If you’re feeling extravagant, try a dinner cruise of the Bosphorus by night - a truly magical experience.
The Bosphorus has been an important strait for centuries. It joins the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea (the flooding of which may have been the basis for Biblical tales of a great deluge), and divides Europe from Asia. It varies in width from 500 metres to three kilometres, running about 31 kilometres through the heart of Istanbul.
Jason and the Argonauts had to battle its currents in the quest for the Golden Fleece. Legend also has it that Byzas, the founder of Byzantium - later Constantinople, later Istanbul - sailed up and down looking for the perfect place to establish his village; he chose the Golden Horn, a natural harbour created by the flooded estuary that branches west from the Bosphorus’s southern end.
Flanked on either shore by the metropolis of Istanbul, the waters are overlooked by 620 Ottoman-era waterfront mansions known as yalı - some of the most expensive residences in the city - and a number of palaces, including Topkapi Palace. Also within view from the Bosphorus are the Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Galata Tower and countless other attractions.
The best way to admire the scenery is on a cruise: the Bosphorus is a very busy commercial shipping channel and also teems with ferries, but there’s plenty of space for tourist boats as well. Cruises can fit any schedule, from a 25 minute crossing to a full day’s round trip from the city centre to the northern port of Anadolu Kavağı.
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