Istanbul life is lived around the Bosphorus which divides Europe from Asia. Control of this waterway has historically been fought over, but now offers a peaceful way to explore what can, at times, be a very hectic city.
Cruising the Bosphorus and observing Istanbul from the water is one of my favourite things to do in this amazing city. It offers a unique nose into life along the Bosphorus and is something to definitely not miss.
Ferries and cruises
It is possible to get ferries north and south along the Bosphorus. It takes about 90 minutes to travel the length of the Bosphorus and for those ferries you simply buy a ticket to your destination. Another popular option is to take a cruise. Cruises depart from Istanbul’s Kabatas, Besiktas and Uskudar docks. Tickets are sold in the little booths on the docks and should be purchased about 30 minutes before departure.
There is not usually any commentary on the cruises, but if you take along a good guide book you can easily make out what you are looking at, which makes for a more relaxed atmosphere anyway I think. Most cruises start in the southern Bosphorus and head north. So most take in Sultanahmet’s Topkapi Palace (traditional home of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire) the Maiden’s Tower, Dolmabahce Palace (immaculate home of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic), Yildiz Park and Palace and the groovy shore-side suburb of Ortakoy before sailing beneath the Bosphorus Bridge that links Europe to Asia.
|Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey|
Beyond the bridge the shores of the Bosphorus are lined with wooden seaside houses called ‘yalis’ and the cruises often get to Rumeli Hisar, the grand fortress of Europe, before turning back.
|Ortakoy, Istanbul, Turkey|
There are about four or five departures each day in summer and the 90-minute cruises are an inexpensive and wonderful way to see fascinating Istanbul. Private and dinner cruises are also available but cost significantly more. One last tip is that it gets pretty windy on the Bosphorus, so unless you are there in the height of summer, you could probably do with a jumper to keep warm; in winter, you will definitely need one.