Along the Bosphorus (Turkish: Boğaz, but Boğaziçi—literally “inside the Bosphous”—is preferred when referring to the areas on the bank of Bosphorus, rather than the Bosphorus itself), the strait that lies between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, and separating Europe and Asia, lies a number of neighborhoods each with a different character (possibly due to the fact that they all started as separate fishing villages and some are still physically separated from each other by lush woodlands), palaces of the late Ottoman period, and parks. This is quite easily one of the most scenic—yet largely overlooked by travellers—parts of Istanbul, which reaches its zenith during late spring (especially in early May), when the Judas trees (Turkish: Erguvan, Latin: Cercis siliquastrum), which are some sort of symbol of the Bosphorus and dotting the hills along the Bosphorus, are in full bloom of their deep-pink flowers that engulf both shores of the strait.
- Buses to this district depart from Kabataş tram station, Taksim Square, and Beşiktaş among others.
- Dolmuşes to Beşiktaş are available from Taksim, and Nişantaşı in European Side, and Kadıköy, and Bostancı in Asian Side.
- Ferries from Üsküdar and Kadıköy in Asian Side anchor at Beşiktaş quay.
A wide array of public buses depart from Kabataş tram station (currently, terminus of T1 line) and head for different neighbourhoods lined along the Bosphorus, passing via Beşiktaş. All drive through the avenue which closely follows the waterfront. Line #25E makes the longest through service, and generally takes around an hour, but significantly longer weekends in nice weather. It connects Kabataş with the northern district of Sarıyer, leaving out only a few villages further north near the coast of Black Sea, which are accessible by connecting buses departing from Sarıyer.
- Akaretler Street (Akaretler Caddesi) (just south of central Beşiktaş). Akaretler Caddesi, or officially Süleyman Seba Caddesi features upscale garment boutiques, restaurants, and sidewalk cafés housed in recently renovated late Ottoman era rowhouses initially built for the state elite, given their proximity to Dolmabahçe Palace, imperial headquarters then.
- Arnavutköy (north of Ortaköy, south of Bebek). The neighbourhood of Arnavutköy (literally "Albanian village", paying homage to its founders in 1500s) features impressive 4-storey wooden mansions which line the waterfront, all bearing significant artwork on their facades.
- Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı), Dolmabahçe Cad., Beşiktaş, ☎ , fax: +90 212 236 35 77. Tu-We/Fr-Su 9AM-3PM. It is the Ottoman Palace centered close to Taksim at the Dolmabahçe shore. Build on 110,000 meter square ground with 285 rooms and 43 halls where the Ottoman empire was administered in the last 150 years. Visits only in guided tours (45 min) in major spoken languages. Extra fee for Harem, the part of the palace the residents lived, expect waiting some time for another guided tour there. The Dolmabahce Palace is definitely not as nice as one would expect for the hefty cost of 40TL per person. No photography is allowed inside the palace. Also important note, especially for photographers with large bags/backpacks: you may be asked to leave your backpack in the cloakroom, even though you are not supposed to know it before you stand in a 40 minute line to the ticket office. 30 TL for 'Selamlık', 20 TL for 'Harem', 40 TL for both. Reduced admission price for students.
- Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu) (about 20 min on foot away from main waterfront avenue). Situated on the gentle hill overlooking the neighbourhood of Emirgan and the Bosphorus, Emirgan Park was for long the only place in the city where Istanbulites can admire the beauty of tulips. Having lost that distinction in the last decade as tulips are now everywhere, this is still a beautiful park with artificial ponds, small waterfalls, and impressive views of Bosphorus. There are also cafes with open-air sections housed in pleasant former imperial hunting manors. Squirrels are there, too, in the middle of this metropolis of 15+ million people, though you may have to look a bit deeper (or a bit upper on the branches!) to spot them. Free.
- Maçka Park (Maçka Parkı) (between Dolmabahçe Palace and that high-rise of Ritz Carlton). This is a park occupying two sides of a valley of this hilly city, with an avenue in between. Sides of the valley are connected to each other by a 4-person gondola lift line offering a shortcut when walking to Taksim Square as well as nice views of Bosphorus (access to northern station from Maçka Caddesi/Eytam Caddesi, every 5 minutes 8:00-20:00, 1.50 TL pp one-way), and by a wooden bridge over the bisecting avenue if you prefer to take a stroll along nice footpaths of the park. Free.
- Ortaköy (north of Beşiktaş). A neighbourhood on the bank of Bosphorus with the Ortaköy Mosque—the baroque mosque under the Bosphorus Bridge, combination of which are one of the most iconic images of Istanbul. This artsy neighbourhood is filled with nice cafes, some of which offer kumpir—a baked potato with various fillings such as mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sweetcorn, sausage slices, carrots, mushrooms, Russian salad among others—which the neighbourhood is well-known for, and a perfect view crowded and fun. The way from Beşiktaş takes around 25 minutes on foot and is along an avenue shaded by huge plane trees, though the usually-heavy traffic may take some of its peacefulness away.
- Rumeli Citadel (Rumeli Hisarı) (on the waterfront, right next to the main avenue). Built in first half of 1400s, this is the large medieval castle under the Second Bosphorus Bridge. Its former name Boğazkesen (Turkish)/Laimokopia (Greek) means both "strait-blocker" and "throat-cutter" in both languages and denotes the reason of its building—to shut the supply routes from the Black Sea in the north into the slowly falling apart Byzantine Empire through the Bosphorus. Rumeli, literally "Roman land", was the name of the European half of Ottoman Empire, and as is usual with some other structures and villages along the Bosphorus, used as a prefix to differentiate Rumeli Hisarı from its counterpart in Asian Side, the much smaller Anadolu Hisarı, located just across the Bosphorus.
- Sadberk Hanım Museum (Sadberk Hanım Müzesi), Büyükdere Piyasa Caddesi 27-29, Sarıyer (on the waterfront, just south of Sarıyer), ☎ , fax: +90 212 242-03-65, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Th-Tu 10:00-17:00. A private museum housed in a yalı, traditional wooden waterfront mansions that lie along the banks of Bosphorus. Exhibition includes a number of archaeological and ethnographical artifacts from the collection of Koç Family, though just seeing the interior of a yalı is worth entering. 7TL.
- Sakip Sabanci Museum (Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi), Sakıp Sabancı Caddesi 42, Emirgan (Buses: 40, 40T from Taksim; 22, 22RE, 25E from Kabataş. Get off at Çınaraltı stop), ☎ , fax: +90 212 229 49 14, e-mail: email@example.com. Tu, Th, Fr, Su 10:00-18:00; We, Sa 10:00-22:00. Museum with a rich collection of calligraphy and paintings. It also hosts temporary exhibitions of works by some world-class artists such as Pablo Picasso from time to time. 10 TL (3 TL students).
- Bosphorus Cruise The best way to see the Bosphorus in all its beauty is to take a boat trip. This is the strategic waterway connecting the Black sea to the Mediterranean, and dividing Istanbul into two continents. As the boat zigzags between Asia and Europe, you can admire the old Ottoman wooden houses, 6 Ottoman palaces, 2 suspended bridges, and 2 medieval castles.
It is somewhat of a tourist trap. One-way is 13 lira, retour 26. The standard price for one hop for locals is 1.5 lira. On Sundays there are fewer boats. If you are not so lucky/fast to get one of the few deckseats it gets very hot inside, even hotter than in the city.
There are also daily trips from Eminönü, by 10.30AM in the morning and come back by 4.30PM in the evening. It costs 20 YTL per trip per person. There is an additional boat by 1.30PM in summer.
For travelers that don't want to bother with getting off the boat/taking the bus to take a deeper look into some of the Bosphorus neighbourhoods, there are also boats departing from Ortaköy which allow you to see waterfront from a distance up to the Second Bosphorus Bridge in the north, though they don't allow you to get off at any neighbourhood quay you like (in fact they don't stop anywhere until they get back to Ortaköy).
- IstinyePark, İstinye Bayırı Cadessi (at Maslak), ☎ . Beautiful mall with 300 stores, many good restaurants and cafes.
- Yeşil Çiftlik Restaurant (Yeşil Çiftlik Restaurant), Kilyos Yolu Uskumruköy Kavsağı No:30 Sariyer/Istanbul, ☎ . 11:00AM-00:00AM. Special lamb B&Q, kebabs, country breakfast, beer, rakı and other alcoholic drinks, Nargile (Waterpipe, Sheesha) available.
- Vagabondo's Ristorante & Pizzeria (Vagabondo's Restaurant & Pizza), Köybaşı Cad. Yalılar Durağı No: 168 Yeniköy / İstanbul, ☎ . 11:00AM-00:00AM. Italian cuisine; pizza, steak, pasta, wines and other alcohol available.
- Super Yedigün, Kavak İskele Cadessi 29, Rumili, ☎ . Great seafood restaurant at the cost.
- Uzunya, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cozy seafood restaurant at the Black Sea. Very popular for weekend breakfasts.
- Naz Turkish Cuisine, Bayıldım Cad. No:2 Maçka, Beşiktaş, ☎ . 11:30AM-1AM. Turkish cuisine.
- Park Fora. Great seafood, located in Kuruçeşme park right on the edge of the sea, it has a very nice view of the Bosphorus and Bosphorus Bridge. The waiters know English. Prices range from 50 - 150 YTL per person.
- Divan. Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No: 121, Bebek, +90 212 257 72 70. At first sight it may seem like a mere patisserie, but walk downstairs and you'll find a lovely restaurant with the waters of the Bosphorus right next to you. The food is simply first-class and the service is very good, too.
- Ulus 29, Ahmet Adnan Saygun Caddesi 71, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Dinner 18:30-late; Lunch Mo-Fr 12:00-15:00. Upscale restaurant with an amazing view over the Bosperus.
- Kazan, Beşiktaş Caddesi 35, Beşiktaş (in downtown Beşiktaş; on the main avenue parallel to waterfront, just opposite the Naval Museum/square with the sculpture of Barbarossa Haireddin Pasha), ☎ . 11AM-midnight daily. A quite elegantly decorated local pub in which fans of Beşiktaş FC that could not make it to the stadium, old and young, male and female, like to watch the games on live broadcast. During summer months, they also have an open-air section just next to the sidewalk where smoking is free. Quite good value and is actually cheaper than how it looks in the first glance. 5 TL for a pint (0.5 lt) of draft beer, slightly more expensive during the nights when there is a game (about 7 TL for a pint of beer; when they also charge 20 TL pp for entry).
- Sheerwood, Kaymakçı Sokak 14, Ortaköy (close to the Ortaköy Mosque), ☎ . This pub/bar has extremely friendly staff service, and cheap drinks. At nights it becomes a sort of disco. Sherwood has two floors, second of which offers live music.
- Q Jazz Club, Ciragan Caddesi 84, Besiktas, +90 2122362121. 10AM-4AM. Jazz lovers cannot miss this a 17th-century brick cellar style bar that caters to the whims of jazz fans.
Two of the hottest clubs of Istanbul are in Ortaköy:
- Crystal, Muallim Naci Caddesi 109, +90 212 2611988. Midnight-5AM. One of Istanbul’s biggest underground clubs: house and techno can be heard on Fridays and Saturdays, garage and jazzy house on Wednesdays.
- Reina, Muallim Naci Caddesi 44. Actually a vast playground filled with bars, restaurants and dance floors. Voted one of the best outdoors clubs in Europe.
Accommodation close to Bosphorus are mostly upmarket.
- Istanbul Hostel, Türkali Mah. Şehit Asım Cad. 60, Beşiktaş, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 11am, check-out: flexible. Six-, four-, three- and two-bed dorms. Free wireless and free internet. Staff can arrange transport to and from the airport, and the hostel has a travel agency which can set you up with other hostels and trips in the country. Atmosphere is good. They also have a garden where guests can smoke. dorms 20 TL.
- Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Çiragan Caddesi No:32, Besiktas (On the Bosphorus coast just south of the main square of Ortakoy,), ☎ , fax: +90 212 259 6687, e-mail: email@example.com. This hotel is in a residence of the last Sultan. Rooms come with air-con, TV, minibar and safety deposit box. Hotel has several restaurants and lounges, pools, jacuzzi, Turkish baths, gym and other amenities. Rooms start around $450 (USD) and can get much higher..
- Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, Suzer Plaza, Elmadag, Askerocagi Caddesi No: 15, Sisli., ☎ , fax: +90 212 334 44 55. Standing tall near the Bosphorus, the Ritz Carlton is located in the heart of Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus and Dolmabahce Palace.
- W Hotel Istanbul, Süleyman Seba Caddesi 2, Akaretler, Beşiktaş., ☎ . WiFi, Fitness center and business center onsite as well as a fine dining restaurant that tempts patrons with its decadent offerings.
- Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul, Bayıldım Caddesi No:2 Maçka, Beşiktaş (Located on a hill behind the Dolmabahce Palace,), ☎ , fax: +90 212 326 1122, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The last residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul commands panoramic views of the Bosphorus, the Asian coast and the old city of Istanbul.
- Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul, Çırağan Caddesi 46, Ortaköy, Beşiktaş, ☎ , fax: +90 212 310 1515, e-mail: email@example.com. 120 rooms and 7 meeting rooms with technical equipment, wellness center, and underground parking. The hotel has one all day dining restaurant, one bar and a private venue that highlight the city as Starboard Restaurant offers a spectacular Bosphorus view; "Cruise Lounge & Bar", with its scenery; and "Pupa Terrace", a venue for private events, dinners, or cocktails.
A number of standard internet cafés (i.e. which offer broadband connection, printer, and CD burner, and most likely a meager selection of canned soft drinks) can be found on the side alleys—especially on those to your left when Beşiktaş is behind you—of Barbaros Bulvarı, the large avenue going uphill from main square of Beşiktaş.
There is not much safety issues in this part of the city really, at least not as much as you'd expect from a city of this size.
There are some issues to keep in mind, though:
- Some parts of pedestrian promenade at the Bosphorus side of the street in the upper (northern) sections of the district, especially between Yeniköy and Tarabya, and Tarabya and Kireçburnu, are very narrow (so narrow as not to let two pedestrians comfortably walk side by side), so watch your steps if you decide to take a stroll around there.
- While you will see some people (mostly poor children, who cannot afford to swim in swimming pools) swimming in the strait, it is discouraged and is dangerous due to strong currents and depth. (There are red colored warning signs in Turkish dotting the shores of the Bosphorus, warning swimmers that swimming is dangerous due to strong currents, even though there is no ban). Nor are there any real beaches, facilities and designated swimming areas on the Bosphorus for swimmers as a result. There is indeed a cape named Akıntıburnu (literally, "cape of current") just east of the neighborhood of Arnavutköy, in which the current is at its strongest, and is easily visible even from outside, just like the flow of a river. Besides, the water is not that clean either, however blue it may look. So, if you can't wait for hitting a Mediterranean beach, better head for beaches on the Marmara coast, outside Istanbul instead.
- You may want to steer clear of the dimly illuminated parks on the upper/northern sections of Bosphorus, especially around Kireçburnu, late at night to avoid harassment from homeless people likely abusing inhalants, who are known to stab people for whatever amount of money they can get, no matter how little. Dayhours and evenings are perfectly safe, though.
Thanks to fairly frequent bus and minibus services from Sarıyer, some easy day-trips into the pleasant countryside along the northern edges of city is possible.
- Kilyos — village to north on the Black Sea with long sandy beaches that are crammed in summer weekends, and comfortably loose at other times, served by frequent minibuses
- Atatürk Arboretum — close to the village of Bahçeköy to west (served by buses from elsewhere in the city as well as Sarıyer), this "living tree museum" goes breathtakingly beautiful amidst autumn mists, but with its ponds and views over the Bosphorus, is also highly scenic at other seasons, too
- Anadolu Kavağı — take a ferry from Sarıyer to this pleasant village across the strait on the Asian coast, crowned by the Yoros Castle on the hilltop, which offers a view of the wide open Black Sea in the north