Istanbul is exceptional—the only city to bestride two continents, divided between Europe and Asia. Old and new, East and West coexist here, and a cruise along the Bosphorus is the perfect way to experience it.
Instead of jumping on the commuter ferries zigzagging frenetically across the river, or cramming onto one of the loads of tourist boats, get away from the crowds and treat yourself to a private boat. Merely hang around at the ferry terminal at Eminonu for a while and enthusiastic touts offering their boats for your leisure appear—then you decide where you want to go, for how long, and when to stop off.
Passing under Galata Bridge, which arches over the Golden Horn, you will come into view to the sight of the 400 year-old New Mosque, Yeni Camii. Boats of all sizes jostle in the water, somehow steering clear of collisions, literally.
The melee of architecture along the waterfront is mesmerizing. From sultans’ palaces, like the nineteenth century, neoclassical Dolmabahce Palace, to the wooden waterfront summer residencies (yalis) of the former Ottoman nobility, and the gracefully simple baroque Mecidiye Mosque—the variety is endless.
The ultimate destination of the cruise up the Bosphorus Strait is a fishing village called Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, at the mouth of the Black Sea. Nevertheless, all along, the Bosphorus Strait fascinates with its architectural medley created by the meeting of Asia and Europe makes the riverbanks unforgettable.
Magical Istanbul—3,000 years old, spanning two continents and a crucible of cultures where East meets West—is a significant Turkish homeport for many cruise ships, and even those casually visiting the city tend to spend a night as this wonderful city offers so much to see and do.