In a city of 13 million people covering 2000 square miles, how do you know where to begin? Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and it is easily the largest city in Turkey. It’s been growing since the 1950s when migrants from Anatolia flocked to the city in search of economic prosperity and the city has been expanding to accommodate them. There are so many great Istanbul Neighborhoods to choose from, where do you start?
What does this mean for you – one of 7 million visitors to Istanbul every year? It means you have some tough decisions to make when you are trying to decide where in this vast metropolis you want to stay and what you want to do!
Istanbul Neighborhoods Are Diverse
During my four-week stay in Istanbul, I stayed in 3 completely different neighborhoods and visited about 4 more in-depth via some great walking tours. Like most cities, each neighborhood has its own feel so I’ve tried to provide you with my opinion on what each neighborhood can offer you – the visitor – as well as give you a peek into what the neighborhood culture there was like.
Hopefully, this Istanbul Neighborhood Guide will help you figure out where to stay during your time in this beautiful city!
Istanbul Neighborhoods Map
2 & 3 – Eminoju and Grand Bazaar
4, 5, 6, 7 – Beyoglu District (4 represents Galata)
8 – Fener and Balat
Northwest of 9 – Eyup
North of 5 – Tarlabasi
North of 6 – Sisli
This isn’t the best Istanbul neighborhood map – but it’s the best one I can find that includes all of them at once so you can get the big picture. Some of the Istanbul neighborhoods I’m talking about aren’t really marked on this map – but I’ll try to do my best to describe their location
The Best Time to Walk Through Istanbul Neighborhoods
One of the best times to really see a city is in the wee morning hours as the sun wakes up the homes, hills, and waterways with its golden glow. Commuters in Istanbul slowly move through their familiar paces and make their way to offices, mosques, stores, and stalls.
I woke up early and wandered aimlessly around the ferry docks watching commuters pour off of boats and through the back streets of the Spice Market. In the early morning hours, it looks quite different – it’s softer. Men drink tea and have their morning breakfast reading the paper and socializing with their friends and workmates. People smile at me, but don’t say a word. Trucks clamor through the narrow streets delivering inventory before the groups of tourists show up to deplete the inventory once again.
Sultanahmet and Eminönü For the Main Tourists’ Sights
This is tourist central – Sultanahmet is the easiest place to stay to tick off all of the main sites. Not many ‘real’ Istanbul locals living in this area though. However, at certain times, such as during Ramadan (while I was there), the historic sites draw a local crowd that is impressive to see and experience.
Things to do in the Sultanahmet Neighborhood
As I said – this is where the majority of the popular tourist sights are in Istanbul, so there are a ton of tours and places of interest in Sultanahmet. Here you’ll find a ton of hotels, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Topaki Palace, Basilica Cistern, and a ton of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops. Good public transport…but not what I would call the ‘real Istanbul’.
I vaguely remember coming to Hagia Sophia (meaning Holy Wisdom) on my first visit to Istanbul 12 years ago. It was my first exposure to the Islamic religion and the first time I had been in a mosque (even though at that time it was no longer a functioning mosque). I remember being fascinated by the layout of the building – so different than the typical churches I had been in my whole life.
It made me think about and consider times and lives around the world I had never thought about before. It was the beginning of my travel curiosity that has led me on this path I’m on today – to see what else this world had to offer that I didn’t know about – to get out of the known and live in the unknown.
But most of all I remember how the Hagia Sophia had such a long history of change – nothing in the United States was this old – nothing had such a long history. That change continues today, it’s now back to being a ‘working’ mosque in 2022.
Book a Hagia Sophia guided tour
But this time I was here to do what I didn’t the first time – photograph it. I knew the challenge ahead of me – how do you photograph this popular site with thousands of visitors milling around every corner of the massive building? I knew one thing for certain – it would take a lot of creativity in composition and a great deal of patience.
The Basilica Cistern is a cool underground oasis that also goes by the Turkish name Yerebatan Sarnici. It is a sunken water cistern dating back to 532 and built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Its entrance is very near the Hagia Sophia and can normally be noticed only by the line that wraps around outside the small building on the street. It opens at 9 AM in the summer and this is probably the only time when there isn’t a line.
Skip the lines with a Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace combo ticket
Spend a Morning in the Spice Market
You’ll also find one of my favorite Istanbul marketing in the Sultanahmet neighborhood – the Spice Market. As I walked through the Spice Market before it was opened most merchants ignored me, something that would never happen a mere hour later in the day. Yet as I neared the end of one of the corridors, it started, “Lady, you want some spice? Come look, come look.” I felt like Cinderella listening to the 9th bell toll at midnight, my magic morning Istanbul was disappearing in 3 more rings. But until then, I would enjoy every last moment of this insider morning experience.
View the all photography of waking up in Istanbul
Hotels in the Sultanahmet – The Rast Hotel Sultanahmet
The Rast Hotel Sultanahmet is Located in the heart of Istanbul and close to the Grand Bazaar. It has a terrace restaurant and offers rooms with balconies and views of the Bosphorus.
Read reviews for the Rast Hotel Sultanahmet on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Rast Hotel Sultanahmet | Search for other Sultanahmet area hotels
Karakoy / Galata in Beyoglu District
Galata’s modern name is Karakoy, but I found the two interchangeable. The area is actually a part of a much larger district called Beyoglu which also includes Taksim Square. This neighborhood is touristy but intertwined with cruise passengers, and souvenir shops are locals who have lived in the area their whole life. I stayed for 2 weeks in Galata and felt like it was just the right mix of tourism and local culture.
I really did love the mix of visitors/locals/ex-pats in Galata. It was an Istanbul neighborhood full of diversity, but most days I really felt like I was a part of the neighborhood as opposed to simply a visitor in a neighborhood. This is my pick for the best Istanbul Neighborhood to stay in because you can get a bit of everything around the streets of Galata, but you don’t necessarily feel like a tourist.
Things to do in the Beyoglu Neighborhoods
The area is great for shopping as little hipster boutiques are dotted among the old run-down abandoned buildings giving you a preview of what is to come for this popular neighborhood. You’ll also find Hamams (a traditional Turkish Bath) tucked away along with a myriad of old, traditional coffee shops among the new ones.
Plus – you’ll find the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art in this area too – a great stop to make if you are in the area. I love modern and contemporary art so I could be lost for hours inside this museum that is right on the waterfront with beautiful views. Plus, it’s a great place to go and escape the heat for a few hours!
Explore more of Galata with this guided walking tour and tower entry
Make sure you stop at Karaköy Güllüoğlu for a traditional sweet treat! the famous baklava sweet shop in Karaköy. There you’ll find cases and cases of freshly made trays of baklava in different sizes and flavors to tempt your sweet tooth.
Hotels in the Beyoglu – Pera Palace Hotel
The Pera Palace is a special category museum hotel designed in neoclassical, art nouveau, and oriental styles. The hotel offers spectacular views of the Golden Horn, an indoor pool, and luxurious rooms with city views.
Read reviews for the Pera Palace Hotel on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Pera Palace Hotel | Search for other Beyoglu area hotels
Şişli Neighborhood the ‘Modern’ Part of the City
The Sisli Neighborhood is where you’ll find the everyday life of the business population; the streets of Sisli are filled with banks, businesses, and shopping malls. In fact, Europe’s largest and the world’s second-largest (urban-area) shopping mall, Cevahir İstanbul, is situated here.
It’s more modern and tidy than other parts of the city. It’s well-served by transportation routes and subway and quite frankly – it’s where real middle-class life takes place in Istanbul.
I stayed for a week in a (very strange) apartment right behind the Cevahir Mall and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a completely different feel and vibe to Istanbul – one that felt very European/western and if you have been traveling for a while and are searching for something familiar – Sisli is the place to be!
Hotels in the Sisli Neighborhood – the Melas Hotel
The Melas Hotel provides 5-star accommodations with a hammam and terrace restaurant, fitness center, indoor pool, and shared lounge and garden. Each room offers city views, and guests can play darts and minigolf at the hotel.
Read reviews for the Melas Hotel on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Melas Hotel | Search for other Sisli area hotels
Tarlabasi -the Gritty Neighborhood
Tarlabasi is part of the larger district of Beyoglu – which includes many of the hot, smaller neighborhoods of the city. However Tarlabasi is more like the unwanted stepsister of Beyoglu – and because of that – I loved it.
Originally a Greek and Armenian neighborhood, diverse ethnic groups live here today: Kurds, Turks, and Roma. It also houses different social groups that are often marginalized in the city: transsexuals, sex workers, or illegal immigrants on their way to Europe.
I happened to be staying my first week in Istanbul in Tarlabasi and it honestly seemed no different than many other countries I had been in. However, when you say you are staying in Tarlabasi, locals do crinkle their noses and think you are a bit nuts for staying there – it is considered the ‘bad part of town’. I loved the fact that I was staying in this area where everyone immediately gets tense – I love it because in some weird way I wasn’t supposed to be there….at least not as a tourist. Yet I was.
This is an Istanbul neighborhood that has not quite succumbed to gentrification yet – but I’m pretty sure in a few years it will look very different. However, if you are looking for an authentic experience in Istanbul – this is it.
I stayed in a redesigned old 6-story house – and yes – it’s much cheaper to stay in that neighborhood, but you are easily within walking distance to all of the Galata neighborhood ‘hot spots’. The neighborhood was a bit dirty and rundown – but I loved it as a cultural immersion stay. However, if you are after a more tourist and upscale environment – then I would recommend staying in Galata and simply stopping by Tarlabasi for the Sunday market to get a feel for this ethnic and well-worn neighborhood.
Things to do in Tarlabasi
Tarlabasi Sunday Market
Everyone talks about wanting to find local experiences when you travel – strangely one of my best local finds in Istanbul was a place where the locals tried to convince me to stay away from. Were they trying to hide its greatness?! I honestly don’t think so – instead, they were simply trying to ensure I was safe and saw the nicer sides of the city. Just down the hill from the glitz of Istiklal Street is what many locals might refer to as the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ I’ve heard Tarlabasi referred to as the ‘bad part of town’ and the “Istanbul Slums”. I was also told that “gypsies live there, it’s not safe”. Of course that made it all the more interesting to me in some ways.
Sometimes you need to trust your gut and go to the places that they tell tourists not to go…and that’s what I did this Sunday. I grabbed a few shopping bags, my camera, and sunscreen, and walked to the place people told me to stay away from so that I could see what real life was like in the city of Istanbul. And the best part about it – since this wasn’t really a market where tourists shopped, they were overjoyed to see me – a camera-toting tourist – walking through the stalls!
I spent a few hours at the Tarlabasi Sunday market shopping for produce and taking photos. Every single vendor and person there was a joy to interact with. I’m pretty sure I was even proposed to at one point! I was constantly stopped and asked if I would take a photo or simply try the food. As a foreign traveler, I was definitely in the minority. Plus the best part is that I walked away with bags of produce that I would use to cook in my apartment over the next week – saving me loads of money.
Hotels in the Beyoglu area – Taxim Suites
The Taxim Suites is conveniently located in the heart of Istanbul, just steps away from the famous Taksim Square and Gezi Park. The rooms feature a chic and stylish décor perfect for the guests seeking a cozy ambiance. It features a fully-equipped fitness center and freshly-prepared continental breakfast.
Read reviews for the Taxim Suites on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Taxim Suites | Search for other Beyoglu area hotels
Fener, Balat, and Eyüp Istanbul Neighborhoods
These neighborhoods are best known as the Jewish and Greek Quarters of Istanbul. Located just outside of the city walls on the south bank of the Golden Horn, Eyup is named after Eyyub al Ensari, a companion of the prophet Mohammed, who is believed to have died here when Arabs sieged the city in the 7th century.
This trio of Istanbul neighborhoods is as local as you get in Istanbul proper. There were really no tourists to speak of, but instead, the streets were filled with locals and were generally pretty quiet. If you want to stay in a peaceful, low-key neighborhood in Istanbul, then you’ll enjoy Fener, Balat, and Eyup.
Things to Do in Eyup, Fener, and Balat
Neighborhood Walking Tour
I did a brilliant walking tour through these lesser-visited neighborhoods of Fener, Balat, and Eyup – and found that being able to take these neighborhoods in at a slow pace was best. A walk through the cobblestone winding streets of these neighborhoods will take you to mosques, churches, and synagogues.
Church of St. George
One of the most important religious buildings is the Church of St. George, located on Sadrazam Ali Paşa Avenue. It is the most sacred place for Orthodox Greeks – our guide described it to us as the Vatican of the Greek Orthodox religion. Inside, the church was bejeweled in gold – a sight to see. The iconostasis (wall of icons) was in the front of the church and practically hurt your eyes to look at it! Plus – it is believed to have the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on inside the church.
Explore Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox region on this guided walking tour of Fener and Balat
Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyup is home to one of the most sacred and religiously significant mosques in all of Turkey – Eyüp Sultan Mosque. However since our walking tour was during Ramadam, the mosque was so crowded that we weren’t even able to get inside! Instead, we sat in the main square, had coffee, and talked about the history of the neighborhood further. Hopefully, you’ll be able to go inside!
Hotels in the Eyup – the Turquhouse Hotel
The Turquhouse Hotel has a view of the 7 hills of Istanbul and the Golden Horn. A cable car runs from right outside Turquhouse and taxis are also easily available, allowing you to explore Istanbul with ease. Turquhouse Hotel also offers a TV lounge, a bar with traditional water pipes, and a café where guests can play backgammon.
Read reviews for the Turquhouse Hotel on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Turquhouse Hotel | Search for other Eyup area hotels
Kadikoy Neighborhood (Asian Side)
Kadikoy is one of the fastest-growing districts in Istanbul for the last 25 years, it has areas of a great deal of shopping, fine dining, and entertainment making it popular especially for wealthy local people. Kadikoy has nice promenades along the Bosporus – and great views of the European side, of course. You’ll also be greeted by lovely food markets where you can do all of your shopping for dinner.
This Istanbul neighborhood definitely has a more local feel to it. Sure – it has a few sites, but mostly it’s just a functioning middle-class neighborhood – a super place to really immerse yourself and less expensive than the European side of Istanbul. And since it’s a transportation hub, it’s quite easy and cheap to get to the European side of Istanbul to see all of the tourist sites in Sultanahmet.
Hotels in the Kadikoy area – the Byotell Hotel
Located in the business district on the Asian side of Istanbul, the 5-star Byotell Hotel offers spacious guest rooms in their glass-walled tower that feature panoramic views over the city. Exclusive pastries and freshly brewed coffees are available at the on-site bakery.
Read reviews for the Byotell Hotel on Trip Advisor | Check prices and availability for the Byotell Hotel | Search for other Kadikoy area hotels
Princes’ Islands Istanbul for Quiet
Ok – so this isn’t necessarily a neighborhood – it’s islands. These four islands once served as exile islands (for naughty Princes!) for the Ottoman Empire. Situated in the Sea of Marmara parallel to the Asian coast, the Princes’ Islands are accessible by ferry from both the European and the Asian sides of Istanbul. If you are looking for a little peace, quiet, and relaxation on your Istanbul travels then be sure to escape to these beautiful islands for a day – or two! It’s a one-hour ferry ride and when you arrive at the islands you will be treated to quiet environments, good seafood, and relaxation.
Read more about the Princes’ Islands area on Trip Advisor | Book round-trip ferry tickets to the Princes’ Islands
There are no cars allowed on these islands so all wheeled transportation is conducted by horse and buggy. If you do during the week, you’ll only find a handful of people, but on the weekends in the summer many of the local Istanbul residents escape the city and come to the islands. I dream of going to Princes’ Islands and staying for a few weeks to simply wind down and write. It would be a perfect place to write a novel and hide away for a bit while watching the twinkle of Istanbul in the distance.
Things to do on Princes’ Islands
First of all, the ferry ride to the islands is a fabulous travel experience alone! But once you get off the ferry I suggest you go rent a bike and hit the quaint streets and explore! There are so many incredible houses to gawk at, you’ll love biking around looking at them!
After biking, why not stop at a beach and take a dip. This is one place in Istanbul where you have some lovely beaches so take advantage of them.
Hotels on Princes’ Islands – the Ada Palas Buyukada
The Ada Palas is situated in the heart of Buyukada Island and close to beaches and the ferry port. The rooms in this restored 19th-century mansion are decorated in classical style with handmade furniture. The hotel serves a traditional Turkish breakfast each morning, and tea and coffee service is provided at the hotel’s Secret Garden throughout the day. Barbecue facilities are also available on the grounds.
Read reviews for the Ada Palas Buyukada | Check prices and availability for the Ada Palas Buyukada | Search for other Princes’ Islands hotels
5 Essential Travel Products for Travel to Istanbul
- Klean Kanteen 16oz (w/ Café Cap)
- VIM & VIGR Compression Socks & Sleeves
- Eagle Creek Packing Organizers
- Wallaroo Hats
- Peak Design Tech Pouch
One of the things I like about Klean Kanteen is that they have a system where you really just need to purchase one insulated bottle and then use their interchangeable caps for your different needs; caps for sipping drinks, straws lids for cold drinks, or chug caps. One bottle is really all you need!
I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Compression socks are great for faster muscle recovery and to fight blood clots on long flights or long road trips.
PLUS - use discount code OTT15 for 15% off orders!
Packing organizers are the key to packing happiness – they turn your bag into a piece of furniture. I use mine to organize my different types of clothes, just like I would a dresser; one has t-shits, one has pants, one has sweaters. You get the idea – it’s packing bliss. I use and love Eagle Creek packing solutions.
I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
I love all of their styles and normally always have at least 2 of their different hats with me on every trip I take! All of their styles offer superb sun protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the material of every Wallaroo hat with a UPF rating and a 3+ inch brim as an effective UV protectant. Plus - they have so many fashionable styles!
Use my Discount code, OTTSWORLD20, for an extra 20% regular priced items!
I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Whether storing cables, everyday gear, or travel essentials, Tech Pouch offers unrivaled organization and ease of access. Origami-style pockets create enormous spatial efficiency, letting you pack more into a smaller space while keeping your items neatly organized and easy to find.
I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
The good news is you have a lot of choices – which is always better than not having a choice! Do you want to stay near the sites, near locals, near religion, on a different continent, on an island, or in the ‘bad part of town’? Maybe like me, you’ll want to move around a bit and get the feel for multiple Istanbul neighborhoods. But you can’t really go wrong anywhere in Istanbul – it’s a diverse, energetic city – and so are its neighborhoods.
What are your favorite Istanbul neighborhoods to stay in while in and why?
Other exotic locations to read about
Trekking in the Oman mountains
By Barbara Weibel October 2, 2012 - 7:40 am
Wow Sherry! This is the best guide ever to Istanbul. I’m saving it for my visit next year.
By Cat of Sunshine and Siestas October 2, 2012 - 8:10 am
I stayed right near Galata when I visited Istanbul in April. Apart from being a hub for tourists and commerce, they had live music pulsating around the clock! Great choice, as you say, for being in the center of the action.
By Mark H October 2, 2012 - 4:37 pm
What a tremendous summary and unsurprisingly offering vastly different experiences depending on the suburb chosen.
By Marcia B. October 2, 2012 - 11:36 pm
Just left Istanbul a couple of days ago for a driving trip around Western Turkey. I stayed in Sultanamet/Old City and loved it. I only had four or five days in Istanbul, and like many other travelers, will likely only visit once in my lifetime. I would have loved to have spent more time in other neighborhoods, but, the convenience of staying within walking distance of many of the well visited sights was wonderful. There are many boutique hotels, great sidewalk restaurants, night life and whatever you might want for a few days. I would love to have the time to stay as long as you did!
By rl reeves jr October 3, 2012 - 11:50 am
Love Tarlabasi. One of my favorite neighborhoods in the city but I think you should’ve included Kumkapi. It’s ancient and has a good mix of tourist sites as well as back streets filled with incredible food and markets. It’s also the site of my favorite lokanta in the city:Doyuran Lokantasi. My review http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/who-polishes-the-horns-adventures-in-eating-in-istanbul-turkey-part-1/
By Adnan October 7, 2012 - 8:38 am
This is the most detailed guide I read recently. Your readers may find the following website of use: http://bit.ly/OJPzKJ
By Agness (@Agnesstramp) October 8, 2012 - 11:22 am
This is honestly the best Instanbul travel guide I have ever seen! I will go to all of the places you recommend once I get there. Happy travels
By Chris October 9, 2012 - 7:41 am
Really great that you mentioned the Asian side, I think it’s a great way to see modern Turkey that gets overlooked by many travelers. Did you get a chance to travel out into any of the newer areas that are sprouting up around the edges of the city?
By Logcabinsinwales October 13, 2012 - 3:59 am
I love visiting Istanbul for the main reason the Turkish cuisine and the tourist spot. I was at Kadikoy last April. What I did was to shop and to eat at some fine dining restaurants.
By Traveler October 15, 2012 - 7:45 am
Istanbul is very big city and there are many things to see. You must need to spend more time to visit all places. I love the Turkish food, very nice photo of Chicken Kebab.
By Emilia October 19, 2012 - 12:42 pm
Having stayed in two different Sultanahmet places (Cankurtaran and nearer Küçük Aya Sofia), the Bosphorus and now in Galata, I must say that Galata is so much better for restaurants and nightlife and little interesting shops. It is easy to go to the historical quarter and to explore the places on the Bosphorus shore.
Great guide, Sherry, every city should have one like this to help with choosing!
By ALI October 12, 2013 - 12:34 am
I need an apartment in Kadikoy or other Turkish-Turkish Muslim neighborhood (no gavurs or westerners or greeks or armenians or romas) for no more the 600 TL per month and I need an ESL teaching job right away. Thank you. ALI.
By Sherry October 13, 2013 - 11:48 pm
I’m sorry Ali – but I’m just a writer – I don’t have any knowledge about jobs or apartment rentals in Istanbul.
By Christine October 27, 2013 - 4:38 pm
Hi Sherry, Thanks so much for this guide to Istanbul. I’m going over the New Year’s holidays and feel like you have the same sensibility as I do. I can’t decide between Galata and the islands (particularly the place the horses are stopped in front of!). Maybe I’ll split my time. Thanks again for the knowledge.
By Sherry October 28, 2013 - 2:17 pm
Hard choice! They are both so different. One is big city and one is secluded island. You can always take a day trip to the islands too – or spend a couple of days there to get the feel of it. I love the city though! Let me know where you end up!
By Cynthia February 2, 2014 - 4:02 pm
I am moving to Istanbul this summer to work for two years. You have been REALLY helpful in helping me understand my new adopted city and in selecting possible areas to live in. Any other suggestions, if you were going to live there?
By Sherry February 3, 2014 - 12:27 am
Lucky you! I’d love to live there for a while!
By Sandy March 21, 2014 - 3:42 am
Hi Sherry! great site! my favourite city in the world! Planning to go there for a couple of months later this year (been there few times..)
I also found a place in tarlabarsi & like what You’ve written..comments are not positive…! but the rent is sooo cheap & do u think it’s a good idea for me (single woman) to stay there? ..I’ll also stick out like a sore thumb because I’m Asian : /
another option is Balat~ can u give me some advice?
By Sherry March 22, 2014 - 4:07 am
Sandy – I can only tell you about my experience there. I was fine – but I didn’t go out a lot at night. However during the day I walked all over! Or if I did go out at night I stuck to the main road where there are always lots of people – and it was very close to the tourist areas too.
By Omer May 30, 2014 - 10:19 am
Thats a fantastic review. I’m heading to Istanbul in mid August for a 9-day vacation with my wife and two little children (ages 2 and 4). We are not interested in the nightlife. We just want to visit the main sights, eat some good food and do a little shopping. I’m currently torn between two apartments for rent, one in the Asian side (near the ferry terminal) in Kadikoy and the other near Taksim square in Cihangir.
What do you recommend we do? Thanks in advance for the help
By Sherry May 30, 2014 - 11:59 am
Omer – how exciting! Both neighborhoods would be great. If you did Taksim then you’d have the option of walking around to the sites – and not have to deal with a ferry – however some of them are pretty far (you have to cross the Galata Bridge) – and with that young of children I doubt you would do that much walking! So – I don’t think you can go wrong with either. Taksim is much more crowded and hillier (think San Francisco!) so it might be harder with kids. So – I would actually lean towards the Kadikoy side as long as you know that you’ll have to take the ferry to get to the main sites. But the ferry is nice and the kids might like it. The views from Kadikoy are great – there are super restaurants and it’s a bit more low key. Let me know if I can help with anything else and please do write back and let me know how it goes!
By Tash July 21, 2014 - 4:03 pm
This is so helpful! I’m going to Istanbul for about 7 days in a month (mid-Aug)… solo female traveler! I want a night or two of “nightlife” stuff, but other than that will mostly see a lot of stuff during the day and go to cafes and restaurants and bars too. I want to hit most of the big sites in a day or two so that I can spend more time with the less touristy things– more “authentic” Istanbul stuff. More off-the-beaten-path stuff. Any particular suggestions for someone like me?? Thanks in advance!!
By Sherry July 22, 2014 - 10:24 am
look to see if they have any Eatwith.com experiences there or stay with a local in one of those neighborhoods I mentioned via Airbnb.com and then you’ll get a lot more access to locals and authentic experiences! I do both of these things when I travel solo – it’s a great way to meet people and stay away from the typical tourist stuff!
By Natasha July 28, 2014 - 6:43 am
Hi! But where is Taksim? Many of my friends stayed in Taksim area and they said it was great. Any idea? Thanks!
By Vasudha November 13, 2014 - 10:07 am
Dear Sherry. Thanks so much for that fantastic review. It really helps us to move away from the tourist side of Istanbul. Would you be able share the websites from which you hired the apartments? I am looking for a short stay rental apartment in a quieter area of Istanbul. thanks and sorry for burdening you with so many queries.
By Sherry November 15, 2014 - 12:42 pm
For these apartment stays I used Wimdu.com I believe! Also Airbnb.com would work too
By Jayita December 12, 2014 - 10:48 pm
Hello Sherry, very helpful review! I’m keen to walk upto Harbiye Military Museum and back from central Sultanahmet- is it feasible? If so, do you have an idea of the route? I found out that it’s roughly 7 km from Sultanahmet as the crow flies and I’m confident of doing it on foot both ways even if it takes the whole day (stopping here and there). The descriptions of transportation within the city are confusing at best and terrifying at worst, so the plan for a walk instead! Thanks…..
By Sherry December 16, 2014 - 10:19 pm
I’m sorry but I’m not familiar with that walk – but I always felt safe walking around Istanbul. It’s a bit hilly in places though! However I also found the local transportation really good once I got the hang of it – and people were very nice about helping. Good luck!
By joe March 2, 2015 - 1:55 pm
Great article! My wife and I are going to Istanbul in a week and this is exactly what we’re looking for. Very concise. Thank you!
By Sherry March 3, 2015 - 12:30 pm
Awesome – glad it helped! You’ll have a fabulous time! Eat everything they put in front of you!!
By Heather Wanders March 4, 2015 - 3:31 pm
Arriving there in a couple months and while I know it will be high season, still looking for a good deal in the best local type area. basically, you have confirmed what I thought I know and I think we will be trying to stay in the Galata area as it just seems a bit less hustle and bustle. Thanks Sherry!
By dj April 9, 2015 - 2:50 am
Thank you very much for sharing all these useful info. I will be in Istanbul for the first time in June for 6 night and was wondering how to get a licence tour guide to show me, since I don’t speak one ward Turkish?
By Sherry April 10, 2015 - 2:57 am
I never hired a private guide in Istanbul – but I did go on some guided tours with Urban Adventures and Context Travel – that was real helpful. However I also don’t speak Turkish and never had any real problems communicating.
By Lucy J April 27, 2015 - 2:37 pm
Hi Sherry, great hood breakdown. Can you recommend good parks for kids (10, 8, and 6) to play in? the kids and I will be in Ist for 2 weeks in about a month and want to get lodging (probably through airbnb) based on closeness to large parks with playgrounds so the kids can run around in the afternoon and maybe meet other kids. Ideally also close to pub transport. East or west side. I can find parks on google but no idea about if there are playgrounds, etc there. Thanks for any suggestions and for such a great neighborhood write up! 🙂
By Sherry April 28, 2015 - 10:36 am
Lucy – I’d love to help but I don’t have kids of my own so I am not at all in tune with playgrounds in Istanbul. I do have a friend who had a young baby there – so I can try to ask her…but she was just a toddler. Sorry I’m not much help in that department!
By muge May 27, 2015 - 6:17 am
Best location to stay in İstanbul is Beyoğlu.
It’s cheaper than the old town Sultanahmet. Sultanahmet is more touristic and life is finishing at the evening time.
But old town, the most vibrant district of İstanbul; İstiklal Street, some of the seaside places are all walking distance from Beyoğlu. It’s always alive and all the public transportation is available.
You can find hotel, hostel or you can rent a cosy flat from airbnb. Look for Aynalı Çeşme district. It’s so close to main attractions but also quiet and lovely neighborhood.
By Sherry May 27, 2015 - 12:40 pm
Thanks for the additional info you shared!
By Danielle August 2, 2015 - 4:48 pm
I can recommend Elmadag/Harbiye area for accommodation since it is a neighbourhood that locals are living and also just few meters away from Taksim square. It is both quiet and has a central location.
Last week I stayed at Deniz’s apartment and i really enjoyed it i can recommend it to all travellers. You can have a look;
By Kelly August 18, 2015 - 11:24 pm
Hi Sherry, thank you for this informative article! I keep coming back to it as I plan my trip to Istanbul. Your advice inspired me to stay in Galata. To save money I want to take the train and tram from the airport. Would you recommend doing so or is it too confusing for a new visitor? How do you get a card for the train? Is there a machine, and does it take credit cards? I also read that you can buy a museum pass at that airport. Is that true? I appreciate any advice you have. Ciao
By Sherry August 19, 2015 - 7:45 pm
Great that you are planning your trip there! It would be along tram from the airport(is that really possible?) – but I say do it as you can be stuck in Istanbul traffic for hours. I took a shuttle bus from the airport and that also works – dropped me in the square and then I walked from there. You can buy tram tickets at the stop as I recall there is a little machine there. I don’t think cc are accepted – but not entirely sure. Also not sure about the museum pass – however I just went directly to the Modern art museum and paid my entry – easy peasy!
By Kelly August 20, 2015 - 1:06 pm
Thank you for getting back to me. I was told by the hotel to take the metro to Zeytinburnu station and change to the tram that would stop at Karakoy station. They said it would take an hour. Maybe a shuttle bus is better. I’ll research.
It’s a bit nerve wracking right now to be going there with everything I’ve heard on the news. The State Department has not issued a travel advisory but I’m not sure why not. I feel a bit like I’m jumping in to shark infested waters. Would you feel anxious being there right now?
By Nina Frurip November 29, 2015 - 5:49 pm
In June 2014 we rented an apartment off Istiklal and in June 2015 we rented an apartment in Fener-Balat. We enjoyed both neighborhoods. Istikal is more busy with tourists and shopping and Balat more quiet with locals and lower income folks living there. Seeing the development of Fener Balat is bittersweet with the decline of the old ways and growth of coffee shops and antique stores… Like the new Brooklyn being discovered
By Gloria Currie February 9, 2016 - 8:25 pm
October 2015 my husband and I had 4 wonderful days in Istanbul with another couple. One of our favourite experiences was an afternoon / evening at the Istanbul Cooking School. We would all recommend it to anyone visiting the city as a way to learn a bit about the local culture and food from a warm and generous man, Ogz, who loves his country and his city. He makes the experience so entertaining. We loved his sense of humour and the food was good too.
By Sherry February 11, 2016 - 10:06 am
Turkish food is one of my favorites! So great that you found a class you loved! Thanks for sharing
By William Bert February 15, 2016 - 1:03 am
Thank you Sherry – I’m heading to Istanbul this week – last minute opportunity. Looking forward to being there off-season. The information and spirit in your blog is just what I was looking for as I tried to pick which neighborhoods to visit in 5 days. Really appreciated your good-natured, insightful summaries. Can you recommend an area or not-too-expensive store(s) where I could find interesting Turkish art prints – new and vintage? Also looking for a vintage samovar.
By Sherry February 16, 2016 - 8:20 pm
Hi William! I wish I could help – but I don’t do a lot of shopping, so I’m not sure where to tell you to go for art prints. If you like art I do recommend going to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum though – it’s really, really cool. Sorry I can’t be more help!
By Daniel February 19, 2016 - 10:04 am
Hello Sherry, and thanks for this site!! I am also one to enjoy the underbelly of places I visit, and I definitely want to see Tarlabasi when I am there next month. Your rooftop photo from your apartment reminds me somewhat of a riad I stayed in in Fes, Morocco a few years ago. Do you have any other recommendations for vibrant, walkable, poorer, local areas off the beaten tourist path? Thanks much!!
By Sherry February 19, 2016 - 11:04 am
I would recommend Fener and Balat to walk around – they are just regular middle class neighborhoods where you’ll find few tourists. I took a Context walking tour through them which provided a lot of history and information – however you can also just walk through on your own. Let me know what you thought of your time in Instanbul! I hope you love i!
By Daniel February 19, 2016 - 12:27 pm
Will do, and thanks so much!!
By Ryan March 13, 2016 - 9:03 pm
I will go Turkey next month. For easy public transport from SAW airport and then bus to Selcuk, which area you recommend? I will bring small luggage. Thanks
By Hoteluri Eforie Sud June 11, 2016 - 3:47 pm
It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you just shared this helpful info
with us. Please stay us informed like this.
Thanks for sharing.
By Waseem October 6, 2018 - 2:39 pm
Reading this looks like I would like to stay in Galata for my first stay in Istanbul in Dec.
However we will be going to the sultanahmet area often to visit the sites. How convenient is it? How long woudl it take?
Crowded? Looking at the map it seems I need to take the T1 to the Sultanahmet site. However T1 seems to have only 2 steps – karakoy and Tophane. in that area. Does it stop in between these 2 stops or do we need to walk to one of those 2 stations to take the T1?
Other alternatives to go to sultanahmet? I guess we can take a taxi but not sure about the traffic
By Sherry October 14, 2018 - 3:15 pm
I’m sorry- I don’t live in Istanbul and have only visited so I’m not that familiar with the train stops. I do know that we could get to sultanahmet – but we would have to walk down to the train stop at the bottom of the hill normally.
By Matthew Freeman June 24, 2022 - 5:05 am
What a fantastic overview, and it is no surprise that the sensations one might have in the area vary depending on the suburb one chooses. Or Do you have any additional recommendations for someone intending to reside there?
By Sherry June 27, 2022 - 6:23 am
I was just vacationing there so I don’t think that I know enough in depth to know where to live there.