Bosphorus European Shore Tour

Take the mid-morning Şehir Hatları Bosphorus Tour ferry from Eminönü and you get to Sarıyer on the Northern Bosphorus about 75 minutes later, just in time for a nice seafood lunch at one of the little restaurants north of the Sarıyer ferry dock.

You can catch the ferry south to Istanbul a few hours later, but I prefer to go by land along the shore to visit some of the sights I glimpsed on the ferry voyage north.

I must warn you that this itinerary is best done on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the traffic along the Bosphorus shore road is so heavy that it can slow you down too much; and on Wednesday Rumeli Hisarı is closed, preventing you from seeing one of the European shore’s most interesting sights.

Transport

Taking taxis is the quickest and easiest way, but as it is 22 km (13.6 miles) from Sarıyer to Eminönü and the Galata Bridge, the fare may be around TL60 or so.

Bus 25E (SarıyerKabataş) goes south along the western (European) Bosphorus shore to the ferry docks, tram terminus and funicular at Kabataş, the scenic route taking about two hours (127 minutes, average) for the entire run, though in weekend traffic jams it can be more—perhaps a lot more. Buses depart Sarıyer about every 15 to 30 minutes depending on time of day. (Schedule)

Bus 25T (SarıyerTaksim) goes along the Bosphorus shore as far as Büyükdere (for the Sadberk Hanım Museum), but then turns inland and travels through the hills to Taksim Square(about two hours). This is the less scenic, more ‘city’ way to go, and you can’t stop to see the sights on the shore. Buses depart Sarıyer about every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on time of day. (Schedule)

Bus 30D (YenikapıOrtaköy) connects the fast ferry dock and suburban train station at Yenikapı, on the Sea of Marmarashore, with EminönüKaraköyKabataşBeşiktaş and Ortaköy. It does not go north of Ortaköy, however.

Minibuses depart periodically, going shorter or longer distances; many of them go up into the hills rather than along the shore. Mention your destination to the driver before boarding to be sure you’ll get where you want to go. Sarıyer-Taksim minibuses go all the way to Taksim Square, and faster than the bus, but usually on an inland route.

What to See

Here’s the order of sights from north to south. If you’re heading in the opposite direction (south to north), just read upwards from the bottom! The distances by each name are from Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn.

Sarıyer

This town, 22 km (13.6 miles) north of the Golden Horn, near the northern mouth of the Bosphorus, is good for a seafood lunch before heading south along the shore. More…

Büyükdere

Just south of Sarıyer, 19 km (12 miles) north of the Golden Horn, stop here for the fine Sadberk Hanım Museum. More…

Tarabya

Called Therapia by the Byzantines, this pretty cove 17 km (10.6 miles) north of the Golden Horn, has been a healthful summer resort of Istanbul’s elite for centuries. More…

Yeniköy

An elite summer settlement since Byzantine times (when it was named Neapolis, “New Town”), it still boasts several grand old “summer embassies” 13.5 km (8.4 miles) north of the Golden Horn.

İstinye

This well-protected bay 13 km (8 miles) north of the Golden Horn was a shipyard in both Byzantine and Ottoman times. A road leads inland to the district of Levent, in which you can board the Metro to Taksim Square.

Emirgan

Noted for its April Tulip Festival, the Emirgan Korusu(Forested Gardens) 12.5 km (7.8 miles) north of the Golden Horn, are a pleasant place to take a walk, a picnic, have a rest and have some teacoffee or a light meal. The Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi is among the city’s outstanding art and culture museums. More…

Fatih Bridge

The Fatih Köprüsü (Conqueror’s Bridge), beautifully visible from Rumeli Hisarı (and vice-versa) is named for Mehmet the Conqueror.

Rumeli Hisarı

The mighty Fortress of Europe 10.5 km (6.5 miles) north of the Golden Horn was built in just four months during 1452 on orders of Mehmet the Conqueror. Commanding the narrowest part of the Bosphorus (about 700 meters), it cut off Byzantine Constantinople from its grain supplies from the Black Sea coast, making it easier for the sultan to conquer the city in 1453. More…

Bebek

The town of Bebek, with its pretty bay, is on Rumeli Hisarı‘s south side. Bosphorus University, founded as Robert College by New Englander Cyrus Hamlin in 1863, shares the hillside with the fortress.

Arnavutköy & Kuruçeşme

“Village of the Albanians,” as its name says, doesn’t have many Albanian residents anymore, and the “Dry Fountain”(kuruçeşme) is long forgotten, but there are some seaside restaurants and lots of fine old yalıs (Ottoman Bosphorus seaside villas) in the parks along the wate, 7.5 km (4.7 miles) north of the Gloden Horn.

Bosphorus Bridge

Ever since the Persian emperor Darius built his bridge of boats across the Bosphorus in 490 BC, rulers of Istanbul have dreamed of a bridge between Europe and Asia. This 1074-meter (2/3-mile)-long span opened in 1973 on the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic and put an end to decades of car-ferry traffic delays. Tolls paid for it in record time, and another bridge, the Fatih, was built to its north.

Ortaköy & Mecidiye Mosque

You’ve probably seen photos of the Mecidiye Mosque (1854), the graceful Ottoman baroque mosque standing by the western pylon of the Bosphorus Bridge, 5.2 km (3.2 miles) north of the Golden Horn. The quaint Bosphorus town of Ortaköy is now filled with chic galleries, cafés, boutiques, bars and clubs—a good place to stop for a drink or a meal if you tour the Bosphorus on land. More…

Yıldız Park & Palace

Green forest sweeps up the hillside inland from Çiragan Palace: Yıldız (“Star”) Park, 4 km (2.5 miles) north of the Golden Horn. At the top of the hill, hidden in the trees, is the Şale(“chalet”) Kiosk, a 50-room alpine chalet favored by the secretive Sultan Abdül Hamit II. Smaller “kiosks” (small palaces) are set elsewhere in the forest.

Çirağan Palace

Finished in 1874, the marble palace of Çirağan (CHEE-rah-AHN) 4 km (2.5 miles) north of the Golden Horn has a tragic history. Sultan Abdül Aziz died here (1876) under suspicious circumstances a few days after he had been deposed. His nephew Murat V and family were imprisoned here in squalor by Abdül Hamit II. In 1910, when in use as the Ottoman parliament building, the palace was totally destroyed by fire. Fully restored, it now houses meeting rooms and suites for the neighboring Çirağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel.

Beşiktaş

A busy traffic interchange and ferry dock 3.5 km (2 miles) north of the Golden Horn and just north of Dolmabahçe Palace, this is where you find the Naval Museum (Deniz Müzesi) with the sultans’ elegant, long, multi-oared kayıks and other memorabilia from the Ottoman Empire‘s splendid naval past. Ferries depart every 15 or 20 minutes for Üsküdar on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

Dolmabahçe Palace

The façade of this great Ottoman palace (1853), 3 km (1.9 miles) north of the Golden Horn, is nearly a quarter of a mile (400 meters) long. More…

From Dolmabahçe you can climb the hill to Taksim Square, or continue along the shore road via Kabataş and Tophane to Karaköy and the Galata Bridge. The Kabataş-Bağcılar tram line goes from Kabataş south past the Istanbul Modern Art Museumto Karaköy, across the Galata Bridge. to Eminönü, (and its Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar), then up the hill to Sultanahmet and along Divan Yolu.


Northern Bosphorus Sights

Southern Bosphorus Sights

Asian Istanbul

About Bosphorus Cruises

Bosphorus Cruise Boats

About the Bosphorus

Istanbul Sights

Istanbul Transport

About Istanbul

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