Bosporus, A Legendary Waterway!

May is one of the best time to visit Istanbul. The weather is nice and mild. The highlight of Istanbul in May is Bosporus as it is adorned with the purple blossoms of Judas tree known as Erguvan in Turkish. Erguvan is the color of Bosporus in May.


Bosporus is a natural strait and a legendary water way separating the city of Istanbul into European and Asian Istanbul and also a geographical boundary in-between Europe and Asia. The strait of Bosporus is about 36 km long linking the Sea of Marmara to Black Sea thus being the only naval route into and out of Black Sea. The name Bosporus comes from an ancient Greek legend. According to the legend of Io the Cow, Io swam the strait from Asia to Europe while running away from the gadfly thus Greeks called it Bous Poros (βοὸς πόρος) meaning the strait of cow. Bosporus also mentioned in the legend of Jason and Argonauts sailing towards the Black Sea in search of Golden Fleece.


Bosporus can be explored from both land and sea or combining both a cruise and a land tour. Below is what I would suggest for exploring Bosporus. Depending on your time in Istanbul you can spend a day up to 4 days exploring the Bosporus area of Istanbul.


The Bosporus Cruise.

This comes as a whole day cruise and a short cruise which last about 2 hours. The whole day cruise starts at 10:30 AM from the Boğaz Hattı Pier next to Galata Bridge in Eminönü district and cruise up north stopping along the way to the final stop at Anadolu Kavagi village on the Asian side. This is where you can walk up the hill to visit an old Byzantine castle called Yoros Castle up on the hill and enjoying a great view of Bosporus and Black Sea. From the castle you can also see the newly built 3th suspended bridge at the end of Bosporus linking the 2 continents.


The short Bosporus cruise generally depart on every hour from 10 AM till 20:00 PM and may change depending on season and how busy they are on weekends. Here is a link to their time table.


What to see along the Bosporus.

Bosporus area was not inhabited largely till mid-19th century except few fishing villages. Ottomans started to build neo-classic places, hunting lodges and mansions in 19th century. There are 3 palaces built on the shore of Bosporus.


Dolmabahce Palace is the largest one and it was the administrative palace till the end of the empire in 1923. It has the largest collection of Baccarat crystals in form of chandeliers, candle sticks and handrails. The palace is a museum today and open from 09:00 AM till 16:00 PM every day except Monday and Thursday. This palace is located in Besiktas district on the European side.

Ciragan Palace is a hotel today and it is part of Kempinski Hotel and the ground level is a luxury restaurant. This is also in Besiktas district.

Beylerbeyi Palace is a small neo-classic palace built as summer palace for the royalties. It is a museum and open from 09:00 AM till 16:00 PM every day except Monday and Thursday. The palace is on the Asian side in the district of Beylerbeyi next to the suspended Bosporus Bridge.


Apart from palaces there are beautiful neighborhood for short walks and enjoy a day out such as Kuzguncuk, Cengelkoy, Kanlica on the Asian side. Ortakoy in Besiktas disrict is a nice place for both day time and evening. This place is very popular with locals especially on weekend. It is right on the Bosporus on the European side next to Bosporus suspended bridge with great view of Ortakoy Mosque and the Bridge. In the night time the Bridge is illuminated.


There are also 2 castles built by the Ottomans at the narrowest part of the Bosporus on each side. The Asian castle is known as Anadolu Hisarı was built in 1395 by Sultan Beyazid I and The European castle is known as Rumeli Hisarı was built by Sultan Mehmed II in 1452, a year before the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The Rumeli castle is a museum and open to public every day except Wednesday.


Emirgan is another place on the European side that you can spend a day by the Bosporus. You can take a public bus to Emirfan from Taksim Square, Besiktas or Eminonu main bus station. Emirgan Park is massive and decorated with different type of flowere depending on the season. In April, Istanbul Tulip festival is celebrated here. There are also old Ottoman Mansions in the park that you can explored. Nearby Emirgan Park you can visit Sakıp Sabancı Museum which used to be the Yali (Mansion) of Sabanci family. You can have a great view of the Bosporus from the museum and enjoy a rich collection of Islamic art or ongoing exhibitions. Here is a link to the museum's website


We have different tours visiting places along the Bosporus as well as Bosporus cruise. We also customize our tours to fit your requirements. If you would like to enjoy Bosporus with an expert tour guide, contact us for more detailed information.