Sirkeci – the terminus of the Orient Express

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Sirkeci – the terminus of the Orient Express

When you are on the European side of Istanbul, you can hardly miss the historic Sirkeci railway station (Sirkeci Garı), which is now known as an important station for the Marmaray commuter train. Marmaray takes you beneath the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia. However, Sirkeci Station has been significant throughout history because it was once the eastern terminus of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal), a famous train that traveled from Paris to Istanbul.

Astonishing history

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul.

Sirkeci railway station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı)) is located in Eminönü on the European side, at the intersection of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. It is situated northwest of the famous Gülhane Park and Topkapı Palace.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).

In 1873, a temporary terminus was built in Sirkeci for the newly constructed railway line. In 1890, the Oriental Railway constructed the Sirkeci Terminal as the eastern terminus of the world-renowned Orient Express. The Orient Express typically referred to the overnight express train that operated between Paris and Istanbul (Constantinople) from 1883 until 1977. However, over time, the Orient Express had other routes as well.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Station courtyard
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
View from the concourse to the courtyard.

The first Orient Express departed on October 4, 1883, from the Gare de l’Est in Paris, accompanied by Mozart’s ”Turkish March”. The route passed through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and finally reached Istanbul’s Sirkeci. This 3,094-kilometer journey took 80 hours.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Concourse
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).

The passengers of the Orient Express were usually high-ranking bureaucrats, writers, and wealthy individuals. To accommodate their luxurious stay, the Pera Palace Hotel was built in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul on the European side. This hotel, opened in 1895, is one of the most magnificent buildings in Istanbul and is still in operation.

I highly recommend staying or at least visiting the hotel because in addition to its grandeur, you can experience a lot of history there. For example, you can see the original sedan chair used to transport Orient Express passengers from Sirkeci station to the hotel. The distance is approximately 2.5 km, with a significant portion being a steep uphill climb, so customer service was probably not easy. But it was excellent.

You can read more about the Pera Palace Hotel in my previous post here

Sirkeci Terminal today

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).

The historic station of the Orient Express in Sirkeci has remained in its original state and is incredibly beautiful.

The Terminal Restaurant became a meeting place for journalists, writers, and other media representatives in the 1950s and 1960s. This same restaurant, now named “Orient Express,” is still a popular spot, especially among tourists. You will find many historical photographs on the walls of the restaurant. You can dine either inside or on the terrace overlooking the station’s courtyard. Alternatively, you can enjoy tea and coffee in Turkish style on another smaller terrace that opens toward the Bosphorus and the park.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Smaller terrace

The station is also home to the Istanbul Railway Museum (İstanbul Demiryolu Müzesi), which opened in September 2005. Additionally, members of the Mevlevi Dervish order regularly hold ceremonies at the Sirkeci Terminal (in the station hall), which tourists and the general public can attend for an admission fee. However, I would rather recommend a more authentic experience at, for example, the Galata Mevlevi Museum (Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi), you can find more information about it in my previous post here

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).
Station hall

History meets the modern era

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul.
Courtyard: on the left the historic Sirkeci Terminal, on the right the modern Marmaray Station.

Sirkeci Station is not just about history; today it is also an important and central underground station on the Marmaray commuter train line on the European side. The opening of this train line and tunnel was celebrated on October 29, 2013, and it is served by Marmaray trains, which travel beneath the Bosphorus from Halkalı in Europe to Gebze in Asia.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul.
Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the underground station of the Marmaray commuter train.

The Marmaray commuter train line connects Europe and Asia, while also complementing Istanbul’s metro network with several shared interchange stations. Additionally, on the Asian side, you can transfer from the Marmaray train to the Metrobüs line, which takes you across the first Bosphorus Bridge to far-reaching areas on the European side, including Avcılar and Beylikdüzü.

You can read more about public transportation in Istanbul in my previous post here

The Istanbul tourist information office is also located at Sirkeci Station.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul.

Sirkeci Station continues its important role not only in its history but also in the transportation of today’s Istanbul. And when you travel on the crowded Marmaray, please don’t overlook this beautiful historical station of the Orient Express in Sirkeci in your haste. I highly recommend exploring this fascinating destination—there, you will breathe in the essence of true world history.

Sirkeci Railway Station (Sirkeci Garı or İstanbul Garı) in Eminönü on the European side of Istanbul. The station also houses the historical station of the Orient Express (Sirkeci Terminal).

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