Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

For five trips to Istanbul, I went from a great dislike to a constant sympathy for the city and a desire to return. I went through the districts of Istanbul until I realized that you can not suffer from noise, traffic, ubiquitous kebabs and routes through the markets, but start your day like in the best houses in Europe – on a nice terrace with a cup of latte with a bite of Benedict.

Istanbul is as different as it is huge: almost 40 districts within the city limits. I won't describe each; this text is, rather, a summary of my practical research on the topic “Which area of ​​Istanbul is better to stay in.” For the first time, to be beautiful or just for a pleasant experience. But I will also pay a little attention to those places that are chosen for long stays or residence permits.

What hotels did we stay in?

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Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for tourists? Our guide

I like to read articles in blogs about cities that are still unfamiliar to me and take note of the hotels where the author was. And if the photos are also beautiful, and the budget is acceptable, then the recommendations have a great chance of being executed. This makes it easier to find accommodation, especially in cities like Istanbul – which has grown into an incredible number of hotels, guest houses, hostels and unstarred hotels of dubious quality.

  • Plus, it should be borne in mind that during the pandemic and subsequent events of 2022, Turkey has become one of the most popular anti-crisis routes – both for tourism (because it is open, planes fly) and for “waiting for a while” (because it is inexpensive ). The metaphors “flies away like pies” and “flies into space” closely go hand in hand with local housing.

Let me leave a list of hotels in Istanbul, tested by my pickiness, which at the same time was restrained by the “toad” , which does not allow you to pay a higher budget per night than in Europe. You can return after exploring the areas and try on hotels for yourself:

1. Lina Hotels Taksim Pera (Istiklal) – an architecturally remarkable building with a commemorative plaque and small but bohemian stylish rooms, like you are an intellectual who arrived in Istanbul on the Orient Express in the sixties. It's nice to be, it's nice to fall asleep, it's nice to go down the vintage stairs. 10 minutes walk to Taksim Square (starting point to the airport), 3 minutes to the main tourist street Istiklal.

2. Cheers Midtown (between Galata and Dzhihangir) – strictly speaking, this is a hostel. But there are full-fledged separate rooms for two – and here they are good for their price. The location is super, it can be attributed to Galata, and Cihangir, and Karakoy, and around the corner – the best coffee in Istanbul at Probador Colectiva.

3. Taksim Nacre Residence (Taksim) – Close to the Galata Tower and other central attractions. The hotel is located on a real Turkish street with all the components: night chasing children, noisy aunts, mopeds always scurrying back and forth and songs of muezzins. There is a Suite room with an attic and an open view of the city, I advise you to book it, especially since the prices do not bite at all.

4. Diamond Royal Hotel (Sultanahmet) – for those who want to upgrade their vacation class and have a Turkish bath and sauna freely available.

What areas are there in Istanbul?

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for tourists? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

< p>First things first, Istanbul is divided into Europe and Asia. And they are separated by the Bosphorus, not the Golden Horn (as I used to think).

On the European coastThere are many more districts that are interesting for tourists, including: the ancient Sultanahmet, the shopping Laleli, the prestigious Besiktas, the authentically shabby Balat, the multi-storey Sisli, the colorful Eminonu and the fish Bebek. The division of the city into districts can be mastered endlessly. One district flows into another, capturing part of the third.

On the Asian sideThere are two main districts: Kadikoy and Uskudar. You can get to the Asian side through the Bosphorus via the July 15 Martyrs Road Bridge (not the most positive name given after the coup attempt in 2016), by metro or by ferry.

The areas of Istanbul where it is better for a tourist to stay are :

  • Historic Fatih (Sultanahmet, Eminonu)
  • Hipster Beyoglu (Cihangir, Pera, Taksim, Istiklal, Galata)

But since they are too large in size, they usually distinguish, so to speak, microdistricts – I have highlighted in brackets especially nice and suitable for short trips.

Istanbul, which is interesting for temporary relocation, long-term residence, these are the areas:

  • Besiktas
  • Bebek
  • Sisli
  • Asian Uskudar and Kadikoy

If you plan to apply for a residence permit for a long-term apartment rental, study the areas “closed” for such a process (for example, they definitely exist in Sisli).

The map of Istanbul is striking in the size of the city. The main tourist sites are located off the coast of the Golden Horn. The farther inland the continents, the more skyscrapers, boxes of new buildings and private houses of different social statuses will flash by. I advise you to devote as much time as possible to studying the central part of Istanbul and the markets – these are the most colorful places in the city. Moreover, even these parts are impressive in scale.

Sultanahmet

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

The most photographed and most popular district in Istanbul. The center is, if not geographical, then spiritual. Sultanahmet is located between the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of ​​Marmara. It is for the sake of local sights that tourists from all over the world come to the city:

  • Blue Mosque
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Suleimaniye Mosque

You can get to the “Old Town” along the Galata Bridge, and you can walk around the area endlessly. Many side streets and lanes, antiquities left over from the time of Constantinople, and hundreds of mosques for every taste.

In general, it is very easy to be in Sultanahmet (and this is not related to the above names). The fact is that most of the cheapest hotels are located in this part of the city – hostels, hotels, Turkish “otel” without the letter “h” below $25 per night. Actually, at first I didn’t like Istanbul precisely because I stayed in Sultanahmet. I was perplexed, well, who can like the crowd, the atmosphere of the bazaars, shouting and tripping over carts with chestnuts, which are generally found in this Istanbul …

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Now I am here only if I need to introduce friends to the city or take photos for a blog. And I try not to linger. Being hungry in Sultanahmet is my fear, because all the time I found only a couple of good places: Kral Kokorec Sirkeci or Eminonu Gala Kokorec(try “kokorech” but google what it is first) and Coffeetopia Eminonu.

Pros:

+ cheap
+ centrally
+ sightseeing-rich
+ Eminenu port, from where you can sail anywhere by ferry
+ bazaars where you can buy souvenirs and Turkish delight
+ no steep descents-ascents
p>

Cons:

– noisy
– extremely crowded, perpetual motion
– less beautiful than Istanbul can be

About Sultanahmet in a nutshell:The main sights of the city are right around the corner. You can go to the opening and take first place in the long lines at the entrance. But the noise, din, the cycle of tourists and merchants eager for them will accompany you throughout your vacation. For a short stopover in Istanbul, it's good, for 2-3 days or more, if there is no budget issue, I would choose another area.

Cheap hotels in Sultanahmet &gt ;>

Cihangir

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

< p>Continuing the final thought of the last section, would I choose Jihangir! This is the Istanbul that will be remembered for many things – aesthetics and neatness, breakfasts on the terraces, silence and unhurriedness, beautiful people, a touch of ✨bohemianism✨, creativity and Europeanness.

Cihangir is furnished with houses in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles , on the first floors of which there are numerous cafes, stylish bars, coffee houses, antique shops, galleries. Not a district, but a jewelry box!

  • Even the local supermarket is not just called Carrefour (a popular chain in Turkey), but with the prefix Gourmet 🙂

Cihangir is located on a hill, and renting a cozy, sun-drenched apartment on the top floor overlooking the bay is a great idea and easy to implement. But for a lot of money. However, in Jihangir you can just drop in for breakfast and dinner, staying in the adjacent more budgetary area.

I do not agree with the boundaries of the area indicated on Google maps. They don't even include a mosque named Jihangir, isn't that strange? But you can navigate by institutions. I highly recommend:

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

  • coffee shops Norm Coffee, Gramaj, Kronotrop Cihangir, Espressolab Cihangir (this one is primarily for gatherings with a laptop, the coffee is mediocre)
  • breakfast places Cuppa, Van Kahvalti Evi, Cuma, and in general, any in the area
  • Turkish cuisine diamonds at Keyfeder Kunefe Katmer (katmer), Doyum Café Manti (Turkish dumplings), Tomtom Kebab (kebab, but restaurant level), Baran (lahmajun )
  • bars 22 Restorant Bar + would love to hear your suggestions

Pros:< /p>

+ the first and second paragraphs about them
+ the whole area is one attraction
+ many establishments with familiar food

Cons:

– steep descents and ascents! in the heat it's a test…
— expensive housing
— few hotels, you need to rent an apartment

About Cihangir in brief: Once you try it, it’s impossible to exchange it for another area!

Karakoy )

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for tourists? Our guide

Karakoy has it all. All the attributes of a well-fed tourist life – from cafes with cheap shawarma to decent restaurants, from the bar street to several famous attractions. I would definitely write it down in the best areas of Istanbul for tourists.

  • Karakoy is stretched along the port on the other side of the mosques, and it has a very advantageous location – here is the bridge to Sultanahmet, here is the pedestrian climb or funicular to Galata, Istiklal is only 10 minutes away.

But there are a few busy roads running through the area, so ear horns and screeching brakes are everywhere.

How to make a temporary home in Karaköy even better? I have a whole list ready!

— There are many hotels here, but if you need one recommendation, the hotel that only adds dopamine with beautiful interiors and does not cause nerve cells to waste with controversial service is Sub Hotel Karakoy.

– What to note on the map from the sights: the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, the old covered funicular from Karakoy station to Beyoglu station, Galata Bridge, the embankment overlooking the mosques to Ataturk Bridge, and in the other direction – the brand new Galataport Istanbul promenade, built for “needs” cruise ships (so that tourists leave their money without going too deep into the city :))

– My favorite places are hiding in the nooks of Karakoy: Kronotrop Karakoy coffee shop (a good place to work with a laptop, and on the second floor right corner of the writer), Karakoy Corba Evi (for lentil soup), Balik Durum Mehmet Usta (ekmek balyk), Koskeroglu Karakoy (best baklavic, take pistachio with kaimak), Namli Gurme(Turkish breakfasts all day).

Pros:

+ you can cross the Galata Bridge on foot and find yourself on the other side of the city
+ long embankment, pleasant for walking
+ many cafe-restaurants
+ a whole bar street
+ inexpensive housing

Cons:

– always lively and that's why it's noisy

About Karakoy in brief: A less attractive, but more budgetary, active and not inferior in terms of infrastructure alternative to Cihangir.

Galata

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Galata is an area near the Galata Tower , an Istanbul landmark, visible from everywhere. For those who come to Istanbul not only for impressions, but also for shopping, I would advise you to stay here.

  • Personally, I remember Galata as an area for shopping (but shopping is local, for everything else there is Zorlu Center). Shops for locals, tourist shops with souvenirs, cafes where you can relax between races.

What is the advantage of living near the Galata Tower? It is also in the middle of everything – and you can go down to the bridge, and it won’t take long to walk to Taksim. If you like a hotel in these parts, why not? But keep in mind that the tower stands on a hill that you have to climb every time you go home.

Directly opposite the tower is the restaurant Saltbae, the chef who salts the dish in a special manner. The restaurant is unreasonably expensive (and in general, if you look at the prices of food and souvenirs, this is the most expensive area in Istanbul), so you can also consider establishments from the previous sections, they are all nearby.

There are several interesting points near Galata that I haven't explored yet:

Guney Restaurant serving breakfast overlooking the Galata Tower,
Viyana Kahvesi Galata, who happens to be visited because of the reference serving of the San Sebastian cheesecake; this is a really popular dessert throughout Turkey, you can try it in any cafe, so I wonder what the secret of this place is,
SALT Galata or a modern space with coffee, exhibitions and coworking in the building a former bank that remains a vault and views of the Bosphorus from the upper floors,
Old Java Coffee Roasters with excellent coffee quality,
Kamondo Stairs or one of the many ways to get up to the tower, but this one in particular stands out for its photogenic Art Nouveau and historical heritage (it was built by a local wealthy man in the mid-1800s).

Pros:

+ still in the center
+ not to get lost, the tower is always in sight
+ nice neighborhood

Cons:

– the number of people is comparable to Sultanahmet
– no matter where you go, you always need to climb uphill to the area of ​​the Galata Tower

About Galata in a nutshell: Just fine, there is nothing remarkable that would hook, besides the tower.

Taksim and Istiklal (Istiklal)

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Taksim Square is the main square of the city. In terms of significance, it can be compared with Red Square in Moscow, only without government buildings.

Taksim is the first thing you see at the exit if you decide to get from the airport on the Havabus buses (express route). From here you can get to anywhere in Istanbul by any mode of transport. Apart from the ferries, of course. There is a metro station, a bus station, a tram, and here the main walking street of Istiklal city begins – or ends, depending on where you go.

Istiklal and Taksim are the cradles of budget housing in Istanbul. Often because something is wrong with hotels or inns: either “bugs”, then the walls are transparent, then a bar under the windows, calming down in the morning. But here are good earplugs for you, and you save $20 a night :)) Sometimes I make such a compromise – the location is great.

What's interesting in the area:

  • U2 Irish Pub — the Irishman pours Guinness and is always ready to chat for a sweet soul
  • Asmali Durumcu — I don't really like shawarma (or locally “durum”), but here it is not bad in taste and size, and the lentil soup is generally excellent
  • Espressolab Istiklal– a huge, three-story coworking! For some unknown reason, the coffee shop has become a meeting place for Istanbul students and telecommuting foreigners
  • Kitabevi Café — coffee shop-bookshop in the next building from Espressolab; freelancers also wander in here, but due to crowding and subdued light, they do not linger
  • Ali Baba Bufe is a good cafe for fast Pakistani food

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for tourists? Our guide

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Pros:

+ second (or first?) the center of Istanbul
+ a lot of inexpensive housing
+ you can go anywhere by metro, buses, trams
+ sightseeing areas of Istanbul
+ a lot of entertainment

Cons:< /strong>

– 24/7 traffic, sometimes it’s scary to go to Istiklal
— many hotels and apartments of dubious quality (at least with the thinnest walls through which you can hear everything)
— noisy

About the district in a nutshell: Between Sultanahmet and Taksim-Istiklal, I would choose the second one – a healthy person is within easy reach of calm Istanbul.

Besiktas ( Besiktas)

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

When I first came to Besiktas, literally from the taxi window, I noticed how much the atmosphere had changed. These slightly vulgar “bars” have turned into stylish establishments, the public has become entirely local, Chinese souvenir shops have turned into small designer shops, even parks, squares, large supermarkets have flashed by.

I can’t write about Besiktas for a long time, as well as about other “sleeping” areas like Bebek, Sisli, Nisantasi. My knowledge of them ends at brunches with fellow residence permit holders and the latter's stories about local life. Life, they say, is comfortable – away from tourists and attractions, but with all the infrastructure at hand. Plus, they attract adequate prices for long-term rentals.

And you can cross over for a cup of coffee, brunch or a serving of sushi in Besiktas here:

  • Hygge Coffee Shop, Sunday Coffee Bar and amazing coffee at Petra Topagaci
  • Grandma
  • Sushi&Spice

Pros:

+ many options for long term rentals
+ cheaper hotels
+ quieter life

Cons:

– hardly suitable for a tourist: too far from the center

About Besiktas in brief:Local life with the same abundance of cafes and restaurants, but far from attractions. When you first need to rebuild life, without looking at the city and its iconic places.

Balat

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Take a look at this area of ​​Istanbul if you are interested in the culture of the communities that lived here in the past and the century before last. Steep climbs, colorful houses (Merdivenli Yokus Evleri and Colored Houses of Balat locations) and cozy cafes – this is what the Balat area is famous for. There are also a LOT of cats here.

Balat and the nearby Greek Fener have not become popular walking routes. There are much fewer tourists here than in the Galata region. Even despite the fact that in terms of atmosphere Balat is in no way inferior to its competitor. The taste and color, but it seems to me that it is in this area that the most beautiful places in Istanbul are located.

There are many good cafes in Balat with an emphasis on vintage, antiques and past centuries. What I can advise:

  • Rota Balat Coffee is an atmospheric establishment, warm and comfortable, especially when it rains
  • Café Naftalin K is the name of the top! cafe too
  • Velvet Café
  • Coffee Department is a good coffee shop

Honestly, I would take a tour of such a colorful area – to really understand it, and not run with your heels flashing at the first hint of the slums (a brief retelling of the history of acquaintance with the area from my friend :)).

Pros:< /p>

+ cheap, unusual, definitely not a city showcase

Cons:

– unpopular, but completely refined tourists will be completely frightened by homelessness and dilapidation
– far away

Asia: Kadıköy & Üsküdar)

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide< /p>

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

< p>Kadikoy is famous for its beaches, which I will discuss below, and Uskudar is famous for its mosques. In general, Istanbul Asia is somewhat reminiscent of the sleeping areas of Barcelona (like San Marti).

Here, on the Asian side, stands the most modern mosque in the world Chamlydzha. Inside the complex is not only a mosque, but also a museum, a gallery, a library, a parking lot, a bomb shelter and a conference room. Interestingly, the architects of the project of the most modern, and according to some estimates, the largest mosque in Turkey were two women – Bahar Mizrak and Khairie Gul Totu. Everyone is allowed into it, regardless of religion, but they require respect for decency and Muslim norms, which is logical.

The Asian side of Istanbul remains little explored by many travelers. You can correct this oversight by taking a tour of the districts with a Russian-speaking local guide.

Pros:

+ an ideal sleeping area near high water, moderately calm, in moderately saturated with cafe-restaurants
+ embankment for walking

Cons:

– getting to the center takes a decent proportion of time, albeit by ferry

p>

My Istanbul tips and opinions

Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

Walking around Istanbul will be at the top of your travels, provided that you explore the city with your feet. Each district is a separate city with its own soul. Of course, it is impossible to get around it all in a few days. To get to know the city more deeply, you need to spend as many days as possible here. Istanbul is changeable, friendly in places, intimidating in places. But isn't that the point of traveling?

Where to look for accommodation in Istanbul?

If you are wondering where is the best place to stay in Istanbul, then my advice to tourists is as follows:

< ul>

  • Don't stop in the Asian part of the city. All the sights are collected in Europe, and it is inconvenient to take a ferry every day to walk around the central districts of Istanbul.
  • If you want to stay in the center of Istanbul, but on a budget, choose areas closer to Istiklal Street, pay attention to Galata. Pop, but very comfortable and beautiful.
  • The most prestigious area of ​​Istanbul is Besiktas. Living here is expensive, but walking is safe even at night.
  • Sultanahmet tourist area is famous for its luxury hotels, but be careful when choosing. Walking through the narrow streets, we stumbled upon the Palestinian quarter, where it was uncomfortable.
  • There are also quite exotic areas. For example, in the Arnavutköy area (not to be confused with the area of ​​the same name on the banks of the Golden Horn), you can look at many old carved houses that stand out against the background of the architecture of the rest of Istanbul. Such houses are called wooden mansions-yaly. Or here is the Princes' Islands – a conditional area of ​​​​Istanbul for relaxing by the sea.

    From the services for finding accommodation, if you are without a foreign card and cannot use Booking, I recommend:

    • Island
    • or Yandex,Travel

    In principle, they are like Booking – detailed reviews of tourists and adequate photos will help you make the right choice.

    Which excursions are worth trying in Istanbul?

    Districts in Istanbul: where to stay for a tourist? Our guide

    As I mentioned in previous articles about Istanbul, the best tours in Istanbul are the ferry tours. Just drive along the route from Eminonu Pier to Besiktas or Asia and watch the city from the water.

    And walking around the city can be done in the company of a guide, especially since Istanbul itself has become the center of cool author's excursions from local Russian-speaking residents — look how beautiful everything is (and with reviews!) on the Tripster website:

    Price and description of popular excursions in Istanbul:< /p>

    ♥ Photo walk through the original Balat Individual for 1-3 people,
    130 euros per tour
    Photo walk through the most beautiful places in the area of ​​a thousand doors
    ♥ Experience Istanbul through food and hammam Individual for 1-2 people,
    100€ per tour
    Try everything gastronomic treasures of Istanbul, and then – in the hammam!
    ♥ The best viewing platforms in Istanbul Individual for 1-6 people,
    235 euros for the tour
    Five viewing platforms in different parts of the city for the stories of the guide and with travel by car
    ♥ Photo walk through the old city Individual up to 3 people,
    130 euros for a tour
    Photo walk around the Sultanahmet area
    ♥ Asian Istanbul from sunrise to sunset Individual up to 5 people,
    140 euros for a tour
    A local resident will tell you about the most unusual places in Asian Istanbul

    If you arrived in the warm season (in Istanbul this is May-August) and want to swim in the Sea of ​​Marmara, then I advise you to visit the shallow Jaddebostan beach. Many of Istanbul's public and private beaches are located on the Asian side of the city, including Kucuksu Beach. Not far from the beach is the palace of the same name, which will create an atmosphere of an oriental fairy tale during an evening swim.

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