Looking for the best way to tour Istanbul’s incredible Bosphorus Strait tailored to your own unique travel style? We made this handcrafted guide to the top Bosphorus cruise tours just for you!
According to a range of reviews from hundreds of travelers—as well as our own personal experience cruising the Bosphorus—these are the top choices to consider for 2024.
From two-hour private luxury and sunset cruises to full day experiences for a range of budgets, Lori and I have included a range of options for every type of travel style and budget.
Can’t wait to dive in? Here’s a quick look at our picks to supercharge your Istanbul travel planning!
|Bosphorus Cruise||From ($)|
|Our Top Pick ▸||10-hr Bosphorus Strait + Black Sea Cruise||$95|
|Sunset Cruise ▸||2.5-hr Bosphorus Luxury Yacht Sunset Cruise||$64|
|For Foodies ▸||6.5-hr Taste of Two Continents Tour||$125|
|City Combo Tour ▸||8.5-hr Istanbul Must-See Tour||$77|
|Private Cruise ▸||2-hr Private Luxury Bosphorus Cruise||$406 /group|
|Quick Cruise ▸||Turyol & Dentur Bosphorus Cruises||$5|
|Shoestring Cruise ▸||Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Tour||<$5|
Can’t decide? Keep reading for the full scoop on these top-rated tours, plus all sorts of travel tips for making the most of this bucket list experience.
The Best Bosphorus Cruise in Istanbul for Your Travel Style
Bosphorus Cruise + Black Sea Cruise
Our Top Pick
Looking for the ultimate Bosphorus day trip with time spent in the Black Sea as well? This 10-hour Bosphorus Strait AND Black Sea Day Cruise is our top pick for seeing it all!
Includes delicious Mediterranean lunch, onboard guide, and stops at Rumeli Fortress, Ortakoy, Kucuksu Pavilion, Buyuk Mecidiye Cami.
- Full-day 10-hour tour of the Bosphorus Strait and Black Sea
- Lunch included
- Group tour (40 max)
- Onboard guide
- Tour by IBO Cruise
- 4.5/5.0 rating (71 reviews) on TripAdvisor
- From US$95 per passenger
Luxury Sunset Cruise
Catch the Bosphorus Sunset in Style
Add a splash of style and romance to your Bosphorus cruise with this 2.5-hour Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht. This unforgettable sunset tour features onboard guide and complimentary drinks and canapés.
- 2.5-hour cruise on luxury yacht
- Drinks & canapés included
- Small group tour
- Onboard guide
- Tour by Bosphorus Cruise Tours Istanbul
- 5/5 rating (846 reviews) on TripAdvisor
- From US$64 per passenger
Taste of Two Continents Tour
Best Tour for Foodies
Discover the flavors and delicacies of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul in this one-of-a-kind 6.5-hour Istanbul Food Tour with Bosphorus Cruise, a perfect day trip for foodies and those looking to venture beyond Istanbul’s most touristed areas.
- 6 to 7-hour tour, crossing the Bosphorus twice by ferry
- Multiple tastings at 9 eateries
- Small group tour (10 max)
- Tour guide
- Tour by Yummy Istanbul
- 5/5 rating (1,449 reviews) on TripAdvisor
- From US$125 per traveler
Istanbul Must-See Tour
Best City + Bosphorus Combo Tour
Experience the best of Istanbul in this 8.5-hour Istanbul Must-See Tour and Bosphorus Cruise. Join your expert guide on this small group tour to discover Istanbul’s top attractions. Explore Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Spice Market before topping it all off with a 90-minute guided tour of the Bosphorus Strait by public ferry.
- 8 to 9-hour city tour with guided public ferry cruise on the Bosphorus
- Small group tour (15 max)
- Tour guide
- Tour by Lütfullah FINDIKOĞLU
- 5/5 rating (126 reviews) on TripAdvisor
- From US$77 per traveler
Looking for a Private Tour? Check out this 7-hour Istanbul Classics Private Tour with Bosphorus Cruise.
Private Luxury Yacht Cruise
Tour the Bosphorus in Style
Cruise the Bosphorus in style with this 2-hour Private Luxury Yacht Cruise on the Bosphorus. This this private luxury yacht tour has room for up to 10 passengers—perfect for families, couples, and groups celebrating a special occasion or travelers who simply want to enjoy their Istanbul experience in luxury and seclusion.
- 2-hour Bosphorus cruise on private luxury yacht
- Private Tour
- Tour by Tour Book Turkey
- 5/5 rating (69 reviews) on TripAdvisor
- From US$406 per group (up to 10)
Turyol & Dentur Bosphorus Cruises
Best Quick Tours
Turyol and Dentur are two private companies that offer some of the most popular two-hour Bosphorus tours in Istanbul. If you’re not looking for a luxury or DIY option and want more flexibility in your travel plans, this might be the way to go.
Both companies offer regular departures throughout the day and cover the top attractions along the route.
- 2-hour Bosphorus cruises
- Regular departures throughout the morning and afternoon
- Tours by Turyol and Dentur
- From 150 TL (US$5) per passenger
Sehir Hatlari Cruise
Best Budget/Shoestring Tours
There are numerous options for doing a Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul. But if you’re on a shoestring budget or just like to travel in a more independent fashion, the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Tour service is worth considering.
Sehir Hatlari offers three Bosphorus Tour services: Long Tour (Full Circle), Short Tour (Short Circle), and Moonlight Tour (seasonal).
Keep reading for our detailed guide on how to take the the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Cruise, plus tips and what to expect.
How to Take the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Cruise / Public Ferry
The Sehir Hatlari ferry line offers a Bosphorus tour at a very reasonable price. But taking the public ferry tour isn’t as straight forward as doing a Bosphorus cruise private tour.
Here, Lori and I tell you exactly how to take the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus tour and offer first-hand tips for getting the most out of your time on the water.
Bosphorus Tour vs. Public Ferry
Sehir Hatlari runs two different types of services: Inner-city/domestic public ferry service mostly geared to commuters and locals getting around the region, and the Bosphorus Long Tour, Short Tour, and Moonlight Tour services aimed at tourists.
Unless you want to compete for space with Istanbul’s millions of commuters (and see very little in the process), you’re far better off taking the Sehir Hatlari service clearly marked as “Bosphorus Tours”.
For those who like to figure out the details themselves, aren’t fussy about seating, and are willing to devote the better part of a day to the experience, we think the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Tour can’t be beat for the price.
Services & Rates
There are three Bosphorus Tour ferry options: Long Bosphorus Tour (6 hours), Short Bosphorus Tour (2 hours), and seasonal Moonlight Tour, which operates during the summer months.
Up until recently the Long Bosphorus Tour was known as the “Full Circle”, and the Short Bosphorus Tour was known as the “Short Circle”. This guide will use the new terminology moving forward.
Current Sehir Hatlari ticket prices as of Nov 2023
|Tour||Ages 12+||Ages 6-11|
|Long Tour (round trip)||65 TL (US$2.50)||32,50 TL (US$1.25)|
|Long Tour (one-way)||39 TL (US$1.50)||16 TL (US$0.60)|
|Short Tour||32 TL (US$1.25)||16 TL (US$0.60)|
|Moonlight Tour (summer)||52 TL (US$2.00)||16 TL (US$0.60)|
Admission is free for children under the age of 6 for all cruises.
Where to Buy Tickets & Board
To take the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Tour service, head to the Galata bridge.
From the Eminonu (Old City) side, don’t cross the bridge, but walk to the right of it and follow the signs for Sehir Hatlari.
The office is adjacent to the Red Hop-on Hop-off Bus ticket office.
We heard that the ticket office opened at 10am. We arrived 30 minutes beforehand and there was already a line (midweek in August).
They opened a bit early and we managed to snag a window seat on the port-side since the ferry hugs the left-hand shore (Europe on the way out, and Asia for most of the return trip).
However, we quickly realized the outside benches at the stern (back) of the ferry might just be the best seats on the boat on a nice day, which is where we ultimately ended up.
Overall, we were pretty impressed with the amenities offered by a public ferry company for the price. We found the Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Cruise to be clean and well-organized, certainly for the cost of admission.
Lori and I particularly enjoyed riding along with a mix of people—locals and tourists—which was a fun part of the experience for us.
We also felt that the amount of time (six hours round trip with a few hours stop for lunch) was perfect for us as well, particularly since we had absolutely nothing else planned for today.
🔥 HOT TIP 🔥
Be sure to grab an audio guide at the ticket booth when you buy your tickets.
It adds excellent context to the cruise and tells you a bit about the many highlights along the route.
Bosphorus Cruise Tour Itinerary
No matter which Bosphorus cruise you take, the idea is very much the same. The boat leaves Eminonu on the Golden Horn and travels north along the Bosphorus Strait hugging the left bank (Europe side).
At some point depending on which service you’ve chosen, the boat will then cross the Bosphorus, hugging the right bank (Asia side), before making its way back to Eminonu.
We opted for the Full Circle / Long Tour, which takes about six hours round trip including a couple of hours in the middle to enjoy the northernmost stop at Anadolu Kavagi village.
There are a number of good restaurants, shops, and other amenities in Anadolu Kavagi for those who are taking the Long Tour. Our boat had a small snack bar and restrooms, but a lot of passengers brought their own snacks.
Here’s a further breakdown of the Long Tour itinerary so you can get an idea of what to expect.
Most Bosphorus cruises leave Eminonu on the Golden Horn, right in the heart of the city. Leaving the Old City, the tour passes a number of historic sights and points of interest.
As mentioned above, Lori and I rented an audio guide that was available at the ticket booth, which offered information about various points of interest along the way. If you opt for a tour through a private company, you’ll like have a guide to narrate the cruise for you.
Here are just a few of the many highlights you’ll see along the way:
Dolmabahçe Palace (Sultan’s Palace), now a museum.
Ortaköy Mosque, built in 1856.
The First Bosphorus Bridge (15 July Martyrs Bridge) was completed in 1973, and as the name might imply, was the first bridge to connect Europe and Asia.
Rumeli Fortress, built by the Ottomans in 1452.
After about 90 minutes on the water (including a few stops along the way) the tour reaches its farthest stop north: the village of Anadolu Kavagi.
Our tour docked here for a few hours—more than enough time to grab lunch, do a little hike, and poke around the small village.
From the ferry pier, you can hike up to Yoros Kalesi (Yoros Castle), a small fortification with a commanding view of the Bosphorus and the shores of the Black Sea.
Getting around Anadolu Kavagi and finding the path to Yoros Fort can be a bit confusing. So, we’ve included a map to help you find your way around.
Looking north, we were also able to spot the Third Bosphorus Bridge spanning Europe and Asia, and the Black Sea, beyond.
There are a number of restaurants and cafes near the pier and throughout the village, but we opted for Yoros Cafe near the fort, which came highly recommended and offered a stunning view of our route (not to be confused with Yoros Kale Kafe).
We were not disappointed with the food or the scenery.
The village was interesting enough to take a walkabout, but we were glad we took the extra time to hike up to Yoros Castle and have lunch with a view. We were able to comfortably achieve all of this in the layover time.
On the cruise back to Emononu pier in Istanbul, we hugged the Asia side with a few quick stops to let local passengers on and off.
Bosphorus Cruise FAQs
How much does a Bosphorus cruise cost?
A ticket to cruise the Bosphorus can cost as little as under US$5 to over US$100 per person depending on the type of tour you opt for. The most basic tours run by the public ferry company, Sehir Hatlari, tend to offer the cheapest rates. But if you want a private luxury tour, or want to fold your cruise into a city tour, the cost will increase significantly.
What is the Bosphorus cruise famous for?
The Bosphorus Strait is famous for being the natural waterway that separates the continent of Asia from the European continent, and runs right through the vibrant and ancient city of Istanbul. Additionally, there are a number of historic sights and popular modern day attractions along the route that most cruises ply.
How long is the Bosphorus cruise?
Typically, cruise times last anywhere from 2 hours to 10 hours, depending on the number of stops and the length of the journey. Long Tour (Full Circle) cruises make lunch stops at Anadolu Kavagi, with some even spending time in the Black Sea. The Short Tour (Short Circle) cruises do not.
Thanks for reading our guide to the best Bosphorus Cruise tours for 2024!
Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
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Featured image credit: Ante Samarzija on Unsplash
I’ve been a blogger and travel writer since 2010, covering everything from luxury hotels to hidden destinations and travel gear. Originally from Oregon, I’ve spent the majority of the past 20 years living outside of the U.S., in Mexico, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe. I received a BA in Communications (Journalism) from Boston College, and an MA in International Development Studies from the George Washington University. I’m passionate about exploration and discovery, and providing independent, thoroughly-researched, ad-free advice for travelers.