When you look at best 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 in the Old City, commonly referred to as Sultanahmet, or in the Beyoglu district known as Taksim, or in the Besiktas hotels with magnificent Bosphorus views, or in Kadikoy, the Asian side of Istanbul?
Of course there are many accommodation options in Istanbul except for those mentioned. However, these are the best 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.
Best Places to Stay in Istanbul 2021
In this article, we tried to address the issue of best places to stay in Istanbul from different aspects. Because traveling couples or families with children or solo travelers have different expectations.
Beyoglu, Old City, Sisli, Besiktas and Kadikoy, which are the most important districts that come to mind when talking about where to stay in Istanbul, constitute the main lines of our article.
Taksim, Galata and Karakoy, which come after Beyoglu, are actually the districts of Beyoglu. Or Sultanahmet, Sirkeci and Beyazit, which come after the Old City, are also different parts of the Old City (aka Historical Peninsula).
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 and Karakoy are 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 Beyoglu’s Fish Market and its historical passages.
I prepared the maps in the article with paint. Even though they are primitive drawings, they can give you an idea. I loaded them in low resolution so that the page opening speed would not slow down. However, you can view the full resolution versions by clicking the links under each map.
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.
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.
2. Taksim Square
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.
The question of whether to stay in Taksim or Sultanahmet in Istanbul is one of the most frequently asked questions about accommodation. The easiest answer I could give as an insider would be Taksim for nightlife and entertainment and Sultanahmet for a calm and peaceful stay. The photograph above shows the Golden Horn, which separates the Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Cihangir 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.
Cihangir is one of the best place to stay 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.
Pera 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 area where Mesrutiyet Street is located is still known as Pera. This area has great hotels such as Rixos Pera, Pera Palace (shown in the picture above) and Soho House.
Mesrutiyet Street is parallel to the famous Istiklal Avenue. The side streets connecting the two streets are famous for their Turkish taverns, restaurants and bars. The most famous of these is the narrow street called Asmali Mescit. Many Istanbulites go to the places in Asmali Mescit to have fun on weekends.
Galata is famous for its 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. Galata Tower is the most famous of these Genoese works.
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.
Karakoy acts as a bridge between Old City and Modern Istanbul. Galata Bridge connects the Old City and Karakoy. 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.
We have listed districts of Beyoglu such as Taksim, Cihangir, Galata and Karakoy so far. If you want to know the prominent hotels in these districts, you can also review the article on the best hotels to stay in Beyoglu.
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 in 2021 with its location close to both Sultanahmet and Taksim Square.
7. Istanbul Old City
The best places to stay in the Old City of Istanbul are Sultanahmet, Sirkeci and Beyazit (and Laleli). 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. I think it may 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.
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.
Districts like Beyazit, Laleli and Aksaray are the best places to stay in Istanbul with family in 2021. 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.
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 can be found in this neighborhood.
If you take a look at the articles called 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 the Whirling Derwishes Show.
11. Golden Horn
Golden Horn is an estuary that separates Taksim from Istanbul Old City. Hotels with large rooms opened on the shores of Golden Horn in recent years. You can also consider this area as an alternative to Sirkeci, Sultanahmet and Beyazit, which are in the inner part of Istanbul Old City.
There are many tourist attractions in neighborhoods such as Fener, Balat and Eyup on the shores of Golden Horn. Fener Balat districts are the most popular walking tour route of recent years. In Eyup, you can take the cable car to the Pierre Loti Hill and watch the Istanbul view as in the picture above.
Until a few years ago, Golden Horn did not come to mind when it came to where to stay in Istanbul. Now big hotels such as Movenpick, Hilton Garden Inn and Ramada are opened. With these features, Golden Horn is among the best places to stay in Istanbul in 2021.
Sisli is one of the most popular accommodation places in Istanbul in recent years. Sisli, where the biggest shopping malls of Istanbul are located, draws attention with its proximity to all tourist attractions.
It is very easy to reach Taksim Square or the shores of the Bosphorus from Sisli. It is possible to reach Istanbul Old City in half an hour by public transportation or taxi.
Sisli is also very close to the business centers of Istanbul such as Levent and Maslak. There are luxury shopping centers and fine dining restaurants of Istanbul in these districts.
Sisli, which has a huge shopping center like Cevahir, stands out among the best places to stay in Istanbul for shopping in 2021. In the picture above, you can see the Marriott among the best hotels to stay in Sisli.
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.
For more information about hotels with Bosphorus view in Istanbul, you can also check out my post on Bosphorus Hotels in Istanbul.
Kadikoy is the most popular district of Istanbul’s Asian Side. Fish Market in Kadikoy is one of the main stops of food tours in Istanbul. You can find delicious local restaurants, street food and the coolest cafes of Istanbul in Kadikoy.
When you get away from the center of Kadikoy, there are still many beautiful places. For example, Moda and Fenerbahce are neighborhoods with good restaurants, cafes and hotels.
Bagdat Street, which is the biggest shopping street of Istanbul’s Asian Side, is also located in Kadikoy. There are countless bars, cafes and restaurants on this 15-kilometer street.
Kadikoy is one of the best places to stay in Istanbul with its decent environment. Compared to the other places mentioned in this article, it has a less touristic environment. For this reason, it is a place where you can have more local experiences.
For accommodation options in and around Kadikoy, I recommend you to take a look at the article titled Best Hotels on the Asian Side of Istanbul.
Best Places to Stay in Istanbul 2021 by Serhat Engul