So you’ve come to Istanbul and you love it. You’ve been around the city, you’ve seen the museums, the galleries, the palaces and the mosques. You’ve been to the marketplaces, you’ve enjoyed a walk through the busy streets and have had a meal at one of the seafood restaurants along the Bosphorus.
What more is there? In Istanbul there’s always more to be seen and done! How about a Bosphorus Dinner Cruise, for example? A night cruise on the Bosphorus will reveal Istanbul to you in a way you could not have imagined. And all the while, you will be dining on delicious food and tasting the finest of wines.
What to see on the Bosphorus
A dinner cruise (no matter how lengthy) can hardly cover all of the Bosphorus, but it will take you through its most scenic and illuminated parts: from Kabataş to Emirgan and back. A usual dinner cruise begins at Kabataş, then the yacht crosses over to the Asian side where it continues up to Çengelköy, crosses the Bosphorus again to Emirgan on the European side and circles back south to Kabataş.
Leaving the route itself aside, what can one see during a Bosphorus dinner cruise? A great deal of effort has been put into illuminating the most prominent buildings and constructions that run along the shore of the Bosphorus, making every night cruise quite the spectacle.
Read on for the main urban landmarks, most of them of historical significance, which you can see on the Bosphorus, and which provide plenty of excellent photo opportunities. They are located on different sides of the Bosphorus and are listed according to their proximity to the starting point of Kabataş.
The largest palace in Turkey, Dolmabahçe served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire during the years leading up to its dissolution in 1922. It also served as the residence of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during his presidency.
Now a five-star hotel of the Kempinski Hotels chain, Çırağan Palace was once an Ottoman palace, too. Completed in 1876, it was only shortly the residence of Sultan Abdülâziz. It burned down almost entirely in 1910 and was restored and modernized in 1989 to serve as a hotel complex.
This first Bosphorus bridge was the 4th longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1973. By now it has moved down the list, but that’s not so important. Adorned by an LED light system that shines in different colors and patterns, the bridge is a spectacular and unpredictable sight.
Another redesigned historical mansion and yalı, the Esma Sultan Mansion was also built during Ottoman times. It was a wedding gift to Sultan Abdülaziz’s daughter, Esma Sultan. In 1975 it, too, was destroyed by yet another fire (there used to be plenty of fires in Istanbul) but was rebuilt and renovated in the 1990s. Nowadays it functions as a cultural center and events venue, hosting many conferences, meetings and exhibitions.
Ortaköy Mosque is one of the most prominent and photographed locations on the Bosphorus. Built in the 18th century, it was designed by the same architects (father and son) who designed the Dolmabahçe Palace and mosque. Its distinctive feature is its neo-baroque style.
Another imposing landmark on the Bosphorus, the Ottoman Beylerbeyi Palace was constructed in the 1860s. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdülaziz, like the Esma Sultan mansion. The palace, though, was used as a residence to host receptions for foreign heads of state.
Kuleli Military High School
Kuleli Military High School is the first ever military high school in Turkey, dating back to 1845. During the different wars over the past century, it was converted a number of times to a hospital. For a while it was also a civil high school. In the end, after the Second World War, it again became a military high school. Numerous notable Turkish politicians, academics, poets and artists have graduated the college.
Adile Sultan Palace
Built in 1860 for Adile Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Mahmud II, the palace was later donated by the former to serve as a high school for girls. Like many other old buildings, it met a fiery fate and burned down in the 1980s, before being restored in 2006 to serve as a cultural and educational center.
Close to the second of the Bosphorus bridges, lies the rather small Ottoman neo-baroque style Küçüksu Palace. It currently functions as a museum and was also seen in the popular James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough”.
The ‘Anatolian fortress’ (or castle) is the oldest of the buildings presented here. It was built in 1394/5 on the ruins of a former temple of Uranus, and served as a watch fort during the preparations of Bayezid I for the second siege of Constantinople.
Opposite to Anadoluhisarı is another ‘pre-Constantinople-conquest’ castle: Rumelihisarı. It was built in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed II. Because it is located at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus, it had the strategic function of controlling traffic on the strait. This was especially important during the siege of Constantinople, so as to prevent reinforcements to the city from arriving.
Finally, we have the second Bosphorus bridge, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. At the time of its construction it, too, was among the top 5 longest suspension bridges in the world. By far not as illuminated as the first Bosphorus bridge, it is still a majestic sight to behold at night.
But that’s not all!
Of course this list does not exhaust your private Bosphorus dinner cruise experience. For those who want to truly relax while on the cruise, we can additionally offer three delicious dinner options, prepared fresh by our restaurant Arşipel Restaurant. These include traditional Turkish mezes, fish and seafood dishes.
And as you slowly glide along the surface of the Bosphorus, let our captain or crew know if there’s anything they can do to make your trip truly special and unforgettable. We would love to help you have a unique and pleasant experience.