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Istanbul is home to some of the most majestic mosques and palaces, but the Bosphorus River is the real crown jewel. Weaving together not just a city, but also the shores of two continents, it is an important crossroads between East and West, and the emblem of a rich and diverse city. There are many different ways to tour the Bosphorus, and travelers should allow themselves enough time to do the mighty river justice.
On the water
Human history along the river stretches back thousands of years, having served as a path between seas for merchants and an outpost between continents for empires for over 2,500 years, according to Frommer's. It is also supposedly the strait along which Jason and the Argonauts sailed in search of the Golden Fleece. The opportunity to sail the same path as outlined in such storied myths should be more than enough reason to take to the Bosphorus by boat. Yet, Istanbul's long history offers up a glorious spread of architecture and civilization along the shores that would feel mythic even without the seaborne legend.
Castles, homesteads and more along the banks make for a gorgeous boat tour, according to Conde Nast Traveler. The Rumeli Fortress spills over the slopes of the shore, with walls that descend right to the edge of the water. It once served as a hold fast for conquerors of Constantinople, and the river provides a broad view of the complex. The black Galata Tower is visible above the rooftops along the shore, the work of Genoese traders in the 13th century. The stout Maiden's Tower is hard to miss, as it stands guard in the middle of the river. Neoclassical facades of residences, mansions and mosques add a touch of European taste to the largely Eastern-influenced city.
Along the shore
The tour of the Bosphorus isn't over once the boat docks. Brunch is a classic Saturday pastime, according to Conde Nast Traveler, and there are plenty of places to take a leisurely meal. Brunch spots range from the very ritzy, such as the Four Seasons, to smaller cafes with local flair. After a meal, one can take a stroll, travelers can take a stroll through the waterside neighborhoods, from the pastel-colored Arnavutköy to the bohemian market hub that is Ortakoy. For a hike, travelers can see the Rumeli Fortress up close. Otherwise, they can take another tea break at one of the many Turkish teahouses that line the shore.
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