Where to stay in Istanbul?
Since we launched 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 during my vacations in Istanbul? 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 very significant growth since 2005, many new hotels are opening all over the city.
The offer of accommodation in Istanbul is very large. There are thousands of hotels and apartments all over the city. Tourism in Istanbul has grown considerably since 2005. New buildings continue to flourish in the city.
Recently, the Shangri-La palace was established in the Beşiktaş district, close to other major palaces such as the Kempinski Group’s Çiragan or the Four Seasons Bosphorus. The Mandarin Oriental is also established in Istanbul on the banks of the Bosphorus. Once in Istanbul, visitors are often struck by the dynamism of construction in 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 approximate 120 €, according to the THPI Trivago which is generally regarded as 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 big phenomenon that strikes Istanbul and global tourism, is the development of apartment rentals at the expense of the hotel industry.
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:
It is in this niche that the development of the offer is the most important and is generally the most economical solution especially for long stays. Some of those flats are exclusively dedicated to tourists and others are occupied by their owners which rent 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 usually meet the owner of the apartment and if you are lucky, you will come across people who are very hospitable and happy to share their knowledge of the city and their neighborhood. You can also find some apartments offering, for example, incredible views of the city or the Bosphorus.
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 our opinion, the main drawback of hotels – and especially mid-range hotels – is the size of the room, which is often small for long stays (between 15 and 20 m²).
In which district to stay in Istanbul?
Istanbul is more than 5,000 km² and offers the face of a multicultural Turkey. Its neighborhoods are cities in the city. They are all very different, populated by distinct populations with their own lifestyles. Some are lively until early morning, while in others the nightlife is almost 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 the first stay in Istanbul. Symbolized by its Tower which was built by the Genoese in 1348, the bottom of this district (Karaköy) is currently very popular with the artistic community. You will find many small cafes, designer shops, as well as 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 Istiklal Avenue that goes way to 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 AREAS AND ITS NEIGHBORHOODS
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 accommodations are located in the district of Tarlabaşı, we do not recommend this area because it has a bad reputation and is undergoing renovation.
The Asmalı Mescit 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 Beyoğlu.
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 districts of Istanbul. It overlooks the Bosphorus and offers some exceptional view of the city. It is a very cosmopolitan neighborhood, where celebrities from Turkish TV as well as influential people from the arts, fashion and entertainment circles reside. Cihangir is quite residential but is very friendly for its cafes, bars and bohemian lifestyle. Next to Cihangir is the Çukurcuma district which is famous for its antique shops and the Museum of Innocence of Orhan Pamuk.
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 Nisantaşı is one of the coolest places to be in Istanbul, it’s the hipster and the fashion center of the city. Nisantaşı is a must-see/go for shopaholics and fashion lovers. You will find all the major luxury brands, as well as shops of Turkish designers, but also many bars, cafes, and restaurants very friendly.
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 (1 stop) and then move through the rest of the city quickly and easily. (Public transportation to Istanbul).
The proximity of the subway, the dynamism of this rich district will make you discover another side of Istanbul.
The Beşiktaş district is one of the largest in Istanbul. It includes some of the most famous districts of Istanbul such as Bebek, Etiler, Ortaköy or Levent. Here, when we refer to Beşiktaş, we talk about the center of this district, the “çarşı” in Turkish.
It is a district “more Turkish” than the district of Beyoğlu, and still unknown to tourists although all great palaces are close by (Four Seasons, Cirağan 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 town, Beyoğlu, and Bosphorus neighborhoods like Ortaköy and Bebek, you can easily move 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 close to the Kabataş tram, which will allow you to quickly get to the old town as well as to the pier to quickly get to Asia by boat.
The very central position of Beşiktaş 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.
Ortaköy is a charming little district of Istanbul located on the Bosphorus and known for its beautiful mosque and its small square with its cafes and restaurants. This is a lively district that is increasingly touristic. From there you can discover the upscale neighborhoods of the Bosphorus like Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek… You will also be close to the most famous clubs in the city like Ruby and Sortie. There are also many students in Ortaköy 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 the second stay in Istanbul, it is a perfect neighborhood, especially for those who want to discover the neighborhoods of the Bosphorus.
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 the top of Bebek district, you’ll find the Etiler district and its famous street Nispetiye Caddesi. You can also join the authentic district of Arnavutköy within 10 minutes of walk on the Bosphorus where you will find plenty of good fish and mezze restaurants.
It is an ideal area for a medium/long stay, especially in summer, and for lovers of calm and luxury.
For more information about this area of the city, you can check out our article: Visit the neighborhoods of the Bosphorus.
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 recommend this area because it is a victim of its success and it has become exclusively a tourist area. The nightlife is almost non-existent. This area of the city can be an option for a first visit to Istanbul for a short stay in order to visit the monuments. However, if you want to feel the atmosphere of true Istanbul, authentic, modern, alive, open to the future, this is not where you will find it.
For more information on the Old Town, here is our article: A day in the Old Town.
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 Üsküdar, Kadıköy and Moda 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.
You can already find more information in our article: Visit the Asian side of Istanbul.