Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, is an exotic destination on the cusp of Europe and Asia. The melting pot of Eastern and Western influence makes Istanbul an amazing vacation destination, with attractions like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Istanbul is a city of over 15 million people, and one of the largest cities in Europe, so finding the best part of Istanbul to stay is a key piece of planning your visit. There are many hotels in Istanbul to choose from, for every budget from luxury to budget. If this is your first time in Istanbul, keep reading for the best neighborhood to stay in Istanbul. Wondering best areas to stay in Istanbul, we have you covered in this guide.
We will cover off all types of Istanbul accommodation options from Hostels to luxury Istanbul hotels as well as how to decide where to stay in Istanbul 2023, the best Istanbul hotels, best places in Istanbul to visit, the best places to stay in Istanbul, hotels near Istanbul attractions and many more.
Below are 12 of the best neighbourhoods in Istanbul to help you make the right decision when trying to work out best place in Istanbul to stay for you. We have tried to make the guide as easy to follow as possible. We have also included some things to do or places to visit as well as some eatery suggestions of either our favourite places or some funky places to eat at within the areas in Istanbul so you can use this as a go to guide.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Sultanahmet – Where to stay in Istanbul for First Timers
The most central neighborhood of Istanbul is Sultanahmet. This area is within the Fatih district which is Istanbul’s Old City and where you’ll find the Old City Walls of Constantinople. If you’re wondering, “Is Fatih a good place to stay in Istanbul?” then you should know that it definitely is, and Sultanahmet is one of the best neighborhoods in this district.
Sultanahmet is also where you’ll find the largest concentration of hammams in Istanbul, so if you are looking for this unique Turkish experience, Sultanahmet is a great place to stay. There isn’t much nightlife in Sultanahmet, and it gets very quiet at night, also making it an ideal place to stay in Istanbul with family.
Staying in Sultanahmet puts you within easy walking distance of Istanbul’s major tourist attractions including the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern. This is why it’s also ideal if you’re wondering where to stay in Instanbul for one night.
Along with the Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius and the nearby 4th-century Stone of Million pillar ruin, Sultanahmet Square also contains a park, gardens, and fountains. There are numerous stores, motels, and quaint restaurants in the well-known neighbourhood.
Another tourist attraction in Sultanahmet is Hagia Sophia. Officially known as the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, the Hagia Sophia is an important mosque and historical monument in Istanbul, Turkey. The Mosque was initially constructed as a Greek Orthodox church, and it served that purpose from 360 AD until Constantinople was conquered.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, sometimes referred to as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, is a historical imperial mosque from the Ottoman Empire that is situated in Istanbul, Turkey. It is a working mosque that receives a lot of tourist traffic. The building was built between 1609 and 1616.
A panoramic view of the city is available from the Panoramic restaurant, which is on the seventh floor of the Adamar Hotel. The Hagia Sophia dome, the Blue Mosque’s minarets, the Topkapi Palace, the Princes’ Islands, the Bosphorous, and the Marmara Sea can all be seen from your table as you enjoy a dinner of the finest Ottoman cuisine.
Best places to stay in Sultanahmet
Grand Bazaar – Best location to stay in Istanbul with Family
Another great place to stay in Istanbul for budget travelers is the Grand Bazaar neighborhood, otherwise known as the Beyazit neighborhood. It’s also one of the best areas to stay in Istanbul for families. This is the largest and oldest covered market in world. It’s one of the city’s top tourist attractions, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops on a total area of 30,700 m².
The famous Spice Bazaar is also nearby, with nearly 100 shops to browse. The Grand Bazaar neighborhood is within walking distance of Sultanahmet, so you’ll still have easy access to the best things to do in Istanbul.Grand Bazaar neighborhood is close to the Istanbul University as well.
It’s a great place to stay in Istanbul for foodies, who can spend hours wandering the markets or even join a guided tour of the food stalls. Some of the best hostels in Istanbul can be found in the Grand Bazaar area, as well as some excellent boutique hotels. Grand Bazaar area also has a lot of backpacking hostelswhich makes it the best area if you’re wondering where to stay in Istanbul backpacking?
Büyük Valide Han is a very popular 400-year-old building offering Instagram worthy city views from the roof and home to a quirky, plant-filled cafe. The rooftop might be closed something but you can stop for coffee in a small balcony in the building that still offers a beautiful view.
A few other attractions located near the Grand Bazaar are the Bayezid II Mosque, an early 16th-century Ottoman imperial mosque, is situated next to the remnants of the Forum of Theodosius of ancient Constantinople at Beyazt Square in Istanbul, Turkey. Beyazt Tower is an 85-meter-tall fire-watch tower situated in the courtyard of Istanbul University’s main campus. It is also known as Seraskier Tower after the name of the Ottoman ministry of War.
Best places to stay in Grand Bazaar
Beyoğlu – Where to stay Istanbul for Nightlife
Across the Golden Horn is the more modern area of Istanbul, including the neighborhood of Beyoğlu. This area is also home to several of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions, including the Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe, and some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Taksim Square is the main square of Beyoğlu, with the famous Istiklal Street leading from the square to Galata Tower.
The cobblestone pedestrianized street sees more than three million people each day, who visit restaurants, cafes, bars, and movie theaters. With Taksim Square, Beyoğlu is the entertainment hub of Istanbul, so if you are looking for areas of Istanbul for nightlife, this is a good option for you.
It’s the “Ties Square” of Istanbul, and home to many parades and festivals. There are many Istanbul hostels in Beyoğlu and lots of good choices for budget travelers. It’s probably the best place to stay in Istanbul for 2 days or more since it’s generally a cheaper area.
Taksim Square is also technically within the Beyoglu district, but it has its own distinct personality. This neighborhood is where many other neighborhoods converge, hence the ‘square’ in the name. If you looked at photos of Taksim Square without knowing it’s in Istanbul, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was in Austria, Hungary, or Germany. Of course, this part of Istanbul is European but Taksim Square looks quintessentially European.
If that’s the vibe you’re looking for then you will love Taksim Square! There are lots of cinemas, old established restaurants, antique shops, and boutique shops housed in beautiful architecture from the Art Deco period and the 19th century. Plus, there are tons of nice hotels that offer beautiful views across the Bosphorus Strait.
Most people won’t admit it, but there are more hipsters walking among us than we think. These are people who like to seek out independent bookshops and vintage clothing stores, and who like to eat picnics in parks with the food they bought from the grocery store.
They prefer to eat at cafes and bars that the locals frequent over dining in an upmarket place. If that describes how you like to travel, then you should stay in the Cihangir neighborhood in the wider Beyoglu in the northern section of Istanbul.
It’s one of the best locations to stay in Istanbul for bohemian and artsy people. Specifically, wander around the Akarsu Yokuşu Sokağı street and the other narrow cobbled streets that make up the rest of this neighborhood.
Best places to stay in Beyoğlu
Galata – Best area in Istanbul to stay on a Budget
A smaller neighborhood within the district of Beyoğlu, Galata is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Istanbul. Originally a medieval citadel, Galata is anchored by the 14th-century Galata Tower. This is the place for Istanbul nightlife, with some of the hottest clubs and trendiest cafes where you can find everything from a traditional Turkish breakfast to more modern culinary delights.
Galata is a very hilly neighborhood, so it may not be the best choice when looking for where to stay in Istanbul with family if you have strollers, or elderly parents joining you. There is a funicular you can take, which is something fun to do, and lots of other public transport connections. Galata has hostels and hotels to choose from, so you can find a place that is right for your budget.
The Galata Tower, also known as the Galata Kulesi Museum, is a historic Genoese tower located in Istanbul, Turkey’s Beyolu neighborhood’s Galata section. A icon of Beyolu and Istanbul, the tower was constructed as a watchtower at the highest point of the Walls of Galata. It is now a museum and exhibition space. The Galata Tower itself can be seen in some of the city’s magnificent vistas of Istanbul, but this is still the ideal point to get sweeping views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
Stiklal Avenue, also known as the Grand Avenue of Pera in the past, is a 1.4-kilometer-long pedestrian thoroughfare in Istanbul’s ancient Beyolu neighbourhood and one of its most well-known streets. High street brands now call the erstwhile palaces, villas, and embassies from the 19th century that line Istiklal Street home. Istiklal, one of Istanbul’s two main shopping streets (the other is Bagdat Street on the Asian Side), is a haven for fashion retailers and a great place to shop for clothing.
The Galata Bridge’s short 10-minute journey from Sultanahmet to Eminonou districts is a colourful one. The Galata Bridge has long served as a symbolic connection between Beyolu’s contemporary neighbourhoods and Istanbul’s ancient city, which is home to the imperial palace and most important secular and religious institutions of the Ottoman Empire. There are restaurants and a walking space on the bridge’s first level. On its second level, the bridge is used for its intended purpose as an cars and tram zones.
Instagram users love to take pictures of the stairs. If you want to avoid the crowds, go early or late in the day. The House of Camondo (or Kamondo) steps were built as a short cut for Camondo to reach Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street) and for kids to get to school. They were designed with a blend of the Neo-Baroque and early Art Nouveau styles. Its hexagonal form is thought to have been intended to stop kids from tumbling further down the stairs in the event that they slip.
Best places to stay in Galata
Karaköy – Coolest place to stay in Istanbul
One of Istanbul’s trendiest neighborhoods, north of the Golden Horn, is Karaköy. Situated along the harbor, the neighborhood has quickly gentrified from workshops and traditional bakeries to cafes, galleries, and boutiques. During warm weather, enjoy people-watching at any one of a dozen sidewalk cafes and outdoor terraces.
With a number of fish restaurants clustered around the neighbourhood fish market, Karaköy is a well-known destination for dining, particularly seafood. Young fashion designers’ offices and shops are housed in Ottoman-era houses covered in street art. There is also a thriving modern art gallery scene.
Join a Karaköy Art Walking Tour to explore these winding alleyways, which are dotted with art galleries, cafes, boutiques, and street art. Discover Turkey’s rich artistic heritage as you wander the neighbourhoods of Tophane and Karaköy with your enthusiastic guide, stopping along the way to peruse some of the most intriguing galleries for modern art in the area, such as SALT Galata.
You can choose a hotel near the port, and enjoy a ferry ride from the two ports in Karaköy. Ferries and other public transport options run as late as midnight, offering a fun way to travel between Europe and Asia, and back again, all in just an hour or so.
The goal of Fransiz Gecidi is to bring together French sailors and merchants who live in Karakoy. They utilised the area between the two streets in such a useful manner. At Karakoy, it currently houses a number of cafes and restaurants.
Best places to stay in Karaköy
Kabatas – Best area in Istanbul for Couples
Kabatas is another smaller neighborhood in the Beyoglu district in the northern section of Istanbul. It is on the main tram line which travels straight through to the more touristy areas where you’ll find the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia. If you’re a history buff but you want to stay in a quieter part of the city Kabatas is perfect and there are lots of things to do here which are perfect for culture vultures.
Specialty shops, including clothes and jewellery stores, as well as unpretentious coffee shops and eateries cover the streets, particularly along Yeni Arşi Street and Istiklal Caddesi, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare.
Some of the best museums in Istanbul are in Kabatas. There is the Pera Museum which displays paintings and ceramics from modern masters, The Museum of Innocence which has connections with the novel by Orhan Pamuk, the Istanbul Cinema Museum, the Museum of Illusions and so much more. If there were such a thing as a Museum Quarter in Istanbul, Kabatas would be it. There are lots of upmarket hotels nearby so it’s perfect for luxury travelers and couples too.
Best places to stay in Kabatas
Sirkeci – Where to stay in Istanbul near the Ferry Terminal
Karakoy might have two ferry terminals, but the Sirkeci neighborhood within the larger Eminonu district has at least four and they are much busier. It’s across the water from Karakoy and if you were to stay in this neighborhood, you’d also be very close to the Grand Bazaar and lots of the top tourist attractions in Istanbul.
Staying in Sirkeci is ideal if you want to spend equally as much time in the Asian side of Istanbul as you do the European side. This is so you can wake up early and hop straight on a ferry and you won’t have far to walk when you get off the ferry at night. There aren’t many accommodation options in this neighborhood, but the hotels that Sirkeci does have span different budgets so you will have no problem finding something that fits your price range.
One of the tourist attractions in Istanbul that attracts the most visitors is the Whirling Dervishes Show or Ceremony (known as “Sema” in Turkish). The Hodjapasha Cultural Center in Sirkeci, which is housed in a 550-year-old historical structure that was previously an Ottoman spa, is where the best performances are held.
Originally, Sirkeci Station in Istanbul served as the Orient Express’s final stop. There is far less traffic now, but you can take the train to other regions of Turkey or some parts of Europe. The terminal is situated in Sirkeci, near the Golden Horn and to the north-west of Gülhane Park and the Topkapi Palace, on the historic peninsula of Istanbul.
Best places to stay in Sirkeci
Laleli – Best area to stay in Istanbul for Students
Laleli is another neighborhood in the historic Eminonu district within the wider Fatih part of the city (the old Constantinople). There are lots and lots of places to stay in Istanbul in this area ranging from hostels, mid-range hotels, and luxury accommodation options. The main tram and bus routes travel through Laleli so you will have no problems exploring the rest of Istanbul if you stay here.
It’s also one of the best places to stay if you want to see the University of Istanbul because most of the buildings are in this neighborhood. This university dates back to 1453 and there are tons of beautiful, historic buildings on campus. It makes Laleli particularly special and one of the top unique places to stay in Istanbul.
Numerous shops, including clothes stores and bustling bazaars, as well as a scattering of unpretentious bistros and cafes line the streets. The neighbourhood is particularly well-known for the iconic Laleli Mosque, built in the eighteenth century and featuring minarets and a conventional dome.
The Laleli Mosque is a mosque that was built during the Ottoman Empire’s 18th century. Sultan Mehmed the Third constructed this exquisite little mosque between 1760 and 1763. Although it is smaller than the extremely huge mosques, it has intriguing architectural characteristics that make it feel more private.
On the property, there is a lovely courtyard as well as graves and fountains. When the sun is setting, the dome and two minarets are particularly impressive. The mosque’s interior also features stained-glass windows.
Best places to stay in Laleli
Nisantasi – Best neighborhood for Luxury Travelers
Sisli is a district just further north of the Beyoglu district. It’s known as an affluent residential area with lots of designer shopping malls. There are lots of beautiful, quiet streets with lots of green spaces and gorgeous buildings too. Nisantasi is a small neighborhood within this district and it’s a fantastic place to stay if you have a little bit of cash to splash!
As well as the local and international designer boutiques, there are several city parks in this neighborhood including the tranquil Maçka Demokrasi Parkı. You can buy a ticket for the Taşkışla station gondola lift and enjoy beautiful views across the entire city. Plus, there are lots of high-end chain hotels such as the Hyatt and InterContiental, in this neighborhood which is perfect if you travel a lot and collect points or have a membership with one particular hotel group.
This elite residential neighbourhood Nişantaş is well known for its fashion boutiques offering well-known national and international brands such as Christian Louboutin, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Armani. Modern restaurants that serve Turkish and international cuisine are housed in Art Nouveau structures. The large sidewalks of Abdi Pekçi Street are lined with cafes, and the side streets are studded with local markets and bakeries. There are shady walking routes in Maçka Park.
One of the few mosques in Istanbul’s Nisantasi neighbourhood. a variety of retail establishments, including coffee shops, surround the little garden. With its massive white columns and front facade, which was built during a refurbishment in the late 19th century, it has a distinctive aspect. It has evolved into a type of distinctive icon in Nişantaş’s fashionable, thriving neighbourhood.
Istanbul, Turkey’s Ihlamur Palace is a former imperial summer pavillion from the Ottoman Empire. During the rule of Sultan Abdülmecid I, it was built. The Turkish Directorate of National Palaces is in charge of its administration.
Best places to stay in Nisantasi
Cheapest Backpacking Hostels near Nisantasi:
Taksim Hostel Green House Istanbul
Ortakoy – Where to stay in Istanbul to Live like a Local
Slightly further north of Nisantasi is the neighborhood of Ortakoy which is within the Besiktas district. It’s on the waterfront next to the Bosphorus Strait and the entire neighborhood revolves around the main square on the edge of the water and the huge 15th of July Martyrs Bridge which connects the western side of Istanbul with the east without having to hop on a ferry.
People congregate in Ortaköy’s bustling waterfront square to take in spontaneous music or have tea on cafe terraces. In crowded alleyways, there are waffle stands and kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes) booths. At the edge of the water, under the shade of the Bosphorus Bridge, is the elaborate, well-lit Ortaköy Camii mosque. After nightfall, exclusive eateries and clubs in the area attract a stylish audience.
Ortakoy’s lively atmosphere away from the affluent neighborhoods close by makes it a more affordable place to stay for a longer period of time. And the fact it’s more residential means you’ll mix with more locals than tourists. But there are still lots of great accommodation options like mid-range hotels and apart-hotels. And the good public transport links make visiting the landmarks towards the south of the city easy to reach.
Buying handcrafted jewellery from street vendors in Ortaköy Square is the norm when shopping in Ortakoy. There are no huge shopping malls in Ortaköy because the town is centred around a square that is surrounded by eateries and cafes.
One of the most stunning mosques in Istanbul is Ortaköy Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque, which has a wonderful architectural. In the nineteenth century, Sultan Abdülmecit constructed it. The Ortaköy pier area, one of the busiest spots on the Bosphorus, has a mosque there called the Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque.
Formerly an Ottoman palace, Çırağan Palace is now a five-star hotel in Istanbul called Çırağan Palace Kempinski. It is situated in Istanbul, between Beşiktaş and Ortaköy, on the Bosporus’ European shore. It has 310 rooms available at this hotel on the Bosphorus offer a resort atmosphere in the middle of the city.
Next to Ortakoy Mosque, the Esma Sultan Mansion enchants with its beauty. Esma Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Abdulaziz, received this as a wedding gift upon her union with Cerkez Mehmet Pasha. The mansion was granted to the daughters of Sultan Abdulhamid II at various points following Esma Sultan’s passing in 1848. The Marmara Collection bought the estate in the 1990s, refurbished it, and now rents it out for events including weddings and meetings.
Best places to stay in Ortakoy
Moda – Where to stay in Istanbul for Asian Vibes
Moving across the Bosphorus to the eastern side of the city and you’ll find a large district named Kadikoy. This is a laidback residential district on the water and it’s the perfect place to look back at the phenomenal skyline of Istanbul’s Old City.
There are lots of parks and produce markets selling food that is more traditional of the Asian side of Istanbul. If you’d like to delve deeper into this side of Istanbul’s identity, then you should stay in a neighborhood in this district called Moda.
Moda is a thriving seafront neighborhood with parks, theaters, and a busy nightlife scene along Kadife Street. The promenade is filled with cafes and museums, and there is a ferry terminal close by too. Moda’s accommodation options seem to be comparably cheaper than those in several neighborhoods in the west so it might be a great option if you are on a budget too.
The park’s picnic spaces and coastal promenade are its features. Additionally, there is a museum honouring the musician Baris Manco, as well as frequent musical concerts at the lavish Sureyya Opera House and the Moda Boathouse Event Hall.
The Süreyya Opera House, also known as the Süreyya Cultural Center, is an opera house situated on Gen. Asm Gündüz Avenue No. 29, in the Bahariye neighbourhood of Istanbul’s Kadköy district. Kegham Kavafyan, an Ottoman Armenian architect, was commissioned to design the structure by Istanbul Deputy Süreyya lmen.
Best places to stay in Moda
Uskudar – Where to stay in Istanbul off the Beaten Path
Uskudar is a huge district on the eastern side of Istanbul next to the water consisting of several smaller neighborhoods. It’s mostly a residential district but because it’s so big, there are lots of interesting places to visit and there are lots of amenities like restaurants and bars here too.
Wondering where to stay in Istanbul Asian side? Though it’s a large area and though most tourists stay on the western side dock at this ferry terminal when wanting to visit the Asian side of the city, few stay in this district. This is why it’s the perfect option if you want to stay somewhere with fewer tourists that is a bit more under the radar.
Stay in the Selamsız neighborhood if you want to stay somewhere busy and lively with beautiful views across the water or opt for Kuzguncuk if you want to stay somewhere quieter and suburban.
The Maiden’s Tower, which was once a lighthouse, is a popular attraction in this district. Since the Byzantine era of mediaeval Istanbul, the Maiden’s Tower, also known as Leander’s Tower, is a tower on a small islet near the southern entrance of the Bosphorus strait, 200 metres from the coast of Üsküdar.
The Beylerbeyi Palace is situated on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, in the Beylerbeyi neighbourhood of the Üsküdar district. Built between 1861 and 1865, this Imperial Ottoman vacation palace is presently located just to the north of the original Bosphorus Bridge.
Best places to stay in Uskudar
Added Extra: Areas to Avoid in Istanbul
Like every major city in the world, there are unfortunately some parts of Istanbul where crime is more prolific than in other parts. Of course, as tourists, it’s important that you look after your belongings and use your common sense wherever you go. But there are some areas where you’d be better off not staying.
Tarlabasi and Dolapdere are two of the poorest neighborhoods in Istanbul and they are both near Taksim Square, which is surprisingly one of the richest. Even local Turkish people will avoid these areas as they are prone to robberies and there are a high number of sex workers in these neighborhoods. As long as you research where they are beforehand, you don’t need to worry about accidentally stumbling into them.
If you’d like to save it for later, please save it to Pinterest.