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The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Istanbul’s Bosphorus

The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Istanbul’s Bosphorus

Picture of Ayse Huseyin
Updated: 9 February 2017
Istanbul is in many ways a crossroads. A crossroads between land and sea, Europe and Asia, Byzantine and Islamic architecture, the past and the present. In every way, this variety and the layers of history piled one on top of the other, blossom across the city. When you’re in Istanbul and stand marveling before the Bosphorus strait, here are some other essential activities for you to try.

Ferry Cruise (Bosphorus Strait)

When in such a culturally and geographically fascinating area, any traveler would not be able to resist a ferry cruise of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Those aboard will be able to enjoy the bustling Istanbul skyline and the novelty of sailing the bridge between two continents: Europe and Asia. Most of the cruise companies have comfortable and well-furnished boats and pass closely enough to the shore for excellent photo opportunities. Occasionally you may even have your ferry stop to allow a mighty cargo ship passage into the city; a truly authentic glimpse of Turkey’s historical naval prowess.

Maiden’s Tower

There are many stories surrounding the origin of the Maiden’s Tower (or Kız Kulesi). The most popular is one that has been spread by word of mouth in Turkey for generations. The story is told within the stone tower thorough large painted murals upon its walls. You will learn the story of the Emperor, the prophecy and the cursed maiden, plus more about the tower’s history if you take the short ferry trip to the tower and go on one of the guided tours from the ground up to the top balcony.

Maiden’s Tower,Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, 34668 İstanbul, Turkey, +90 216 342 4747

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was constructed during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Much like Paris’ famed catacombs, the Basilica Cistern is one of many hundreds lying beneath the former Constantinople. The cistern famously features in the 1963 James Bond movie From Russia With Love. Some notable sights you can expect are pillars propped up by intricate carvings of Medusa’s head, a pillar carved with peacock feathers designs, and even a café within for refreshment! Best of all, you can on occasion see the ceilings of the cistern, perfectly reflected in the still waters.

Basilica Cistern, Istiklal Caddesi No: 19 / 9, 50400, Turkey, +90 384 341 7485

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is the largest palace in Istanbul that housed the sultans of the Ottoman Empire for approximately 400 years. It was also used as a place to entertain royal guests and ambassadors during the empire’s peak, though now it acts as a museum showcasing the former extravagance of Turkey’s leaders. The palace was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 and remains one of the most majestic examples of Ottoman architecture and artistry. A visit is our strong recommendation!

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 512 0480

Istanbul City Port

As well as those attractions situated along the coast of Istanbul that look out onto the Bosphorus, the port itself is a highly attractive location to tourists and locals. The Port is right in the heart of the city and boasts restaurants, shops, convenient underground parking and a beautiful modern design. It is ideal to stroll along, just taking in the atmosphere or watching the ships pass to and from the coast. Often a hub of activity, you won’t be bored for a moment at the port, which bustles with the electrifying energy unique to Istanbul.

Istanbul City Port, Bati Mah. Sahil Yolu Cad. Ido Iskelesi Yani Batı, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 216 999 1234

Rumeli Fortress

Locals and tourists agree that the Rumeli Fortress, offers a truly indescribable view of the city, unlike anywhere else. It is built at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus Strait where defense was would have been the greatest concern to the Sultan. This triumph of fortification, watches over the Bosphorus as it has done since its construction in 1541. The fortress consists of 3 main towers (named respectively after the men that built them), 13 watchtowers and encircled by walls that are 7 meters thick. It can be slightly difficult to access but undoubtedly worth the extra effort!

Rumeli Fortress, Yenidoğan Mh., Yahya Kemal Cd. No:42, Turkey, +90 212 263 5305

Galata Tower

The Galata Tower or ‘Galata Kulesi’ or ‘Christea Turris’ (Tower of Christ), is one of the crowning landmarks of Istanbul’s Bosphorus. The tower is 9 stories tall, with an open observation deck for a 360 degree view of Istanbul. There is a restaurant and café in the upper floors of the restaurant that will definitely result in a once-in-a-lifetime dining opportunity too. And fear not, for those who don’t feel like heaving up 9 flights of stairs, the Galata tower also has two working elevators to transport visitors to every level.

Galata Tower, Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 244 7736

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque is one of the largest and best-known monuments in Turkey. It is a magnificent building whose tall minarets and vast domed chambers exquisitely combine Byzantine and Islamic architectural influences. Even if not religiously inclined yourself, the decadent interior of this mosque, as with most mosques in Istanbul, offers a spectacular insight into the geometry of Islamic art, and the beauty of Muslim places of worship. This is an example of Turkish culture at its finest.

Suleymaniye Cami, Süleymaniye Mh. , İstanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)

Hagia Sophia the most well known of the surprisingly many churches in Turkey. Though a predominantly Muslim country now, this church has been preserved and is now an incredibly popular museum, and reminder of the Christian inhabitants of its past. The Church contains a large array of Christian antiques and was the world’s largest cathedral until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Its design was the very first of its kind, said to have revolutionized architecture from the time of its construction. A visit to this incredibly significant landmark is not to be missed!

Hagia Sophia Museum, Sultanahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı, İstanbul, Turkey, +90 212 522 1750

Istanbul Aquarium

Set slightly more inshore than the rest of the attractions on this list, the Istanbul Aquarium is on the ranks of the greatest in the world for its large and varied quantity of sea creatures. On your walk from one vast tank to another, you travel the world, seeing tanks of fish, specifically arranged according to the region they come from. Gaze around you and bask in the bountiful creatures that exist beneath the waves, right before your eyes! The aquarium is a brilliant day out for any sort of party- either families with children or a group of adults.

Istanbul Aquarium, Bakırköy, YeşilköyHalkalı Cad. No:93, Turkey, +90 212 574 2130


By Ayse Huseyin