The Bosphorus is the channel that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and separates Europe from Asia; but the term has also come to mean the neighbourhoods of Istanbul that lie along its banks. (In Turkish Boğaz means the Bosphorus channel, while Boğaziçi is the word for these neighbourhoods.) These began as separate fishing villages, and even today have not completely grown into each other. So they each have a different character, with late Ottoman palaces, parks, and lush woodlands. This is one of the most scenic districts of Istanbul, especially in May when the Judas trees (Turkish: Erguvan, Latin: Cercis siliquastrum) swathe the shoreline and the hills with their deep-pink flowers.
This article only describes the European bank of Bosphorus, and nearby sections of its Black Sea coast. For the Asian bank of Bosphorus (and the more extensive eastern Black Sea coast), see Istanbul/Asian Side.
- Buses to this district depart from Kabataş tram station, Taksim Square, and Beşiktaş among others. Most buses hug the waterfront, one especially useful being Bus #25E, from Kabataş to the northern district of Sarıyer - change buses there for villages on the Black Sea coast.
- Dolmuşes to Beşiktaş run from Taksim and Nişantaşı on European Side, and Kadıköy and Bostancı on the Asian Side.
- Ferries from Üsküdar and Kadıköy on the Asian Side dock at Beşiktaş quay.
- 1 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 renovated late Ottoman-era rowhouses built for the state elite, given their proximity to Dolmabahçe Palace, imperial headquarters then.
- 2 Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı), Dolmabahçe Cad., Beşiktaş (1 km NE of Kabataş tram station), ☏ , fax: . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. This lavish palace with 285 rooms and 43 halls was the admin centre for the Ottoman empire in its last 60 years. The palace government block (Selamlık) includes the Imperial Mabeyn (State Apartments) and Muayede Hall (Ceremonial Hall), while the Imperial Harem was the sultan's private quarters. Also here are the Painting Gallery, Music Museum, Clock Museum and Museum of Palace Collections. Free audio guide in several languages available by the ticket office. No photography inside, no backpacks but you can leave them in the cloakroom. Allow 3 hours to see everything. 60 TL for Selamlık, 40 TL for Harem, 80 TL both. Müzeumkart not accepted.
- 3 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.
- 4 (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. Beware there are two areas called Arnavutköy - the other is the site of the new airport, away northwest of the city.
- 5 Rumeli Citadel (Rumeli Hisarı) (on the waterfront, right next to the main avenue). Partially closed. Th-Tu 9:00 - 19:00 during summer, and till 17:00 during winter. 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. 15 TL.
- 6 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: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu Th F Su 10:00-18:00; W 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).
- 7 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 more than 15 million people, though you may have to look a bit deeper (or a bit upper on the branches!) to spot them. Free.
- 8 Sadberk Hanım Museum (Sadberk Hanım Müzesi), Büyükdere Piyasa Caddesi 27-29, Sarıyer (on the waterfront, just south of Sarıyer), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 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. 10 TL.
- 9 Belgrad Forest (Belgrad Ormanı) (15 km north of Istanbul). Named after a 16th century village, founded by Serbs deported from Belgrade when it fell to the Ottomans. The village was popular as a forest resort, but its inhabitants were resettled in the 19th C and it's now a bosky ruin. The forest is mostly primordial and deciduous, predominantly oak. It's dotted with ancient aqueducts and dams as this area was a water catchment for Constantinople / Istanbul, and has lots of walking / jogging / cycling trails and picnic areas. The two main ways in are via Bahçeköy (near the Arboretum entrance) and Kemerburgaz (which has the best aqueducts). There's a small access toll. The forest is supposedly a protected area but is being encroached on by highways and suburbs: this is likely to get worse as the access route to Istanbul's new airport leads right through it.
- 10 Atatürk Arboretum (Atatürk Arboretumu), Bahçeköy (Bus 42T from Taksim & Beşiktaş, bus 42M from 4-Levent, or bus 153 from Sarıyer), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 08:30-17:30. From Bahçeköy village follow the road lined with very old trees, turn opposite the Faculty of Forestry (Orman Fakültesi) and follow signs for "Kemerburgaz" and "Atatürk Arboretumu" for 10 mins. The arboretum, surrounded by a natural oak forest, is planted with many non-native tree species (turning crimson/golden/purple as winter approaches) and has a pond with feisty ducks. It's an almost mystic place during hazy autumn days, but is always very scenic no matter what the season. There's also a wooden observation tower on one of the hilltops, offering a view of the surrounding forests and the distant Bosphorus. Watch for migratory birds in autumn. No eating, no picnicking, no video photography and no smoking. Weekend 20 TL, weekdays 7.5 TL.
- Along the European Black Sea coast, 11 Rumelifeneri and 12 Kilyos or Kumköy are two village resorts, close to the city so they're popular for weekend getaways.
- 13 Yıldız Palace (Yıldız Sarayi). 8:00 - 19:00 during summer, and till 17:00 during winter. A vast complex of former imperial Ottoman pavilions and villas in Istanbul, Turkey, built in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was used as a residence by the Sultan and his court in the late 19th century. Free.
- 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 TL, return 26 TL. The standard price for one hop for locals is 1.5 TL. 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 10:30 in the morning and come back by 16:30 in the evening. It costs 20 TL per trip per person. There is an additional boat at 13:30 in summer.
For travellers 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).
- 1 İstinye Park (About 400 m from Ayazağa metro station in Maslak), ☏ . Beautiful upscale mall with 300 stores, many good restaurants and cafes.
- 2 Akmerkez. At Etiler. Nearest metro station is Gayrettepe/Zincirlikuyu. The mall is about 25-min walk or 10-min taxi ride away from that station.
- Yeşil Çiftlik Restaurant (Yeşil Çiftlik Restaurant), Kilyos Yolu Uskumruköy Kavsağı No:30 Sariyer/Istanbul, ☏ . 11:00-24:00. Special lamb barbecue, 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, ☏ . 11:00-24:00. Italian cuisine; pizza, steak, pasta, wines and other alcohol available.
- 1 Super Yedigün, Kavak İskele Cadessi 29, Rumili, ☏ . Great seafood restaurant at the cost.
- 2 Uzunya, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Cozy seafood restaurant at the Black Sea. Very popular for weekend breakfasts.
- 3 Sans, Palmiye Sokak 1. (SE of the 4. Levent metro station.), ☏ . 11:00-24:00; Su off. Nice restaurant in a small garden serving Turkish and Mediterranean food.
- Naz Turkish Cuisine, Bayıldım Cadessi No:2 Maçka, Beşiktaş, ☏ . 11:30-01:00. Turkish cuisine.
- 4 Park Fora, Muallim Naci Caddesi, Cemil Topuzlu Parkı, ☏ . 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.
- 5 Divan, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No: 121, Bebek, ☏ . At first sight it may seem like a mere patisserie, but walk downstairs and you will find a lovely restaurant with the waters of the Bosporus right next to you. The food is simply first-class and the service is very good, too.
- 6 Ulus 29, Ahmet Adnan Saygun Caddesi 71, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Dinner 18:30-late; Lunch M-Fr 12:00-15:00. Upscale restaurant with an amazing view over the Bosporus.
- 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), ☏ . 11:00-24:00 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 L) 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. 10:00-04:00. 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.
- 1 Reina, Muallim Naci Caddesi 44. A vast playground filled with bars, restaurants and dance floors. Voted one of the best outdoors clubs in Europe.
Accommodation close to the Bosphorus is mostly upmarket. There's more mid-range & budget choice a little further south, around Taksim Square - see Galata page.
- 1 Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Çiragan Caddesi No:32, Besiktas (just south of the main square of Ortakoy), ☏ , fax: , ✉ 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. B&B doubles from €250.
- 2 W Istanbul, Süleyman Seba Caddesi 2, Akaretler, Beşiktaş., ☏ . Part of Starwood chain. WiFi, Fitness center and business center onsite as well as a fine dining restaurant. B&B doubles from €140.
- 3 Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Bayıldım Caddesi No: 2 Maçka; Beşiktaş 34357, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A 5-star hotel near Taksim Square with four restaurants and two bars. Doubles from €220.
- 4 Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Çırağan Caddesi 46, Ortaköy, Beşiktaş (By Ortaköy ferry pier), ☏ , fax: , ✉ 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. B&B doubles from €180.
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 are not many 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. Day hours and evenings are perfectly safe, though.
- Frequent buses and minibuses run from Sarıyer into the countryside north of the city.
- Anadolu Kavağı: take a ferry from Sarıyer to this pleasant village across the strait on the Asian coast, crowned by Yoros Castle on the hilltop, with views north over the Black Sea.