Istanbul has land areas in two continents, Asia and Europe. These two continents are split by Bosporus (Strait of Istanbul), the world’s narrowest natural strait that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea as well as the Aegean Sea. Bosporus is roughly 32 km long and currently has 2 functioning bridges (Bogazici and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges). A third bridge is under construction as of July 2016.
The strait can be crossed by Marmaray, an underwater tunnel rail system which operates consistently or by regular ferry boats. Cruising through the strait in a ferry is the best option when traveling since it provides a great view of the Bosporus and the most cost efficient. Do not forget to order a glass of Turkish tea while enjoying the ferry ride. You can feed the seagulls with simit (Turkish style pretzel) while appreciating one of the most picturesque place in Istanbul.
Currently, another underwater tunnel is being constructed solely for vehicles to lessen vehicular traffic in the area. Also, the municipality of Istanbul has a plan to build a pedestrian tunnel for those who wish to cross it on foot.
Various ferry lines operate from Kadikoy to Karakoy, Eminonu, Kabatas, Besiktas and vice versa. A ro-ro ferry line can take passages with vehicles across.
In Anatolia, ( Asian part of Istanbul ) Uskudar is another busy sea transportation hub. There are ferries that can take commuters to Besiktas in less than 10 mins., Karakoy or Eminonu and vice versa. Other less frequent lines are available from the north of Bosporus, however, it’s mostly seasonal.
Ferries are run by the Municipality of Istanbul and Turyol, a private company. Turyol has smaller boats and leaves every 15 minutes while government operated ferries are large and have multiple storeys, interval is every 30 mins. Cost of a single ride is around a bit less than a dollar. A discount of 40% on the second ride within 90 mins. of the passengers first trip.
The photo above was taken from a ferry on its way to Karakoy. From the window, you can see the sunset behind the historical peninsula. Most of these history-filled structures are located in this part of the city, to briefly enumerate, the once major residence of the Sultans, the Topkapi Palace, the admirable Hagi Sophia Mosque, the magnificent Blue Mosque, the unique Old Cistern, the touristy Gulhane Park and more. When you look at the photo on the right, you can see the silhouette of the Topkapi, in the middle window is the Hagi Sohia and on the left is Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque). All of these are within walking distance, so there is nothing much to worry about transportation accessibility.
This photo above was taken from Kadikoy Pier, a summer sunset. An orange colored drenched sky and a boat coming from the European banks of the Bosporus is a captivating scene everyday. It is almost dark, but the sun does not want to leave without a fight, apparently.
On the right, you can see Haydarpasa. An old station building built in 1909 by the Antolian Railway ( CFOA ) which was considered to be the busiest railway during its peak. The station building was built in 1909 by the Anatolian Railway (CFOA) as the western terminus of the Baghdad and Hedjaz railways. It has become a symbol of Istanbul since then. After its service suspension, ferry boats took over to transport commuters to Eminonu, Karakoy and Kadikoy from the ferry docks. At the moment, it holds social projects and events.
Say hi to Uskudar coast in a cloudy summer day. Uskudar is one of the main neighborhood in Anatolia like Kadikoy, it is vibrant and quite busy. One of Istanbul’s symbol is on Uskudar, the Kiz Kulesi (Maiden Tower). The tower is located in the middle of Bosporus and can be reached by boat leaving from the bank of Uskudar. The tower has a luxurious restaurant in the basement and a café at the top. To visit the tower you can either have a good meal in the restaurant or a have a coffee break in the cafe or just purchase a boat ticket and experience the view of the whole Bosporus from the tower.
Like a Walt Disney movie, the tower and its location have a fairy tale like story. According to the well-known Turkish legend, a princess was placed in the tower by his emperor father to avoid an ill fate. It was prophesied that she will die on her 18th birthday from a snake bite. Scared of the prophecy, the emperor hid his precious daughter in the tower. When the day came of the princess 18th birthday, the emperor brought her a basket of fruits, unknowingly, an asp was hiding among the fruits and bit the princess. To make the long story short, the princess died. Since then, the tower was called the Maiden Tower. Sounds familiar, isn’t it?
This photo above is from one of the famous locations in Istanbul, Pierre Lotti Hill. The place was named from a French naval officer and novelist who fell in love with Istanbul during the Ottomans regime. Today a famous cafe on the hilltop with a same name, is known for its breath-taking view and good quality Turkish coffee.
To get to the hill, you can walk along the old cemetery or take the cable car from the Eyub grounds.
Another stop worth visiting in Istanbul is Ortakoy (means middle village). This place is in the European side and within walking distance from Besiktas (can be defined as the center of European Istanbul ) It’s famous for its amazing bridge view, Bosporus and Ortakoy Mosque (Buyuk Mecidiye) all in one frame. Ortakoy has many cafes and restaurants along with street vendors, famous for their jacket potatoes and waffle (not like Belgian but kind of special to the region).
Not far from Ortakoy is the neighborhood of Bebek, which is known for its well-off residents. From here you can take a boat to an islet called Galatasaray Adasi, packed with restaurants and night clubs. It has a special view of the Bosporus and the Bogazici Bridge. At night, the view is even better.
In Anatolia (Asian part of Istanbul) a neighborhood famous for its unique colorful Ottoman era houses is interesting enough to visit, the Kuzguncuk. Aside from the beautifully painted houses and coffee stop-overs, chocolate shops are also around Kuzguncuk. When you visit Uskudar, you can walk for 20 minutes to get here. You will find the atmosphere quite different since it’s not crowded. It’s a slow paced district with a touch of the olden tradition. Do not forget to visit the neighborhood’ s veggie garden, which is government regulated but farmed by the residents for their consumption. It’s like an oasis among the towering buildings.