I adore Istanbul! Ten days was a long time to explore, plus I researched a lot ahead of time. This article will show you where to stay in Istanbul and how to get around! Plus I added a map so you can see everything laid out.
Of course, 10 days isn’t enough to “know it all” so this is just what I can share, while I’m sure there are many more great areas! I will be following up with an article on my time in each of these places.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
What’s the Best Neighborhood to Stay Istanbul?
There are so many neighborhoods in the huge city and lots of options to choose from. I’ll give you a breakdown of the Istanbul neighborhoods so you can decide.
Beyoğlu is the European side of the river, on the Eastern side, and is known for being a trendy area full of cobbled roads, great cafes, pubs, and shopping, as well as boutique hotels.
Inside Beyoğlu are the popular areas of Taksim Square a popular tourist area, Pera (Greek neighborhood), Galata (shopping area, Galata tower, also touristy), Karakoy (very cool, trendy, young), and Istiklal street (shopping street, very busy and touristy). Also in this area is Serdar-ı Ekrem, a very popular road for shopping. There are a lot of trendy boutiques. The Soho House is also in this district.
Try one of the Airbnbs in the neighborhood, like this boutique flat or this loft only 4 minutes to Taksim Square.
Şişli District and Beşiktaş
Further from the tourist attractions of Istanbul, you’ll see the Şişli District and Beşiktaş, which holds they very upscale Nişantaşı. It might look very far apart, but for example, I stayed at Hotel W in Nişantaşı and could walk to Taksim in about 30 minutes.
You could also try this feminine chic apartment or this stylish apartment.
You can go even further out. As you can see Hotel Raffles, who I visited for a spa treatment, is way out there. Next to Raffles is the newest mall in Istanbul, Zorlu Center, which is a high-end designer mall with delicious food court!
It took about 20 minutes via Uber to get from the Raffles back down near Galata to Kilic Ali Pasa Hamamni where I met a friend. Even further out in Şişli is Bebek, which is known for its pastel-colored Ottoman Empire restored homes.
On the other part of the European side is Sultanahmet, which is the #1 area for tourism in Istanbul as it holds the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, and the movie-famous Basilica Cistern. You can stay here, but it’s a little more expensive in this area for shopping and food. By a little, I mean instead of a 6 Lira ($2) kebab, you could spend 16 Lira ($5). It doesn’t seem like much but you are basically going to double your food and drink costs while here.
Sultanahmet is very close to the Grand Bazaar. I think it was two stops on the tram and about 10 minutes. If you stay in the Beyoğlu area and head to Sultanahmet, you’ll take the tram right through Galata and the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, making it really easy to stop and see everything.
If you stay in Sultanahmet, try Hotel Sultanahmet, which has views of the mosque, or this chic, luxury flat.
Your last place to consider is the Asian side of the strait. Personally, I wouldn’t do it your first couple days in Istanbul, but once you get yourself grounded, it’s really not a big deal to cross the river. I went to Sumahan on the Water for lunch via their free ferry and it was SO worth it. Üsküdar is the cool area over there which you can see the whole of if you zoom out. Check out here what tourist attractions you can see on the Asian side. This website is also helpful in showing the ferry schedules.
If you stay in Üsküdar, try this cool penthouse or this fully restored residence.
The Bosphorus Strait actually does divide Istanbul into two continents. Taking a ferry ride at sunset is a big tourist attraction and if you stay on the Asian side, you can spend a lot of time on the water anyways!
Overall it seems to me Sultanahmet is the place with all the tourist attractions, Beyoğlu comes in second with things to do and see, then the Asian side, then going way out toward Bebek if you have a lot of time!
I know this is a lot of information to take in- but use the map and the stars and get a feel of the area before you go. It’s so worth it. It will save you time once you’re there by planning ahead and you’ll be staying at a hotel in the area you choose!
Top Places to Stay in Istanbul By Area
I stayed in two hotels in Istanbul and visited two hotels for their spa, and one for dinner. A few are ones that were on my well-researched list of places I was considering staying. All of these are top-notch awesome choices, with stats showing they are some of the best hotels in Istanbul. I hope you have found out where to stay in Istanbul from this article.
- Hotel Ibrahim Pasha – I stayed 4 nights. It was THE BEST with morning coffee on the rooftop looking at the Blue Mosque. Full review to come. Book here
- The Stay Galata (Çukurcuma)- fantastic old house modernized, with a unique bathroom setup!
- Witt Istanbul Suites (Galata)- for modern apartment life
- Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah (Pera)- Jumeirah do the best hotels in the world, and this one is very famous.
- Gezi Hotel Bosphorus (Taksim)- STUNNING views from these rooms… just amazing!
- George’s Hotel Galata (Galata)- modernized in a classic building with stunning views
- Ravouna 1906 Suites (Taksim)- another one with a view
Top Hotels on Asian Side in Üsküdar
- Sumahan on the Water (Üsküdar)– The best hotel on this side of the river according to everyone I spoke to. I ate here and the food was insanely good.
- Ajia Hotel (Üsküdar)- also meant to be awesome & looks stunning
Top hotels in Şişli and Beşiktaş
- W Hotel (Nişantaşı)- Stayed here 3 nights. Amazing atmosphere, very hip, awesome area of town to walk around
- The Sofa (Nişantaşı)- very sleek and upscale, sort of business looking hotel
How to Get Around Istanbul
The tram system in Istanbul is amazing. I am terrible about public transportation being from Ohio and even I found it so easy to navigate.
You buy a toke for 4 lira (a little over a dollar) from a machine near the stop and then use that token to get to the entrance of the tram. They come every few minutes and in my experiences were never overcrowded.
I loved taking the tram around and it saves so much time from being in traffic. Because transportation was a breeze, you should not be too stressed about where to stay in Istanbul because if you can get to any area of the city quite easily and affordably.
Taxis in Istanbul have a bad reputation of ripping people off. If you take a taxi or “taksi” it’s best to make sure they use the meter then follow on your phone’s GPS to see if they are going the right way. There are many one-way roads in Istanbul and drivers often take their own way which is faster, so don’t necessarily assume you are being ripped off if they veer off course.
By far the easier way for me to get around was Uber. I re-downloaded the app when I arrived and found it much cheaper than taxi driver rates. I used it around 10 times and only spent $60 all together.
I did a test by asking a driver a rate for to my hotel and got him down on price to 25-30 Lira. I told him nevermind and took an Uber which cost me 15 Lira ($5 USD), so it seems Uber is the best. It is an easy app to use as well! Download Uber here for iPhone and Android.
The other car service I tried was Black Lane who is all over Europe. I had vouchers for them so booked two rides, one of which was to the airport when I left. They sent a driver in a suit and very fancy car to pick you up. It’s all very business class! They also sent emails saying who the driver would be and when he was outside the hotel. It’s more expensive than Uber, but you get a more luxurious experience and you know they’ll show up whereas sometimes your Uber driver gets lost or cancels your car request.
When you want to go to the other side of the river, the “Asian” side, you can use a ferry. Ferry services are in too many places to mention. Some hotels and restaurants offer a free ferry. There are also water taxis in Istanbul but they are very expensive.
Another way to go across the river is under it via the metro. I did this to save time as the ferries stopped due to the wind and the traffic on the bridge above was a standstill. It took about 5 minutes and shot me out right at a tram stop on the other side.
Take a little look at this to familiarize yourself before you read up on which area you want to stay. To give you an idea on Uber ride costs: a ride from Nişantaşı to Sultanahmet cost 17 Lira ($6). So if you’re worried about getting around and being far from tourist attractions, keep in mind Uber is affordable and the trams are very affordable and easy.
I’ve pinned all the neighborhoods I mention below plus a couple of hotels just as reference points so you can get an idea of where to stay in Istanbul on your trip.
Read More Tips for Istanbul
Have you been to Istanbul? Do you have any tips on where to stay in Istanbul? Let me know!
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Really concise Rachel, some great options here. I loved Istanbul so much when we visited for 7 days in Jan 2008, although we were on a teeny budget and stayed in a hostel in Sulthanamet. I liked staying in that area as it was central to everything I wanted to see. It snowed, making it surprisingly cold, something I wasn’t expecting, and meaning I consumed vast amounts of apple tea!
I brought back apple tea for a friend :) Some Turkish people told me, they don’t drink it – they just sell it to tourists and only drink black tea! How crazy
I love this post Rachel!
I’ve only been to Istanbul once and it was actually on my way to India! I only spent 48 hours on the stop-over via Turkish Airlines.
I can’t remember which side I was on but probably the Turkish side as nobody but the hotel staff spoke English lol!
They were great though and really looked after me as I was travelling solo and just wanted to see everything! I was really impressed and hope I can go back again very soon for a much longer period of time!
That’s awesome the airline has that program. I didn’t know! I think Iceland does too. You’ll have to go back some day :)
I have been wanting to go to Istanbul for so long. I’m so jealous of your trip and I can’t wait to read more about it! It definitely looks like you made the most of your 10 days there :)
I covered so much in 10 days! I actually tend to see and do more when I travel alone than when I’m with someone. It was a blast! & with my xmas present Kindle I kept occupied at meals on my own haha
I loved Istanbul! I actually had the privilege to stay at Sumahan on the water and it was incredible! I also stayed at Bankerhan by The Sofa which was equally amazing, you should check it out! :) Great article!
Sumahan was so gorg! I only had lunch there but will totally stay there next time! Love it.
I will read it in full and will reply to you, but looks an excellent write up.
I’m going in June and I am interested in booking through one of your links. What’s the best bang for buck of the links you offered? My friend and I will be on a budget. Thanks for saving me some clicking!
That is a hard choice! I really want to stay at SUmahan when I go back but it’s pricey – 2nd maybe Witts because its amazing and Galata is a good area to be for shopping!
Hi, I’m new to your post and I love it!! I travel a lot as well, I like to hear were your going and what you do. I just came back from Andorra, skiing trip. On the 7th I’m off to Iceland for four nights, I know it’s one of your to-do list, I hope you make it out there one day.
Oh wow sounds amazing!! Enjoy every minute – I’m jealous!
Absolutely love love love your blog! I have been following it for a long time now. I just left Goa after spending a month there and now in Istanbul for 10 days, so you couldn’t have blogged about Istanbul at a better time! Thanks for these posts, can’t wait to visit all the places you have mentioned xxxxxxx
Omgsh that is awesome timing! I have a couple more posts coming up about Istanbul as well: the hotel review of where I stayed today, a shopping one next week, and then a look inside all the tourist spots! :) hope you have a blast!
first of all, I like your blog, its really cool and inspiring!
I have a little curiosity here, there are 2 pics you took overlooking Bosphrus and I guess is yeni camii? May I know where is that wonderful rooftop! :P
I’m travelling in sept and would be booking a house through airbnb. which area would you suggest us to stay in? pls let me know..thanks :)
Just found our your blog. I will be in Istanbul final week of March 2019.
This is my first visit. Should i book hotel at Taksim or Fatih?
Nice suggestions and review.
I’m heading to Istanbul next month and found this breakdown really helpful as I wasn’t sure where to stay. Thanks :)
HI Rachel, love reading your articles on Istanbul. We were just wondering what month you were there? We will be there the first 2 weeks of November this year with out 3 yr old and 10 month old. Ive heard mixed reviews all over the internet of what the weather will be at that time. Are we naive to think it is just going to be jumper and jeans weather?
Thanks for sharing