Where to Stay in Istanbul: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Istanbul: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Straddling both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a bustling, sprawling metropolis of over 15 million people. Formerly known as Constantinople, the ancient center of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires was one of the most important in the world for centuries.

As such, there’s an eye-watering amount of history here, with tons to see and do. I love roaming the (somewhat chaotic) streets just taking it all in. It’s a beautiful city to explore on foot.

But, because the city is so huge, it’s important to pick the right area to stay in. The traffic here is infamous, and while the public transportation system is decent (and cheap), you don’t want to spend all your time getting from place to place either.

To help you make the most out of your visit, here are my top recommendations for where to stay in Istanbul:

Area
Best for
Best Hotel
Sultanahmet
First-Time Visitors
Beyoglu
Dining, Nightlife, and Art
Besiktas
Luxury and Shopping
Kadikoy
Budget Travelers and Feeling like a Local

 

Where to Stay for First-Time Visitors: Sultanahmet

Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul
Sultanahmet, the historic heart of Istanbul, is brimming with most of the city’s iconic landmarks and cultural treasures, including the majestic Hagia Sophia, the stunning Blue Mosque, and the ancient Basilica Cistern. Here you can explore the Topkapi Palace, once the residence of Ottoman sultans, and stroll through the bustling streets lined with old shops.

While it’s the most touristy district (the restaurants here are generally overpriced tourist traps), you can’t beat it for convenience. Everything is right at your fingertips, making this the best area for first-time visitors and history enthusiasts. It’s pretty quiet at night, so it’s good for families too.

Best places to stay in Sultanahmet:

  • BUDGET: Stanpoli Hostel: At Stanpoli, you’re just steps from Istanbul’s most iconic sights. The hostel also serves a Turkish-style breakfast on the lovely rooftop terrace, which has a great view of the historic district. Each bed in the spacious dorms has its own reading light, power outlet, and privacy curtain. Plus, the mattresses are thick, so you can actually get a decent night’s sleep. The hostel also has a friendly staff who know the city well and can share their insider tips and advice.
  • MIDRANGE: Celine Hotel Ottoman Mansion: This four-star hotel is located in a former Ottoman mansion. I love that the entire place retains its historic atmosphere and character, with wood ceilings, hardwood floors, and period furnishings in the rooms (such as wooden wardrobes and desks), which also feature a flatscreen TV with satellite channels, an electric kettle, a safe, and a minibar. There’s also an excellent complimentary breakfast with a ton of variety served in the hotel’s indoor garden.
  • LUXURY: AJWA Sultanahmet: This five-star hotel is decorated in the traditional Ottoman style, with hand-painted ceilings, hardwood floors, and traditional furnishings like mother-of-pearl furniture and handmade silk carpets. It has all the amenities that you’d expect from a hotel of this caliber, including a luxurious spa with a steam room and sauna, an indoor pool, and two eateries (one of which serves a great breakfast). The rooms boast heated floors, complimentary minibars and toiletries, desks, and flat-screen TVs. The bathrooms are impressive too, with custom tilework, marble baths, and bidets.

 

Where to Stay for Dining, Nightlife, and Art: Beyoglu

A cat walks down a street lined with outdoor cafes in Beyoglu, Istanbul
This large district on the European side is lively, cosmopolitan, and trendy, with great food, vibrant nightlife, and interesting shops. There are a few neighborhoods within this district, each with its own flavor: waterfront Karaköy, one of the oldest areas of town; hip Galata, with its hilly streets lined with cafés, bookstores, and tiny eateries; and Taksim, the modern heart of the city.

No matter which neighborhood you choose, I personally think this is the best area to stay in. You’re still within easy access to the main tourist sights via trams and ferries but surrounded by great food and more residential life. Plus, the area has its own attractions, including the iconic Galata Tower, SALT Galata and Istanbul Modern (both modern art museums), and the Museum of Innocence (one of the best offbeat things to do in Istanbul).

Best places to stay in Beyoglu:

  • BUDGET: Hostel Le Banc: – This small hostel is in a perfect location, just a few blocks from Galata Tower. It’s a welcoming place, and the friendly staff host family meals and walking tours that make it easy to meet fellow travelers. There’s a guest kitchen, a rooftop terrace, and a café that serves breakfast. All dorms are en suite, and the comfy bunks have privacy curtains and individual reading lights, outlets, and lockers. There are private rooms too, and the entire place is always kept sparkling clean. It’s one of the best hostels in the entire city.
  • MIDRANGE: The Halich Hotel Istanbul Karaköy: This four-star hotel offers sleek rooms decorated with large-scale drawings of important Istanbul landmarks. There are epic views from both the rooftop restaurant and the rooms and all of the rooms also have air conditioning, a mini-fridge, a flatscreen TV with satellite channels, and a safe. The staff (including the hotel cat) are exceptionally helpful too.
  • LUXURY: Pera Palace: This five-star hotel offers timeless luxury in a historic building built in 1892. Pera Palace boasts an opulent interior designed in a lavish mix of Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and Oriental styles. I especially love the grand lobby’s soaring ceilings, marble floors, and elaborate chandeliers. There’s also an indoor pool, a Turkish spa, a fitness center, and several eateries (including one that serves a huge Turkish breakfast spread). And if you’re a fellow history lover looking for luxury, this is the best place in town.

 

Where to Stay for Luxury and Shopping: Besiktas

The opulent Ciragan Palace, now a 5-star hotel, along the waterfront in Istanbul, Turkey
Hugging the Bosporus waterfront lies the Besiktas district and its plethora of resort-like five-star hotels. An upscale area since the Ottoman era, it’s home to many historic palaces, including Dolmabahçe, Çiragan (which you can now stay at), and Yildiz. Stay here to experience modern Turkish life, with sophisticated cafés and restaurants at every turn. You’re also close to Nisantasi, another upscale, leafy residential area noted for its fashion boutiques and high-end shopping.

Best places to stay in Besiktas:

  • BUDGET: As a more high-end area, there aren’t any hostels here. I’d suggest Kadiköy or Karaköy if you’re looking to stay outside of the historic center but are on a budget (see those sections for specific recommendations).
  • MIDRANGE: Valente Suites & Hotel: This hotel offers spacious suites with a sharp and modern design, featuring tasteful art on the walls and hardwood floors. All have kitchen facilities with a dining area, cooktop, sink, minifridge, microwave, and electric kettle. All 17 suites also have all the hotel amenities you could want, including a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, soundproofing, and a living room with a sofa and desk, not to mention gorgeous views over the city. It’s a good place to stay if you’re here for a while and want a full apartment.
  • LUXURY: Çiragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul: Situated right along the waterfront, the five-star hotel is incredibly grand, offering an outdoor pool, a spa, and an mouth-watering complimentary breakfast. It’s also huge, with 317 rooms and suites, all of which feel very palatial, boasting fabric-adorned walls, embroidered seating areas, elegant couches, and views over the Bosporus or leafy Yildiz Park. In-room amenities include minibars, AC, smart TVs, and coffee/tea makers. I do find the bathrooms somewhat tight and surprisingly dated. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for a luxurious stay. I mean, where else can you stay in an actual palace? Plus, if you’re road-tripping Turkey, there’s free parking.

 

Best for Budget Travelers and Feeling like a Local: Kadiköy

Colorful buildings lining the streets in the Kadikoy  neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey
Located on the Asian side of town, hip Kadiköy is the best place for travelers on a budget and those who want more of a local vibe. The eclectic neighborhood is known for its lively atmosphere, bustling markets, chic cafés, and diverse culinary offerings (while all of Istanbul excels, it’s a foodie’s paradise here). There’s a real artsy character to the neighborhood too, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues scattered throughout the district. Don’t miss walking Kadiköy’s waterfront promenade to soak in the stunning views of the Bosporus.

Best places to stay in Kadiköy:

  • BUDGET: Yolo Hostel: Yolo is a cozy hostel located in an old townhouse. I love that the entire place is bright and cheery, with parquet floors and large murals painted on the colorful walls. The staff organizes a lot of gatherings and activities, plus there’s a lovely terrace, leafy communal garden, and fully equipped kitchen where you can cook your own meals if you’re on a budget. The wooden dorm beds are wide and have comfy mattresses, privacy curtains, reading lights, lockers, and individual outlets. You’re also just a five-minute walk from the ferry that can take you to other parts of Istanbul.
  • MIDRANGE: Istanbul Life Hotel: This four-star hotel is right in the heart of Kadiköy, just steps from the ferry. I love the complimentary Turkish breakfast, which features tea, coffee, local cheese, fresh bread and pastries, and juice. The chic rooms are decorated with beautiful hardwood floors, wood detailing on the ceilings, and plush velvet headboards. All rooms have an electric kettle, a minibar, a desk, a flatscreen TV, and a laptop safe. The bathrooms are nicely tiled and feature walk-in showers too.
  • LUXURY: As a more residential area, there aren’t any luxury hotels here. If you’re looking to stay outside of the historic center yet want a five-star experience, I recommend Besiktas (see hotel recommendations above).

***

Istanbul is a massive city, with each neighborhood offering a unique slice of Turkish life. Whether you want to immerse yourself in history, enjoy the vibrant nightlife, or explore local markets and cafés, choose from one of the neighborhoods above and you’ll set yourself up for a great stay!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

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