MUST READ – Where to stay in Istanbul (2019)

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Our INSIDER GUIDE covers the best areas and neighborhoods in Istanbul for all types of travelers and budgets!

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Historically, Istanbul is one of the most important cities in the world. Lying between the two continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul connects the eastern and western world.

Istanbul has a rich and diverse history that has influenced many civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Its historical importance will be reflected in the city’s food, architecture, and sites.

But where to stay in Istanbul? It’s a sprawling city, and some Istanbul locations are definitely better bases than others.

And you will save a lot of time (and money) by staying in an area that caters to your interests. Do you want to explore the historic and cultural sites of Istanbul or the famous shops and bazaars? Do you want to stay close to the best clubs and restaurants?

Whatever it is that you’re looking for, we cover all of this and more below in our neighborhood breakdown for where to stay in Istanbul!

 

Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Istanbul

  • Where to stay in Istanbul for first-timers – Sultanahmet
  • Where to stay in Istanbul on a budget – Beyoglu
  • Where to stay in Istanbul for nightlife – Galata
  • Coolest place to stay in Istanbul – Karaköy
  • Where to stay in Istanbul for families – Grand Bazaar

 

In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first-timers:

Sultanahmet
Sultanahmet is the historic and cultural heart of Istanbul. It’s the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by bodies of water to the north, east and south, and old city walls to the west.
Places to Visit:
  • Visit the site of the Hippodrome, the former centre of Roman and Byzantine Constantinople
  • Dine on delicious Greek and Turkish food at the famous Pandeli, open since 1901
  • Wander through recreations of rooms and dwellings from Turkish cultures at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

 

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for the best places to stay in Istanbul.

 

Best Hostel in Istanbul: Jumba Hostel

This hostel is the perfect home away from home for budget travelers in Istanbul. Run by three sisters, Jumba Hostel is stylish, cool and impossibly chic.

Comprised of private and dorm-style accommodations, the rooms are spotless and comfortable. Enjoy free coffee, tea and a personal touch at this Beyoglu hostel.

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Best Hotel in Istanbul: Basileus Hotel Istanbul

This three-star hotel is the best value hotel in Istanbul. Located in the heart of the Sultanahmet district, this hotel is a stone’s throw from the city’s top attractions, including Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Each room is equipped with a fridge, mini bar and comfortable slippers and most stays include daily breakfast.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb: Cozy Loft Apartment in Galata

Enjoy Istanbul’s nightlife scene by staying in this comfortable loft apartment. Located in the centre of Istanbul, this apartment is a short walk from Galata’s trendiest bars and restaurants, and the area’s top attractions.

It features a modern kitchenette, free wifi, and boasts a stunning view. This cosy apartment has a double bed and is perfect for couples visiting Istanbul.

View on Airbnb

 

Istanbul Neighborhood Guide

Quick Summary: Where to Stay in Istanbul

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Sultanahmet

  • Sultanahmet is the historic and cultural heart of Istanbul. It’s the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by bodies of water to the north, east and south, and old city walls to the west.
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Beyoglu

  • Located north of the Sultanahmet district, Beyoglu is one of the liveliest districts in Istanbul and our top recommendation for where to stay for those on a budget. Home to the popular pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), this district attracts locals and tourists day and night.
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Galata

  • Galata is a neighbourhood located north of the Golden Horn. Although technically part of the Beyoglu district, this neighbourhood has a distinct feel and flair.
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Karaköy

  • Karaköy is a small district situated at the mouth of the Golden Horn. Once one of the city’s most important ports, this area was left to deteriorate for decades.
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Grand Bazaar

  • The Grand Bazaar is a colourful and chaotic district located in the centre of Istanbul. Built around the centuries-old Grand and Spice Bazaars, this area is where you’ll find a wide variety of vendors, shops and boutiques. Grand Bazaar is our top recommendation of where to stay in Istanbul for families.
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Istanbul is a city where two continents collide. Spanning both sides of the Bosphorus, it is both physically and culturally part of Europe and Asia.

Istanbul has a rich and diverse history. Thanks to its strategic location between the continents, many civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans, took hold of the city. Their marks can be found throughout Istanbul, reflected in the various architectural styles of the city’s historical, cultural and religious sites.

Home to 15 million people and covering an area of 1,539 square kilometres, Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world. It is divided into 39 districts: 25 on the European side and 14 on the Asian side.

Each district has it’s own atmosphere and offers visitors something unique. To get a good feel for the city, we recommend that with each visit you see at least three or four of the different areas on your first trip.

Feeling a little intimidating by Istanbul’s big city offerings? Check out our Turkey safety guide to learn more about staying safe and secure in this bustling metropolis.

Not sure where to start? This guide will break down the city’s “must-sees” by interest and help you decide where to stay in Istanbul.

Sultanahmet is the city’s most popular tourist destination. Home to Istanbul’s most iconic attractions, including Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, this neighbourhood is perfect for first-time visitors to the city and an awesome base for your Istanbul itinerary.

Travelling east you have the neighbourhood of the Grand Bazaar. Colourful and chaotic, this area is home to thousands of vendors and shops, as well as mosques and religious sites. It’s also one of the best places to stay in Istabul on a budget.

people and tram in istanbul

Welcome to the definitive guide for where to stay in Istanbul

Crossing north over the Golden Horn you have the hip and trendy district of Karaköy. A former crumbling port, this neighbourhood is now home to Istanbul’s hottest restaurants and most stylish boutiques and hotels.

Continuing north and west of Karaköy is the district of Beyoglu and the neighbourhood of Galata. Home to the city’s hottest nightlife, Galata and Beyoglu are where you’ll find a great variety of bars, restaurants and clubs, as well as accommodations options for all styles and budgets.

Still not sure where to stay in Istanbul? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered below.

 

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5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Istanbul

Istanbul is a large city that covers land on both sides of the Bosphorus. It boasts an extensive public transit system that includes buses, trams, metros, ferries and underwater lines.

Although it can be a bit of a challenge to navigate at first, learning to use public transit can save you a lot of time and money.

You can also save a lot of time by staying in an area that caters to your interests. Do you want to explore the historic and cultural side of the city without walking too far? Perhaps you want to indulge in a variety of sweet Turkish treats.

Maybe, you want to have the best clubs and restaurants right at your front door. All of these things are possible if you stay in the right area of Istanbul.

Here are the best areas in Istanbul broken down by interest.

 

1. Sultanahmet Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Istanbul for First-Time Visitors

Sultanahmet is the historic and cultural heart of Istanbul. It’s the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by bodies of water to the north, east and south, and old city walls to the west.

This district is the best place to stay in Istanbul if you’re visiting the city for the first time.

It’s within Sultanahmet’s quaint lanes and winding streets that you’ll find the majority of the city’s main historical, cultural and religious attractions. From Hagia Sophie to the Blue Mosque, many of Istanbul’s iconic landmarks can be found within walking distance of each other.

Sultanahmet, Istanbul

The Sultanahmet Neighborhood is a classic and the best option for anyone visiting Istanbul for their first time

 

Best Hostel in Sultanahmet: Cheers Hostel

Cheers Hostel is the best option for budget travellers and backpackers wishing to stay in Sultanahmet. Located in the centre of the district, this hostel is less than a one-minute walk to many of the city’s famous sights.

Featuring private and dorm-style accommodations, this hostel has comfortable beds and a friendly atmosphere. Enjoy stunning views of the city from the Wintergarden Panoramic Terrace Bar.

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Best Hotel in Sultanahmet: Basileus Hotel Istanbul

This three-star hotel is the best value hotel in Istanbul. Located in the heart of the Sultanahmet district, it’s a stone’s throw from the city’s top attractions, including Hagia Sophie and the Blue Mosque.

Each room is equipped with a fridge, mini bar and comfortable slippers. Most stays include daily breakfast.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb in Sultanahmet: Cozy apartment with Turkish Bath

This suite is perfect for 4 guests, with one bedroom with a double bed, The living room also has one large sofa bed and one single sofa. The apartment also offers a private kitchenette and a private bathroom with a shower. The complex has a private Turkish bath, sauna and fitness room. The Turkish bath and sauna are private and need to be booked upon arrival for free entrance. There is a shared sea view roof terrace.

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Things to See and Do in Sultanahmet

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– Stand in awe of the Hagia Sophie Church and Museum, an architectural marvel and engineering feat that was built in the 6th century.

– Visit the site of the Hippodrome, the former centre of Roman and Byzantine Constantinople.

– Dine on delicious Greek and Turkish food at the famous Pandeli, open since 1901.

– Wander through recreations of rooms and dwellings from Turkish cultures at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum.

– Head underground and walk along the wooden paths as you explore the architecture and history of the Basilica Cistern.

– Visit Sultanahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and explore the stunning architecture of this ancient (and still working) mosque.

– Pull up a chair and enjoy the great atmosphere at Balikci Sabahattin, one of the oldest taverns in Istanbul.

– Explore Topaki Palace, an extravagantly decorated palace that was the imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for nearly 400 years.

– See more than one million works and collections of Greek, Roman and Byzantine artefacts at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

 

2. Beyoglu – Where to Stay in Istanbul on a Budget

Located north of the Sultanahmet district, Beyoglu is one of the liveliest districts in Istanbul. Home to the popular pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), this district attracts locals and tourists day and night.

The famous and expansive Taksim Square is where you’ll find a great variety of architectural sights, trendy restaurants and vibrant bars.

Beyoglu is also where travellers can find the most accommodation options. From backpacker hostels to boutique hotels, this district is where travellers of all styles and budgets can find a great place to stay.

Beyoglu, Istanbul

Beyoglu is one of the better Istanbul locations to save some money

 

Best Hostel in Beyoglu: Jumba Hostel

This hostel is the perfect home away from home for budget travellers in Istanbul. Run by three sisters, Jumba Hostel is stylish, cool and impossibly chic.

Comprised of private and dorm-style accommodations, the rooms are spotless and comfortable, and the hostel has a cosy common room. Enjoy free coffee, tea and a personal touch at this Beyoglu hostel.

View on HostelWorld

 

Best Hotel in Beyoglu: Villa Pera Suite Hotel

Enjoy four-star accommodations at a fraction of the price! This hotel is conveniently located in the centre of Beyoglu. It is a short walk to Taksim Square, Istiklal Caddesi, and the district’s best and most buzzed-about restaurants.

Featuring air-conditioned rooms and comfortable beds, you won’t find a better value in Beyoglu.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb in Beyoglu: Modern 2 bedroom in Historic District

The property is perfect for 5 guests, with has two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and a living room. Its located near the metro and bus station. Making it easy to go anywhere in the city.

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Wonder what to do in Istanbul for 3 days? Head over to our insider’s Weekend in Istanbul guide!

 

Things to See and Do in Beyoglu

Beyoglu ttd Istanbul

– Enjoy a delicious and affordable meal at Canim Cigerim, a restaurant that specialises in liver (but also offers other food).

– Climb to the top of the medieval Galata Tower and enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul and its surroundings.

– Visit the Museum of Painting and Sculpture for free (Tuesday through Sundays) and admire the stunning works of art.

– Ride the charming and historic red trams through the district and along the waterfront.

– Stand in the heart of modern Istanbul in Taksim Square, a gathering place for tourists and locals alike.

– Pop into Ficcin Restaurant for a traditional Circassian meal at a great price.

– See a vast collection of contemporary Turkish works of art at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, the first of its kind in the country.

– Wander along Istiklal Caddesi, a bustling pedestrianised street at the heart of the city.

– Climb the Instagram-worthy Kamondo Steps that weave their way up one of Istanbul’s steepest hills.

 

3. Galata Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Istanbul for Nightlife

Galata is a neighbourhood located north of the Golden Horn. Although technically part of the Beyoglu district, this neighbourhood has a distinct feel and flair. Comprised of cobblestone streets and neoclassical buildings, Galata is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods.

In recent years, Galata has emerged as one of the coolest Istanbul locations. It’s in Galata where you will find they city’s hottest nightlife scene. From trendy bars and stylish clubs to relaxed pubs and funky cafes, this neighbourhood has it all.

For travellers and locals looking for a fun and vibrant night on the town, Galata is the destination of choice.

Galata, Istanbul

One of Istanbul’s coolest Istanbul locations – Galata has great nightlife

 

Best Hostel in Galata: Galata West Hostel

This hostel is located in the centre of Istanbul’s Galata neighbourhood. Close to bars, clubs, and restaurants, this hostel is also a short walk to the city’s main attractions.

It offers a range of accommodation options, including dorms and private rooms. It boasts a kitchen, terrace and other modern amenities, and bed linens and bath towels are provided.

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Best Hotel in Galata: Happy Homes Galataparts

This recently refurbished hotel is comprised of 10 rooms. Each room is spacious and comfortable, and features stylish and modern décor. They boast full kitchens and laundry facilities.

Located in Istanbul’s entertainment district, this hotel has a number of bars, restaurants and clubs right on its doorstep. A short walk to Sultanahmet, Karaköy and the Grand Bazaar, this hotel is the perfect base for your time in Istanbul.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb in Galata: Two bedroom near Galata Tower

Perfect for 4 guests, this private apartment is located in the up-and-coming quarter of Pera, which is characterized by historic 19th-century Greek houses, The apartment building itself is a small Art-Deco apartment block dating to the 1930s. The apartment is a tow wide bedroom, fully equipped kitchen and living room.

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Things to See and Do in Galata

Galata todo Istanbul

– Enjoy dinner, drinks and amazing views of Istanbul at Leb-I Derya.

– Spend a night enjoying soulful jazz at Nardis.

– Sip and savour Turkish wines at Sensus, an underground wine bar.

– Want to get wild? Hit up renowned shots bar Indigo for a nightly block part with great music and a vivacious atmosphere.

– Enjoy a night of drinks under the stars at 5. Kat Restaurant and Bar, home to one of the city’s best rooftop bars.

– Ride the elevator to the top and walk the parapet of the striking Galata Tower and enjoy 360 views of Galata, Istanbul and beyond.

– Spend a cozy evening at Galata Meyhanesi, an excellent pub that often features live Turkish music.

– Indulge in world-class wines and exotic cocktails at 360 Istanbul, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city.

– Dance the night away at Riddim, Istanbul’s first and only R&B Hip Hop Club.

 

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4. Karaköy Neighborhood – Coolest Place to Stay in Istanbul

Karaköy is a small district situated at the mouth of the Golden Horn. Once one of the city’s most important ports, this area was left to deteriorate for decades.

In the early 2010s, gentrification spread to this part of the city and trendy cafes and boutiques began establishing themselves in the empty historic buildings.

Today, Karaköy is one of the city’s most hip and stylish Istanbul locations. Here you’ll find an array of vendors and stylish restaurants as well as independent shops. With its own fair share of historic and cultural attractions, this is also where you’ll find some of the most amazing views of Istanbul.

For more inspiration on places to eat and shop in Karakoy and Galata (our #3 spot above), check out this article.

Karakoy Istanbul

Hip and stylish, Karaköy is one of the coolest Istanbul locations

 

Best Hostel in Karaköy: Cheers Port House

This hostel is built in a stylish Art Nouveau building in the centre of Karaköy. Comprised of 10 rooms, this hostel offers a variety of shared and private accommodations.

Each room features iPod docking stations, adjustable heating, and modern décor. Located on a quiet street near the port, this hostel is within walking distance of Istanbul’s top shopping, entertainment, and tourist districts.

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Best Hotel in Karaköy: Portus Hotel

Portus Hotel is a sleek and modern hotel located in the Karaköy district. Close to the city centre, this hotel is near dining options, shopping, and bars.

It is within walking distance of the city’s main attractions. Each room is stylishly decorated and equipped with the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb in Karaköy: Tophane loft apartment in historical building

The building was historically a boarding house for sailors from the near Karaköy port. Today, its a newly renovated loft apartment in central beyo?lu location, near Galata Tower, Karakoy, Tophane tram, and Sishane metro. The building has a communal terrace with views over historic Istanbul. Suitable for 1-4 guests with a loft bed and a double bed. The apartment is centrally heated and has a ceiling fan.

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Things to See and Do in Karaköy

Karakoy ttd Istanbul

Source: Boris Stroujko (Shutterstock)

– Visit SALT, a former Ottoman bank that’s made of marble and features an impressive glass ceiling. Home to a library, art gallery, café, museum and shop, it’s easy to spend an afternoon (or more) in this magnificent building.

– Enjoy a relaxing and revitalizing bath at the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam, a luxury hammam that dates back to the 16th century and features an awesome minimalistic interior.

– Start your day with a delicious Viennese coffee at Karabatak, the districts most popular (and very reasonably priced) café.

– Walk the Galata Bridge between Karaköy and Sultanahmet and take in the amazing views of the city.

– Explore Yeralti Camii, an underground mosque in the centre of the district.

– Marvel at the ornately decorated Nusretiye Mosque, which sits on the border of Karaköy and Beyoglu.

– Enjoy homecooked-style meals at the ultra-popular, Karaköy Lokantasi.

– Kick back after a day of sightseeing at Ma’Na, a classic Turkish tavern.

 

5. Grand Bazaar – Where to Stay in Istanbul for Families

The Grand Bazaar is a colourful and chaotic district located in the centre of Istanbul. Built around the centuries-old Grand and Spice Bazaars, this area is where you’ll find a wide variety of vendors, shops and boutiques.

Surrounding the marketplace are magnificent historical, cultural and religious sites.

The Grand Bazaar district is also one of the best Istanbul locations for families. Located west of the Sultanahmet district, it is within walking distance of the city’s major tourist attractions, including Hagia Sophie and the Blue Mosque. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Istanbul by choosing to stay in the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Families will like the location of Grand Bazaar

 

Best Hostel in Grand Bazaar: Second Home Hostel

The closest hostel to the Gran Bazaar district is the Second Home Hostel. Located just over the border in the Sultanahmet neighbourhood, this hostel is centrally located to all of the top attractions in both districts.

Boasting clean and comfortable rooms, this hostel has a guest kitchen and a cozy lounge, perfect for relaxing after a long day of sightseeing.

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Best Hotel in Grand Bazaar: Divan-i Ali

The Divan-i Ali is a four-star boutique hotel located in the Grand Bazaar district. It’s close to a number of Istanbul’s most iconic tourist attractions and within walking distance of public transit.

This recently refurbished hotel has 32 rooms and boasts a stunning and relaxing rooftop terrace. Each room is equipped with air conditioning, a private bathroom, and satellite/cable channels.

Enjoy a comfortable and luxurious stay in Grand Bazaar.

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Best Istanbul Airbnb in Grand Bazaar: 2 bedroom near Hagia Sophia

Perfect for up to 5 guests, this furnished and serviced apartment, situated in the heart of Sultanahmet (otherw?se known as Old Town), where most of the top attractions such as Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and the famous Grand Bazaar are located. The host offers one-way free airport transfer for guests staying for 6 or more nights.

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Things to See and Do in Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar ttd Istanbul

– Browse the more than 4,000 shops and bargain for goods at the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi), the largest covered market in Turkey.

– Make a game of it by going on a Grand Bazaar scavenger hunt offered by Alternative City Tours.

– Try Turkish delights, sweets and other tasty treats at the Spice Bazaar, where you’ll find no less than 80 shops.

– Experience the hustle and bustle of street life in Istanbul at Eminonu Square.

– Enjoy a delicious, inexpensive and fast Turkish meal at the family-friendly Express Restaurant & Café.

– See the impressive Valens Aqueduct (Bozdogan Kemeri), a Roman aqueduct that stands 29 meters tall and stretches 971 meters.

– If you like spice, head to Keyf-I Mekan Café and Restaurant and sample their delicious meals.

– Hop aboard a ferry at Eminonu Pier and see Istanbul from a different angle aboard a ferry cruising along the Bosphorus.

 

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Istanbul

Not sure where to stay in Istanbul? Here’s our recap.

Istanbul is historically the world’s epicenter of culture. Strattling two continents, Istanbul has linked the western and eastern world for centuries past. For this reason alone, travelers and visitors will likely find Istanbul to be one of the most interesting cities in the world.

Wander around the largest covered market in Turkey, the Grand Bazaar. Visit the Blue Mosque and other sites of religious significance. Explore the old and the modern, for Istanbul truly has it all!

Whether you’re never been, or you’re a veteran, here are two itineraries for Istanbul.

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

For more information on safety in Turkey, check out our separate guide here!

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Our INSIDER GUIDE covers the best areas and neighborhoods in Istanbul for all types of travelers and budgets!