If you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time, the best area to stay in Istanbul is the City Center. Istanbul’s center spans across the Bosphorus and is home to most of the city’s attractions. Read below to learn more about Istanbul’s best areas for a happy stay.
Set at the crossroads of three continents and a variety of cultures, religions and people, the history of Istanbul made it one of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Istanbul is known for its many historical attractions which draw over 5 million visitors each year.
Where to Stay
These areas of Istanbul all contain a plethora of hotels which correspond to every budget. A variety of private accommodations can also be found on Airbnb.
Insider Advice: Kickstart your Istanbul adventure with the Istanbul E-Pass or Istanbul Tourist Pass. These passes provide free access to around 70+ top attractions, tours and essential local services in the city with around 70% savings.
Best Location for Sightseeing: Sultanahmet
Sultanahmet is the historical heart of ancient Constantinople. Set on the eastern tip of the district of Fatih, this UNESCO-protected area occupies most of the peninsula south of the Golden Horn and is home to Istanbul’s most famous historic and cultural tourist attractions.
Hotels in Sultanahmet are within walking distance to the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern along with many cafes, restaurants and tourist shops.
Sultanahmet is very well-covered by Istanbul’s public transport system. Metro lines 1 and 2, as well as the Marmaray commuter train, converge at the centrally-located Yenikapi Station.
Tramline T1 also crosses most of the district, connecting it to Galata and the west. There are also several ferry stations all over the peninsula offering boat connections across the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus Strait and beyond.
Best Location for Foodies & Art Lovers: Galata & Karakoy
Located north of the Golden Horn and connected to the Historic Peninsula by bridges and ferries, today, Galata is part of the larger Beyoglu district, which also includes the neighboring Karakoy area.
Both Galata and Karakoy are considered the city’s creative hubs and hipster areas and are packed with small cafés, alternative bars, international and traditional restaurants, and some of the best-rated boutique hotels in Istanbul.
To move around, the area offers a wealth of transportation options including ferry stations, a funicular line and a few tram (T1-T2) and metro (M2) stops.
Best Location for Nightlife & Shopping: Taksim
Taksim is considered the heart of modern Istanbul and a major food and nightlife destination. Around the Square is the iconic Ataturk Cultural Centre, Taksim Mosque, Gezi Park, Madame Tussauds Istanbul and the Istanbul Cinema Museum.
The square marks the beginning of Istiklal Street, a long pedestrianized avenue with dozens of shops, restaurants, cafés, bars and international fast-food chains. As a whole, Taksim is one of the most visited districts in the city, both by locals and tourists.
The historic T2 tram line runs along Istiklal Street and connects Taksim Square to the historic Pera neighborhood.
The F1 Kabatas-Taksim Funicular line connects Taxim to the Besiktas neighborhood located below the Square and down by the Bosphorus shore. Taksim Square is also serviced by the M2 Metro line.
Tour Booking Advice
Historic Area on the European Side of Istanbul: Pera & Beyoglu
Following Istiklal Street to the south, and sandwiched between Galata and Taksim, is located the historic Pera area which is part of the district of Beyoglu. Traditionally, Pera was Istanbul’s diplomatic quarter and many of its original grand palaces and mansions are still in use to this day.
Beyoglu is very well-connected to the rest of Istanbul through an extensive public transportation network that includes the M2 metro line, the T1 tram line which connects the area to Karakoy and the historic district of Sultanahmet.
A funicular station connects the district to Karakoy which is located below Beyoglu. The historic tram line T2 runs along Istiklal Street and connects Pera to Taksim Square.
Best Location for a Romantic Holiday in Istanbul: Besiktas
Waterside Besiktas is one of the oldest districts in Istanbul. Home to some of the city’s finest residential neighborhoods, Besiktas is also an important business, shopping, educational and historic area, and offers scenic views of the Bosphorus strait.
The biggest attractions in the area are Dolmabahce Palace, the lively Fishermen’s Market, Ihlamur Pavilion, the Maritime Museum, Yildiz and Ciragan palaces and the scenic Yildiz Park.
The Besiktas district is also home to an important ferry hub connecting various neighborhoods on the Asian Side. The neighborhood is connected to Karakoy and Sultanahmet through the T1 Tram line.
It is connected to Taksim through the Taksim Funicular line and to the neighborhood of Ortakoy through a variety of bus lines.
Cosmopolitan & Bohemian Area to Stay in Istanbul: Cihangir
Named one of the five best places in the world to live by the British newspaper The Guardian, Cihangir is a neighborhood in the Beyoglu district. The area is home to an important community of expatriates.
As such, Cihangir is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan areas in Istanbul. The neighborhood is not serviced by the metro or tram lines, however it is a short walking distance from Galata, Taksim and Karakoy.
Best Location for Business Travelers: Sisli
Located inland and surrounded by Besiktas and Beyoglu, Sisli is one of Istanbul’s main shopping and business districts. Sisli is home to Europe’s largest shopping mall: Cevahir Istanbul. Near the Mall the neighborhood is serviced by the MetroBus, the M1 and M2 metro lines and a variety of bus lines.
Cheapest Area to Stay in Istanbul: Outer Fatih
The district of Fatih contains Istanbul’s historic area and extends beyond it to roughly match the walled city of Constantinople. Most of the attractions in Outer Fatih can be found near the walls and include the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, the Church of the Holy Saviour, the Panorama 1453 History Museum and the Dungeons Museum.
Fatih has an abundance of mid-range and budget hotels and is well connected to other neighborhoods in Istanbul. It is crossed by the Marmaray suburban line, which connects with metro lines M1 and M2 and several ferry lines at Yenikapi Station. Furthermore, Tram route T1 runs through the middle of the district and T4 offers a few stops along the Theodosian wall area.