Lonely Planet Writer

Touring Istanbul by boat just got easier with new ferry routes for summer

The picturesque ferry routes that ply Istanbul’s famous continent-dividing Bosphorus Strait have been expanded for summer, with four additional lines operating in the Turkish metropolis until 17 September.

Boats on the Bosphorus at sunset
Ferry boats ply their trade on the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

Ferry company Şehir Hatları’s general manager Yakup Güler told local news agencies that the new lines would give both locals and tourists more benefit and enjoyment from sea transportation.

The Eminönü-Sarıyer line running up and down the European shore and the Beykoz-Üsküdar line on the Asian side will likely be the most useful for visitors to the city, opening up access by sea to some off-the-beaten-track attractions. Both lines are scheduled to operate from around 8am to 8pm.

After departing the bustling port at Eminönü, ferries call in at equally lively Beşiktaş, home to the İstanbul Naval Museum, National Palaces Painting Museum and Palace Collections Museum, all within a 10-minute walk of the pier. Next stop is the still-quaint village of Arnavutköy, where there are many fish restaurants lining the waterfront promenade. The 15th-century fortress Rumeli Hisarı, with its dramatic views over the strait, is a 40-minute walk north along the water. After Arnavutköy, ferries dock at İstinye, about 20 minutes’ walk from the impressive Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

On Istanbul’s Asian (also known as Anatolian) side, new ferry excursions start from Üsküdar, where there are numerous gracious mosques amidst the dense modern development. Next stop Beylerbeyi is home to the eponymous summer palace, whose tiered gardens overlook the water underneath the massive span of the first Bosphorus Bridge. Further north, the fortress for which Anadolu Hisarı is named isn’t open to the public, but the ferry pier is close to the chilled-out riverfront restaurants along Göksü Creek as well as the ornate Küçüksu Kasrı.

The phytoplankton boom that turned the Bosphorus a brilliant turquoise earlier this summer is subsiding, but eagle-eyed ferry passengers still have the chance to be wowed by the sight of dolphins breaking the surface of the waves.

By Jennifer Hattam