Istanbul is one of the largest metropolises in the world and is rich in accommodation. There is something special and worth seeing in every corner of the city, but where should you stay to get the most out of your trip? This guide highlights the 5 best places to stay in Istanbul for the ultimate experience, going into more details such as public transportation, things to do, and the pros and cons of the areas. This guide will help you find the best place to stay in Istanbul based on your needs and wants!
Best neighborhoods in Istanbul to stay for the first time
Why you should stay in Sultanahmet:
Sultanahmet is the most important and popular touristic area of Istanbul. It is often the first choice of foreign tourists with its historical buildings, architectural wonders, museums and different opportunities from shopping to eating and drinking within its borders. It is home to many places such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, which are among the most important historical addresses of the world. Hotels in Sultanahmet are attractive for a wide range of people. It is a good place for couples, families, solo travelers and groups of friends to enjoy Istanbul.
Public transportation from Sultanahmet:
The Sultanahmet area is considered to have good public transportation facilities. Public transportation is provided by tram lines connecting Sultanahmet to other tourist areas, metro lines and transfer facilities to the Asian side. There are usually enough taxis in the area, but you can also reach many tourist attractions within walking distance. Many streets in Sultanahmet are not accessible by car or have high traffic density. We recommend using public transportation or walking.
When you land at Istanbul Airport on the European side, you can easily get to Sultanahmet with the municipal shuttle buses. The bus line is 12 and takes approximately 90 minutes. For more information on how to get from the airport to the city center, click here.
Things to do in Sultanahmet:
The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Gulhane Park, Bukoleon Palace, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul Archaeological Museums and many other historical buildings that are considered must-see sights in Istanbul are located in the Sultanahmet area.
Pros of staying in Sultanahmet:
If you want to stay in a historical area and be as close as possible to historical buildings to visit in Istanbul, hotels in Sultanahmet are the best places to stay for you.
Con’s of staying in Sultanahmet:
There are no cons to staying in Sultanahmet. It is an area most visited by tourists. You won’t find many locals there and this can be seen in the slightly higher prices in that area. But if you want to be in the heart of the historical center, Sultanahmet is the place for you.
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Why you should stay in Taksim
Taksim is one of the most popular areas of Istanbul. Although the historical texture and atmosphere of the past is gone, Taksim is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in Istanbul. Today it is the most vibrant area of Istanbul day and night and offers excellent opportunities for culture, entertainment, shopping, eating and drinking and much more. Taksim is also known for its many clubs and bars. You can find the best of them in the alleyways and on the rooftops overlooking the Bosphorus.
Public transportation from Taksim:
Taksim is located in a central part of Istanbul and you can reach all major public transportation within walking distance. Taksim has a metro line, nostalgic tram, bus station and tunnel trams. When you stay in Taksim, you are well connected to all tourist attractions and other neighborhoods. Taksim is a convenient starting point for exploring Istanbul. There are also shuttle buses running directly to Taksim from both Sabiha Gökçen Airport and Istanbul Airport. You can find more information on how to get from the airport to the city center in our Istanbul airport transfer guide.
Things to do in Taksim:
Istiklal Street, which stretches from Taksim Square to Sishane, is the most popular place to see in Taksim. You can take the historic tram that runs along the street or walk among the 19th-century buildings lined up side by side to find antique shops, stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars. Some of the places you should visit in Taksim are the Historic Flower Passage, Madame Tussauds Museum, St. Antuan Church, Pera Museum, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Galata Tower, Museum of Innocence, SALT Beyoğlu, Nevizade and Asmalı Mescit. Taksim also has an active nightlife and is a popular place for shopping.
Pros of staying in Taksim:
If you are looking for good clubs, bars and parties, Taksim is the place to stay. There is always something going on and you will find full clubs even on weekdays. Nightlife is your biggest plus here. Especially in Pera, Galata and Odakule, you can feel the nostalgic and historical atmosphere of Taksim more. Since Taksim is a busy place, the variety of hotels is quite high. Whether you are looking for a luxury hotel, air BnB or hostel, there is accommodation to suit every need.
Cons of staying in Taksim:
First of all, stay away from Tarlabaşı. It is an area where it is not safe to walk alone even during the day. If you don’t like crowds and are looking for a quieter place, you should avoid staying in Taksim. There are many venues playing loud music all night long and you are extremely likely to hear it in your hotel room. Families with children should look elsewhere to stay in Istanbul.
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Why you should stay in Sirkeci
Sirkeci is one of the most historic districts of Istanbul with its historical bazaars, pleasant streets and architectural textures. Located in the area called the Historical Peninsula, Sirkeci is ideal for those who love lively and vibrant areas. You can discover the spirit of Istanbul by staying in Eminönü and Sirkeci with its historical places, shopping opportunities and impressive eating and drinking alternatives.
Things to do in Sirkeci :
Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, Grand Valide Han, Suleymaniye Mosque, New Mosque and many other places worth seeing will be waiting for you in Sirkeci.
Public transportation in Sirkeci:
Eminönü and Sirkeci are the most convenient places in terms of transportation. You can easily reach many places by bus, sea transportation, Marmaray and minibuses. You can choose between the ferry or Marmaray to get to the Asian side, or you can walk over the Galata Bridge to Karaköy and Kabataş. Sultanahmet and Beyazit are also easily accessible within walking distance from Eminönü & Sirkeci.
Pros of staying in Sirkeci:
Sirkeci is one of the best places to stay if you want to explore the whole city. It is the connection point of the most important public transportation. In addition, you will find everything you need in terms of authentic Turkish cuisine, souvenirs and sightseeing in the immediate area.
Con’s of staying in Sirkeci:
If you don’t like people and vehicle traffic, staying in Sirkeci might not be a good option for you. This area can be very busy as it is very central and has a lot to offer. However, if you do not have a problem with these issues and are looking for a central hotel in Istanbul, Sirkeci will be a good option for you.
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Why you should stay in Galata:
With its boutique hotels and picturesque streets, Galata is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Istanbul. Especially restaurant and cultural texture enthusiasts will pay their dues in this quaint neighborhood.
Known not only for being home to Istanbul’s Galata Tower, but also for its historical streets and unique buildings, Galata is one of the most remarkable districts of Beyoğlu. It is possible to rent exquisite apartments and authentic boutique hotels in Galata, which has made a great leap forward in recent years.
Public transport in Galata
Galata is a neighborhood adjacent to Taksim and is well connected to other areas with bus and metro stations within walking distance. It is also possible to walk to areas such as Taksim, Eminönü or Karaköy, but be aware that you will need to walk uphill back to your accommodation in Galata. There is no direct shuttle bus from the airport to Galata, but you can catch an airport shuttle to the city center and take a taxi or metro to Galata. Read more about the transfer from the airport.
Things to do in Galata
Probably the most attractive thing you can do in Galata is to climb the Galata Tower and enjoy the view of Istanbul from the top of the city. There are many bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs and boutiques on the streets surrounding the Galata neighborhood. Walking the streets and looking for souvenirs or having a Turkish coffee is a pleasant activity. Don’t miss the famous Serdar-ı Ekrem Street and Galip Dede Street. These streets have become much more popular with tourists and locals in recent years, with a variety of souvenir shops, art galleries and boutique hotels opening on them.
Pros of staying in Galata
One of the best things about staying in Galata is that you are close to Istiklal Street, Eminonu and Sultanahmet. After going down the Komando Stairs and crossing the Galata Bridge, you are in Eminönü. You can easily walk from Eminönü to Sultanahmet in 15-20 minutes. Whether you are looking for a traditional Turkish restaurant or a wine house, in Galata you are in the culinary center of the city and have the chance to discover different flavors every day.
Cons of staying in Galata :
Attracting many local and foreign tourists, Galata is the place to go for Turkish movie productions and is home to not only the famous Galata Tower but also many popular restaurants and cafes. For this reason, it can get really crowded here. If you don’t like the crowds, you should avoid staying in Galata. Sometimes the street leading to Galata Tower is so crowded that you cannot even walk. It is usually more crowded in the summer months.
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Why you should stay in Ortaköy
Ortaköy is located in Beşiktaş and is known for its picturesque view of the Bosphorus. With its seafront location, quaint streets, restaurants and shopping opportunities, it is one of the most preferred areas for tourists. In recent years, its reputation has increased even more with its venues, seafront location and bohemian atmosphere, and tourists come from miles away just to see this place.
Public transport in Ortaköy
Depending on what you expect from your trip to Istanbul, Ortakoy can be a handicap when it comes to public transportation. The main way to get from Ortakoy to places like Taksim or Sultanahmet is by bus or taxi. Buses and taxis pass through Ortakoy frequently, but during rush hour it can be impossible to get anywhere else without getting stuck in a traffic jam for at least an hour. Especially on weekends and evenings Ortaköy can be busy. Unfortunately, there is no metro or tram line within walking distance of Ortaköy.
Things to do in Ortaköy:
One thing is for sure, if you stay in Ortaköy, you will get plenty of sea air and have the chance to enjoy the Bosphorus view around every corner. The main attractions in Ortakoy are visiting the Ortakoy mosque and taking a Bosphorus tour. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops and cafes in the surrounding area. At the entrance of Ortaköy you will find Kumpir shops selling Kumpir, a delicious Turkish street food made from large potatoes stuffed with sauces. You can head to Besiktas and visit Dolmabahce Palace, the Maritime Museum and many more tourist attractions in Besiktas.
Pros of staying in Ortaköy:
Every morning of your stay you will wake up to an amazing sea view and be surrounded by beautiful shops and great restaurants. Ortakoy is a very special place on the Bosphorus and offers you an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else.
Cons of staying in Ortaköy:
Ortakoy is probably the most beautiful neighborhood in Besiktas and spoils you with amazing views of the Bosphorus. Unfortunately, Ortakoy is not that well connected to other tourist destinations in Istanbul. The main means of transportation here are buses and taxis, which is not very convenient considering the traffic jams in Istanbul.