Knowing where to stay in Istanbul can be a tough question for a visitor. Istanbul is huge and there is so much to do and see. However, there are some places that you really don’t want to stay in during your holiday, or even visit at all. This article will show you where to stay and where not to stay on your next trip to Istanbul so that you can make the most of your visit.
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The European side and the Asian side of Istanbul
Some people think that the European and Asian sides of Istanbul are vastly different in some regards. I’ve heard people say “the European side is…” or “the people on the Asian side are…” This is the furthest from the truth. Istanbul is one city and there is no distinction between the European side and the Asian side. It is one continuous city, on both sides, with no exceptions.
Should I stay on the European side or on the Asian side of Istanbul?
It really depends on your personal preference. As long as you are located near the Bosphorus, close to the cool places and historical sites, either side will suit you just fine. The most important thing is the distance of where you want to go and what you want to do.
Which areas are close to the historical sites?
Almost all of the historical sites in Istanbul are located in the central Sultanahmet district of Fatih, on the European side of Istanbul. If you stay in Sultanahmet, you will be able to walk to the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and others.
Also, you won’t be far from The Grand Bazaar and other shopping centers and traditional places to eat. If you stay in Sultanahmet, you will hotel will be within walking distance of all major attractions in the area. I also consider Sultanahmet the best area to stay in Istanbul if you are traveling with kids.
Sultanahmet area in Istanbul is best for:
- Family travel
How to get to Sultanahmet from the airport
- Take the Havaist or Havas bus to Taksim (travel time: 1-2 hours, depending on traffic)
- Take the T1 tramway from Kabatas station to Sultanahmet station (travel time: 30 min)
This district is an important cultural and historical part of Istanbul. The district is centrally located and well suited to tourism. You will find lots to do and several places to shop. It also has several transport options available, like IETT bus routes, M2 train line, and the T1 tramway. This will pretty much get you where you need to go. Taksim is also known for its vibrant nightlife offering a variety of nightclubs, bars, and fun venues that cater mostly to locals.
Taksim area in Istanbul is best for:
How to get to Taksim from the airport
- The best way to get to Taksim is to take the Havaist from Istanbul Airport or Havas from Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Both buses go directly to Taksim.
Read more about the public transport in Istanbul
#3 Karakoy & Galata
This area is famously known for Galata Tower. It is part of the greater Beyoglu district and located not too far away from Taksim and Eminonu. It is not are busy as Sultanahmet and Taksim but still offers many things to do and see. There are several cool cafes and art galleries in this area. It is within walking distance from Taksim, Galata Tower, and Eminonu. It is also located near the T1 tramway and the F2 Tunel, which is really fun to ride in.
Karakoy & Galata areas in Istanbul are best for:
- Vibes and culture
- Budget Travel
How to get to Karakoy from the airport
- Follow the steps above to go to Taksim
- Depending on where you want to go, you can walk or take the F2 Tunel or T1 Tramway to get closest to your destination
Other cool places to stay
Home to the famous Besiktas football club, Besiktas is also considered to be a business and unique cultural hub. Thus, several famous hotels are located in this area like the Conrad and Kempinski. There are several museums, Dolmabahce Palace and the iconic area of Ortakoy, which are great to visit.
Besiktas area in Istanbul is best for:
#5 Moda (Kadikoy)
This Asian side district of Kadikoy is definitely worth exploring. Though it not the first choice for tourists, it really has a lot to offer for food lovers and those that appreciate the arts. There are cool cafes, art galleries and antique stores that can feed all your nostalgia needs.
Moda area in Istanbul is best for:
- Restaurants and food
- Culture and vibes
An upscale neighborhood where the elite of Istanbul goes to play. There are several exclusive local and international designer brands based in Nasantasi. Not to mention the best of local and international cuisine. If you are serious about shopping and fine dining, then you want to be located in this district.
Nisantasi area in Istanbul is best for:
- Family travel
- Cafes and restaurants
Bonus: Places where you shouldn’t stay in Istanbul
Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world, by surface area and population. The city which is centered around the Bosphorus, extends deep on both sides into Europe and Asia respectively. However, being a city this big, you really don’t want to get stuck living in some sprawling neighborhood that has little to offer tourists.
Therefore, I have provided a list below of areas that tourists and travelers should avoid and the reason. However, if you are located within the places we previously mentioned, you are on the right track. If not, you may need to rethink your travel plans.
These are the places in Istanbul you should avoid staying in:
- Esenyurt & Beylikduzu areas in the European side of Istanbul are really far from all the main attractions in the city. Better avoid staying in these neighborhoods.
- Most of the Asian side except Kadikoy and Uskudar: The Asian Side of Istanbul is mostly a residential area and offers few sights and fewer hotels.
There is so much to do and so little time in Istanbul, usually. Therefore, you don’t want to find yourself staying in the wrong area. I have summarized the best, coolest, and most attractive areas of Istanbul for tourists and locals alike. I also included some quick tips about how to get there from the airports Hope you enjoy visiting Istanbul.
Read more about Istanbul