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Şehir Hatları Bosphorus Cruises

Decades ago, officials of Istanbul's Şehir Hatları ferryboat system noticed a strange thing: foreign tourists were riding the ferryboats up the Bosphorus all the way to the Black Sea at Sarıyer and Anadolu Kavağı—and sometimes they rode them all the way back to the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn without getting off!

(The tourists may have gotten the idea from a guidebook.)

Of course, these smart travelers were getting a good cruise-tour of the Bosphorus, guidebook in hand, for a fraction of the price they'd have paid to a tour company to take them in a private boat.

Fast-forward to today: there are now lots of boats embarking on this Bosphorus cruise. The traditional Şehir Hatları Istanbul ferryboat trip, once fun and inexpensive, is now a relatively expensive, not-as-comfortable all-day excursion.

You must arrive at the Eminönü ferry dock at 30 to 45 minutes before departure, stand in line to buy your ticket, then stand in the sun waiting to board the ferry—no place to sit. A loudspeaker blasts unintelligible promotional messages all the while. This is not comfortable.

The cruise itself is alright, and is priced at TL 15 one-way/single Eminönü to Anadolu Hisarı, or TL25 round-trip/return. The Dentur Avrasya Full Bosphorus Cruise offers a similar itinerary, and better value. More...

View Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul, Turkey map

The voyage from Eminönü to Sarıyer, a northern Bosphorus town on the European shore, takes just over one hour, but the entire round-trip voyage from Eminönü past Sarıyer to Anadolu Kavağı on the Asian shore (with a 3-hour wait at Anadolu Kavağı), and return to the Eminönü ferryboat docks, takes 6 hoursMore...

The Şehir Hatları runs year-round. Here you can put in your starting point and desired destination and see what time that ferry line will be departing and arriving.

Below is a table showing the path of the ferry if you get on at Eminönü and want to ride it for a while and see the sights:

Eminönü Beşiktaş Kanlıca Yeniköy Sarıyer Rumeli Kavağı Anadolu Kavağı
10:35am 10:50am 11:15am 11:30am 11:45am 11:55am 12:05pm
Anadolu Kavağı Rumeli Kavağı Sarıyer Yeniköy Kanlıca Beşiktaş Eminönü
15:00
3:00pm
15:10
3:10pm
15:20
3:20pm
15:35
3:35pm
15:50
3:50pm
16:15
4:15pm
16:30
4:30pm

Many people cruise on the traditional ferry for 1.5 hours, get off at Sarıyer (23 km/14 miles north of Istanbul by road), have lunch (especially seafood), then take a bus or taxi southward to return to the city, stopping at various sights along the way. More...

If you continue to the end of the line at Anadolu Kavağı, you'll have three hours for a picnic or a seafood restaurant lunch and/or to climb to the ruined Yoros Kalesi fortress of seven towers on Yuşa Tepesi (Joshua's Hill), dating from time immemorial, reconstructed by the Genoese in 1350, and repaired thereafter by Byzantines and Ottomans.

Frankly, if you've done the cruise from south to north, you needn't do north to south. But if you end up at Anadolu Kavağı, it's a longer trip back to the city along the Asian shore by bus or taxi, so most passengers wait for the Bosphorus Tour ferry to depart for its return trip to the Eminönü ferryboat docks.

To take this Bosphorus cruise, get to the Eminönü ferryboat docks at least 30 minutes before departure if possible to buy your ticket. ( I got to the dock 45 minutes before departure and there was already a crowd, and it wasn't even a weekend.) Then you'll stand in the sun until about 10 minutes before departure time, when you'll be allowed to board the ferry.

Ignore the guys asking "Bosphorus tour?" as you approach the docks. Buy your ticket from the clerk in the ticket booth.

Here are alternatives to the full-day cruise.

Istanbul ferries were one the heart of the city's transport system. Sitting on the rear deck of a traditional Istanbul ferry on a fine summer's day with a glass of Turkish tea at my lips is a living example of the title of my humorous travel memoir, Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea.

—by Tom Brosnahan

a traditional Şehir Hatları Istanbul ferryboat at the Eminönü ferryboat docks next toGalata Bridge in EminönüIstanbul.

Rumeli Hisari fortress on the Bosphorus

A ferry steams out of the Golden Horn
beneath Topkapı Palace.

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