The narrow strait that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean is the reason for Istanbul’s pre-eminence. Its banks offer ideal places for a day’s excursion, though to enjoy them all could take many weeks.
Traditional markets, fish restaurants and cafés, many of them with mouth-watering specialities. There are classic walks along the seashore or up through small towns to fabled vantage points, from which the strait appears to be a series of lakes. Well worth a visit are the wonderful palaces built along the Bosphorus in the nineteenth century – extraordinary relics of a vanished age with lovely grounds. There are excellent museums in Sarıyer and Emirgan. Buses and minibuses ensure easy access, but a boat journey makes a wonderful escape. If you take some Cornucopias along with you, you can read the stories behind more the most beautiful yalıs.
The sea bus is the fastest affordable way to shoot up and down the Bosphorus. They do leave mini-tsunamis in their wake, so it is probably a good thing for the last few historic yalıs lining the shore that they only do the trip twice a day, morning and evening: see the official timetable. The fastest way to get to the top of the Bosphorus by land is the Taksim–Hacıosman metro (25mins). From Hacıosman is it is a 5-min taxi or minibus ride to the Sadberk Hanım Museum in Sarıyer, and it is even quicker to a Mado icecream in the little bay of Tarabya. Whatever you do, avoid the coast road at the weekend. In fact unless you have friends with a boat or a yalı, steer clear of the Bosphorus on Sundays, full stop.
Fish and meze by the Bosphorus is one of Istanbul’s dream delights, but almost incredibly, proper old-fashioned places you can do this can now be counted on one hand except in Anadolu Kavağı at the very top of the straits. Kuzguncuk, Çengelköy, Kandilli and Yeniköy have a few. Arnavutköy likewise, though you will also have a road in front of you. Fish is hugely expensive – if fiunds aren’t limitless concentrate on meze and order a platter of smalller fish to share – sardines (sardalya) or anchoves (hamsi), for example.
Luxury Bosphorus cruises