


Is The Istanbul Cruise Port, Galataport, Worth A Visit

Totally yes!

Opened in August 2021, Galataport is Istanbul’s latest tourist attraction and one of the newest cruise ports in Turkey, where gastronomy and art are proudly showcased to the rest of the world.

The entire Galataport complex takes up around 29,000 square meters, stretching out over the city center’s Karakoy coastline. Within Galataport, there is a port hotel and a lively entertainment district with a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants.

The port can accommodate around 15,000 visitors a day, so it always feels like a vibrant and busy part of the city. Sightsee, shop, or relax at one of the many third-wave coffee shops while you watch boats pass by along the river.

Of course, being a hub for Istanbul cruises, there is also modern passport control, check-in, waiting areas, and plenty of cruise port info points.

Where To Eat At Istanbul Galataport

With so many options to choose from, knowing where to eat around Galataport can be a difficult choice.

SaltBae Burger

YouTube sensation Salt Bae has brought his signature Nusr-Et restaurant vibes to Karakoy in the form of SaltBae Burger. While, in my opinion, the burgers aren’t the best in town, the views and waiter theatrics make it an unforgettable experience.


Turkey Travel Blog_Istanbul Cruise Port Guide_Liman Istanbul Restaurant
Photo Credit: Liman Istanbul Restaurant

A very popular spot is Liman, one of the port’s oldest restaurants. Liman opened its doors in 1947, and it was even once managed by Turkish leader Ataturk’s former chef, so to say it has historical importance is an understatement. White linen tables give the restaurant a classy ambiance, while the mix of Turkish and international dishes means you have plenty of choices when it comes to the menu.


For Japanese-style fine dining with Bosphorus views, Roka is hard to beat. Expect options like beef ginger and sesame dumplings, California maki, crispy fried shrimp, and sushi. The wine list is also huge, and there are some great cocktails to get stuck into.

İBB Cihangir Sosyal Tesisleri

On the other end of the spectrum is the hugely popular İBB Cihangir Sosyal Tesisleri, just across the main street from the port. You may have to wait for a table as the restaurant is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Still, the reward is extremely affordable authentic Turkish food with spectacular views over the city and the river.

Muutto Anatolian Tapas Bar

Turkey Travel Blog_Istanbul Cruise Port Guide_Muutto Anatolian Tapas Bar
Photo Credit: Muutto Anatolian Tapas Bar

If you like meze and street food, Muutto Anatolian Tapas Bar brings the Spanish style of eating to Turkey with small plates of all of the best parts of Ottoman Empire-inspired cuisine. It’s a great place to eat for larger families and groups, and you can try so many different dishes.

Hafız Mustafa 1864 Galataport

For one of the best desserts in town, make your way to Hafız Mustafa 1864 Galataport. An outlet of one of Istanbul’s most famous dessert shops, it’s filled with beautiful delights like baklava, handmade ice cream, kadayif, and ornately decorated cakes.

Things To Do At Galataport Istanbul

Meclis-i Mebusan Boulevard

The first thing you will come across when leaving your Istanbul cruise is the busy Meclis-i Mebusan Boulevard. It’s the main street that runs adjacent to the river and connects the port to the rest of the city. Here, you can find lots of fantastic local cafes, restaurants, and shops. You could easily lose a few hours just exploring this area.

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

A grand building with stairs and a breathtaking chandelier, located at the Galataport in Istanbul, awaits visitors arriving from a memorable cruise.

The contemporary art museum is one of the main tourist attractions at Galataport, with five floors filled with both Turkish and international pieces. You can also make use of the attached library, cafe, and gift store on the ground floor or attend one of the many workshops on the upper levels.

Galataport Events

There are always events happening at Galataport; the ones on now include:

The events currently happening at Galataport Istanbul include:

  1. A Vision To Shape The Future Exhibition: this exhibition is located in the O2 Block and is open from 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.
  2. The Little Prince Exhibition: this exhibition can be found on the M Block Upper Floor and operates from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
  3. Istanbul Modern Current Exhibitions: these exhibitions are being held at Istanbul Modern

For more specific details about these events, you may visit the Galataport events website here.

Istanbul Museum Of Painting And Sculpture

For something less crowded, head just across the road to the IRHM (İstanbul Resim ve Heykel Müzesi). Not only is there fantastic architecture in the terminal building itself, but it’s packed with large collections of Turkish paintings and artworks.


There are more than 250 shops at the Galataport Mall, from top-name global brands to more local stores and outlets. Visitors come here from all over the city to hang out in the mall and window shop at all the international stores and designer outlets. Spend some time filling up your bags and spend some Turkish Lira.

Explore Karakoy

Karakoy is one of Istanbul’s liveliest neighborhoods. It’s full of boutique shops, independent restaurants, and great little cafes like Factory Karakoy. Visit in the evening to catch locals chatting along the promenade, have a drink at friendly local pubs and bars, and see the laid-back side of this busy, multicultural city.

Shore Excursions

Galata Tower

Begonja family atop the Galata Tower
Begonja family atop the Galata Tower

Within the Karakoy district, Galata Tower is one of the must-visit attractions. The modern museum boasts a 52-metre-high observation deck from which you can take in panoramic views of the busy city and the stunning mosque-studded skyline.

From here, you can see other popular spots, too, like the Beyoglu district, Istiklal Street (the most famous street in the city), and the buzzing Taksim Square.

Galata Bridge

Galata Bridge Istanbul -2
Galata Bridge

A short 10-minute walk from Istanbul port is Galata Köprüsü, a bridge that spans 490 meters across the Golden Horn and where you’ll see local fishermen all day. This famous landmark is the joining point where the old meets the new.

From the modern port and trendy Karakoy, you will head into the old town with its rich heritage. Wander around Harborside Eminönü and visit the sprawling Spice Market and the Egyptian Bazaar.

Go On A Bosphorus Cruise

Experience the enchanting beauty of Istanbul as the sun sets over the Bosphorus River, glistening against a backdrop of charming boats. Discover the mesmerizing sights and sounds on a memorable

Though you might have arrived by sea, why not head out on a smaller vessel and see the sights in a totally unique way?

The mighty Bosphorus Strait divides Europe and Asia, connecting the two opposite sides of this melting pot of cultures in the city of Istanbul. Lying between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, learn about the historical significance of the area on one of the many cruises that run from the city’s riverbanks.

See Istanbul’s Best Sights In Sultanahmet

Sunset Hagia Sofia - Sultanahmet Istanbul-5

Not far from Eminönü is the most famous Istanbul neighborhood of all, Sultanahmet. Take in a traditional massage at Çemberlitaş Hamamı, haggle for designer goods at the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı), or learn about historical treasures at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum.

Then, head out on a guided tour with a local to see the very best that the city has to offer. Get under the streets by visiting the Cistern of Theodosius, built 1600 years ago.

Learn about the complicated history of the mosque that became a church, that then became a museum, before returning to a mosque again – the enigmatic Hagia Sophia before finally gazing in awe at the intricately designed azul tiles of the Blue Mosque.

Istanbul Cruise Port Guide


What makes Istanbul’s cruise port world-class?

The Galataport cruise terminal, located underground and spanning approximately 300,000 square feet, utilizes a unique hatch system claimed to be the first of its kind globally. All facilities, such as passport control, customs, luggage operations, and access to ground transport for taxis and shore excursion buses, are situated below ground.

What cruise lines dock at the Galataport Istanbul cruise terminal?

The ones I know of are Uniworld, RCI-Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Azamara, Cunard, Holland America, P&O UK, Marella UK, RSSC-Regent Seven Seas, Ponant, Silversea, Fred Olsen, Windstar and Celestyal.

What makes Istanbul a notable cruise destination?

Istanbul is a major port city bridging Europe and Asia with rich historical significance. It serves as a crucial transit point between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, offering a diverse and vibrant cultural experience for you.

What is the outlook for Istanbul’s future development as a cruise destination?

Istanbul’s future development as a cruise destination looks promising, with ongoing infrastructure improvements and redevelopment efforts aimed at re-establishing the city’s appeal to tourists and cruise companies, positioning it as a significant port of call in the Mediterranean.

How can I get to the airport from the Galataport port hotel?

There are various transportation options available from the Galataport port hotel to the airport, including taxis, shuttles, and public transportation.

Now you know all about the Galataport project. This innovative underground terminal isn’t just a gateway to one of the world’s most dynamic port cities; it’s a bridge connecting you to Istanbul’s popular tourist attractions.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, the ease and accessibility of Galataport ensure your exploration of Istanbul’s wonders is as seamless as it is unforgettable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Move This Adventure To Your Inbox & Get An Instant Freebie

Subscribe To Unlock Your FREE Customizable Travel Packing List & All Our Best Tips!