Those who visit Istanbul for the first time, primarily visit the historical monuments around Sultanahmet. However, it is not enough to see why Istanbul is such an important place in history. It is essential to take a Bosphorus cruise tour in Istanbul in order to comprehend how large the city is.
The most important settlement of Istanbul during the Roman and Byzantine periods was the Historical Peninsula. Separated from the rest of Istanbul by the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, Historical Peninsula was the imperial capital of Constantinople.
The Ottomans captured the city in 1453. Historical Peninsula still remained the center of life for many years. In Galata, on the other side of the Golden Horn, there were Genoese and Venetians, the Latin trade colonies.
However, with the development of international trade in the 1800s, today’s districts such as Beyoglu and Besiktas started to grow. The Sultan moved from the traditional Topkapi Palace to the modern Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus.
Many mosques, mansions and palaces were built on the shores of the Bosphorus. The best examples of baroque and neo-classical architecture that marked the last period of the Ottoman Empire are on the shores of the Bosphorus.
If you want to see the traces of this architectural transformation, you can take a Bosphorus boat tour. The best photos you will take in Istanbul will probably be the ones you will take during the Bosphorus cruise.
Best Bosphorus Cruise Tour in Istanbul
You basically have three options to join the best Bosphorus cruise tour in Istanbul. One of them is the official company Sehir Hatlari. The other two are Turyol and Dentur. Each Bosphorus cruise has its own pricing, schedule and route.
Sehir Hatlari and Turyol‘s piers are located in Eminonu neighborhood on the Old City side of Galata Bridge. This location is also next to the Spice Bazaar. For someone staying in Istanbul Old City (Beyazit, Sultanahmet, Sirkeci), it is very easy to reach Eminonu, where the tours start.
For someone staying in Taksim Square or Besiktas, it will be easy to reach Kabatas, where Dentur is located. You can reach Kabatas from Taksim Square by Funicular F1, and from Besiktas by bus or taxi. Dentur pier in Kabatas is just walking distance from Dolmabahce Palace.
For those who want a different experience, I will suggest two Bosphorus tours towards the end of the article. One of them is the Bosphorus Dinner Cruise featuring local dances and Turkish cuisine. The second is the Bosphorus Sunset Cruise, which gives you romantic moments in Istanbul when the sun goes down.
1. Sehir Hatlari Public Ferry
Sehir Hatlari is an official company that organizes a Bosphorus cruise with public ferries. It has a fixed schedule that has not changed for many years. The full day Bosphorus cruise, which is available all year round, promises a 6-hour sightseeing experience. On the other hand, there is another 2-hour program called short Bosphorus cruise in summer.
Long Bosphorus Cruise by Sehir Hatlari
The long Bosphorus cruise organized by Sehir Hatlari departs from Eminonu every day at 10:35. Two and sometimes three-storey nostalgic ferries serve for the Bosphorus tour. The fact that the ferries have a very large deck and many seating places makes Sehir Hatlari stand out from its competitors. Sehir Hatlari public ferries offer the best Bosphorus cruise tour in Istanbul in terms of comfort.
After leaving Eminonu, the Sehir Hatlari ferry goes north without stopping for 1.5 hours. Meanwhile, you can photograph the palaces, mosques and historical mansions on the European shores of the Bosphorus.
The Sehir Hatlari ferry reaches Anadolu Kavagi, the closest place to the Black Sea coast of the Bosphorus, after 1.5 hours. In this small town there is a three-hour break that starts at 12:00 and ends at 3:00 pm.
In a 3-hour break, you can go to Yoros Castle, which was built by the Genoese in the Byzantine period. The castle allows you to fit both the Bosphorus and the Black Sea views into the same frame. You can eat fresh fish at local restaurants in Anadolu Kavagi.
After the break is over, the return journey starts at 15:00. This time, the Sehir Hatlari ferry returns from the Asian shores of the Bosphorus. Thus, you will have the chance to see the structures on the other side of the Bosphorus.
At 16:30, the boat trip on the Bosphorus ends where it started. After getting off the ferry in Eminonu, you can visit the Spice Bazaar in the Old City or cross the Taksim side from Galata Bridge.
Short Bosphorus Cruise by Sehir Hatlari
The short Bosphorus cruise organized by Sehir Hatlari is only available in summer. The tour starts at 14:35 from Eminonu. Departing from the Istanbul Old City, the ferry goes to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the second bridge on the Bosphorus. After this point, the ferry returns to Eminonu, where it started again at the end of the 2-hour journey.
The prices of Sehir Hatlari ferries are really affordable. The long Bosphorus tour, which promises a 6-hour trip, is only 25 Turkish Liras. The price of the short Bosphorus cruise tour is only 15 Turkish lira.
2. Turyol Bosphorus Cruise
Turyol Bosphorus Cruise is the most practical option. Turyol‘s pier is located very close to the Spice Bazaar, the popular tourist center of Istanbul. If you cross the underpass across the Spice Bazaar, you can easily find Turyol Pier on the sea side. The ticket office box is right next to the boats selling fish sandwiches.
Turyol Bosphorus Cruise starts from Eminonu and stops at Uskudar to pick up more passengers on the Asian side. The cruise boat then follows the European shores of the Bosphorus and proceeds in the north direction until the bridge. The boat makes the u-turn from the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the second bridge on the Bosphorus, this time allows you to see the Asian shores of the Bosphorus.
The journey lasts one and a half hours and ends at Eminonu, where it started. The best thing about Turyol Bosphorus Cruise is that they depart from Eminonu every hour. So you don’t have to adjust your daily schedule for the Bosphorus cruise. You can catch one of the boats that depart every hour.
The price of the Turyol Bosphorus cruise, which takes 1.5 hours, is 25 Turkish lira. Turyol boats are a bit more expensive than the public ferry considering the time of the trip. However, it provides a flexible travel opportunity due to the Bosphorus cruise every hour.
3. Dentur Bosphorus Cruise
Dentur Bosphorus Cruise is the third option. The most beautiful part of Dentur is that it is very close to Kabatas. For visitors staying in Taksim Square, transportation is very easy. From Taksim Square you can come to Kabatas via Funicular F1 line and easily reach Dentur boats.
Dentur pier is very close to Dolmabahce Palace, so you can visit the palace first. Dentur’s biggest difference from Turyol is that it departs a little further. Since the tour starts from Kabatas and not from Eminonu, it goes further than Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge and returns from Emirgan (beautiful neighborhood up the Bosphorus nearby Sabanci Museum) The journey time is almost the same with Turyol.
Another feature of Dentur boats is that it stops in the Ottoman palaces on the shores of the Bosphorus. The boat stops at Emirgan on the European side and Kucuksu Pavillion (hunting palace of the Sultans) and Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side. If you want to visit these places, you can get off the boat and catch the next boat and return to the starting point of Kabatas.
Dentur Bosphorus Cruise costs 25 Turkish Liras for a 1 hour and 15 minute tour. Dentur is the best Bosphorus cruise tour in Istanbul for those who want to visit the palaces on the Asian side of Istanbul. Visits to Kucuksu Pavillion and Beylerbeyi Palace are both a cultural experience and the opportunity to eat and drink by the Bosphorus. The cafes of both museums have Bosphorus views and the food prices are reasonable.
4. Bosphorus Dinner Cruise
Bosphorus dinner cruise in Istanbul is a really fun activity. During this tour you can watch local dances and belly dancers. The best part of the Bosphorus dinner cruise is that you can see the palaces and other beautiful buildings on the Bosphorus with their colorful lights.
You can spend an unforgettable evening with beautiful music on the boat, local dances to entertain you and romantic scenery. If you want to join the recommended Bosphorus dinner cruise tour, you can make a reservation from this link. The tour is organized under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international company.
5. Bosphorus Sunset Cruise
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise allows you to take magnificent photos in Istanbul. You can enjoy the most romantic moments of the Bosphorus on the tour that starts when the sun sets. If you want to join a sunset cruise tour on the Bosphorus with a luxury yacht, you can make a reservation from this link. This journey might be convenient for a small family or a couple.
Best Bosphorus Cruise Tour in Istanbul by Serhat Engul