• Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

I adore Istanbul! 10 days was a long time to explore and this article will show how to get around Istanbul, a map of Istanbul, and help you answer where to stay in Istanbul and what each area is like, which was my big questions before I went. I went there just recently (Feb 2016) for 10 days and had a whirlwind trip exploring. I had a lot of time to prepare and research the city.

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

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

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.

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)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 a taxi drivers 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 and .

The other car service I tried was  who are all over Europe. I had vouchers for them so booked a 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 that 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.

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)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 watertaxis 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 wind the the traffic on the bridge above was standstill. It took about 5 minutes and shot me out right at a tram stop on the other side.

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Istanbul Map

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 a couple of hotels just as reference points so you can get an idea of where to stay in Istanbul on your trip.

Where to Stay in Istanbul? Which Area?

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 cafe’s, 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.

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)Further from the tourist attractions of Istanbul, you’ll see the Şişli district and Beşiktaş which holds the very upscale Nişantaşı. It might look very far apart, but for example, I stayed at the W Hotel in Nişantaşı and could walk to Taksim in about 30 minutes.

My Little Guide to Istanbul

My Little Guide to Istanbul

My Little Guide to Istanbul

You can go even further out. As you can see Raffles hotel, 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 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 it’s pastel colored Ottoman Empire restored homes.

istanbul best of blue mosque

On the other part of the European side is Sultanahmet, which is the #1 area for tourism in Istanbul as it hold the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı palace, and the movie-famous Basilica CisternYou 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 Sultanahment, you’ll take the tram right through Galata and the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, making it really easy to stop and see everything.

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 on the Asian side. This in showing the ferry schedules.

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)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 Istanbul Hotels in Each 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.

Sultanahmet Hotels

  • – I stayed 4 nights. It was THE BEST with morning coffee on the rooftop looking at the Blue Mosque. Full review to come.

Hotel Ibrahim Pasha, My Relaxing Hideout in Istanbul

Beyoğlu Hotels

  •  (Çukurcuma)- fantastic old house modernized, with a unique bathroom setup!
  •  (Galata)- for modern apartment life
  •  (Pera)- Jumeirah do the best hotels in the world, and this one is very famous.
  •  (Taksim)- STUNNING views from these rooms… just amazing!
  •  (Galata)- modernized in a classic building with stunning views
  •  (Taksim)- another one with a view

Top hotels on Asian Side

  •  (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.
  •  (Üsküdar)- also meant to be awesome & looks stunning

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Top hotels in Şişli and Beşiktaş

  •  (Nişantaşı)- Stayed here 3 nights. Amazing atmosphere, very hip, awesome area of town to walk around
  •  (Beşiktaş)- super high-end, super lush
  • (Nişantaşı)- very sleek and upscale, sort of business looking hotel

Where to Stay in Istanbul (& How to Get Around)

Read More Tips for Istanbul

Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning I will make a small commission if you book through them, at no extra cost to you!

2018-01-05T20:53:15+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

17 Comments

  1. Rachel February 29, 2016 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Rachel Jones March 1, 2016 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      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

  2. 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!

    • Rachel Jones March 1, 2016 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      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 :)

  3. Justine March 1, 2016 at 10:14 am - Reply

    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 :)

    • Rachel Jones March 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      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

  4. Amélie March 1, 2016 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Rachel Jones March 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Sumahan was so gorg! I only had lunch there but will totally stay there next time! Love it.

  5. Motaz Othman March 1, 2016 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks Rachel,
    I will read it in full and will reply to you, but looks an excellent write up.

  6. Andee Zorn March 2, 2016 at 3:53 am - Reply

    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!

    • Rachel Jones March 2, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      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!

  7. nicole mclean March 2, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Rachel Jones March 2, 2016 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Oh wow sounds amazing!! Enjoy every minute – I’m jealous!

  8. Maddy March 9, 2016 at 1:10 am - Reply

    Hey Rachel!
    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

    • Rachel Jones March 9, 2016 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      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!

  9. Gina March 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel,
    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

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