If you are going to travel to Turkey and you are going to spend some nights in its impressive capital, you should know its different neighborhoods well to choose the most suitable place for your accommodation. In general the best areas to stay in Istanbul are in the European part. Sites like Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Karakoy / Galata, and neighborhoods near Taksim Square are favorites among tourists.
Istanbul, the former Constantinople, capital of three empires as different as the Roman, the Byzantine or the Ottoman, is today the largest city in Turkey and one of the largest in Europe, with almost 15 million inhabitants. It is also one of the most visited places in the world, in its peculiar location between the European and Asian continents, on the shores of the Black Sea and Marmara.
Istanbul mixes the traditional and the modern as few others. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, the very long history of Istanbul has accumulated in its territory an immense cultural, monumental treasure, as well as special landscapes such as the Bosphorus Strait that justify the interest of the millions of travelers who walk their streets every year Millennials
Istanbul is a city so large and visited during any time of the year that it has a large number of accommodations of all characteristics, for all types of travelers. Although prices have been rising in recent years, they have ended up adapting to a fairly affordable European average for most tourists.
As usual in large European cities, the historic center, which accumulates most of the most important monuments, such as Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar or the Blue Mosque, is the most chosen by tourists. There, the offer of accommodation covers those expectations, with establishments of more traditional type and smaller size.
However, there are other areas further from the center where sleeping in Istanbul can also be interesting. This greater distance compensates those who prefer to stay in more modern establishments, some belonging to the main hotel chains, or enjoy more entertainment.
Actually, the distances between the main monuments are not excessively large and the city is safe enough to walk quietly at different times of the day.
In addition, Istanbul transport is modern and works quite well. From buses of various types to taxis and trams, through funiculars and boats that continuously cross the Bosphorus, Istanbul is always in continuous motion.
However, it is convenient when deciding on accommodation further away from the center, taking into account the reduction or nighttime closing of some services, such as ferries. Or the huge and legendary traffic jams of this populous city.
The best areas and neighborhoods to stay in Istanbul
To discover Istanbul it is convenient to know its peculiar geographical distribution. The city is part of Europe and Asia, with the border of the Bosphorus Strait, crossed by ferries with intense frequency. This already generates two large areas of Istanbul, Western Europe and East Asia.
In general terms, the Asian is less touristy and less careful in that aspect, although districts like Kadıköy are a good accommodation option, apart from the distance from the center and other circumstances.
Both Byzantium and Constantinople were founded in the current European part. That is why they have the main monuments and tourist attractions. But, in addition, this same European part has another division of its own, marked by a historic estuary, a kind of spectacular natural harbor that goes intoland from very close to the beginning of the Bosphorus Strait. This is the legendary Golden Horn (Haliç).
The Golden Horn divides this western area into two halves considered the “modern Istanbul” to the north and the “old Istanbul” to the south. Both areas also have their own peculiarities, interesting for tourists when choosing between their varied districts and neighborhoods as accommodation.
The best and most recommended areas to stay in Istanbul are in the European part. The most popular neighborhoods are Sultanahmet and Eminönü, for whom tourist visits prevail, and Karakoy / Galata, and neighborhoods near Taksim Square for those who are also looking for lively, commercial sites, with good restaurants, and with nightlife.
Without a doubt, it is the tourist neighborhood par excellence, in the district of Fatih, the heart of the “old Istanbul”. The traveler is a few steps away from the main monumental tourist attractions, such as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque or Topkapi Palace. If there is little time available, accommodation in the area may be the most advisable, or if you are traveling with children or in a quiet plan, away from other nighttime entertainment.
The hotel offer is very wide, with many options concentrated in the area. In addition, it is a very safe neighborhood and a quiet area, removing the daily hustle and bustle of tourists. Likewise, there are many and varied options to find restaurants, terraces and places to eat, as well as shops where you can buy any type of gift.
However, Sultanahmet has a much less lively face at nightfall. Those who expect nightly entertainment should choose another area. Likewise, its predominantly tourist character does not contribute to fully satisfy those who seek to experience the authentic daily life of the inhabitants of this great city.
Hotels in Sultanahmet
Sirkeci / Eminönü
Adjacent to the former, Eminönü, or Sirkeci, is another of the historic neighborhoods. Formerly district, now part of Fatih’s. It is another of the essentially tourist areas of the “old Istanbul”, very close to the mentioned monuments and marked by the presence of the Grand Bazaar and the Species Bazaar. Anyone interested in purchases of all kinds is unlikely to find satisfaction in the more than 4000 stores distributed in almost 60 streets of the Grand Bazaar.
In addition, Eminönü is situated on the coast of the Golden Horn, next to the mythical Galata Bridge, which saves the distance to the “modern Istanbul” on the other side from a walk. This situation makes the neighborhood a prominent communications point.
It has the most important ferry station in the entire Bosphorus and also hosts the main railway and bus stations, being essential not only for tourists, but for the daily displacements of millions of citizens of Istanbul who cross the Bosphorus or the Sea of Marmara
Consequently, its daytime life is very lively, welcoming floods of vendors, buyers and tourists. In addition, several government buildings and the main campus of the University of Istanbul are located here.
Even when there are residential homes, the truth is that in Eminönü most of the buildings are shops and offices. Therefore, a neighborhood in which about two million people move daily, only has a census of close to 30,000 inhabitants.
In conclusion, it is ideal for tourist visits but at nightfall Eminönü becomes a very quiet neighborhood. Staying in Istanbul in this neighborhood is very similar to doing so in neighboring Sultanahmet.
Accommodations in Sirkeci / Eminönü
Beyazit / Laleli
Within the same Fatih district there are other interesting accommodation alternatives, such as the Beyazit and Laleli neighborhoods, close to the monumental center, but with enough distance to perceive peculiarities. Among its advantages, they maintain a good offer of hotels and are very well served by means of transport.
Beyazit is a very popular neighborhood located between the Grand Bazaar and the University of Istanbul. Characterized by typical streets, traditional shops, tea shops, coffee shops and small workshops of skin work, which offer a broader view of citizen life, behind tourist shop windows.
In addition, approaching the Bosphorus increases the offer of restaurants with authentic Turkish cuisine and its typical fish. The key point of the neighborhood is the charming Beyazit Square, with the Süleymaniye Mosque, a 16th-century masterpiece surrounded by numerous cafés and terraces with reasonable prices.
The neighborhood of Laleli is also less than 10 minutes walk from the historical center of the “old Istanbul”. A short distance, but enough to give it the appeal of not suffering excessive tourist accumulations of the same center and have a good hotel offer, most of three or four stars. Once again, something common in this area, Laleli night presents very few recreational opportunities.
Accommodations in Beyazit / Laleli
Separated from the old town by the waters of the Golden Horn is the “modern Istanbul”. Formerly known as Pera (“the other side”), the now called Beyoğlu district is one of the most significant in the European area. It was always especially cosmopolitan, hosting most foreign consulates.
It is an area with a lot of atmosphere, which accumulates most of art galleries throughout Istanbul. Without a doubt, it is the epicenter of contemporary Turkish art and the bohemian world, with its live music in the street.
Its progressive transformation in recent years is evidenced in the proliferation of bars, art stores, hotels, restaurants or bars that give it a special life. During the day it is the territory of galleries and fashion stores, but the animation never ends and at night it does not sleep. If this animation is general, it is even more concentrated in places like the famous Tünel, a great nightlife center.
To enjoy this way of life, it is a good choice to sleep in Istanbul. In addition, access to the main monuments is not complicated, even on foot, crossing the Golden Horn through the Galata or Ataturk bridges or crossing it with a ferry.
The offer of accommodation is very varied, more than in the historic center and has very prominent establishments, especially in its spine, the İstiklâl Caddesi, a pedestrian avenue of almost three kilometers full of establishments of all kinds, although all the adjacent streets offer a multitude of options for fun and commerce, for all budgets.
Karakoy / Galata
Karaköy, or Galata, as it is also known, is one of the neighborhoods of the Beyoğlu district, north of the Golden Horn. Marked by the imposing presence of the Galata Tower and at the foot of the Galata Bridge, with its 490 meters in length and Two levels, upper for road and pedestrian traffic and lower to accommodate numerous shops and restaurants, is a popular, charming neighborhood, characterized by its narrow and steep streets.
In this neighborhood, an example of multiculturalism, commerce is the main daytime activity and the night is frequented by the youngest to enjoy bars and terraces. Following in the wake of the district to which it belongs, this neighborhood by the sea, between historic buildings and a historic port where high quality fish restaurants abound, has become a very active neighborhood, with trendy hotels and restaurants diverse.
Its varied offer of accommodation is already a good reason to choose this area to stay in Istanbul. But, it is also interesting to mention its peculiarities regarding Beyoğlu, as a typical fundamentally commercial and working-class neighborhood, where you can eat cheaply in a tavern by the sea and be at the same time, very close to some of the richest areas and lively of the city, with much less tourists.
Considered one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Istanbul, Cihangir is in the heart of Beyoğlu. Its main reference is the Cihangir Mosque, from whose hill there are impressive views of the Bosphorus. For lovers of special purchases, its countless antique stores stand out, especially in streets like Turnacıbaşı or Çukurcuma.
It embodies the image of the main neighborhood of cultural and artistic life attributed to Beyoğlu. It is a very lively place, with street musicians and a colorful urban architecture, where tradition and modernity coexist, with Western influence always very present. In fact, Cihangir is the old French quarter and retains a certain Parisian air. Here coexist painters, writers, actors and other intellectuals and professionals who have made the neighborhood their favorite place of work and debate.
Although the streets of Cihangir are always very lively and full of life, the feeling is calmer than in surrounding areas of the district, without the presence of people walking hurriedly, showing a peculiar rural environment, quiet and comfortable.
Accommodations in Cihangir
Taksim Square and surroundings
From the Beyoğlu district, crossing the emblematic İstiklâl, Taksim square is reached. Preferred place for public events and social celebrations is an important commercial, tourist and leisure area, recognized for its immensity of restaurants, shops and hotels.
There are all kinds of restaurants, of all categories and for all tastes, as well as entertainment venues, open practically all day. There are always many people, with a great multicultural mix.
In Taksim and surroundings, in neighborhoods such as Levent and Ortakoy, there are many hotels of all characteristics, with more western style. We also find some of the most luxurious establishments in Istanbul and the major hotels of the main chains, which makes it a very attractive area to stay in Istanbul.
The main disadvantage is the remoteness of the most emblematic monuments, something that can replace the availability of public transport, since it is a central area and very well connected. Of course, nothing suitable for those fleeing from noise and continuous movement.
Accommodations in Taksim Square
Şişli / Nişantaşı
The Şişli district is located to the west of the “new Istanbul”, stands out for its luxury hotels, restaurants and exclusive shops. Essentially residential area, it is the most modern and cosmopolitan district, the nerve center of fashion and flourishing business area. Packed with offices, banks and shops housed in large buildings, it has one of the largest shopping centers in Europe, the Cavahir Istanbul.
As a choice of accommodation in Istanbul is a good option. Although it is a bit far from the historic center it is well connected. The luxury of the area can compensate for that aspect in travelers who can afford it.
Within the district, the Nişantaşı neighborhood stands out for its exclusivity and presence of branded fashion stores and luxurious establishments. Its Adbi Ipekci Street has the highest rental prices in Turkey.
It is an undoubtedly well-off and stately area, where foreign professionals and wealthy families proliferate. Here tradition has almost succumbed and traditional veils are scarce, while high-end cars and restaurants and high-class hotels abound.
Beşiktaş / Ortakoy
Beşiktaş is another of the districts of Istanbul with some of the most distinguished neighborhoods. In general, it is a wealthy area, dominated by the presence of the grand Dolmabahçe Palace. Its main street is Barbaros Bulvari Avenue, through which you can access the Bosphorus ports, the main starting points of the cruises that cross it and the ships that travel to Asia.
It is a very interesting neighborhood for shopping, and it is not at all as touristy as the old center, something ideal to learn more about local life and discover aspects such as true typical food. Its streets are very lively and full of bars, restaurants and cafes. Despite being a somewhat more expensive area, it is possible to find more affordable hotels than in the center.
Ortakoy is one of its neighborhoods, an old fishing village on the banks of the Bosphorus, absorbed by the capital’s expansion. The Ortakoy Mosque is an important part of its landscape, where walkers mingle with street performers, offering a less touristy image.
Although it is an expensive neighborhood, around its central square, the Iskele Meydani, there are numerous restaurants specializing in fish, quite affordable. At night, the nightlife of Ortakoy has an excellent offer and numerous clubs famous for their elegance and bringing together the so-called “beautiful people”, among a good number of Turkish millionaires.
Accommodations in Beşiktaş / Ortakoy
For those who want to stay in Istanbul in the Asian part, the best option is offered by the Kadiköy district, the most populous in the Turkish capital. Currently, it is a nerve center of commerce and communications, inhabited mainly by the working class and students.
Undoubtedly, the accommodation is cheaper and the knowledge of the true traditional Turkish life more complete. Upon arrival at the port of Uskudar, the difference is already noticeable. The area is more residential and less touristy and we find a more traditional society, neither as westernized nor as tourist-centric as in the European part.
There are also many restaurants, bars and terraces, day and night. But the nightlife is more relaxed and quiet and much less crowded than in areas like Taksim. As an inconvenience, the ferry closes at night, complicating the passage to the European zone, since it would be necessary to resort to night buses that make a great detour to cross the bridges over the Bosphorus.
Accommodations in Kadikoy