Cruising Istanbul’s Bosphorus
I hadn’t planned on doing a cruise down Istanbul’s Bosphorus, but I decided to take one on a whim to fill up an afternoon without plans… and I ended up on one of my favourite city cruises yet!
Istanbul is a gorgeous enough city to explore by foot, but as it turns out, it sure looks damn pretty from the water as well. 🙂 One of the popular things to do is to take a cruise along the Bosphorus strait, the body of water that divides the European side of Istanbul in half. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-do if you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Istanbul, but it’s not a bad choice if you’re there for at least 3-4 days.
I’ve done my fair share of city cruises, but the first thing that hit me about the Bosphorus was that unlike the murky River Thames of London, or Paris’ Seine, the waters of the Bosphorus are a brilliant turquoise on a sunny day. Which I was not expecting, because seriously, who has waters that clear running right through the middle of a city of Istanbul’s size?!
As you would expect, there are a lot of companies offering cruises along the Bosphorus, with various options ranging from a simple ride on a boat to fancy dinner cruises and the lot. You can either Google around for something you’d like, or just stand around in the middle of Sultanahmet and wait for someone to offer you a cruise (it won’t take long), or browse around the travel agencies’ offices when you get there. I just got mine bundled together with a whole bunch of other bus tickets/tours I was getting at one of the travel agencies!
Istanbul has many sides to it – there’s the glitzy, the gritty, the old and the modern all mashed together, and the glamourous side is definitely the side that you’ll be seeing on the Bosphorus cruise.
There are quite a number of sights you can see along the banks of the Bosphorus, which your guide will point out to you, and it becomes obvious that the Bosphorus has, and probably always will be, the playground of the rich and the famous 😉
Case in point, the Dolmabahçe Palace! The stunning palace is one of several built right at the edge of the Bosphorus, and is one of Istanbul’s most well-known sights. The Dolmabahçe Palace replaced Topkapi Palace as the Sultans’ primary residence when they started digging the European style of architecture, and is supposed to have immensely opulent interiors (which I hadn’t had the opportunity to see for myself).
Another pretty palace along the Bosphorus! …which I can’t remember the name of, sorry.
Other than palaces, the banks of the Bosphorus are also home to some of the most expensive hotels, the Four Seasons, and Ciragan Palace, a former Ottoman palace which is now a five-star hotel of the Kempinski Hotels chain. My photos didn’t turn out so well, so knock yourselves out with the links 😛
Another interesting sight on the Bosphorus is the Galatasaray Islet!
It’s not very obvious from this picture, but it’s basically a tiny, man-made “island” that is now the property of Galatasaray SK, one of Istanbul’s most famous sports clubs. It’s pretty cool – there are restaurants, bars and even swimming pools on the island! I wouldn’t mind having an evening cocktail there 🙂
A little further up the Bosphorus is where some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods are!
Hello big houses and private boats!
Yup, that looks like a view worth big bucks for sure.
Life is good when you get to zip by gawking boatfuls of tourists on your own sweet yacht 🙂
Other than getting a glimpse of the good life, there are a couple other things you can see along the Bosphorus, like the Bosphorus bridges.
This is the Bosphorus Bridge, also known as the First Bosphorus Bridge or simply the First Bridge, one of two suspension bridges across the Bosphorus strait. It lights up at night in pretty colours!
You’ll also be able to see the Rumeli Hisari fortress during the cruise!
After a leisurely round trip of about an hour on the Bosphorus, we set off for a side trip to Pierre Loti Hill, which was also included in my tour.
If you’re thinking that “Pierre Loti” sounds awfully un-Turkish, you’d be right. The hill was named after a French naval officer and novelist who was a big fan of Istanbul (and that hill in particular), and named one of his novels after a Turkish woman he fell in love with. It is also where the Bosphorus “ends” inland, and you can enjoy some pretty awesome panoramic views of the bay!
There’s also a cafe up there where you can enjoy the view from for longer if you’ve got the time.
Unfortunately, time was what I didn’t have when I was on a tour, so we wrapped up the tour and took the cable car down to where our van was waiting after about 15 minutes up there. If I had the time to spare, I would’ve walked down the hill, which happens to a really scenic cemetery as well. Yeah, that’s my kinda thing 😛
Up next – my last post on Istanbul, and my reason for visiting Istanbul in the first place! 😀