Planning a trip to Istanbul?
Choosing the right place to stay is crucial for an enjoyable experience. Istanbul, a city straddling two continents, offers a diverse range of accommodations. In this guide, we’ll explore the best areas and options for where to stay in Istanbul, ensuring your visit is memorable and comfortable.
When planning a visit to a city, deciding on the ideal accommodation can be a complex task. This quest extends beyond just selecting a neighborhood; it also involves considering the type of lodging.
Should you opt for a hotel, explore Airbnb options, indulge in the charm of a small boutique hotel, or seek a complete resort experience? Once this is clarified, the location aspect comes into play. Do you prefer proximity to the airport, or is being close to main attractions worth a slightly higher cost?
In this comprehensive guide, I aim to address all the queries you may have about where to stay in Istanbul. Let’s start.
Map of Istanbul
Istanbul’s vast expanse and complicated layout may seem confusing, but for the sake of simplicity and your peace of mind, I’ve created an easily digestible version of the Istanbul Map.
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that Istanbul spans two continents: Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus Strait serves as the natural boundary between these continents. Navigating this geographical divide presents multiple options, including three bridges across the Bosphorus, a car tunnel known as the Eurasia Tunnel, and a tram-metro tunnel named Marmaray. For a more scenic and enjoyable experience, ferries are also available, offering a delightful way to cross the Bosphorus with ease and fun.
Istanbul has two airports, strategically positioned on two different continents. In Europe, you’ll find the Istanbul Airport (IST), and across the Bosphorus in Asia, there’s the Sabiha Gökcen Airport (SAW).Both airports are seamlessly connected to the center of Istanbul via the metro.
Additionally, on the map, you can see the location of the primary attractions—Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace—located on the Old Peninsula, marked with the Mosque icon.
Exploring Istanbul’s Best Neighborhoods
Istanbul boasts numerous neighborhoods, each offering diverse accommodation options. While writing this article, I asked the question: where would I stay as a tourist in Istanbul?
If you’re an expat or someone planning an extended stay, a thorough research might be in order. However, as a consultant, I prefer simplicity, and I’ve streamlined the choices to four neighborhoods. For those not visiting the city for the first time, changing your stay location could be a good idea, given Istanbul’s wealth of attractions to explore.
Home to iconic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, this neighborhood immerses you in the city’s cultural heart. Explore cobbled streets, savor local cuisine, and bask in the enchanting atmosphere.
Opting for this neighborhood is an excellent decision, especially if your time in Istanbul is limited, and you aim to explore the main attractions, indulge in Turkish cuisine, and shop for souvenirs.
Pros and Cons of Sultanahmet
- An ideal location for visiting the main attractions, all within walking distance
- Excellent culinary offerings
- Variety of choices for souvenirs
- Other notable attractions are also in close proximity, including the Basilica Cistern, Fatih Mosque, and Süleymaniye Mosque
- Hotel prices are higher due to increased demand
- Excessively crowded
- Getting to another neighborhood, particularly during late hours, can be somewhat challenging, notably due to limited public transportation connections
Sultanahmet presents a myriad of options, ranging from luxurious accommodations like the Four Seasons Sultanahmet to Airbnbs and boutique hotels. Regardless of your budget, there’s always something intriguing waiting for you.
It’s important to highlight that the area is full with tourists, resulting in a plethora of hotels. If you’re on the lookout for a budget-friendly option, be sure to read reviews and comments on online platforms such as TripAdvisor.
Alright, let’s spill the tea on Sultanahmet. It’s fantastic, the heart of Istanbul, right at the old peninsula, and a hop away from almost every major attraction. Once you’ve soaked in all the historical goodness, there’s even more to explore – think Fatih Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Chora Church, and Molla Zeyrek Mosque.
But, let’s keep it real. If you’re planning to live your best Istanbul life for a week or more, at some point, you’ll want to venture out to Beyoglu, Besiktas, Kadiköy, Nisantasi – you know, the cool spots. Here’s the lowdown: getting back to Sultanahmet at night might turn into a bit of a headache. Unless you’re up for the taxi madness (not recommended during rush hours), the trusty tram is your go-to, starting from Kabatas, cruising through Karaköy and Eminönü.
For a short and sweet stay, Sultanahmet is your golden ticket. But for a longer affair, well, let’s just say the grass might be greener elsewhere.
Situated in the heart of Istanbul, Beyoglu is a vast district, with Taksim standing out as a renowned neighborhood within it. Taksim and nearby neighbourhoods are celebrated for its vibrant nightlife, featuring bustling activity, along with art galleries and contemporary art museums. The area boasts a blend of Art Nouveau architecture, mosques, churches, abundant shopping opportunities, and a high number of good restaurants and cafes.
Taksim also boasts excellent public transport connections, adding to its overall appeal.
Pros and Cons of Beyoglu
- Vibrant nightlife featuring numerous clubs, bars, and restaurants
- Good shopping opportunities
- Excellent public transport connections
- Numerous museums and art galleries
- Lots of hotels and Airbnb options, not only in Taksim but also in the Galata, Sishane, and Cihangir areas
- The area is heavily populated with tourists, leading to higher hotel prices
- The lively nightlife can make the neighborhood quite noisy at night, which may not be suitable for everyone
The Beyoglu district, once known as Pera, stands as one of the liveliest areas in Istanbul. It serves as an ideal location to witness the architectural influences of the Ottoman Empire and discover traces of various cultures and religions. Accommodation options are plentiful, offering enticing Airbnb choices with picturesque views in neighborhoods like Galata, Cihangir, and Sishane.
The central Taksim neighborhood, known for its vibrant atmosphere, further enhances the appeal of Beyoglu. Notably, Beyoglu’s strategic location provides excellent public transport opportunities, making it convenient to travel to Istanbul Airport (IST). This accessibility adds to the district’s allure, making Beyoglu a compelling and convenient choice for accommodation in Istanbul.
Beyoglu arguably provides one of the finest Istanbul experiences, boasting a crazy amount of culinary, cultural, and nightlife activities. It’s also likely the go-to district for most tourists visiting Istanbul. Notably, Beyoglu is home to the iconic Pera Palace, one of Istanbul’s most renowned hotels.
However, a potential concern about Beyoglu revolves around mobility; reaching public transport stations may require a bit of walking (If you have kids, you might consider this as a downside). For optimal access to main attractions, consider staying close to the Taksim-Kabatas funicular or Sishane metro station. Although Beyoglu has its merits, personally, I lean towards Karaköy, but of course, preferences vary.
Karaköy is another neighborhood situated within the Beyoglu district. This neighborhood enchants its visitors with a fusion of history and modernity. This neighborhood draws in guests with its harbor and cosmopolitan architecture. From the nearby iconic Galata Tower to contemporary art galleries, chic cafes, and the vibrant shopping center, Galataport, This neighborhood stands out as one of the favored spots for visitors.
Pros and Cons of Karaköy
- Prime location along the Bosphorus
- Excellent public transport options. If you arrive at Sabiha Gökcen Airport, you can either take the metro to Kadiköy and then the ferry to Karaköy, or you can take the metro to Ayrilik Cesmesi, followed by the Marmaray to Sirkeci, and finally, a tram ride to Karaköy, which is only a few stations away
- Lots of fantastic cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops
- You can reach the main attractions in Sultanahmet within 15-20 minutes by tram
- Numerous art galleries, museums, and attractions are within walking distance
- Karaköy hosts two exceptional luxury hotels, JW Marriott Bosphorus and The Peninsula. Additionally, there are numerous high-end boutique hotels to choose from
- Prices have surged due to increased demand
- This trend wasn’t like this until this year, but I’ve noticed a significant spike in tourist numbers in Karaköy recently. Long queues have formed in front of renowned fish sandwich vendors, and the top-rated baklava spot on my list, Karaköy Güllüoglu, is also experiencing increased tourist traffic. If you’re planning any activities, be sure to make reservations in advance.
When orchestrating a trip to Istanbul, one must not overlook the allure of the Karakoy district. Nestled on the European side, Karakoy provides convenient access to both Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökcen Airport through seamless public transportation. Visitors can effortlessly hop on a bus from Istanbul Airport to Karakoy.
Airbnb options in Karakoy, Istanbul, present a diverse array of cozy accommodations, embodying the essence of this charming neighborhood. Culinary enthusiasts will revel in the abundance of choices, as some of the city’s finest restaurants in Karakoy, Istanbul, promise a gastronomic journey featuring both local and international flavors.
As the sun sets, Karakoy Istanbul’s nightlife comes alive with electrifying energy, offering everything from chic bars to intimate cafes. For those seeking a more laid-back evening, waterfront restaurants in Karakoy Istanbul provide a serene setting with panoramic views of the shimmering Bosphorus.
Karaköy stands out as one of the prime locations for accommodation in Istanbul. I believe that its proximity to ferry ports provides a significant strategic advantage, allowing for time savings. Given that ferries traverse the Bosphorus, the views are great as well. Karaköy’s ferry connections extend to Kadiköy, Üsküdar, as well as popular spots on the European side like Besiktas and Ortaköy, ensuring excellent accessibility.
Moreover, Karaköy is conveniently situated near major attractions and boasts proximity to some of the finest restaurants, bars, and rooftop establishments. With its unbeatable combination of strategic location and diverse amenities, Karaköy emerges as a top choice that is hard to beat in Istanbul.
Nestled on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadikoy stands out as a vibrant and charming neighborhood that predominantly attracts locals. Unlike the bustling tourist hubs, Kadikoy offers a laid-back ambiance characterized by local markets, picturesque seaside parks, and a richly diverse culinary scene.
Embracing Kadikoy provides visitors with a distinctive and authentic perspective on Istanbul, far removed from the typical tourist crowds. Explore the enchanting blend of local life, savory street food, and the serene coastal atmosphere that sets Kadikoy apart as a must-visit destination for those seeking a more genuine Istanbul experience.
In my opinion, Kadiköy stands out as a top contender for accommodation in Istanbul. Boasting excellent public transportation connections and comparatively lower hotel prices, it offers a compelling option for a delightful and budget-friendly stay in the city.
Pros and Cons of Kadiköy
- Exceptional public transportation options include the Marmaray, Metrobüs, Metro to Sabiha Gökcen Airport, as well as ferries connecting to the European side and the Princes Islands.
- Offers a more local atmosphere, avoiding an overwhelming influx of tourists. However, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily translate to fewer people; the area still bustles with local activity.
- Exceptionally good culinary and drinking experiences
- accommodation prices are slightly lower in comparison to the high demand spots on the European side.
- If you plan to stay out until the late hours on the European side and return to your accommodation, it might create a slight challenge as the Marmaray and ferries don’t operate 24/7. However, taxis are available at any time for your convenience.
- The primary attractions are not within walking distance.
- You may miss out on experiencing the “tourist in Istanbul feeling” to some extent.
Kadikoy stands as one of Istanbul’s oldest settlements, boasting a plethora of historical structures that reflect its rich heritage. Beyond its historical significance, Kadikoy is a dynamic neighborhood pulsating with a vibrant cultural and artistic scene. The joy of strolling through its lively and colorful streets is an experience that extends around the clock.
Key landmarks such as Kadikoy Square, Kadikoy Bazaar, and Moda Shore contribute to the neighborhood’s charm. Renowned for its array of famous restaurants, cafes, and bars, Kadikoy is a hub of gastronomic delights and social hubs. Furthermore, the accommodation options on the Asian side are great, ensuring that finding a hotel or Airbnb in Kadikoy is a hassle-free.
Honestly, whenever I find myself in Istanbul, I prefer staying on the Asian side, mainly due to the more budget-friendly prices and the convenience of having friends nearby. While I’ve also explored the European side to breath in a different atmosphere, the Asian side strikes me as more relaxed and laid-back.
As a local, the need for daily sightseeing isn’t a priority for me. I understand that daily excursions can be a bit tiring. Therefore, if you’re planning a short stay of 2-3 days in Istanbul, Kadiköy might not be the ideal choice. However, for those planning a more extended stay of a week or more, I wholeheartedly recommend considering Kadiköy for its unique charm and a more relaxed vibe.
Choosing where to stay in Istanbul depends on your preferences and travel style. Whether you seek historical immersion, vibrant nightlife, or a serene retreat, Istanbul has it all.
Opt for reliable Airbnbs and hotels with above-average ratings, and your stay should be smooth. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking and relying on public transportation, so make sure your fitness and attire are up to the task.
Use this guide to tailor your stay for an unforgettable experience in this enchanting city.
Useful Links for best places to stay in Istanbul
Below, I’ve compiled a list of links from both my website and external sources for your convenience.
- The Peninsula Istanbul – Pure Luxury at the Bosphorus
- Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul
- The 10 Best Airbnb Locations to Experience Istanbul
- Top Boutique Hotels in Istanbul
Museums & Events
- Best Modern Arts Museums in Istanbul
- Best Istanbul Tours & Activities (Viator)
- Istanbul Events Calendar
- Istanbul Concerts Calendar
- Where to See Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul?
Food & Drink
FAQs about best places to stay in Istanbul
Istanbul is generally safe, especially for tourists. However, exercise standard precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Read more here: Is Istanbul Safe?
Taksim and Beyoglu is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment options. Kadiköy also offers numerous bars. Read More here: Istanbul Nightlife
Boutique hotels vary in price, but many offer affordable luxury compared to larger chain hotels. Read Next: Best Boutique Hotels in Istanbul
Istanbul boasts a diverse culinary scene, including vegetarian-friendly options. Explore local cafes and restaurants for a variety of choices.
Take a ferry from European side to Kadikoy or Üsküdar for a scenic and enjoyable journey to the Asian side. You can also use Marmaray Line (Train) for a faster journey.
Yes, many hostels in Istanbul offer private rooms at affordable rates. You can check Hostelworld for options.