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Planning a Bosphorus Day Cruise

One of the most pleasant experiences in Istanbul—and an easy way to escape the chaos of the city—is a trip up the Bosphorus by ferry from the Eminönü docks in the Old Town. Along the way you'll see wooded hills; villages large and small, modern and old-fashioned; the old wooden summer homes called yalıs (waterside houses) that were built for the city's wealthier residents in the Ottoman era; and the grand palaces of Beşiktaş.

There are two sorts of ferries: the more popular option is the cruise ferry, which goes up and back, or you can take a commuter ferry; both leave from Eminönü. The third option is the private Turyol tours from the other side of Galata bridge, which whip you up and back in about three hours, costing around $5, with no lunch stop.

Cruise ferries depart daily from Quay 3 (look for the sign reading "boğaz hattı") at 10:35 and 1:35 (times are subject to change, so check first). The round-trip should cost about $15. These boats zigzag up the Bosphorus with set stops arriving at about noon or 3 pm, respectively, for a three-hour break at either Rumeli Kavağı or Anadolu Kavağı, two fishing villages near the Black Sea. Then they zigzag back down to Eminönü.

Alternatively, several commuter ferries leave the same dock at around 6 pm for a mere $1, letting you pack more into a day, but it means catching a bus or taxi back, as there are no return ferries until the morning. Numerous buses run up and down both sides; most useful is bus 25, which runs between Sariyer and Eminönü (E) and Taksim (T). On the Asian side several buses run from Uskudar past Beylerbeyi, Anadolu Hisar, and Kanlıca to Beykoz. A final note for planning is that Beylerbeyi is closed Monday and Thursday; Rumeli Hisar and Sadberk Hanım Müzesi are closed Wednesday.

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