Incredible Things To Do in Bosphorus, Istanbul


Istanbul is one of the few cities that straddles two continents, Europe, and Asia. It is one of the most remarkable places in Turkey that boasts myriad attractions. Istanbul is a melting pot of various cultures but strikes the perfect balance between its cultural heritage and contemporary experiences. From magnificent mosques and bustling bazaars to outstanding monuments and luxurious palaces, this city never ceases to surprise its visitors. One such prominent attraction is the iconic Bosphorus Strait, which packs a punch when it comes to history. Read on to know about the incredible things you can do in this mighty waterway.

Introduction to Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Strait is a natural connecting channel between Europe and Asia. With these two significant continents lying on each side of the strait, Bosphorus makes for a much sought-after tourist attraction. A cruise here is one of the best experiences as it offers awe-inspiring views of many of Istanbul’s landmarks.

Why is Bosphorus famous?

Known as Bogazici in Turkish, the Bosphorus is one of the city’s top highlights due to its rich history and strategic location. This iconic waterway has a length of 31 kilometers and a width that varies between 730-3300 meters. It consists of three suspension bridges connecting the two continents across the strait. The strait links the Black Sea in the north with the Marmara Sea in the south via the Dardanelles Strait. Also referred to as the Strait of Istanbul, it also joins the Asian part of the city with the European region and hence garners a lot of importance.

The Bosphorus Strait has been integral to the global maritime trade for centuries. Even today, Thousands of oil tankers, ships, passenger boats, and fishing boats pass through this busy waterway daily. It is a vital shipping route connecting the Black Sea with the many oceans worldwide. In olden times during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it was considered a strategic area for the trade line and the city’s defense against foreign attacks.

Things to do in Bosphorus, Istanbul

Enjoying the stellar views of the city and its renowned landmarks from the cruise on Bosphorus Strait is one of the most memorable activities in Istanbul. If you plan to spend Christmas or New Year’s Eve in Istanbul, seeing the city decked up with lights and decorations from the water is a lovely experience. While cruising along the coast, you can also witness the old wooden houses from Ottoman times in Arnavutkoy. Below are some of the best things to see and do on the Bosphorus.

Hop on a Ferry cruise

 Ferry cruise

Set sail on the Bosphorus cruise and explore the majestic landmarks of the city from the water. Many different tour packages are available day and night, including meals on board and cultural performances like a whirling dervish, Mehter march, folk dance, and belly dance show. Most of these tours include pickup and drop service from your hotel/accommodation. You can even choose a full-day tour package consisting of the Bosphorus Cruise and the Black Sea Tour. It includes ticking off several serene parts of the city parts such as Poyrazköy, Küçüksu, and Anadolu Kavağı. You can even opt for a Golden Horn tour or a cable car tour in Pierre Loti.

Admire the renowned monuments

Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey

Many of the celebrated landmarks of Istanbul are visible from the Bosphorus cruise, making it a very enriching experience. It offers a unique way of seeing these striking structures and admiring their beauty from the waters. Some noteworthy ones are Hagia Sophia mosque, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Kuleli Military High School, Bosphorus Bridge, Esma Sultan Mansion, and Ciragan Palace.

Visit Istanbul City Port

Located in in the heart of the city, the Istanbul Port is the hub of shopping, dining, and entertainment. It is dotted with shops, cafes, and restaurants and constantly buzzing with activity. You can relax at an eatery, sample delicious food, and watch the ships pass.

Explore Spice bazaar

Spice bazaar Turkey

Spice Bazaar is in the Eminönü district on the shore of the Bosphorus and is well-known for its spices and antiques. You can smell the distinct aroma of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper as soon as you reach the vicinity of the bazaar. It is the best place to stock up on souvenirs, including ceramics, silverware, dried fruits, and Turkish Delights, among other things. A famous attraction here is the Mehmet Efendi Coffee Brewery, one of the oldest coffee breweries in Istanbul, established more than a century ago. Tourists and locals stand here in long queues to enjoy a cup of steaming beverage.

Marvel at Maiden’s Tower

Maiden's Tower

Maiden’s Tower is a famous landmark on the city’s skyline boasting a rich history that dates to the 4th century. It sits on a tiny islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus, off the Asian side of Istanbul. It was previously known as Leandros and Damalis, named after the wife of Kharis, the king of Athens. The famous tower has several legends associated with it and makes for an impressive pitstop on the Bosphorus.

Check out Rumeli Fortress

Maiden's Tower Turkey

The Rumeli Fortress is the second oldest Ottoman fortress, situated at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus Strait on the European shore. This imposing structure dating to 1452 was built within a few months to prepare for the siege of Constantinople. In the bygone days, it was a great place to watch over the Bosphorus and served as a point of defense. It consists of three main towers and 13 watchtowers encircled by walls that are 23 feet thick.

Browse the markets of Ortakoy

Ortakoy is a lively neighborhood with fascinating nightlife, several restaurants, cafes, pubs, and nightclubs. The Ortakoy Mosque is one of the famed landmarks here, built in baroque and neo-classical styles combined with Ottoman traditional architecture. The bazaars are filled with homemade antiques, jewelry, and handicrafts that are great souvenirs to carry back home. Don’t miss gorging on Kumpir; a delicacy made with stuffed bakes potatoes that is a specialty of this district.

Wander in Bebek

Bebek is one of the affluent neighborhoods on the shore of the Bosphorus. It is lined with bars, nightclubs, and restaurants by the sea and is an ideal hangout for the locals during weekends. It has a vibrant nightlife and is also frequented by celebrities. The area offers some of the best views of the Bosphorus and is a beautiful place to spend your evenings.

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern in Bosphorus Istanbul was built while Justinian was emperor of the Byzantine Empire. Similar to the catacombs under Paris, it is one of many hundreds of structures located below what used to be Constantinople. The cistern is seen in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love. Some interesting things to see there include pillars held up by detailed carvings of Medusa’s head, a pillar with peacock feather designs, and even a cafe inside for drinks and food. Best of all, you can sometimes see the cistern’s ceilings perfectly mirrored in the motionless water.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul was the biggest royal residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years. During the height of the Ottoman Empire, it was used to host and entertain royal visitors and foreign ambassadors. Today, it serves as a museum displaying the lavish lifestyles of past Turkish rulers. The palace became UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 and stands as a magnificent specimen of Ottoman architectural design and craftsmanship.

Galata Tower

The Galata Tower is one of the most prominent landmarks in Istanbul Bosphorus. This tower stands nine stories high, featuring an open observation area at the top that provides a full 360-degree panorama of Istanbul. On the upper levels you will also find a restaurant and cafe that promise an unforgettable dining experience. Not to worry if you do not want to climb up nine flights of stairs, as the Galata Tower have two functional elevators to take you to each floor.

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque is one of the biggest landmarks in Turkey. It is a stunning structure with tall minarets and huge domed rooms that perfectly blend Byzantine and Islamic architectural styles. Even if you are not religious, the lavish interior of this mosque, like most mosques in Istanbul, gives an amazing look into the geometry of Islamic art and the magnificence of Muslim houses of worship. This mosque represents Turkish culture at its best.

Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia stands out as the most famous among the numerous churches in Turkey. Even though Turkey is majorly Muslim today, this church has been kept intact and is now an immensely popular museum, as well as a reminder of the Christian people who lived there in the past. The Church houses a large collection of Christian antiques and was the biggest cathedral until the Seville Cathedral was finished in 1520. The architectural design was the first of its kind, said to have transformed architecture from when it was built. A trip to this important landmark is not to be skipped.

Istanbul Aquarium

The Istanbul Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the world because of its large collection of diverse sea animals. As you walk from one enormous tank to the next, you journey around the globe, viewing tanks containing fish that are organized based on where they are found. Look all around you and revel in the abundant underwater creatures that are right there in front of you. The aquarium makes for a fantastic day out for families with kids or a group of grown-ups.


Turkey is one of the favorite destinations for travelers as it offers the best of east and west. Numerous people travel to Turkey from the UAE because of the similarity in culture, customs, and traditions. You need a Turkey visa from Dubai to explore this gorgeous country. If a Turkey holiday is on the cards soon, a Bosphorus cruise must be part of your itinerary, along with other delightful places in Istanbul. Visiting Turkey in March is one of the best times to visit the place, especially Istanbul, as the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are lesser.

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