Bosphorus Strait Istanbul: Facts, How to Best Explore, Cruises

The Bosphorus (Bogazici) is about 30 km. (19 miles) long strait or waterway separating the two continents, Asia and Europe, as well as Marmara and Black Sea. Bosphorus is one of the world’s most beautiful and charming natural formations and it will sure cheer up your hearts. You can explore the Bosphorus by cruising along and visiting the shores of both continents lined up with summer palaces, mansions, fortresses, groves, parks and gardens, by motorboats, yachts and public ferries. And so, the Bosphorus Cruises are amongst the best things to do in Istanbul.

Fast Facts About the Bosphorus Strait

Geopolitically Rare Features

The Bosphorus Strait has always been strategically located, both geographically and geologically. The Bosphorus connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, linking the Asian and European continents.

bosphorus bridge along Bosphorus strait

As one of the world’s most iconic symbols, it is extremely important in maritime transportation. The Bosphorus is the only waterway connecting the Black Sea to the open oceans to the south, hence it serves as the sole transit point for countries with Black Sea coastlines.

Home to Three Bridges

The Bosphorus has become an architectural masterpiece, with three bridges: the 15 July Martyrs Bridge (Bosphorus Bridge), the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, and the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge.

The 15 July Martyrs Bridge (Bosphorus Bridge) was built in 1973 as the first bridge across the strait. The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge was built in 1988, and the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge, opened in 2017, uniting both coastlines.

Approximately 30 Kilometers in Length

The Bosphorus Strait is 30 kilometers long. The strait is 61 meters deep on average, but it can get as deep as 120 meters in some places, like Bebek and Kandilli. The Bosphorus is an important part of both tourism and business.

It is thought to be one of the narrowest passages for maritime travel in the world. With an average width of 760 meters, its narrowest point is between Rumelihisarı and Anadoluhisarı. This makes it an important hub for trade and tourists.

Recognized as a Natural Boundary

The Straits Convention, which was part of the Treaty of Lausanne and signed in 1923, made the Bosphorus Strait an international waterway. When the Montreux Convention was signed in 1936, it gave the Republic of Turkey full control over the Bosphorus.

The Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles are all part of the Turkish Straits because of their unique position and location. It is acknowledged as one of the natural boundaries separating the continents of Europe and Asia.

Home to Numerous Historical Structures

Along the shores of the Bosphorus, there are many impressive ancient buildings. Beautiful sites like Dolmabahce Palace, Çırağan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Kücüksu Pavilion, Beykoz Pavilion, and Adile Sultan Pavilion make the strait look even more beautiful.

No Regrets Booking Advice

Multiple Currents Simultaneously

Many people know that the Bosphorus has strong currents. Within the same channel, currents can flow in two different ways. Deeper currents come from the Mediterranean, while surface water flows from the Black Sea.

Forms a Migration Route for Fish

If you want to fish, the Bosphorus is in a special place. It connects seas with different temperatures and levels of saltiness, which increases the variety of fish and helps many species move from one place to another. Tuna, horse mackerel, mackerel, and bluefish are some of the fish that you can find most often in Istanbul.

The Bosphorus: A Tale of Mythology and History

The name of the Bosphorus, or İstanbul Boğazı in Turkish, has a rich mythological and etymological history. Relative to the Greek terms “Bous” (cow) and “Poros” (strait or passage), it is interesting to note that the translation is “Cow Passage”. Zeus, the titan of titans famed for his misadventures, is the subject of the most widely recognized mythical story associated with this name.

bosphorus by the Camlica Hill

The story goes that Zeus got involved in a romantic relationship after being smitten with Io, the daughter of the river deity Inachus. At a covert meeting, Zeus changed into a cloud and Io became a cow to escape his wife Hera’s envious fury. Hera, however, was aware of the trick and sent a relentless fly harass Io. Io tried to get away from the bug, and she crossed mountains and seas until she arrived at the Bosphorus’s deep waters. Thus, “Bosphorus” or “inek geçidi”—the passage for cows—was named.

Bosphorus: Witness to History

With a length of 30 kilometers, the Bosphorus is the natural border between Europe and Asia and the sea route between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Throughout history, it has been an important route for countries like Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria, and others to get from the Black Sea to other seas. The Bosporus is like the front door to the Black Sea if it were a house.

Bosphorus entrance by Maiden's Tower

Being in Istanbul, especially near the Bosphorus, is like living in a place that both the East and the West have wanted for a long time. In the 7th century BCE, Istanbul was a Greek city-state. It later became the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman powers. With its old mansions and fortresses on the water, the Bosphorus shows the marks of these societies.

As you walk along the shore, you’ll see famous sites like the Anadolu Fortress, which was built by Sultan Bayezid I about 600 years ago to stop Byzantines from getting help from the Black Sea. If you like architecture, the Ortakoy Mosque, which was built by Nikogos Baylan in 1853, is one of Turkey’s most important examples of classic architecture. Since 1478, Topkapi Palace has stood guard over the Bosphorus and is a well-known image of Istanbul.

ortakoy mosque by the bosphorus

However, the historical richness of the Bosphorus also extends with many excellent examples. Beylerbeyi Palace, Rumeli Fortress, Dolmabahçe Palace, Hagia Sophia, Küçüksu Pavilion, Çırağan Palace, and Beylerbeyi Mosque also contribute in making the Bosphorus not just a living witness to history but history itself.

beylerbeyi shores

Magnificent mansions along the banks represented the height of Bosphorus building during the Ottoman era. These mansions, called yalı in Turkish, are a picture of a calm getaway. They mix in perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Boasting about 360 surviving mansions, each one adding to the timeless appeal of this singular city and expressing its own narrative.

When you see the Bosphorus’s rich history and stunning beauty, it’s clear that this famous strait is more than just a natural wonder; it’s also a live record of how cultures have come together and changed over time.

Where East Meets West: Cultural Harmony Along the Bosphorus

Think about going for a walk along the Bosphorus. First, you happen upon a great jazz show with saxophone. A little further down the road, a street performer plays the traditional plucked instrument bağlama while singing folk songs. You are now listening to a guitarist play the santur on the ground very well. Maybe your favorite song is being played just ahead by a four-person group with wind instruments.

bosphorus photo shooting from a yacht

A street seller in a white apron might be selling kokorec, a traditional Turkish street food, from a small cart after you’ve eaten a delicious Italian meal with a view that will take your breath away at a famous restaurant. You might even want some stuffed mussels, which are a popular treat to find on the street. meals made in the East can be made in the West and meals made in the East can be made in the West.

With its unique music styles, foods, games, and ways of looking at the world, Istanbul is a great example of how Eastern and Western cultures can coexist. The city shows how different musical styles, building styles, foods, games, and worldviews can come together and make each other better. This mix of cultures shows up in many ways, from street art to movies, which makes Istanbul and the Bosphorus a unique melting pot.

If you start your historical trip on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus at Üsküdar and end it at Anadolu Kavağı, you can see the remains of old mansions, mosques, palaces, and walls. It’s a fun walk through the area where tradition and technology meet. Take a break by relaxing in Kuzguncuk and admiring the old houses with bay windows, or enjoy a cup of tea in Çengelkoy while watching the waves at the beach.

From the European side, the road that goes from Karakoy to Besiktas, Ortakoy, Arnavutkoy, Bebek, and Sariyer has some of Istanbul’s most beautiful places. It becomes part of the experience to eat tasty foods and take beautiful pictures along the way. After that, you might think about lying down in the woods to enjoy the unique view of the Bosphorus and the sound of birds singing. This could lead you to Emirgan Grove.

A bike tour along the Bosphorus is a great option for people who are sure they can handle it. If you’re tired, you can take a boat to get where you want to go and make your own path. You can take a ferry to go to a different part of the same continent or to the other land. Because the Bosphorus is always moving, it has a lot of color and energy, which makes it stand out.

The Bosphorus also has a lot of different colors. During the day, you can see the most beautiful shades of blue. At night, the lights on the Bosphorus Bridge and the sites along the coast give off a stunning array of colors. On some nights, the Bosphorus is even more magical because of the “yakamoz”, which are the beautiful reflections of the sea.

Istanbul’s Bosphorus Ferries

The Bosphorus ferries are an important part of Istanbul’s charm, and they make traveling between East and West fun. But when you’re on the Bosphorus, your goal should never just be to get from one place to another. Some of the most beautiful things to do are giving simit to seagulls, drinking tea and looking out at the strait, and daydreaming while looking at the silhouette of the Historic Peninsula and beautiful landmarks along the Bosphorus.

istanbul public ferry

Also, two-hour Bosphorus tours, which are popular with tourists who don’t have much time, give a great picture of the strait’s beauty. If you’re lucky, you might be able to feel the peace of people fishing along the shore or see a coastguard or submarine go by by seeing rapid waves in the water.

Also, the Bosphorus is a biological crossing. With its four different currents, the strait connects the different environments of the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, which doesn’t happen very often except in certain oceanic areas.

Over 130 kinds of marine life live in the Bosphorus because it is so different from other places. Keep this in mind the next time you see a fish you’ve never seen before. The Bosphorus is a symbol of life, fun, flavor, history, custom, renewal, and movement. Above all, it is a place of peace and quiet in the middle of Istanbul’s busy life.

How to Best Explore the Bosphorus Strait

The Bosphorus Strait offers great experience in the company of history, culture, and scenic beauties of Istanbul. To make the most of your exploration, consider the following tips:

1. Local Ferries

You can hop on a local public ferry used by Istanbul residents for an authentic experience. It’s a cost-effective way to cross the strait and enjoy in the everyday life of the city. Check for all above routes, timetables and prices.

2. Bosphorus Cruise

You can take Bosphorus cruise to witness the city’s iconic landmarks. One of the best sightseeing experiences in Istanbul. From the comfort of the boat or yacht, you can enjoy panoramic views of the historical palaces, fortresses, and modern structures that line the shores.

typical bosphorus cruise

You’ll see Istanbul’s illuminated mosques, palaces and bridges, like the Bosphorus Bridge, Maiden’s Tower, Ortakoy Mosque, and Dolmabahçe Palace from the sea.

Bosphorus Cruise Tickets

If you are looking for a great Bosphorus day or night out, don’t wanna read the whole page, trust our recommendations, save time and money, we have you covered. Below are some of the top 10 Bosphorus cruises and experiences!

Feel free to book online in advance (as you’ll get discounts), by choosing the eco-friendly option of online tickets. By avoiding printed tickets at the window, you’ll contribute to a sustainable and greener travel experience.

  1. Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table
  2. Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht 1
  3. Bosphorus Luxury Yacht Tour
  4. Bosphorus on Yacht Cruise with Stopover on Asian Side
  5. Bosphorus & Golden Horn Cruise Daytime or Sunset
  6. Bosphorus Dinner Cruise w/ Drinks & Entertainment
  7. 90 minute Bosphorus Cruise with Audio App
  8. Sunset or Daytime Yacht Tour w/AudioGuide & Snacks
  9. Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht 2
  10. Bosphorus Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Dinner Show
  11. All Inclusive Bosphorus Dinner Cruise with Private Table
  12. Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht 3
  13. Round-Trip Ticket for Princes’ Island Ferry & Audio Guide

3. On the Shore: Restaurants with Bosphorus View

You are able to find many beautiful restaurants in the city that span the Bosphorus and provide not only mouthwatering food but also breathtaking views of Bosphorus strait. Restaurants and cafes with Bosphorus view offer great dining and wining options for their guests from sophisticated foreign cuisines to traditional Turkish mezzes and kebabs. When combined with the tranquil Bosphorus vista, these dinners become extraordinary culinary adventures.

istanbul restaurant with Bosphorus view

Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner date, a leisurely brunch, or a lively night out, these Bosphorus view restaurants will bring a magical touch to your dining experience.

Our picks of the best restaurants with Bosphorus View in Istanbul

4. Rooftop Restaurants & Bars

istanbul rooftop restaurant

There’s nothing better than to enjoy your evening dine & wine in one of the best terrace or rooftop restaurant or bar, in the company of panoramic views of the city. You can both appreciate the excellent cuisine and the great views in these places.

Our picks of the best rooftop restaurants in Istanbul

5. Visit Waterside Cafés

Take a break at waterside cafés in neighborhoods like Karakoy, Besiktas, Ortaköy, Bebek or Sariyer. Enjoy traditional Turkish tea or coffee while absorbing the lively atmosphere and stunning views.

6. Best Views of the City

Top Places for the Best Views of Istanbul

You’ll find plenty of great places and viewpoints that you can enjoy a panoramic view of Istanbul, from historic places like towers, mosques and palaces, to rooftop terraces to groves and hilltops.

Read more about Istanbul’s Best Views

7. Don’t Miss: Camlica Tower – Highly Recommended

Explore Istanbul like never before from Camlica Tower, the city’s most breathtaking viewpoint. You will be in complete wonder of the stunning 360-degree city panorama that this famous tower has to offer.

You are able to have great dining experience here with a range of optional delights – choose from breakfast, lunch, or dinner to complement your experience.

While the tower is situated on the Asian side of the city, uphill along Uskudar, there is also private hotel transfers in air-conditioned luxury.

Book Your Seat and Meal + Transfer

8. Explore Shore Neighborhoods

Explore the areas around the Bosphorus, including Üsküdar, Arnavutköy, and Beşiktaş. Every neighborhood has its own special qualities, from hip boutiques to historical sites.

9. Bridges and Lights

Witness the nighttime transformation of the Bosphorus into a magnificent place. Take in the city’s illumination as you see the Bosphorus Bridge and other buildings lit up.

How to Book a Bosphorus Cruise?

Booking a Bosphorus Cruise is quite simple. You can reserve your spot online through various tour websites, or directly purchase tickets at the Eminönü or Kabatas Piers. We recommend you buy tickets online from the trusted providers for a hassle-free experience,  especially during peak tourist seasons.

If you buy online you also will have skip-the-lines, and have chance to cancel and have a refund very easily. Below you can see the best Bosphorus cruises online tickets.

Best of Bosphorus Cruises by GetYourGuide

Best of Bosphorus Cruises by Viator

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