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Bosphorus Strait Day Trips from Istanbul

Sailing the waters of the Bosphorus aboard a sunset cruise will add a magical touch to your visit to Istanbul. Welcome to the Thousand and One Nights!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

5 min read

Bosphorus Strait Day Trips from Istanbul

Enjoy the sights of Istanbul during the Bosphorus cruise | ©Can yılmaz

Watching the Bosphorus at sunset while listening to the call to prayer is one of the most authentic images you can take away from your trip to Istanbul. Add a river cruise and your visit to the Turkish capital is complete.

1. The best cruise on the Bosphorus

Bosphorus cruise at sunset | ©David Leo Veksler
Bosphorus cruise at sunset | ©David Leo Veksler

The city of Istanbul has two distinct zones: the European part and the Asian part. The Bosphorus is the natural border that divides the two zones. In addition, the Bosphorus enters the city through the stretch known as the "Golden Horn" separating the European part into two areas: the Old City and the Galata district.

A cruise on the Bosphorus is an ideal way to get to know the capital of Turkey while enjoying the views.

This cruise also includes a bus tour and a pass for the city's cable car, making it the most complete option in the city and the most convenient value for money.

How to book

To secure your place on this Bosphorus cruise, it is best to book online in advance. This way you will be able to choose the best option and, in addition, you will have the guarantee of cancellation up to 24 hours before departure without losing any money. Once you make your reservation, you will receive a confirmation email with all the details that will serve as your voucher.

2. What does this cruise consist of?

The Bosphorus Bridge links the European and Asian sides of Istanbul | ©Juan Hipolito Gonzalez
The Bosphorus Bridge links the European and Asian sides of Istanbul | ©Juan Hipolito Gonzalez

Once you start looking for information about boat tours on the Bosphorus, you will find many options, but I recommend, for duration and value for money, this cruise on the Bosphorus at sunset with a bus route through the Golden Horn and access to the cable car. With this experience, you will see Istanbul from three different perspectives and I assure you that all of them are worth it.

This tour is available in several languages: Spanish, German, English, French and Italian. It includes pick up at your hotel and return to your hotel at the end of the experience, transfers between the different points of the tour, and, of course, the services of a local guide who will guide you and inform you about everything you see. The total duration of the tour is 3.5 hours including Bosphorus cruise, cable car ride, and bus ride.

During the boat tour, you will be able to follow the guide's explanations while enjoying the views and taking pictures of Istanbul's main monuments from a different perspective. The cruise will be at sunset, a time when you can escape the heat that plagues Istanbul in summer and also have a magical image of the city in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the early hours of the day.

What you will see with this tour

  • The Bosphorus Bridge; an emblem that separates the European part of Istanbul from the Asian part.
  • The Rumeli Fortress; an example of military architecture intended to protect the Bosphorus Strait.
  • The Beylerbeyi Palace; summer residence of the sultans located in the Asian part of the city
  • The Yildiz Palace; a set of Ottoman imperial villas built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
  • The Jewish quarter of Balat; characterized by its synagogues, its houses with balconies, and its staired sidewalks.
  • St. Stephen's Church; built entirely of cast iron.
  • The Constantinople Walls; originally from the 5th century, 13 miles long and with 96 towers.
  • The Eyup Quarter; a less touristy area that faithfully reflects daily life in Istanbul.
  • The Pierre Loti hill; from where you will have an unbeatable view of the Golden Horn.

3. Tips for fully enjoying a cruise on the Bosphorus

Views from the cruise ship of the Beylerbeyi Palace | ©David Leo Veksler
Views from the cruise ship of the Beylerbeyi Palace | ©David Leo Veksler

The Bosphorus cruise is one of the most popular experiences in Istanbul and you should consider the following before booking it:

You don't have to pay a lot

Surely during your trip, some local will offer you to take the cruise with a particular company. It doesn't have to be a lesser quality experience, but you do have to keep in mind that the prices of the Bosphorus cruises are quite affordable. Reject any option that seems too expensive at first glance.

Know the route beforehand

If you are going to hire it once you are in the city, keep in mind that there are cruises that only cover the part of the Bosphorus Horn and others that also approach the Asian border. The duration can range from one and a half to two hours. Depending on what you want to see ask, choose one or the other, but always ask before booking.

Sunset, the best time to do it

Personally, my favorite time to take a Bosphorus cruise is sunset, but there are several departures throughout the day so you can choose yours. There are even evening cruises with dinner included.

Don't be obsessed with taking photos

Once you start sailing, you will have plenty of time to capture the images you will see during the ride, so enjoy the tour and make you the protagonist and not your camera.

Better with a guide

This is a personal opinion, but for me, a city as charismatic as Istanbul is always better to see it under the perspective of the explanations of a professional guide. On many cruises, you will be able to do it, and the one I have proposed is one of them.

Combine it with other activities

You have already seen that there are cruises that also include other experiences such as a bus tour around the city or even a cableway ride. With these packages, you can save time and money, so if you have any other activity in mind, consider this option.

Ana's Traveller Tip

A cruise in Istanbul doesn't have to cost a lot. Don't get carried away by individuals who offer you experiences of dubious quality and high cost.

4. If you are interested in a cruise on the Bosphorus, you will also be interested in...

Inside the Grand Bazaar | ©young shanahan
Inside the Grand Bazaar | ©young shanahan

If you choose to take the Bosphorus sunset cruise during your visit to Istanbul you will have seen the city from three very different perspectives: from the water with the boat, from the air with the cable car, and from the ground with the bus. You only need to walk the streets to make your trip to the capital of Turkey complete.

If besides touring the city on your own you want to do it with a local expert who will explain the history of its main monuments, the customs and culture of its inhabitants and give you useful recommendations to follow the rest of your trip, I recommend you to take a look at this post about Best Tours and Day Trips from Istanbul.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the Bosphorus Strait?

    The Bosphorus Strait is a natural strait that forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia (Seperating Anatolia and Thrace). Istanbul sits on the shores of the strait, on both sides. The strait's importance also lies in the fact that it connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, along with the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

  • Can you swim in the Bosphorus?

    While you can technically swim in the Bosphorus (There are no laws saying you can't), it's highly advised that you don't. Due to the amount of huge ships that traverse the Bosphorus, the water is extremely polluted, as well as full of strong currents and riptides.

  • What day trip through the Bosphorus Strait should I take?

    Two of the most popular and best value day trips are the half day and day cruises, which takes through the strait to the Black Sea. This is because, aside from the smaller group, the guide and staff tend to be well informed and a nice lunch. The full day trip actually gives you a chance to swim in the Black Sea, while the half day trip, offers a stop for swimming but not in the Black Sea.