Avoid the restaurants that run along the bridge's lower level - better food for better prices can be found on the fishermens' boats moored on the south side.
The Galata Bridge we see today is its fifth incarnation. The first on the site was built in 1845; a second wooden bridge replaced it in 1863; the third was constructed in 1875 by the British, before being towed upstream to replace the old Cisr-i Atik Bridge; the fourth, built in 1912 by a German firm, was a floating construction and also moved up the river after being badly damaged by fire in 1992. The current bascule bridge was completed in 1994.
Galata Köprüsü has long been both a literal and symbolic crossing. It bridges the gap between the traditional city of Istanbul proper (home to the imperial palace and the empire’s main religious and secular institutions), and the districts of Galata, Beyoğlu, Şişli and Harbiye, where many of the inhabitants were non-Muslims and included foreign merchants and diplomats.
Today, the bridge still offers a vista of exciting contrasts. The most iconic view is of Fatih, the traditional southern side. In the busy harbour of the Golden Horn you can see boats selling balık ekmeği (fish sandwiches); the horizon is dominated by Süleymaniye Camii; beneath the magnificent mosque the main road throngs with buses and taxis, adjoining historic hamams, the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and 1960s apartment blocks, and the district is fronted by Rüstem Pasha Camii. All around you will be surrounded by fishermen, who cast their lines from the bridge day and night.
On the slightly less picturesque northern side is Galata Tower: a climb up here rewards with an even better panorama over Fatih and the Golden Horn, including the bridge itself.
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