Where to stay in Istanbul, Turkey in 2024 – The 7 Best Areas

Last Updated: May 8th, 2024

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The jewel of the Turkish Republic, Istanbul is an ancient city. Straddling the Bosphorus, with half of the city in Asia and the other half in Europe, this storied city has the influences of both on full display.

It’s a massive city (15 million people live here) and if it’s your first time visiting, you may feel overwhelmed deciding what to do and where to stay. Thankfully, Istanbul has incredible public transportation and is neatly divided into 39 districts that are further subdivided into neighborhoods.

While this won’t alleviate all of your worries, a little knowledge about the major districts of Istanbul and the individual character of each should make picking a property in the city a little easier.

So, I will take a closer look at the various attractions in the city, as well as the best areas, to help you decide where to stay in Istanbul. Turkey.

Best Places To Stay in Istanbul

Looking for a quick reference on where to stay in Istanbul? Don’t worry, we got you covered with a quick look at our top picks.

To aid in your planning, here’s a handy guide that includes a little background on each of the main tourist districts.

The 7 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Istanbul

1. Taksim

A central hub in Istanbul for exploration

Taksim

The center of contemporary Istanbul in many ways, Taksim Square and the surrounding neighborhood might be your first stop in town.

This is the city’s central public transportation hub, with trams, the subway, busses, airport shuttles, and even one of Istanbul’s funiculars passing through here. Because it’s so connected, getting from Taksim to any other part of the city is simple.

Far more than just a neighborhood to pass through, Taksim is a bustling community full of retail shops, street food, and some of Istanbul’s craziest clubs. Staying near Taksim will give you easy access to either airport and put you within walking distance of some of Istanbul’s must-see sights.

One of the first things you can do fresh off the plane is to visit Istiklal Caddesi, or Freedom Avenue, which begins at Taksim Square and ends at Tunel. Along this pedestrian mall, you’ll find boutique and big-box retail, souvenir shops, restaurants, and many places to get Turkey’s famous dondurma, or Turkish ice cream.

If you’re headed down to Fatih and aren’t in a hurry, instead of the subway, you can take the T2 or the Taksim-Tunel Historic Tram. This connects Taksim Square with Karakoy and travels along Istiklal. But riding the tram isn’t about just transportation. It’s an experience in itself.

But before you leave Istiklal, be sure to stop it its most historical shop, Haci Bekir. Still owned by the same family who invented the iconic Istanbulite sweet, lokum, Haci Bekir has been doling out candies to locals and tourists since 1777. If lokum sounds unfamiliar, you might know them by their other name: Turkish Delights.

Taksim Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for its Central Location

2. Karakoy

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul

Karakoy-Istanbul

Located north of the Golden Horn, Karakoy, once a Genoese stronghold, is one of the most important neighborhoods in all of Istanbul.

When the city was still a part of the Holy Roman Empire and still called Constantinople, Karakoy was a completely different, largely unaffiliated municipality. Today, it has been long annexed into Istanbul, though it still retains the influences of its Italian past.

If you’d like to experience a bit of the history of the neighborhood, head to Galata Tower, the former fortress under the Genoese occupation. When it was built, it was the city’s tallest structure. It was used for various military and civic purposes until the 1960s, when it was opened to the public following a renovation.

Right on the shore is the Karakoy pier, which in addition to being a destination in its own right, offers ferry connections to various points around Istanbul.

From here, you can catch the ferry to Karakoy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, or you can admire the view across the Golden Horn before moving on.

Karakoy is also where you’ll find the oft-Instagrammed Rainbow Stairs. Painted as part of a guerrilla street art project, you can find the base them on Meclis-i Meblusan Caddesi near the Merdivan Art Space.

But as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, one of the best things to do is wander around. Beyond every corner and down every alley, you’ll find hidden gems: comfortable cafes, hip little bars, and tons of incredible architecture. If you’re an experienced shutterbug, you’re bound to find plenty of inspiration here.

Karakoy Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for History Lovers

3. Fatih

Home to the world’s oldest market-place

Fatih

The district that contains some of the most well-known attractions and the oldest neighborhoods in the entire city, Fatih today roughly follows the borders of the former Constantinople. Spread across the peninsula south of the Golden Horn on the European side of the Bosphorus, Fatih has been continuously inhabited since 657 BCE.

Since then it has changed hands many times, and the remnants of each regime can be seen in its food, people, and especially in its houses of worship.

With one of the most complicated histories of any mosque in Istanbul, the oft-toured Hagia Sophia began its life as a Christian church, built under the rule of Justinian during the era of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t converted into a mosque for nearly 200 years when the Ottoman Empire took control of Constantinople in 1453.

It was converted into a museum when the Turkish Republic was established in 1935 and remained a secular space until it was reverted to a mosque once more in 2020. Hagia Sophia is considered a seminal piece of Byzantine architecture and draws thousands of tourists a year.

But possibly the biggest draw on this side of the Golden Horn is the awe-inspiring Sultan Ahmed Camii,Β or Blue Mosque. So named for the thousands of blue tiles that adorn its interior, the Blue Mosque sits right next to the Hagia Sophia, so you can arrange to see both of them in a single outing.

This impressive piece of Ottoman architecture contains 13 domes and six minarets, dominating the skyline of Fatih.

Like many tourists who choose to stay in Fatih, you’ll almost certainly wind up at the Grand Bazaar at some point, if even by accident. This enormous market is one of the largest and oldest covered markets and is thought of as the world’s first shopping mall, initially built in the mid-1400s.

Faith Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for a Traditional Istanbul Holiday

4. Besiktas

A complimentary mix of Asian and European culture

Besiktas

The quaint Besiktas are just along the Eastern shore of the European side of the Bosphorus. Known for having some of the most picturesque views of the Bosphorus in all of Istanbul.

The neighborhood is very connected, with the Taksim funicular line, several public Bosphorus ferries, and the Bosphorus bridge all terminating here.

This is the perfect place to stay if you plan on spending time on both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. Under the Ottoman Empire, Dolmabahce was where Sultans and other Ottoman elite built elaborate homes, hunting lodges, and palaces. One of them, still the largest palace in Turkey, is open to the public to tour.

Dolmabahce Palace was initially built in the mid-19th century when Topkapi Palace proved to lack the comforts of more modern buildings. Its construction nearly bankrupted the city but was home to six Sultans before the Caliphate was disbanded in 1924.

Inside you’ll be struck by the extravagance of the decor. The commissioning Sultan spared no expense in assuring that Dolmabahce would be considered the greatest palace in Europe.

But today, Besiktas is far more than the playground of the wealthy. It is, one of the most prosperous working-class neighborhoods in Istanbul, with a few pockets of extravagant homes.

Here is where you’ll find mom-and-pop restaurants, gorgeous winding streets, and incredible hilltop views that you may never want to leave.

Besiktas Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for an Eclectic Cultural Exploration

5. Sisli

Upscale area perfect for shopping

Sisli

Once a highly elite district on the European side of Istanbul, Sisli’s demographics are changing rapidly. Many of its more moneyed residents have eschewed city life and moved to the suburbs.

This has left Sisli extremely diverse, and now everyone from the oldest Istanbulite families, students, and even a burgeoning Chinese community has made it home.

Anchored by skyscrapers with colorful residential neighborhoods radiating out from them, Sisli is the major hub in Istanbul for all types of commerce, especially shopping.

While there are several stand-alone shops and stores in the neighborhood, Sisli is known for its malls. There are several you can visit here, but the one you can’t leave without visiting at least once is Cevahir.

The largest mall in Europe and the second largest mall in the world behind only the Mall of Dubai, Cevahir is home to 343 stores and 48 restaurants spread throughout 3.47 million square feet on six floors. You’ll find international brands, outposts of local stores, and everything from super casual to fine dining.

If you can drag yourself away from the mall, head to Ferikoy Antika Pazari for a completely different kind of shopping experience. Here you’ll find antique and vintage items from hundreds of sellers and a few food stalls selling coffee and gozleme near the entrance.

Sisli Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for Upscale Shopping

6. Kadikoy

For creatives

Kadikoy

Rife with creatives and their ilk, Kadikoy, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, is the preferred hangout of Istanbulites in the know.

Its cobblestone streets are lined with athleisurewear boutiques and third-wave coffee shops, without Taksim or Karakoy’s persistent crowds.

And though Istanbul has a bit of a reputation for being somewhat regimented, Kadakoy has a much more bohemian vibe that makes tourists and ex-pats feel right at home.

The Kadikoy Carsisi, an outdoor market, is probably the most visited attraction in the area. Inside you’ll find hundreds of historic shops and stalls that sell handmade cheeses, pickles, olives, and of course, Turkish coffee.

For the latter, stop at Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee for their signature cup of the heady brew. This family-owned coffee shop has been treating visitors since 1923.

Kadikoy is also home to the historic Sureyya Operasi, or Opera House, which has recently benefitted from a complete restoration. It’s been through many iterations over the years, including some time spent as a cinema and as the base for an NGO, but is currently the home of the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet.

They offer live performances three days a week, occasionally hosting other events on their off days. But the jewel of Kadikoy isn’t an Opera House or a Market but the bayside living room of the district: Moda Park.

While it has recreational facilities like TKTKTK, many visitors come here to lounge on the lawn and gaze out over the water on a nice day. You can bring a picnic and a blanket, and spend an afternoon. If you bring a few beers and a deck of cards, you may want to stick around even longer.

Kadikoy Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for Arts and Culture

7. Uskudar

A quieter area perfect for taking in the natural beauty of Istanbul

Uskudar

This quiet district north of Kadikoy, overlooking the Bosphorus on the Asian side of Istanbul, is the quiet district of Uskudar.

Throughout the many iterations of the city, including Byzantium and Constantinople, Uskudar was frequently left to its own devices, acting as a completely separate municipality.

Having escaped much turmoil from the many different occupations, it is rife with historical sites, lush green parks, and even a massive public water fountain in the district’s center.

The first thing you might notice when you’re approaching Uskudar by ferry is the iconic Maiden’s Tower beckoning you closer. Over the years, it’s been a lighthouse and even a prison, but today you can visit its quaint restaurant for some of the finest views and dining in Istanbul.

They generally do a single seating a night with a prix fixe menu, and a ferry will shuttle you between the tower and the Uskudar mainland. The charming Nevmekan Sahil, a public library and cafe right on the Bosphorus, is unique to see while you’re in the neighborhood.

The views from here are incredible, the tea and cakes are a favorite, and the wifi is free, so be sure to bring your laptop. While the cafe is only open from 10 am until midnight, the library is open a shocking 24 hours a day, except on public holidays.

But probably the best, most iconic thing to do in Uskudar is to watch the sunset. Its prime position, opposite Besiktas, makes it possible to watch the sunset over the Bosphorus and the city of Istanbul simultaneously.

Uskudar Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay in for a Quiet Setting

FAQs About Where to Stay in Istanbul, Turkey

What are the best places to stay in Istanbul for first-time visitors?

Taksim is the best area in Istanbul for first-time visitors. The neighborhood’s central location makes it a great spot for venturing out to surrounding areas, while the nearby restaurants and shopping centers make for a convenient stay in the city.

What hotels in Istanbul are best for families?

Thanks to their quiet and secure locations, Uskudar and Faith are the best neighborhoods in Istanbul for families, with Modern Flats with Sea View, the Mest Hotel, and Hotel Amira being some of the best accommodations in the city for families.

What are the best luxury hotels in Istanbul?

Set within the Karakoy neighborhood, The Bank Hotel is Istanbul’s premier luxury accommodation. Meanwhile, the nearby Azzap Hotel and Cronton Design Hotel offer great luxury alternatives with plenty of opulence.

Where is the best area to stay in Istanbul for foodies?

While delicious cuisine can be sampled throughout the city, Taksim Square is the best area to stay in Istanbul for foodies and is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and street food vendors.

What is the best area to stay in Istanbul for nightlife?

Similarly, Taksim Square is also home to some of the city’s top bars and nightclubs. However, you should plan on visiting the Karakoy neighborhood for the best nightlife scene in Istanbul.

What are the best places to stay in Istanbul for couples?

Thanks to its central location yet quieter setting slightly removed from popular tourist hotspots, Besiktas is the best neighborhood in Istanbul for couples, offering plenty of romance for your stay in the city. The best hotels for couples in the area include the the Bonne Sante Hotel and Hotel Ibrahim Pasha.

So, Where Should You Stay in Istanbul?

  • Taksim β€” As a central hub for Istanbul, Takism is an ideal place to stay for first-time visitors who want to travel to various areas. The area has numerous tourist attractions, amazing dining options, and accommodations.
  • Karakoy β€” As one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Karakoy is a great area for those who love to explore the city streets and immerse themselves in culture. If you don’t plan on staying here, you should at least stop by to get a picture of yourself at the world-famous Rainbow Stairs.
  • Fatih β€” This area lives up to its namesake, with some of Turkey’s most prestigious and historically significant places of worship. Moreover, Faith hosts what is considered one of the oldest marketplaces that still operate today.
  • Besiktas β€” Beskitas is unique in its East meets West culture and offers some of the best views you will find in all of Istanbul. Those who love seeing everyday life from various perspectives will enjoy their time in Besiktas.
  • Sisli β€” A more upscale neighborhood, Sisli is the perfect home base for those who prioritize luxury and fine dining experiences.
  • Kadikoy β€” Home to a famous opera house and other entertainment venues, Kadikoy is perfect for the art lover. It also has a laid-back atmosphere to compliment its love of the arts.
  • Uskudar β€” Somewhat segmented from other neighborhoods in Istanbul, Uskudar offers solitude you would be hard-pressed to find in any of the other locations in this list. Moreover, it offers one of the best views in watching the sunset over the Bosphorus and the city of Istanbul simultaneously.

Each neighborhood in Istanbul has its style, and they are diverse enough that Istanbul can suit those looking to sleep in the lap of luxury and those who prefer lounging in bohemia. Istanbul is one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities, so whether you’re looking for somewhere to relax with your better half or bring the whole family, there’s the perfect property waiting for you there.

About The Author

Lewis Ogden is a UK-based entrepreneur, travel enthusiast, dad, husband, and the founder and owner of WayToStay. He started his blog to share his own travel experiences and provide free EPIC travel guides. He caught the travel bug back in 2009 on a trip to Italy with his wife and has visited many different countries each year since. In 2018 he took an island-hopping trip to Greece (who doesn't love Greek food!) and loved the experience which made him eager to explore the rest of Europe!

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Picture of Lewis Ogden

Lewis Ogden

Lewis Ogden is a UK-based entrepreneur, travel enthusiast, dad, husband, and the founder and owner of WayToStay. He started his blog to share his own travel experiences and provide free EPIC travel guides. He caught the travel bug back in 2009 on a trip to Italy with his wife and has visited many different countries each year since. In 2018 he took an island-hopping trip to Greece (who doesn't love Greek food!) and loved the experience which made him eager to explore the rest of Europe!

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