What more could you ask for? At the crossroads of major Asian and European civilisations, the sea runs through a beautiful city founded on seven hills. Once a small Greek city-state, Istanbul captured the hearts of so many emperors and they all wanted to leave their mark on it with breath-taking monuments. The sunset never looks better than on a series of glinting minarets, and the best way to see all this is from the sea. That’s why one of your first activities in Istanbul should be taking a boat tour along the Bosphorus.
If you’ve fallen in love with the Bosphorus and are having withdrawal symptoms as soon as you land and find yourself in the city’s notorious traffic, we have an enticing suggestion: you can spend as much time as you want on a boat, while going to some of the most alluring places on the scene. Here’s our guide to what you can do by boat in Istanbul.
Sedef Island is the smallest of the inhabited Princes Islands, sprinkled along the south-eastern coast of Istanbul. Elio Sedef is the only restaurant on the island, open for the summer and very popular with the island-hopping crowd both during the day and night. You can sunbathe on its small private dock during the day and move on to the restaurant/bar area under the pine trees towards the evening. Great Italian food and wines. The party goes on until late on Friday and Saturday nights.
Imagine Istanbul in the Ottoman times, with horse carriages on winding, tree-lined roads along wooden mansions. Yes, the largest of the Princess Islands has it all. You can catch a fayton ride to see the architecture and have lunch at the gloriously antique Splendid Hotel. Or if you’re avoiding the crowds, just ask your captain to take you to some virgin beaches on the southern side of the island.
Located right next to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, Lacivert (navy blue in Turkish) takes its name from the dark blue waters that run incessantly in front of the restaurant. Brunch is a favourite among the Bosphorus dwellers (every Sunday, 11am-2pm) but the venue is also perfect for a romantic dinner with the most spectacular view of the city.
Divan Brasserie Bebek
There are many Divan Brasseries in the city but the one in Bebek is a classic in its own right. They serve a delicious menu of Turkish and international dishes, and great wines. Watch the yachts go by in the lovely bay of Bebek bathed in sunlight, or wind down in the evocative atmosphere of the city lights in the evening.
Also known as the Galatasaray Island (as in the football team), Suada Club is a tiny island right on the Bosphorus off the Kuruçeşme coast. It’s home to several good restaurants with fantastic views and a nice Olympic swimming pool, where you can feel you are at the heart of the city.
Opened in 2001 to great acclaim, Anjelique is still going strong as one of the most popular venues in the city. Situated in a 3-storey seaside mansion, it has unbeatable views of the Bosphorus Bridge. The restaurant serves Mediterranean dishes with lots of seafood, and turns into a club around 11pm. DJ sets carry the party well into the night.
Reina is the club you’ve probably heard about and yes, it’s a must-see stop in Istanbul. It’s best to arrive by boat to avoid the incredible queue at the door, and reserve your place beforehand so you don’t have to wait. We recommend you go for dinner early in the evening to watch the moon rise and light up the Asian coast. And then be prepared to stay as long as the wild party goes on.
Rahmi M. Koç Museum
Rahmi M. Koç Museum
The historical shipyard in Hasköy is home to the playground of one of Turkey’s wealthiest industrialists, who founded and continues to support this eccentric museum of industrial and engineering objects. The museum features a typical Istanbul ferry, a US Navy submarine, a nostalgic train you can ride in, and a planetarium, as well as Mr. Koç’s own collection of vintage cars. (Please call ahead to let them know that you’ll be arriving by boat.)