A cruise on the Bosphorus is probably the most overlooked Istanbul tourist attraction. Understandable, with such an abundance of historical sightseeing spots in Istanbul and too little time to squeeze them all into your short holiday. But take my advice and set a few hours aside to take an unforgettable Bosphorus tour. Certainly if you’re in town between May and September. You won’t regret it — at least if you follow these simple guidelines.
1. Private Bosphorus Tours
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of less trustworthy options. I see these scenes unfold almost every day: poorly informed tourists willing to take a Bosphorus tour, walking on the docks of Eminönü in search of a Bosphorus cruise. Such companies can spot this kind of behavior from a mile away and offer them a seat on their Bosphorus cruise boat. But please, don’t get tempted by the offer these ‘hustlers’ make. Their tours are overpriced (double and more), shorter, and often on boats that can barely be called seaworthy. Moreover, there is nothing private about a boat you share with 50 to 100 or more strangers.
2. Şehir Hatları Offers the No-Nonsense Bosphorus Tours
Şehir Hatları is Istanbul’s official ferry company. It offers three great Bosphorus tours: Short Circle Bosphorus Cruise, Full Bosphorus Cruise, and the Full Bosphorus Cruise by Night. Unfortunately, the availability of these tours changes according to the season. So do keep on reading and check out the respective links for the most up-to-date departure times. Insider tip: sit outside on the left-hand side of the ship for the best views.
The Şehir Hatları Bosphorus lines sales offices are located on the left docks of Eminönü when coming off the Galata Bridge.
Scenic River Cruise Tours on the Bosphorus
2.1 Short Circle Bosphorus Cruise (Kısa Boğaz Turu)
First up is the non-stop Short Circle Bosphorus tour. This one is great for people who are pressed for time but don’t want to miss a genuine Bosphorus experience. This tour is available twice a day in summer (April 1st until October 31st), and once a day during the low season. The cruise takes you from Eminönü to Istinye (well past the second bridge that is), and back.
The ferry leaves the Eminönü docks at 14:40 and 15:50, arrives at Ortaköy around 15:10 and 16:20 to pick up more people, and then continues its two-hour non-stop tour. The price per person is 32 TL, 16 TL for children under 12. For the latest updates, check the official timetable.
2.2 Full Bosphorus Cruise (Uzun Boğaz Turu)
The Full Bosphorus Tour offers a great Bosphorus experience and will take several hours in total. For a mere 65 TL, this cruise will take you from Eminönü all the way to the Black Sea, and back. Each way takes about two hours since the ferry also makes 5 short stops to let people on and off. You must get off the ferry at around 12:30 in Anadolu Kavağı, the last harbor before the Black Sea. This two-hour break gives you the opportunity to grab a (late) lunch in one of the town’s fish restaurants located on the shore and/or visit the fortress.
The ferry does one complete tour a day in summer (April 1st until October 31st). You can board the ferry in Eminönü (10:35) or Beşiktaş (10:50) on the European side, and Üsküdar (11:05) on the Asian side. Do check the official schedule with the latest timetables.
On board, you can use digital guides explaining over 70 points of interest along the way, in 10 different languages (Turkish, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Persian, and Arabic). The price for a round trip is 65 TL, 32,5 TL for children under the age of 12.
2.3 Full Bosphorus Cruise by Night (Mehtap Gezi)
It offers the exact same tour as the regular Full Bosphorus Tour, but you get to see Istanbul at night! The ferry leaves before dusk providing great Istanbul sunset views. It again stops in Anadolu Kavağı for a bit over two hours so people can enjoy dinner in the fish restaurants at the shore. Around 22:30 the ferry departs again for a moonlight cruise on the Bosphorus — a unique experience!
Unfortunately, the Full Bosphorus Tour by Night on the Ferry is only available on Saturdays in July and August. The good news is that it only costs 52 TL. Needless to say, you better buy your tickets in time.
3. Turyol and Dentur
Turyol and Dentur are two private companies that also offer a two-hour Bosphorus tour, similar to the one by Şehir Hatları. The good news is that they have several departures a day. The bad news is that they are more expensive and a bit shoter.
The Turyol Bosphorus tour sales booth is located on the righthand docks of Eminönü when coming off the Galata Bridge, past the fish & bread sellers. During the high season, ferries depart hourly starting 10:00. Last departure time is 20:00 on weekdays, and 21:00 during the weekend. The Bosphorus tour takes about 90 minutes, and costs 60 TL.
The Dentur Bosphorus tour dock and sales booth are located in Kabataş. The ferries depart every hour with the first departure at 12:45 and the last one at 17:45. The trip takes 1h45 and costs 75 TL.
Always check the respective websites for the latest schedules and prices.
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