When you look at places to stay in Istanbul on the map you may be confused. Sultanahmet, Beyoglu and Besiktas offer many options for tourists visiting Istanbul. The question of where to stay in Istanbul is perhaps the title that the people who plan to travel to Istanbul need local advice the most.
Should you stay on the historical peninsula known as Fatih? OR in the modern districts of Beyoglu, the northern side of the Golden Horn? OR at the Besiktas area offering a unique view of the Bosphorus?
Of course there are many accommodation options in Istanbul except for those mentioned. However, these are the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Istanbul at first glance. In this article I will review all these areas and try to give you information about the pros and cons.
Beyoglu (Taksim) and Fatih (Historical Peninsula)
The Golden Horn is named after the ancient Greek period. It separates from the Bosphorus and borders the northern part of the Historical Peninsula. The south of the Golden Horn is the ancient Constantinople, now known as the Fatih whereas northern part is known as Beyoglu.
Where to Stay in Beyoglu District of Istanbul
Beyoglu is very close to the nightlife and Istiklal Street, which is the most pleasant walking street of the city. Only a short walk will take you to the best restaurants in Istanbul, such as 360 Istanbul and Mikla. Some of the best bars in Istanbul are also located in Beyoglu.
Formed in the late 19th century of the Ottoman Empire, Beyoglu covers a large area. Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Pera, Galata, Cihangir, Karakoy where you can experience the best entertainment, shopping and dining neighborhoods of Istanbul.
Although not as much as Sultanahmet, many historical monuments such as Galata Tower are also around. As a neighborhood on the list of street food tours, you can enjoy visiting Beyoğlu’s Fish Market and its historical passages.
Pros and Cons of Beyoglu
+ Pros: It’s where the heart of the city beats. It is closeby both Istanbul Old City and the Bosphorus. Art galleries, cinemas, cafés and bars all around Istiklal Street.
– Cons: Taksim Square and its surroundings are overcrowded during the weekend. The noise of people and cars may disturb you. It’s less safe than Sultanahmet.
Best Places to Stay in Beyoglu, Istanbul 2020
We will now focus on Beyoglu and review its neighborhoods such as Taksim Square, Cihangir, Pera, Galata and Karakoy In my personal opinion, the best places to stay in Beyoglu are Galata and Karakoy.
Taksim Square is like the heart of Istanbul. Istanbul’s Sisli, Besiktas, Beyoglu and Fatih districts are easily accessible from here. There are 4 and 5 star hotels in the streets surrounding the Taksim Square. Despite all the entertainment, shopping and eating facilities, it can sometimes be noisy due to the crowd.
Best Places to Stay in Taksim, Istanbul
The Marmara Hotel is the iconic building of Taksim Square. The photograph above shows the Golden Horn, which separates the Historical Peninsula and Beyoglu. If you are looking for a room with views of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, The Marmara is one of the best places to stay in Istanbul.
Cihangir Neighborhood is inhabited by Turkey’s famous writers and artists. For example, Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, was born and grew up in this area. The Museum of Innocence, which is identified with one of the books he wrote, is also in this neighborhood. With the development of tourism in Istanbul in the last 20 years, wonderful boutique hotels have been opened in the neighborhood.
Cihangir is a popular choice between Taksim Square and Istanbul Cruise Port. However the hotels are small. If you want to stay in Cihangir, which is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Istanbul, you may need to make a reservation in advance.
You can reach Cihangir via Sıraselviler Street, which runs from Taksim Square towards the sea.
Best Area to Stay in Istanbul for Couples
Cihangir is one of the best place in Istanbul for couples with its central location and modern style. It attracts attention with its modern cafes, restaurants and bars. The hotel shown in the picture above is The Witt Istanbul, one of the boutique hotels of Cihangir.
Beyoglu area reached its present splendor during the last period of the Ottoman Empire. Beautiful hotels were opened for the guests of Orient Express from Paris. The French and British embassies moved here, and the district gained great popularity.
In the 19th century, Beyoglu was called Pera by the Europeans living in the city. The name of Istiklal Street was Grand Rue de Pera. The quarter where Mesrutiyet Street is parallel to Istiklal Street is still known as Pera. This area has great hotels such as Rixos Pera, Pera Palace and Soho House.
Pera Palace where Agatha Christie stayed
The first thing that comes to mind when you say Galata is usually Galata Tower. But the history of the neighborhood is much more than that. Throughout Byzantine and Ottoman history, silk fabrics from China and spices from India reached the port of Constantinople.
The Venetian and Genoese trade colonies located here distributed the goods of Asia to Europe. Galata, a lively harbor, has inherited many Genoese buildings.
This historic district is one of the best neighborhoods in Istanbul today. It offers great options, especially for those who are looking for Istanbul Airbnb apartments. Some of the streets surrounding Galata are the best places to shop in Istanbul.
Galata Tower and Neighborhood
Galata Bridge connects the Historical Peninsula and Beyoglu. The southern end of the bridge is Eminonu (Spice Bazaar area), while the northern end is Karakoy.
The transportation hub of Istanbul’s historical peninsula is Eminonu. Likewise, the transportation center of Beyoglu, which is the opposite side of the Golden Horn, is Karakoy. From both sides, the ferry departs to Kadikoy, the most beautiful district of the Asian side.
Karakoy had a large non-Muslim population as one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Ottoman Istanbul. It was preferred by wealthy Jewish and Greek families. With the globalization of the 19th century, the first international banks of Istanbul were opened here.
You can still see the traces of this multicultural structure while you are visiting Karakoy. Because the streets are like a cultural mosaic where synagogues, churches and mosques are side by side.
Karakoy has been the most developing district of istanbul in the last decade. Karakoy is one of the hip neighborhoods of Istanbul, with the best 3rd wave coffee shops, art galleries and boutique hotels.
You may want to check the blog post named Best Hotels in Beyoglu for further information.
Best Area to Stay in Istanbul for Tourists
After many years of renovation, Istanbul Cruise Port opens under the name Galataport. The popularity of Karakoy, which hosts the Galataport, is increasing day by day. Karakoy is the best area to stay in Istanbul for tourists with its location close to both Sultanahmet and Taksim Square.
Where to Stay in Fatih District of Istanbul
The best places to stay in the Fatih district, which is the official name of the Historic Peninsula, are Beyazit (and Laleli), Sultanahmet, Sirkeci. In this part of our article we will be reviewing these neighborhoods.
I had prepared and used the map below to introduce the tram stations of Istanbul Old City. However, it will be useful to show us the neighborhoods around Sultanahmet.
Pros and Cons of Istanbul Old City
+ Pros: The area is closed to traffic, silent and safe neighborhood. It is nearby the must-see tourist attractions. You can easily get the tram to reach out to Beyoglu. (Galata, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square)
– Cons: The only disadvantage of this area is that there is almost no nightlife here. After 23:00 in the evening, almost everywhere becomes silent and empty.
Best Places to Stay in Istanbul Old City 2020
Beyazit is the neighborhood where the historical Grand Bazaar is located. You can easily reach Istanbul’s most functional vehicles such as Metro, Marmaray and Tram on foot from Beyazit.
The biggest advantage of accommodation in Beyazit compared to Sultanahmet is that it hosts larger hotels. Beyazit and its neighboring Laleli districts offer spacious hotel rooms for a family with kids visiting Istanbul. Examples include Crowne Plaza Istanbul Old City and Hilton Doubletree Old Town.
Best Area to Stay in Istanbul with Family
Districts like Beyazit, Laleli and Aksaray are the best places to stay with family in Istanbul. It is a short walk or tram ride to Sultanahmet and offers spacious family suites. For example the Crowne Plaza Istanbul Old City you see in the picture above is an excellent family hotel.
Sultanahmet is the best place to stay for those who want a quiet night in istanbul. No matter how crowded it is during the day, after midnight all the streets are silent. Those who want to experience the nightlife of Istanbul go to districts like Beyoglu and Besiktas.
Sultanahmet, where the best places to visit in Istanbul, such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque, is home to beautiful boutique hotels. You may want to check the blog post named Best Hotels in Sultanahmet for further information.
Best Places to Stay in Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Sultanahmet is the best place to stay in Istanbul for first time visitors. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are all within walking distance of Sultanahmet. The area is closed to traffic and is ideal for strolling. You can get a good night’s sleep as it gets quiet in the evening.
Sirkeci was the last stop of the Orient Express which departed from Paris. Europeans who came to the Ottoman capital used to see this neighborhood as the first place in Istanbul. Sirkeci, one of the most vibrant squares in Istanbul since Ottoman era, is located between Sultanahmet and Eminonu. Istanbul’s most delicious desserts, street food and local restaurants are located in this neighborhood.
If you take a look at the best street food in Istanbul and the best local restaurants in Istanbul, you can see that I mentioned Sirkeci a lot. Sirkeci is also home to Hodjapasha Cultural Center, the best place to watch a Whirling Derwishes Show.
Sirkeci Mansion Hotel
Where to Stay in Besiktas District of Istanbul
If you want to be close to the unique beauty of Bosphorus, you can choose hotels located in Besiktas area. In general terms, these hotels are in the most expensive category.
Besiktas is a district covering a large area. Dolmabahce Palace, which is one of the most beautiful places to see in Istanbul, remains within the borders of Besiktas. The hotels around the Dolmabahce Palace are The Ritz Carlton Istanbul, Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus and Swissôtel The Bosphorus.
Hotels nearby Besiktas Fish Market area (center of the neighborhood) are Shangri-La Bosphorus and Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus. When you go further up the Bosphorus there is Ortakoy neighborhood of Besiktas. Ortakoy is home to the most luxurious hotels such as Four Seasons Bosphorus and Ciragan Palace Kempinski.
Pros and Cons of Bosphorus Hotels
+ Pros: Districts alongside Bosphorus provide a wonderful scenery. Besides the life quality is considerably higher than other areas. High-end restaurants and nightclubs are nearby. There are cozy Ortakoy and Bebek neighborhoods.
– Cons: The hotels are expensive and far from the major tourist attractions. It might take a long time to get Sultanahmet because of busy traffic. The roads that lead to Besiktas, Ortakoy and Bebek always busy.
Further Reading: Best Hotels in Bosphorus