Destinations,  Europe,  Turkey

Riding the Ferries in Istanbul and a Bosphorus Cruise

One of the best parts of hanging out in Istanbul is riding the ferries to get from one part of the city to another. Where else in the world can you go from one continent to another, still be in the same city, and not even need a passport? This is just one of the many things that make Istanbul so special.

Bosphorus Cruise
Typical Bosphorus Commuter Ferry

The Commuter Ferry

There are many options for getting on the water in Istanbul. The first is to simply spend 2TL and get on one of the many daily commuter ferries which shuttle kids to school, the local population to and from work, and tourists to the various sights around the city. Think of it as a big bus on the water.

On one of our days in Istanbul, we took the ferry from Karakoy to Kadikoy to check out the food market there (this is the trip which took us from Europe to Asia in half an hour). We picked up the ferry on the Northeast side of the Galeta bridge and bought tickets from a machine at the dock. Along the way we were treated to excellent views of all of Istanbul including the distinctive domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia in Sultanhamet.

View from Bosphorus
View of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia from the ferry.

The ferry makes one stop at Haydarpasa train station on the way over, but did not stop here on the return. If I were to do it again, I would have gotten off here to check out this old train station, the terminus for trains coming from Eastern Turkey and points farther East. From there I would have walked over to Kadikoy. We tried to walk over there along the waterfront after lunch in the market, but it’s not possible to get all the way there that way and we didn’t feel like walking out and around to get there. Next time.


Bosphorus Cruise view
Haydarpasa Train Station
Bosphorus Cruise view
Haydarpasa Train Station
Lighthouse on Bosphorus Cruise
Lighthouse in the Bosphorus
David on the Ferry

The Bosphorus “Cruise”

On our last day in Istanbul, we took a tourist “Bosphorus cruise”. There are many options for this (detailed here) ranging from 2 hours to all day. We went with the shortest option, with Turyol Lines, timing our trip to coincide with sunset for better (photography) light. When we arrived at the departure point (next to the Galata Bridge, Sultanhamet side) there was a ferry about the leave so we opted to wait it out in order to be first in line for the next departure. While waiting, we looked at the ferry company’s sign which showed the route and schemed as to where the best place was to sit for optimal viewing.

We had a plan; go to the top level, back left, and this would put us on the shore side of the boat for the whole trip.

Bosphorus Cruise Ferry
Turyol Ferry

I’m sure you can guess what happened next. We finally got on the ferry, rushed up to the top back and proceeded to claim our spot. On the right. Sigh…we didn’t realize it until it was too late. Ultimately, we moved to spots along the bench running the length of the left side and all was fine.

Bosphorus Cruise top level
Top deck of ferry.

The bottom deck of the ferry, below, was almost empty for most of the trip. It’s warm however, if you get too cold. Both levels have tea and snack service.

Bosphorus Cruise ferry bottom level
Bottom deck of ferry.

The trip itself was lovely, albeit a bit chilly and windy. Even though the day was sunny and warm, it’s much cooler out on the water. The views of the palaces, castles, houses along the shore, the bridges, and the lighthouse are spectacular and worth the trip. Next time I’d like to do the longer journey which takes you almost to the Black Sea.

Bosphorus Cruise view
Dolmabace Palace

Bosphorus Cruise view

Bosphorus Cruise view
Bosphorus Bridge

Bosphorus Cruise view

Bosphorus Cruise view
The "Fortress of Europe".

The Fortress of Europe (above) was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452. It’s now open to the public and used for performances during music festivals.  Below, the Kucuksu Palace is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and was built as a private residence in 1856 as a rest stop for nobility. It is now open to the public.

Bosphorus Cruise view
Kucuksu Palace
View from Bosphorus Cruise
Blue Mosque From Ferry

Bosphorus Cruise view

Below, Leander’s Tower, sits on a tiny island in the Bosphorus. Once a lighthouse, and quarantine center, it is now a restaurant and nightclub.

Bosphorus Cruise view
Leander's Tower
Tea Service on the ferry and the Turkish Flag

If you want more on the ferries of Istanbul, check out this wonderful multimedia slideshow by Photographer David Hagerman. Make sure you have the sound on while you watch.

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