Many of the world’s great cities are situated on oceans or riverbanks. In historical times, access to water offered clear advantages for resources and defense.
Some cities have expanded across their waterways over the centuries; this act has often shaped internal and external city perceptions.
Paris, Istanbul, and New York are three such cities affected by the channels of water that divide them.
Water as containment
Manhattan’s watery borders largely form new York City’s identity.
The island will never become more substantial, so its sense of place simply intensifies with time.
Every iconic vision of New York — Central Park, Wall Street, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, or Greenwich Village — is contained within the boundaries of Manhattan.
The “outer boroughs” (Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn) didn’t become part of New York City until 1898; even now, residents of those boroughs still call Manhattan “the city.”
The elegant Bentley Hotel is located right on the East River, with a view of the 59th Street Bridge.
Istanbul, with a far longer history, similarly concentrates its identity in the water-bounded spot of its original founding: the European side of the Bosphorus.
While the city has grown in all directions, its most important historic features are contained in the section that was once Byzantium.
The Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and Taksim Square are so absorbing that many Istanbul visitors only board the ferry to get a good photo vantage point.
Istanbul’s Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel provides an immersion in the European side’s ancient glamour, with easy access to ferry landing points.
Waterways define identity
Its waterways define Paris.
Over time, even though the “left bank” and “right bank” were part of the same city, they developed different cultural identities.
Until recently, the right bank was associated with grandeur, authority, and establishment wealth.
The Champs-Élysées, the Louvre, the Bastille, the Palais Royal, tony nightlife, and historic glory rub shoulders here.
The left bank has held onto its identity as the creative heart of the city.
The Sorbonne students, the artists and intellectuals who gathered in Montparnasse cafes, and the crowded backstreets of the Latin Quarter: these places convey a deeper consciousness and a more affordable human scale.
The Hotel Pont Royal, located just a block from the Seine, puts you in the heart of the left bank’s cultural riches.
Istanbul’s Asian side is home to residents who feel strong generational roots in its quieter, less-crowded neighborhoods.
The leafy parks along the waterside and the more peaceful pace of life allow traditions to linger.
At the same time, Marmara University students and the youthful culture in the Kadikoy district give the Asian side of Istanbul a sense of connection to the larger world.
There is also Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. It is located in Saudi Arabia with Red Sea Coasts.
It is one of the 100 largest cities in the world by land area today and a significant city in Hijazi history books.
You might enjoy King Fahd’s fountain–it’s the largest of its kind.
Jeddah is a primary resort area due to its close proximity to the Red Sea.
Seafood is the food choice here.
You can check to see if you need a Saudi visa fee before traveling to Saudi Arabia’s “most open” city.
London is a city that many identify with the Thames.
Beyond Big Ben, there is more to this city than the architecture, including incredible and historic waterways.
Walbrook is one of the most famous “lost rivers.”
This city played an important role in the Roman settlement of Londinium, which is now known as London.
Before going, check with a Passport Agency London for what you’ll need to see this magical city.
In all three cities, the bridges and ferries that cross the water express the iconic city glamour.
There is a high-speed subway line underneath the Bosphorus, but few people use it for travel.
Watch the seagulls wheel in the blue mist over the heads of fishermen, or buy toast and tea aboard the well-worn ferry.
These experiences are an integral part of experiencing Istanbul.
In New York, various bridges and trains offer rapid access to Manhattan, but the iconic crossings are made on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry.
Thousands of pedestrians and cyclists make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge each day just for the experience, while many more ride the free Staten Island Ferry.
Paris has 37 bridges crossing the Seine, but a handful at the city’s center (Pont Alexandre III, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts) have won the hearts of visitors and locals.
Almost every view of Paris includes one of the central bridges.
With the help of Hipmunk, flights — and fascinating international destinations — are easy to find.
Travel makes the world more accessible; pick three port cities in the world, and see how their waterways shape their identities.
Explore any one or all of these amazing cities, and you can check about passport legalisation before you go.