Istanbul: Boat Up the Bosphorus

We take a public ferry up the Bosphorus, the 17-mile strait separating Europe and Asia and linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.

By Dave

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The Bosphorus is the waterway separating the European and Asian sides of the sprawling city of Istanbul.

The strait stretches 17 nautical miles from the Sea of Marmara in the south, to the Black Sea in the north. This satellite image taken from the ISS in April 2004 also shows most of the city of Istanbul (the reddish part).

After we extended our time in Istanbul, we knew we wanted to devote one of the extra days to a cruise up the Bosphorus. There are a number of swankier options for exploring the waterway, but we opted for the public ferry (Sehir Hatlari), which set us back US$11 each. And we were very pleased with the results.

The ferry left Eminonu on the Golden Horn, right in the heart of the city (take note of the restaurants under the bridge — one of Eminent’s popular attractions)

There were two options, Full Circle and Short Circle. We opted for the Full Circle, which takes about six hours round trip with a few hours in the middle to enjoy the northernmost stop.

Leaving the Old City, the ferry traveled by a number of sights leaving town.

Lori and I rented an audio guide that was available at the ticket booth, which gave information about various points of interest along the way. Here are few of the highlights:

Galata, and the Galata Tower.

Dolmabahçe Mosque, an Ottoman Mosque completed in 1853.

Dolmabahçe Palace (Sultan’s Palace), now a museum.

Ortaköy Mosque, built in 1856.

The First Bosphorus Bridge was built in 1970, and as the name might imply, was the first bridge to connect Europe and Asia.

Looks like it’s gonna be a close squeeze…

Rumeli Fortress, built by the Ottomans in 1452.

The Second Bosphorus Bridge.

After about 90 minutes on the water, with a few stops in between, we reached the last stop before turning back for Istanbul: the village of Anadolu Kavagi. From the ferry pier, you can hike up to a small fortification and a commanding view of the Bosphorus and the shores of the Black Sea.

Looking north, we could see the construction of a third bridge spanning Europe and Asia currently under construction. Beyond the bridge, the Black Sea.

There are a number of restaurants and cafes in the village, but we opted for Yoros Cafe, which offered a stunning view of our route.


Back in the village, Lori found this very large residence painted in her favorite color.

Moments later, a wedding procession cut through the narrow streets of the village. The bride and groom were in this car.

The village was interesting enough to take a walk about, but we were glad we took the extra time to hike up to the Yoros castle and have lunch with a view. We were able to comfortable achieve all of this in the layover time. That’s our ferry (the one in the back, not the front)

We were pretty impressed with the amenities offered by a public ferry, and certainly wouldn’t have paid the additional to take a private cruise. It was part of the adventure to ride along with a mix of commuters, tourists and locals on their way to visit family/friends.





On our way back into the harbor, a sun beam dramatically lit the Maiden’s Tour on the Asian side of Istanbul.

That evening, we enjoyed a perfect late-August evening in Istanbul, including a delicious meatball kebab dinner at Pasazade. Tomorrow, the Land Walls!

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