Where to stay in Istanbul?
Since the opening of our blog we have received many emails from you about accommodation in Istanbul, your most common questions are: “Do you have a neighborhood to advise me? Do you have any apartments, hotels advise? What do you think about the hotel I found? “
The housing supply in Istanbul is very wide, and there are thousands of hotels and short term rentals apartments all over the city. Istanbul’s touristic industry experienced a very significant growth since 2005, many new hotels are opening all over the city.
Contrary to some popular beliefs, Istanbul is not a”low cost” destination. In 2013 the price of an average night in Istanbul was approximately of 120€, according to the THPI trivago which is generally regarded as the the benchmark indicator.
To assist you in finding accommodations in Istanbul we have decided to write an article with on one hand the differences between the apartments and hotels, and secondly and also a quick overview of some of Istanbul’s best districts to stay.
Apartments or hotels?
A great phenomenon in tourism (in Istanbul and around the world) is the development of apartment rentals at the detriment of the hotels.
For stays over 3 days, and especially long stays, we advise you to rent an apartment. This has the great advantage of being able to immerse yourself in the local life, to shop and taste your products at home.
There are two major types of apartment offers:
The apartments–hotels: this is a recent growing phenomenon in Istanbul, the apartments generally have a kitchen and all the necessary for a living. They are more expensive to rent than a normal condo but have the advantage of being located in buildings with a reception and have a service close to the hotels (no room service, but the household is mostly done every day).
This apartments are generally newer and more spacious than a hotel room for the same price.
Renting a private apartment: this is in this niche where you’ll find the most offers and it is usually the most economical solution, especially for longer stays. Some of those flats are exclusively dedicated to tourists and others are occupied by their owners which rents them from time to time.
This phenomenon of apartment rental is very popular, to be sure to find a good flat we advise you to book at least a month in advance.
In addition to being located in areas where hotel supply is lower, this is a great way to discover a district and its people. You will also usually meet the owner of the apartment. If you are lucky you will fall on very hospitable people, happy to share their knowledge about the city and especially their neighborhoods. You can also find some apartments with amazing views for example.
Hotels are better suited to short stays. Istanbul has one of the largest hotel parks in the world. All the major international chains and palaces are present. There are also many boutique-hotels. They have the advantage over the traditional large hotel chains to be smaller and therefore they are be located anywhere in the city. They are on a human scale and generally more friendly.
In which district to stay in Istanbul?
Istanbul covers over 5000 square kilometres and offers many different faces, its districts are very diverse and are like cities in the city. They are all very different, inhabited by distinct populations with their own lifestyles. Some are animated until the early hours, in others the nightlife is virtually non-existent.
Depending on your expectations you will be satisfied by some neighborhoods more than others. The main challenge of finding a place to stay is to choose your neighborhood right to be sure to spend a nice vacation.
The district of Galata :
This is our number one choice for a first stay in Istanbul. Symbolized by its Tower that was built by the Genoese in 1348, this area is currently very popular with the artistic community. There are many small cafes, designer shops, and a large number of shops dedicated to musical instruments.
The Galata district is a cultural crossroads since its creation, first a Genoese counter, it then welcomed the Jewish and Arab community who fled the Spanish Inquisition. You will find many traces of these legacies everywhere.
In addition to a great atmosphere and architectural beauty, this neighborhood’s great advantage is its location. Located down the Beyoglu district you can reach quickly the old town and the main attractions via the Galata Bridge (20, 30 minutes walk from the main monuments). This area is very well served by public transport (tram and metro nearby). You are also not far from the Istiklal Avenue that goes way to the Taksim Square.
This area, close to all major attractions of the city, is a great place to stay and explore the city for short and medium stays.
Taksim’s area and its neighbourhoods:
This is the hub of the city. Always crowded, you can reach everywhere by public transport to visit the city easily. If you stay here you’ll be close to all the tourist attractions of the city, and some of the nightlife of Istanbul.
Many accommodation are located in the district of Tarlabasi, we do not recommend this area because it is a little infamous and is undergoing renovation.
The Asmalimescit and Nevizade neighborhoods are suitable for people wanting to party and having no fear of being disturbed by noise. There is a large concentration of bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Beyoglu.
It is one of the neighborhoods near Taksim Square, it is a district that we recommend if you want to be close to the nightlife while enjoying one of the most bohemian district of Istanbul. It overlooks the Bosphorus and offers some exceptional view of the city. Some famous of the Turkish TV and influential people in the world of art, fashion and entertainment live there, it is also a very cosmopolitan area. The area is quite residential but it is very friendly for its cafes, bars and bohemian lifestyle. Alongside you have the Cukurcuma district, famous for its antique shops and the Museum of Innocence.
Near the Taksim subway, and within walking distance of the tram, this neighborhood is ideal for exploring Istanbul during a short or medium stay.
The district of Nisantasi district is one of the coolest place to be in Istanbul, it’s the hipster and the Fashion center of the city. Nisantasi is an must-see/go for shopaholics and fashion lovers. You will find there all the luxury brands, but also the shops of Turkish creators, many bars, coffee and very nice restaurants. It’s also less touristic than the previous districts we wrote you about.
This area offers the great advantage of having the metro (Osmanbey) which is very welcome as Istanbul is always congested. From here you can reach the business district (Levent), Taksim Square in a very short time ( stop) and then move through the rest of the city quickly and easily.
The proximity of the subway, the dynamism of this rich district will make you discover another side of Istanbul.
Besiktas is one of the largest borough of Istanbul, it includes some of the most prestigious districts of as Bebek, Etiler, Levent and Ortakoy.
Here when we talk about Besiktas we refer to the center of this district, “Carsi” in Turkish.
It is a district “more Turkish” than the district of Beyoglu, and still unknown to tourists although all great palaces are close by (Four Seasons, W Hotel, Ciragan Palace, Shangri La …). The atmosphere is fun and lively, you’ll find plenty of small shops, restaurants and bars at affordable prices. Mostly populated by students, and families of the Turkish middle class, this neighborhood gives a good image of the Turkish society. It is alive, open and modern. The street food is also very good and everywhere in the area.
Located halfway between the old city, Beyoglu, and Bosphorus neighborhoods like Ortakoy and Bebek, you can easily travel to reach all the nice places in Istanbul in a short time using taxis and public transport.(Istanbul is the second most congested city in the world after Moscow). You will be near the Kabatas tram which will allow you to get quickly in the old town. You have also a the pier, very practical to reach the Asian side by boat.
The very central position of Besiktas will allow you to easily explore Istanbul as a whole while immersed in a real living and friendly district. We recommend it for medium and long stays.
It’s a charming little district of Istanbul located on the Bosphorus and known for its beautiful mosque and its small square with its cafés and restaurants. This is a lively district that is increasingly touristic. From there you can discover the upscale neighborhoods of the Bosphorus like Kurucesme, Arnavutköy, Bebek… You will also be close to the most famous clubs of the city (Reina, Anjelique …). There are also many students because there are many universities in the area.
Although a bit far from the historic center, (because of the traffic), we recommend the area for medium and long stays especially during the hottest months of the year. In summer Istanbul empties, and lower traffic will allow you to move much faster than usual. For a second stay in Istanbul it is a perfect area for people who want to discover the neighborhoods of the Bosphorus and all their charms.
Bebek is one of the most exclusive areas of the Bosphorus. It is a constant festival of beautiful cars and beautiful yachts. You will find plenty of terraces and cozy restaurants. On top of Bebek you’ll find the Etiler district and its famous street Nispetiye Caddesi. You can also join the authentic district of Arnavutkoy within 10 minutes of walk on the Bosphorus where you will find plenty of good fish restaurants.
The old city and the district of Sultanahmet:
Sultanahmet is certainly the most touristic district of the city. You will find a wide range of hotels and prices. We do not particularly recommend this area because it is victim of its success and has turned into an exclusively touristic area. The nightlife is almost non-existent … This can be an option for a first visit to Istanbul for a short stay so you can quickly visit the monuments. If you would like to feel the atmosphere of the true Istanbul, alive, authentic and open to the future, it’s not there that you will find it.
The Asian side:
With the arrival of the Marmaray (the metro passing under the Bosphorus linking Asia and Europe) some parts of the Asian side Kadikoy or Uskudar as have now become a good option for a tourist looking for more authenticity while also taking advantage of the great monuments. We will complete in the near future this article with great places to stay in Asia.