Taking a cruise on the Bosphorus is one of the most enjoyable experiences in this gorgeous city, and yet one of the most overlooked. Istanbul’s history is intricately connected to its location on the water as well as its unusual sprawl across the straits that straddle two continents, so taking a boat tour is a great way to really see Istanbul and get a handle on its remarkable geography. A word to the wise: there are many different boat trips available in the city, from simple ferry crossings to longer Bosphorus cruises, so compare your options. For great city views on a tight budget, jump on just about any ferry for a cheap and fun 20-minute trip across the strait, or consider taking a longer boat cruise that will enhance your experience. Here are a few options.
Two-hour Bosphorus Cruise
The non-stop Short Circle Bosphorus tour is a great way to see the Bosphorus and the beautiful shores of both European and Asian Istanbul in just two hours. This tour is available every day from April 1st until October 31st. The cruise takes you from Eminönü ferry terminal, on the south side of the Historical Peninsula, all the way northward to Istinye and back. You can board the boat from the Eminönü docks at 14:30, or alternately at the Ortaköy terminal twenty minutes later. Either way, you’ll continue northward, past lovely sites such as the ancient fishing village and Ottoman-era wooden villas that line the shores of Arnavutköy and Bebek, and under the two main bridges that connect the European and Asian sides of the metropolis. This is a two-hour, non-stop tour, for the very reasonable price of 10 TL – a perfect option for a relaxing, post-lunch ride.
Cruise the Bosphorus to the Black Sea
A full Bosphorus tour offers a great Bosphorus experience and a leisurely ride from Eminönü or Beşiktaş up the same route as the 2-hour ride, but it continues all the way to the Black Sea and back. Each way takes about 90 minutes, and the ferry makes 5 short stops to let people on and off. You have to disembark from the boat at Anadolu Kavağı, the last harbor before the Black Sea. And that’s good because it gives you the opportunity to enjoy a nice lunch in one of the local fish restaurants located on the shore, a strong afternoon coffee, or a pleasant visit to the nearby fortress. It’s a leisurely way to enjoy the water and the views, and quite a decent deal for 25 TL. Departures are several times per day, and there are digital guides on board in 10 languages that explain numerous points of interest along the way.
Bosphorus by Night
This option offers the same route as the full Bosphorus tour, but the ferry departs just before dusk, providing passengers with truly gorgeous, 360-degree, sunset views of the city. Like the day tour, the boat stops in Anadolu Kavağı for a bit over two hours so that people can enjoy dinner in the fish restaurants at the shore. Around 22:30 the ferry departs again for a moonlight cruise back down the Bosphorus. It’s a unique and peaceful experience.
Boat tours are a truly unique way to experience the city of Istanbul. Contact us for more information on how to make your Istanbul stay truly memorable!