The Marmaray Tunnel is a 13,6 km tunnel, partially running under the Bosphorus, and connecting the existing train railways on Istanbul’s European and Asian side. This public transportation project, inaugurated in October 2013, is another attempt to ease the traffic over both Bosphorus bridges by offering people an alternative on rails. So, how can this be of any use for tourists?
The Marmaray Line – Now and Later
The Marmaray Project is a rail transportation project to connect the existing suburban train networks on the Asian and European side of Istanbul with a 13,6 tunnel. Hence the name Marmaray, a combination of the Sea of Marmara and ray, rail in Turkish.
This tunnel runs from Kazlıçeşme on the European side to Ayrılık Çeşmesi on the Asian side, with a 1,4 km stretch under the Bosphorus. For this purpose, the government also created five new (underground) stations or platforms: Kazlıçeşme, Yenikapı, Sirkeci, Üsküdar, and Ayrılık Çeşmesi. This part of the project is finished, operational and takes 16 minutes in total. You can take trains between 6:00 and midnight, and catch one every five minutes during rush hour, every 7-10 minutes otherwise. A ride costs 2,15 TL per person with Istanbul Kart, 4 TL if you buy a single ticket or token.
However, to integrate the Marmaray line into the existing suburban or banlieu train network, those old trains, rails, and stations need to be modernized. This upgrade is still a work in progress, with no estimate on the completion date. Eventually, you will be able to take the train from Halkalı on the European side to Gebze on the Asian side. But for now, the train only runs between the above mentioned five stations. You can find more information on the official Marmaray website (Turkish)
Marmaray for Tourists
Let’s first go over the current stops in a bit more detail (also see map):
- Kazlıçeşme — Kazlıçeşme
- Yenikapı — interchange station to M1a and M2
- Sirkeci — Sirkeci train station, Eminönü, ferry docks
- Üsküdar — Üsküdar
- Ayrılık Çeşmesi — interchange station to M4 metro line (to Kadıköy)
Scenario 1: Atatürk Airport to Eminönü, Üşküdar or Kadıköy
By all means, if you arrive with the M1a metro from the airport in Yenikapı and are heading for Sirkeci, Eminönü, Üsküdar, or Kadıköy then there is no quicker way by public transport. To reach Kadıköy, take the Marmaray all the way to Ayrılık Çeşmesi and transfer to the M4 metro for one stop to Kadıköy.
Scenario 2: Eminönü to Kadıköy
You’re just sightseeing, hence not carrying any luggage, and want to get to Kadıköy. In this case, you could take the route described above, or take a ferry from Eminönü. I suggest to do the latter, which offers much nicer views and a more romantic experience.