Edited by Holly Stark
As a big city, a sparkling jewel in the crown of the Bosphorus Strait which separates Europe and Asia, Istanbul is unlike any other city in the world; situated on two sides of a majestic waterway and the meeting point of two continents. With a huge choice of neighborhoods to explore, you might be wondering which are the best areas to stay in Istanbul. The city is home to pulsing entertainment districts, quiet, artsy areas, ancient neighborhoods and an impeccable culinary scene. Turkey’s old capital is a must-see; a historic diamond with an oriental skyline of domes and quaint cobbled streets pointing to Asia, glistening blue waters of the Sea of Marmara, and magical bazaars. Wondering where to stay in Istanbul? The city has something for everyone, from peaceful and historic, to the quirky and lively, check out this Istanbul neighborhood guide to figure out what’s best for you.
One of the best neighborhoods in Istanbul; Kadıkoy is free-spirited, quiet and arty. With a labyrinth of art and cultural Istanbul attractions to explore, you won’t tire of walking the Kadıkoy streets. Located on the Asian shores of the city, Kadıkoy is a relaxed neighborhood, most known for its vibrant entertainment scene, tree-lined streets and fish and produce market; home to Turkish pizza, olives, and fresh seafood. Narrow streets are adorned with varieties of quirky cafes, chilled bars and top places to visit in Istanbul. The meeting point of history and urban, the neighborhood is the passageway to the Bosphorus with transportation on rail, water and land. Multi-colored, vivid street art, independent shops, live music venues, aromatic coffee houses and popular eateries line the streets here, making it a great option if you’re looking for somewhere vibrant to stay in Istanbul.
Arts and Culture
The Hush Gallery features exhibitions devoted to young local and international artists. Art is everywhere in the neighborhood, and art and community flourish most at ArtHere. An artist run cafe space with communal work tables, books and paintings on the walls. Founded by a Syrian photographer, the space combines a gallery, studio, community center, and temporary housing for Syrian artists to work with their Turkish and international counterparts. ArtHere host frequent movie nights, live music, discussions and workshops for a polyglot audience. The art, fountains, hidden courtyards, tombs, towers, Turkish Baths, pavilions and parks of Kadıkoy embody the true spirit of Istanbul. The area is in close proximity to a transportation hub that services the whole city, including the ferry which takes you to the European Side and sightseeing in 20 minutes. The meandering streets point towards a beautiful city landscape; stretching across the sea of Marmara to the Sultanahmet skyline. With some of the best hotels in Istanbul, the area is undoubtedly one of the best locations to stay in Istanbul.
Galata Central Neighborhood
The centerpiece of the vibrant Galata district is its 14th-century Galata Tower, revealing all-embracing views of the Bosphorus from the balcony. Beneath, pinched streets are home to chic bars, family-run restaurants and small shops. A social and cultural hub with some of the best activities in Istanbul, Galata possesses an array of monuments, ancient synagogues, churches and mosques. The Galata Mevlevi House Museum and cultural center is home to performances by Whirling Dervishes. The experience is not to be missed for anyone seeking the true essence of Istanbul. The poignant and captivating ceremony sees skilled Turkish Dervishes hypnotically spinning in deep prayer to the sound of reverberating, sonorous, Islamic hymns. For an authentic glimpse into Turkey’s cultural and spiritual past, Galata is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul and not to be missed if you have limited time in the city.
Taksim square is a popular local meeting point, full of restaurants, shops and hotels with a modern Istanbul edge. Meaning “division” or “distribution”, Taksim was once the point in which the main water lines from the north were collected, ready to be branched off to other parts of the city. Other than the impressive Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarşi) which boasts 5000 shops and is a vibrant hub of international and local trade, Taksim is one of the best places in Istanbul to wander labyrinths of goods and enjoy the ultimate Turkish shopping experience. Istanbul has a rich and diverse history that has influenced many civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Its historical importance is reflected in the city’s markets, food, architecture, and sites. Home to shops of every kind, and the best places for exquisite textiles, clothing, hand crafted ceramics, an afternoon spent exploring the maze of Taksim shops followed by a coffee with a Turkish delight is a great way to enjoy your time in Istanbul. Taksim offers colorful spices, sparkling jewelry, pretty lanterns, books, crafts and souvenirs, as well as sweets, including the well-loved dondurma; an ice cream that is thick and almost chewy. Perhaps party your way into the Istanbul evening, as the area has every kind of night entertainment on offer.
Fenerbahçe, a small, quiet neighborhood in the Kadikoy district on the Asian side, is serenely situated by the seaside and home to some of the best sunset views in the city. Cafes and restaurants by the marina are brimming with great beer, raki (the strong, national drink also known as Lion’s Milk) and iconic Turkish dishes. Make your way to Fenerbahçe Park for a peaceful break from the busy Istanbul streets. The district is easily accessible by public transport. From the European side, simply take the ferry from Eminonu or Karakoy and it takes around 20 minutes. Then, take a 'dolmus' or taxi and you'll be there in about 15 minutes. Take a walk, enjoy the views and explore a more peaceful area of Istanbul.
Istanbul is not particularly known for its abundance of parks and green spaces, given that it’s a thoroughly architecturally-focused metropolis. However, a few leafy areas have managed to survive the through the city’s urbanization and development, and people can escape to the more natural, rural space of Belgrad Forest. Belgrad Forest is a relaxing area to wander through deciduous trees and natural beauty. Around 15 kilometres outside the city, buses take off from Taksim to Belgrad regularly. Home to verdant running trails, picnic areas, and an arboretum, the forest was named after the thousands of Serbs who were deported from Belgrade in 1521 when it fell to the Ottomans. The giant park is now home to more than 2,000 exotic and native plant varieties. The Forest provides an off the beaten path activity in Istanbul, for those looking beyond the main tourist spots.
Hello, curious traveler!
Embark on a unique experience with Hello, curious traveler!
Embark on a unique experience with Our personalized, private tours, led by local hosts, make you feel like you’re exploring the city with a knowledgeable friend. We’ll take you to well-known sights and reveal Istanbul’s hidden gems, unveiling stories typically missed by traditional tours. So unscript your journey, and see Istanbul through the eyes of our local hosts!
Top private experiences in Istanbul
We’ll pair you with the perfect host
There is no better way to see a city than with a friend who lives there. This is why we carefully match guests with their perfect host based on interested, personality and type of experience so they can discover a city beyond the tourist trail.
Make your inbox happy with our travel tips and inspiration as well as exclusive offers and first access to new services.