Taking a boat trip up the Bosphorus, from the bustling quays of Eminönü to the quiet fishing village of Anadolu Kavağı, is a highlight of any visit to İstanbul. The long Bosphorus Cruise, run by the Şehir Hatları company (t444 1851, wsehirhatlari.com.tr), leaves from the Boğaz Ferry Terminal just east of the Galata Bridge in Eminönü (daily: May–Oct 10.35am & 1.35pm, Nov–April 10.35am; one-way TL15, round-trip TL25).
In summer, especially at weekends, the queues to buy tickets can be very long, so allow at least half an hour, or, preferably, buy your ticket a day or two in advance. There are also often long queues to board, so late-comers end up sitting in the worst seats. The ferries are rather antiquated but comfortable enough, and you can buy snacks, sandwiches and drinks on board. The round trip, including a 2hr 30min lunch stop at Anadolu Kavağı, takes about seven hours.
The boat stops at Beşiktaş, Kanlıca (Asia), Yeniköy, Sariyer and Rumeli Kavağı (all Europe) and, finally, Anadolu Kavağı (Asia); the only stop on the return is Beşiktaş. You can leave the boat at any of the landings to explore the waterfront or hinterland, but most passengers do the return cruise. A shorter version is also available for TL10, departing from the same ferry terminal and covering the same distance with no stops (other than to pick up more passengers at Üsküdar). The tour takes around two hours, departing Eminönü at 2.30pm (April–Oct daily; Nov–March Sun & public holidays).
On Saturday nights only, between early June and mid-September, a night-time Mehtaplı cruise (TL20) makes an attractive alternative, with the great suspension bridges lit up like Christmas trees, and the lights of Asia and Europe twinkling on either side. The boat departs Eminönü at 7pm, reaching Anadolu Kavağı at 8.30pm, where it moors for dinner, before arriving back in Eminönü around midnight.
The private Turyol company also runs tours up the Bosphorus, as far as the Fatih bridge. Boats depart every hour on the hour on weekdays, more frequently at weekends, and the 1hr 30min round trip costs TL12.