Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

We stayed five full days in Istanbul. The first four were spent exploring all its major tourist areas on foot. From the museums, mosques, and palaces of Sultanahmet to the shops and restaurants of Beyoğlu to the hip neighborhoods of Kadıköy.

As you can imagine, we covered a LOT of ground in those four days. We had already visited all of Istanbul’s major sites so we wanted to do something that was fun but a little more relaxed on our fifth and final day. Going on a scenic all-day cruise of the Bosphorus — an experience that some say is one of Istanbul’s greatest pleasures — was exactly that.

We went on a cruise with Şehir Hatları, Istanbul’s official ferry company. They offer three Bosphorus Cruises — Full, Short, and Moonlight (Evening). We went on their Full Bosphorus Cruise which takes you all the way to Anadolu Kavağı, the last dock before the Black Sea. It leaves Eminönü at 10:35AM and gets back around 4:25PM. Full Bosphorus Cruises run everyday year-round and cost 25TL per person.

For people who don’t have a full day to spare, Short Cruises last just two hours and cost 12TL. Availability depends on the season though so be sure to check their WEBSITE for a timetable. The Moonlight Cruise is the same as the Full except it starts just before dusk and costs 20TL. If you have a valid Istanbul Museum Pass, then you can get 25% off on any of their Bosphorus cruises.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

A word of caution: Be wary of hustlers offering private Bosphorus cruises. Even in Sultanahmet you’ll see them holding up private Bosphorus Cruise signs. Though there are reputable companies out there, many are scammers offering overpriced (often double) abbreviated tours on crappy boats. Their tours can hardly be called private either since you’ll often be riding with 50 or more people. Avoid them at all costs and go with an established company like Şehir Hatları. Just look for their ticketing office pictured below on the Eminönü ferry dock.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

The inside of the ferry. We went in November so the ferry was less than half full. I’m sure they get packed during peak seasons though so be sure to arrive at the dock early to buy your tickets.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

As expected, open air seating is the most popular. We arrived early and elbowed our way to prime seats. 😉
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Waiting to set sail from Eminönü ferry dock, there’s Galata Bridge with Galata Tower in the distance.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

And away we go! The crew makes it a point to feed the birds so the passengers can get pretty shots like this.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

A quick video we shot of the seagulls flocking around the ferry. Pretty cool eh?

There’s Dolmabahçe Palace. For 10TL, you can rent an audio guide that describes all the points of interest you’ll pass on the cruise.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Sailing past Ortaköy Mosque
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Not sure which port this was but it’s one of four the Full Cruise will dock at before Anadolu Kavağı. The Short Cruise will stop just once to pick up more passengers at Ortaköy.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Approaching Rumelihisarı and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Rumelihisarı, also known as Rumelian Castle, is a fortress located in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

If I remember correctly, up ahead was Rumeli Kavağı, the second to the last stop on the Full Cruise. It takes about an hour and a half to get from Eminönü to Anadolu Kavağı.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

And finally, Anadolu Kavağı! All along the pier are seafood restaurants jockeying for your business.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Arriving just after 12 noon, you’ll have three hours to have lunch and explore before the ferry heads back to Eminönü at 3PM.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

There’s my lovely Captain happy to be back on solid ground.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Anadolu Kavağı is a charming seaside town that’s home to a number of restaurants and shops. Though they clearly cater to tourists, they don’t feel very “touristy” if that makes any sense. A very pleasant atmosphere indeed.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

We didn’t do it but many people who go on the Full Cruise hike up to Yoros Castle, a medieval fortress perched atop a hill. If you’re in the mood for a hike, then you may be interested in doing that since the castle is said to offer breathtaking views.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

As for us, we were done with walking so the only thing on our agenda today was to sample as much fresh seafood as we could.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

There are dozens of restaurants to choose from in Anadolu Kavağı, though they all pretty much serve the same things so it doesn’t really matter which one you walk into.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Offering the best views, restaurants by the water seemed the most popular.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Kavak Baba

We chose Kavak Baba which was the very last restaurant at the end of the street.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

A cloudless sunny day, we sat as close as we could to the banks of the Bosphorus to enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood on our last full day in Turkey. Can life get any better than this? ♥
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Hamsi — 20TL — Tasty anchovy fillets in olive oil and spices
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Levrek — 25TL — The freshest grilled sea bass
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Midye Izgara — 12TL — Battered and deep-fried mussels. Can’t believe we’ve never had these anywhere before!
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

When you fly for food, you learn not to eat too much at one place. This was the perfect example why. Walking out of Kavak Baba just full enough to be content, we immediately spot this balik ekmek stall. Balik ekmek, or “fish bread”, is something I’ve been wanting to try since I first started planning our Turkey itinerary.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Grilling up the mackerel fillets
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

You can get balik ekmek at the various restaurants and stalls along the Eminönü ferry dock as well.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

And there you have it — a freshly grilled mackerel fillet sandwich with onion, lettuce, tomato, and a spritz of lemon — all for just 6TL.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

As you’d expect, we weren’t done yet. With over an hour left before departure time, we stopped at a pastry shop for coffee and this delicious Turkish apple/almond (?) dessert. I don’t know what it’s called (or if it were even made with apples for that matter), but it was delicious.
Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus with Şehir Hatları in Istanbul, Turkey

Neither Ren nor I are big fans of boats but we both enjoyed this cruise tremendously. One and a half hours each way, it’s just long enough to give you great views of Istanbul without being boring. Any longer then it may have started to feel monotonous.

As enjoyable as it was however, the Full Bosphorus Cruise is a whole day affair so not all travelers will have the time to do it. At just two hours from start to end, the Short Cruise may be the more popular option. Just be aware that unlike the Full Cruise, it isn’t available year-round. It’s offered daily only during peak seasons so be sure to check the Şehir Hatları WEBSITE for an updated schedule.

We didn’t do the Moonlight Cruise but based on what I’ve read, it’s a magical experience all its own. You leave right before dusk to enjoy the golden light of sunset and stop for dinner in Anadolu Kavağı before heading back. Regardless of which one you take though, a Bosphorus Cruise is a memorable experience and one you shouldn’t miss in Istanbul.

Şehir Hatları, Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey

Boğaz İskelesi Ferry Dock, Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: +90 212 313 8000
Website: sehirhatlari.com.tr
Facebook: sehirhatlari
Twitter: sehir_hatlari
Instagram: sehir_hatlari
YouTube: sehirhatlari1
Flickr: sehirhatlari
Email: info@sehirhatlari.com.tr

CRUISE PRICES:
Full Bosphorus Cruise (Roundtrip) — 25TL (Adult) / 12.50TL (Children under 12)
Full Bosphorus Cruise (One-way) — 15TL (Adult) / 6TL (Children under 12)
Short Circle Cruise — 12TL (Adult) / 6TL (Children under 12)
Moonlight Cruise — 20TL
*All tours are free for children under 6. Visit their WEBSITE for a cruise timetable.

HOW TO GET THERE:
From Sultanahmet, take the T1 tram to Eminönü station. Walk to the ferry dock and look for the Şehir Hatları ticketing office pictured at the top of this post.

For more Istanbul travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


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