The Bosporus is one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks and a must-see for every visitor.
We tell you everything you need to know about this natural wonder and why you should do a Bosporus tour.
Here is our Bosporus tour summary:
The Bosporus Experience
The ship’s horn blares, and the last few people hurry to catch the ferry. Good for those who made it on board in time to get a good seat: on the lower deck, where there’s a white bench along the outer wall. You sit here just a meter above the waves, leaning back against the wall, feet up on the railing, basking in the sun and wind.
The best way to enjoy the summer in Istanbul is by taking a ferry ride across the Bosporus. For the crossing to Asia, most people choose to sit on the right side of the ferry (starboard) for the better view. And for the crossing to Europe, they prefer to sit on the left side (port). The ship’s horn will sound three times when it’s time to depart. Then, a dockworker will unhook the lines, and you’ll be on your way.
As the ship leaves the ferry port of Eminönü, seagulls glide alongside it, snatching up crumbs that passengers toss to them. Dolphins also sometimes appear here and swim right up to the Galata Bridge.
The ferry companies in the city offer some of the most beautiful routes, one of which goes to Kadiköy on the Asian shore. Millions of passengers use these ferries to cross between the 50 piers every year. On this route, the ship first passes through the Golden Horn – an elongated waterway that divides the European part of Istanbul – then crosses over the Bosporus – one of the two straits between the Mediterranean and Black Seas – before finally touching down in the Sea of Marmara on its way to dock on Asia’s shores.
The captain up on the bridge must stay concentrated at all times. Transverse to the direction of travel, freighters and tankers from different parts of the world cross the straits – they are often accompanied by tugs and have unconditional right of way on the international waterway, as do warships and occasional submarines.
Ferries go back and forth between continents – in addition to city passenger ferries, there are also car ferries and private lines. In between sail fishing boats, excursion ships, private yachts, garbage clearing ships and occasional sailors.
When the ferry arrives, the passengers disembark the ship to explore Kadiköy. This district has many pubs, stages, and a renowned food court – it has become Istanbul’s party district in recent years. Alternatively, you can just board the next ship back and relax… again on the right side.
The Bosporus – what is it, and where is it located?
The Bosporus is a strait located in northwestern Turkey. It forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia, and separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Marmara. The word “Bosporus” comes from Ancient Greek and means “ox-ford”.
The Bosporus is approximately 31 kilometers (19 miles) long, with a width varying from 700 meters (2,300 feet) to 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles).
The beauty of the Bosporus is truly an unforgettable experience. Standing on the shores of the strait, you can see the city of Istanbul stretched out before you. The skyline is dotted with minarets and the air is filled with the sound of prayer calls. The Bosporus is also a place of great natural beauty. The water is calm and crystal clear, and the shores are lined with trees.
In the springtime, the shores of the Bosporus are filled with colorful flowers.
Related read: Sights in Istanbul: A City of History and Culture
Why is the Bosporus so special?
The Bosporus is one of the most special places in the world. It’s not just a waterway separating Europe and Asia – it’s also a place where East meets West, and where you can find some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.
There are few things as breathtaking as watching the sun set over the Bosporus, or taking a leisurely boat ride along its length, admiring the opulent Ottoman villas that line its shores. Even simply strolling along the water’s edge and taking in the fresh sea air is an unforgettable experience.
If you’re looking for a place that truly has it all, then look no further than the Bosporus. Whether you want to relax and take in nature’s beauty, or explore a fascinating culture, this is the place for you.
Here are just a few of the reasons why the Bosporus is so special:
- The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. With its turquoise waters and lush green hillsides, the Bosporus is a feast for the eyes.
- You can really feel the history here. The Bosporus has been a vital waterway for centuries, and you can sense that history when you’re on it.
- It’s a great place to relax. Whether you’re on a leisurely boat ride or just sitting on the banks of the strait, the Bosporus has a calming effect.
- There’s always something to see. From the remarkable sunsets to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, there’s never a dull moment on the Bosporus.
How to get the most out of your Bosporus tour
Get there early
The Bosporus is busiest in the late afternoon and evening, so get there early to avoid the crowds. On the other hand, watching the sun set over the Bosporus is a great experience as well.
Take a boat ride
A boat ride is the best way to see the Bosporus. You can find many different boats to take you on a tour, from small private boats to larger group tours. Or you could take a public ferry, which is a cheap option. If you like it more exclusive, then hire a private boat.
We did a cruise on a luxury yacht, and it was outstanding! Instead of being crammed onto a cruise ship with dozens of other people, we got to enjoy the luxury of a private yacht for the night. There were around 20-25 people total, and they served Turkish specialties and also wine and non-alcoholic drinks.
Some of the highlights from our trip were seeing the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Rumeli Castle, Beylerbeyi Palace, and seeing the waterfront mansions lining both sides of the Bosphorus. Another highlight was driving under all the different bridges and seeing the city at sunset and at night. The tour lasted around 2 hours.
It was an incredible experience and one that we’ll never forget.
Is the Bosporus a river or a sea?
The Bosporus is a sea that runs through Turkey and separates the country’s European and Asian sides. Depending on the time of day and the tide, the Bosporus can look like a river flowing through the city. It also has a forceful current. As it’s a very narrow passage, lots of fish swim through it as well. With a bit of luck, you can even spot dolphins. We’ve seen a few on our ferry ride to the Eastern side.
Which Bosporus cruise to take?
There are a few different Bosporus cruises to choose from, and they all offer something unique. If you want to get the most out of your cruise, I recommend choosing one that includes stops at both the European and Asian sides of the city. That way, you can get a taste of both cultures and see some of the most beautiful sights in Istanbul. Whichever cruise you choose, you’re sure to have a memorable experience.
Here is a 90-minute tour for only €10 per person, which includes an Audio Guide, a Bosporus map, water or tea.
How to book a Bosporus cruise?
Bosporus cruises are a great way to see Istanbul from the water. You can book a cruise through a number of different companies, both online and in person. Some cruises are shorter, lasting only an hour or so, while others can be all day affairs.
It really depends on what you’re looking for and how much time you have. You can also book cruises on private chartered yachts, if you’re looking for a more intimate experience.
When to take a Bosporus cruise?
There is no bad time to take a Bosporus cruise, but the best times are definitely spring and autumn. The weather is milder then and the views of Istanbul are simply stunning.
Can I use the Bosporus ferry with the public transport card?
Yes, you can use the Bosporus ferry with the public transport card. The ferry is a great way to get around Istanbul and it’s very convenient.
The ferry ride across the Bosporus in Istanbul is a great value at only one euro. You get to experience the culture, history, and natural beauty of the city in just half an hour for around €1 per person.
I recommend to get the Istanbul Welcome Card, as it includes public transportation, but also fast track entry and skip the lines to the top sights. And a Bosporus cruise and tours are included as well.
Why is the Bosporus important?
The Bosporus is one of the busiest waterways in the world. It’s important because it’s a major shipping route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The Bosporus is also a popular tourist destination because it’s so scenic.
How to pronounce Bosporus?
The Bosporus is pronounced “bO-sfuh-ruhs.”
Who controls the Bosporus strait?
The Bosporus strait is controlled by Turkey.
What is the Golden Horn in Istanbul?
The Golden Horn is a major waterway that forms the harbor of Istanbul, Turkey. Its name comes from the fact that it is shaped like a horn. It is also sometimes called the Halic River.
More information and tips of places to visit around the Bosporus
Visit the mosques
The Bosporus is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul. Be sure to visit at least one during your visit.
Here is a good tip on how to buy Hagia Sophia ticket and what to expect.
Shop at the markets
The markets along the Bosporus are a great place to find souvenirs and local goods.
The Grand Bazaar is a world-famous market that sells everything from spices to jewelry. With hundreds of shops, it’s one of the biggest and oldest covered markets in the world.
Read our travel tip: Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: A Shopper’s Paradise
Enjoy the Turkish food
The Bosporus is home to some of the best Turkish cuisine. Be sure to try some of the local specialties during your visit.
We had lunch at Ali Ocakbaşı. They have a great view onto the Golden Horn. They aim to offer a new generation of Ocakbaşı and kebab enjoyment in one of Istanbul’s most beautiful locations.
The entrance is a bit hidden in an alley, and you have to take the elevator up to get to their restaurant. Knowing the importance of local ingredients and seasonality, they prepare the flavors of the regions with original recipes and modern presentations, made in wood stoves.
They also focus on sustainability and cooperates with family farms. The chaos, confusion and all the difficulties of this city disappear with a view over the Bosporus. Make sure also to go all the way up, onto the roof terrace to snap some photos and to enjoy the view and atmosphere.
Visit the Bosporus Bridge
The Bosporus Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul. It’s worth taking some time to walk across it and take in the incredible views.
Go for a swim
If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss out on the chance to go for a swim in the Bosporus. There are many beaches and swimming spots to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you.
Relax in a Turkish Hammam
Here you will find a list and more info with some of the best hammams that you can visit during your stay in Istanbul: Where to Experience a Traditional Hammam in Istanbul.
For the men reading this, you can also visit a Turkish Barber Shop.
Visit the top sights in Istanbul
There are many sights to see in Istanbul, and you’ll definitely find something that interests you. However, there are a few sights that you shouldn’t miss.
The first is the Blue Mosque. The mosque was built in the early 1600s and is one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture. It’s named for the blue tiles that adorn its exterior, and it’s well worth a visit.
The second sight to see is Topkapi Palace. The palace was once the home of the sultans who ruled over Istanbul, and it’s now a museum full of incredible art and artifacts from that time period. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in history or culture.
The Basilica Cistern – The Sunken Palace is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s easy to see why. The Cistern is an enormous underground water storage system, which you can visit and which was built in the 6th century.
Finally, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without seeing Hagia Sophia. The building started out as a Christian cathedral but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Then it served as a museum where you could see both Christian and Islamic art side by side. Now it’s a mosque again, though it’s still more a touristic attraction.
You won’t regret it!
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, then you won’t regret taking a trip on the Bosporus. The beauty of the waterway is truly something to behold, and you’ll be able to enjoy it from a unique vantage point as you cruise down the middle of the sea.
After your ferry ride, be sure to explore the ancient city of Istanbul. There’s plenty to see and do here, from visiting historic monuments and museums to exploring winding alleyways and finding local restaurants and shops.
No matter what you’re interested in, Istanbul has something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a breathtakingly beautiful place to visit, put Istanbul at the top of your list. The Bosporus is an unforgettable experience, and you won’t be disappointed with the city’s rich history and culture.