Cruising the Bosphorous

So, Istanbul is on two continents. Wait, what? Yes, two continents. Europe had to end somewhere and it seems Asia had to start somewhere as well.

But why split a country over two continents, no less a city? Power, that’s why. Obviously.

Istanbul is one of the most important cities in the world as its location between the Middle East and Western Europe, as well as its location around one of the busiest waterways on Earth, has given those who own it control over the flow of goods through the region. So why only own one side of it when you can have both? The Ottomans couldn’t find a reason not to.

The Bosphorous straight, the name of said waterway, is not only a lifeblood for exporters and trading, but it’s also a great place to spend a day on a boat drinking çay and snapping photos when traveling to Turkey.

Bosphorous Bridge panorama, Istanbul

Sadly, we did not have time to go over to the Asian side just to walk around (oh, the days of long-term travel, i miss thee), however there are no shortage of boats that are happy to shuttle you up and down the straight for an hour or two.

On our second day in Istanbul we got sublimely lucky to have warm cloudless day – one perfect for boating. I’m not a big boater, but with the warm sun, and the breezy air, this cruise was the perfect way to see the greater Istanbul area without a tour guide or a map.

Cruising the Borphorous, Istanbul

The cruise starts at the Eminou pier, which for a traveler is a very convenient place to start. Eminou’s tram stop is only a short walking distance away from the New Mosque, the Spice Bazaar, and Istanbul’s famous Galata bridge. Here, fish is the language and eating it is the thing to do. The entire bridge is lined with little cafes, and the piers are lined with boats serving as floating restaurants.

New Mosque at Eminou, Istanbul

Floating fish restaurants, Istanbul

The cruise route leads you out of the Golden Horn inlet under the Galata Bridge and out into the Bosphorous Straight. From here, you float up the European coast passing by Beyoglu, Ortakoy, and both major Bosphorous crossings: the Bosphorous Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. After about an hour, the boat turns back around and rides along the Asian coast passing mansions, mosques, and local neighborhoods.

Suleymaniye Mosque from the water, Istanbul

Beyoglu from Eminou, Istanbul

Little boat in the Bosphorous, Istanbul

View over the Bosphorous, Istanbul

The boat arrives back in Eminou, leaving hungry travelers in an enormous plaza with plenty of delicious Simit, Turkish ice cream, and nut stands for snacking. This non-tour tour is a perfect way to get out of the historic district and have a bi-continental experience.

Bosphorous cruises are easy to find – no need to book ahead. They generally leave every half hour during the daytime and are run by several private companies. You’ll find the boats at the Eminou pier just beyond the Galata bridge. The cost of each trip is only about US$6.

Check it out: TravelShus’ Interactive Guide to Istanbul



  • Andi
    December 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    What an incredible experience!

    • annie
      December 10, 2012 at 11:52 am

      it was such an awesome ride – highly recommended whenever you get there! :)

  • Jyothi
    January 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Lovely Description. We were in Istanbul doing the first week of December 2012. :)

  • Skywatch Friday 3
    January 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    […] Cruising the Bosphorous […]

  • Jeremy Branham
    April 27, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I am not a big cruise guy but I would take an evening cruises along the Bosphorous. Still need to visit Turkey!

    • annie
      April 29, 2013 at 10:33 am

      it’s a beautiful and intriguing city. you would love it – and the cruise!

  • Scenes from Istanbul | TravelShus
    May 10, 2013 at 11:08 am

    […] Istanbul were few, but full of movement. Though my highlights from Istanbul were big things like our cruise on the Bosphorous and a visit inside the Blue Mosque, some of the most enjoyable moments were spent walking the […]

  • My Favorite Places in Istanbul | TravelShus
    September 25, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    […] Riding the Bosphorous ferry, which leaves from the ferry dock, was one of my favorite ways to see the city. I highly recommend it – especially if you are only in town for a few days. […]


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