Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey and its cultural and historic center. It’s actually the most populous city in the entire country and it has a very rich history, connecting both Europe and Asia at the Bosphorus Strait, which basically divides the city in two halves.
Istanbul is the perfect destination for people interested in history, beautiful architecture and, of course, an interesting, rich gastronomy!
Now that you have decided to visit this interesting city and you have your plane tickets ready, the next question in line is, naturally, about accommodation. Deciding where to stay in Istanbul is one important aspect because, trust me, this city is HUGE!
- If you’re in a hurry…
- 1. Sultanahmet (Istanbul Old Town) – for the first time
- 2. Grand Bazaar / Bazaar District – Where to stay with a family
- 3. Galata – Where to stay in Istanbul for nightlife
- 4. Karakoy – Where to stay in Istanbul on a budget
- 5. Taksim
- 6. Besiktas and Sisli
- Best apartments in Istanbul
- Best hotels near Istanbul Airport
When I went there three months ago, it took me a long time and extensive research to decide where to stay, and now I want to share all my knowledge with you! In this post you’ll find out about the 6 best areas in the city and the best hotels in each of them, all sorted by budget.
PRO TIP: It’s important to pick a hotel that’s close to the Istanbul attractions you’ll want to visit. This way you’ll save precious time and money and you won’t risk spending a lot of time in traffic. Once again, I cannot stress this enough: Istanbul is bigger than you think! 🙂
If you’re in a hurry…
The best area in Istanbul for first-timers is Sultanahmet. This area hosts the main landmarks of Istanbul such as Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and more.
Which area should you choose?
First of all, here is a map of Istanbul so you can clearly see all the neighborhoods I’ll be talking about:
As I mentioned before, Istanbul is a big city and it has plenty of different areas that you can choose from, each of them with its own charm and advantages. Below you’ll find my personalized list of recommendations for all types of travelers and interests:
- Where to stay in Istanbul for luxury: Taksim and Beşiktaş
- Where to stay in Istanbul for families: Grand Bazaar
- Where to stay in Istanbul for budget travelers: Karaköy
- Where to stay in Istanbul shopping: Grand Bazaar
- Where to stay in Istanbul for nightlife: Galata and Beşiktaş
1. Sultanahmet (Istanbul Old Town) – for the first time
Sultanahmet is the most popular part of the city, the cultural and historical heart of Istanbul, where all the main attractions and points of interest are located.
This is why Sultanahmet is recommended as the best area for people going to Istanbul for the first time!
If you’ve never been to Istanbul before, you’ll want to visit this area nevertheless, as it’s hosting some unmissable spots in the city: Hagia Sophia Church and Museum, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and more. It’s also close to the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, so you’ll be walking distance to everything worth visiting during your first visit. You’ll also be surrounded by plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars!
The only downside of staying here is that the nightlife is pretty much non-existent, so the area is pretty calm and laid-back after the sun sets. Which can actually be an advantage to some travelers, it all depends on your taste and preference!
Convinced? Here are the top hotels in Sultanahmet, all sorted by price:
Luxury (US$110 and up)
- White House Hotel Istanbul – If you’re looking for a gorgeous, central hotel in Istanbul, Sultanahmet is the place to be! And this hotel is definitely one of the best in the entire city. Book a room here if you want to stay in the heart of the city and enjoy some luxurious rooms, delicious breakfast, and more!
- Golden Istanbul Royal Hotel – Here’s another great luxury hotel located very close to the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern, for example. It’s surrounded by tons of awesome restaurant and bar options, so you’ll never get bored in this area!
- Hotel Amira Istanbul – In case you didn’t make your choice on the perfect luxury hotel in Istanbul Sultanahmet for your stay, here’s another amazing choice! This one’s walking distance to all the main attractions in the area and the rooms are simply gorgeous.
Middle-priced (from US$60 – US$110)
- Celine Hotel – Ottoman Mansion – In case you want a hotel that offers a great value for the money instead that’s also located close to the Blue Mosque (less than 300m away!) and Hagia Sophia, then this one’s perfect for you! The rooms are very clean and cozy and the hotel even has an atrium with a fireplace!
- Kalyon Hotel Istanbul – This one’s also located very close to Hagia Sophia (walking distance) and it awaits with contemporary rooms, an open-buffet breakfast, free Wi-Fi, an open air cafe and bar and more!
Budget (up to US$60)
- Basileus Hotel – If you’re on the search for cheap hotels in Istanbul where you can have a very pleasant experience, then what are you waiting for? Book a room here and you’ll enjoy free Wi-Fi, clean rooms, private bathrooms, daily breakfast and many other advantages.
- Otantik Guesthouse – Here’s another great option for a perfect budget stay in Sultanahmet! This one has small but cozy rooms and it awaits with a continental breakfast and a super friendly staff!
2. Grand Bazaar / Bazaar District – Where to stay with a family
I’m sure you already know about the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (one of the oldest covered markets in the entire world!) by now – it’s one of the must-visit places and the main shopping area of the city where you’ll find plenty of Turkish sweets, tea, clothes, souvenirs and countless vendors waiting to negotiate their prices. The area around the two main bazaars (the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar) is also full of shopping opportunities and eateries.
If you’re a shopping lover, then I definitely recommend this area, as well as if you’re traveling with your family, as you’ll be close to the main attractions in Sultanahmet.
The Bazaar District has plenty of hotels that you can choose from, for all types and budgets. Here are the best ones I can recommend:
Luxury (US$100 and up)
- Antik Hotel Istanbul – Are you looking for a gorgeous, upscale hotel that’s walking distance from the Grand Bazaar, in one of the best neighborhoods of Istanbul! Search no more, as you already found it! This 4-star hotel has a rooftop terrace, elegant rooms, private bathrooms and a cozy seating area!
- Euro Design Hotel – Here’s another excellent choice located close to many public transport options such as tram and metro. It’s very close to the city center as well and it awaits with a concierge service, a continental or buffet breakfast, and a 24-hour front desk!
Middle-priced (US$60 – US$100)
- Kent Hotel Istanbul – In case you prefer a very good hotel that won’t cost as much as a luxurious one, know that you don’t have to settle – this property offers and amazing service for a very good price! It’s in one of the most well-known neighborhoods in the city, close to a tram station and most of the main attractions such as the Blue Mosque.
- Primero Hotel – Here’s another great option that has an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV in each room, and a continental breakfast served each morning. What more can you wish for?
Budget (up to US$60)
- City Hall Hotel – If you want to save some money instead, then you should take a look at this very good and affordable hotel. It’s located close to the tram station and walking distance to many important landmarks in Sultanahmet as well.
- Mansion Gorki – And here I present you another great property where you’ll have a very pleasant experience for some very good prices. This hotel has a 24-hour front desk, private bathrooms, and beautiful rooms with a modern decor!
3. Galata – Where to stay in Istanbul for nightlife
NOTE: If you’re doing some extensive research on Istanbul accommodation, you’ll see that the district of Beyoğlu is recommended a lot. Beyoglu is actually a very big district consisting of smaller areas such as Galata, Karaköy and Taksim, among others. I decided to present them individually, as each of them is unique and big enough to be considered a separate area. Simply suggesting Beyoglu wouldn’t have been enough in my opinion 😉
Galata is the place where you can walk along the cobbled streets, admire the beautiful buildings and party until morning in one of the many clubs and pubs located here. The main landmark of the city is the Galata Tower. Around it, you can find many restaurants, souvenir shops, shops, fresh juice stalls and more. It is also within walking distance to the famous Istiklal street and Galata Bridge. Rest assured as you’ll never get bored while in the area!
That being said, here are the best Turkish hotels in Galata that you can choose from:
Luxury (US$100 and up)
- Hotel DeCamondo – This hotel is simply amazing! Besides the fact that it looks stunning, some of the advantages of staying here include access to an on-site bar and terrace, as well as a restaurant, free Wi-Fi and even a currency exchange office!
- Pera Palace Hotel – In case you want a perfect experience in this beautiful area of Beyoglu, then you should book a room at this hotel! It’s super close to Sok Market, for example and it’s designed using unique neoclassical, art nouveau and oriental styles. Simply gorgeous!
Middle-priced (US$50 – US$100)
- Inqlusif Hotel Galata – In case you want a hotel that’s close to Galata Tower, close to many entertainment options regardless if you’re there during the day or night, then this one’s for you! This accommodation offers 4-star service and the rooms are super comfy!
- Art Nouveau Pera – Here’s another great choice where each and every tourist will feel right at home! It awaits with free Wi-Fi, a Turkish bath and even an on-site sauna, so what more can you wish for?
Budget (up to US$50)
- Mesto Galata – In case you don’t want to spend a lot of money but still want an excellent experience in Galata, then I recommend this hotel! It’s designed using a unique style that mixes the traditional with the modern and the rooms are super clean and cozy!
- Archeo – Here’s a superb hotel option that comes with some very good fees that will help you save some money that you can use on meals or entrance tickets to some attractions! This cute hostel has free Wi-Fi and superb rooms!
4. Karakoy – Where to stay in Istanbul on a budget
Karaköy is also a neighborhood in Beyoglu district and a very charming part of the city, full of nice cafes, outdoor terraces and tiny shops. It was once one of the most important ports of the city, located right near the Golden Horn, and you can still take the ferry from here and head over to the Asian part of Istanbul.
I think this is actually one of the coolest areas to stay in Istanbul, especially for young people!
There are also countless Turkish and international restaurants that serve all types of food there. Ah, and did I mention this is a great place to stay if your budget is a bit tight? It’s true, as you can find plenty of budget Istanbul hotels, hostels and B&Bs here. No worries, there are also many luxury and middle-priced hotels in Karaköy – there’s something for everyone there!
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Istanbul Modern Art Museum if you’re an art lover, or to admire the interesting architecture!
If you feel that this is the perfect neighborhood for you, check out my recommended hotels below:
Luxury (US$100 and up)
- The House Hotel Karakoy – In case you’re looking for a superb luxury stay on the North of the city center, look no further than this hotel! This gorgeous 5-star hotel has flawless reviews and an even better service. Some rooms even have a gorgeous view over the Golden Horn, how awesome is that!
- The Wings Hotel Istanbul – This beautiful property also offers a view over the water (the Golden Horn, to be more precise) and it’s not far away from the most important landmarks of the city. Plus, it has free Wi-Fi, a concierge service and daily breakfast!
Middle-priced (US$50 – US$100)
- Ada Karakoy Hotel – This hotel is located only 150m from the Karakoy Ferry Port located on the Golden Horn, which means it offers great views of the sea! It’s the ideal choice if you want a hotel that offers a great value for the money in the district of Beyoglu. Plus, the tram station is super close, only 50m away, so you’ll reach the city center in no time!
- Royal Tophane – In case you’re still on the search for the perfect accommodation for you, this one might just be the one! It offers an excellent service for some very good prices and the rooms are simply superb!
Budget (up to US$50)
- Peradise Hotel – Here comes another beautiful hotel overlooking the Golden Horn, in the amazing area of Karakoy! The rooms are pretty, decorated in a traditional Turkish style and the service is excellent, you’ll have everything you need there!
- Cheers Porthouse – For all tourists traveling on a tight budget, here is another very good option for you! Even though this one doesn’t have a view over the Golden Horn, it has some cozy and clean rooms, perfect for a good night’s sleep!
Even though Taksim is the perfect place for luxury travelers looking for a trendy spot to hang around, as you’ll find many well-known hotel chains here such as Hyatt or Hilton, this doesn’t mean that the area is unaffordable for other budgets as well!
One of the most important spots in Taksim neighborhood (except for Taksim Square, of course) is Istiklal Avenue, also known as the busiest and most vivid street in the entire Istanbul. One of the best things about this area is that it’s so well-connected to the rest of the city, that you’ll reach the main attractions in Sultanahmet in no time (okay, half an hour at maximum via public transport). By the way, it’s also very well connected to the airport as well, which I think is a great plus!
If you want to make the area around Taksim Square your base while you’re in Istanbul, here are your best accommodation options:
Luxury (US$100 and up)
- Point Hotel Istanbul Taksim – Here’s another superb luxury hotel in Beyoglu, this time located in Taksim, close to many interesting sights and sites. This excellent accommodation is ideal if you want to be spoiled and to enjoy a 5-star service!
- Titanic Hotel Istanbul Taksim – This 4-star hotel is another ideal choice, regardless of how many days you decide to book here – you just won’t regret it! It’s only 5 minutes away from Taksim Square and it awaits with an indoor pool and a fitness center that offers massage treatments as well!
Middle-priced (from US$60 – US$100)
- Peradays – In case you want a hotel that offers an excellent service for the money, I recommend this one instead! It’s located close to tons of food and drink places where you can spend some quality time! And did I mention how much I like the design of the rooms? It’s so cool!
- Sometimes Hotel Taksim – This hotel offers some great amenities and facilities that you will definitely enjoy! The rooms are simply gorgeous, I just fell in love with the design! But one of the best advantages of staying here has to be the fact that it’s only 200 m from Istiklal Street.
Budget (up to US$60)
- Taksim Avenue – This budget hotel is super homey and it offers a local, traditional atmosphere while still being super modern. Even though the rooms are not that big, they’re very cozy and clean, which is a great advantage!
- T-Square Residence – This hotel looks simply great and it’s ideal for tourists looking to save some money on accommodation. It has free Wi-Fi, a terrace and balconies with city views, and a wide choice of breakfasts!
6. Besiktas and Sisli
When I visited Istanbul for the first time 3 months ago for a photography exhibition, I chose to stay in Beşiktaş because it was close to the venue where the event was held and, in all honesty, I just fell in love with this neighborhood! It was one of the best choices I made and I didn’t even realize how lucky I was until I got there!
Beşiktaş is part of a bigger district called Şişli. Here are some things that I love about this area: it’s close to the Bosphorus, so you can always take a nice stroll near the water and enjoy some freshly squeezed fruit juice from the street vendors.
You can visit Dolmabahçe Palace or you can quickly take a ferry to the Asian side. Plus, there are TONS of awesome restaurants and street food stalls, bars, clubs and cafes, and even a fish bazaar! I never got bored walking around the tiny streets and trying different foods and sweets.
The feeling I got was that Beşiktaş never sleeps and there’s always something to do there, regardless of how late it is!
By the way, Besiktas is well-known for the numerous luxurious hotels located here! Below you can find my hand-picked recommendations, for all budgets and preferences:
Luxury (US$120 and up)
- Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus Hotel – Here’s one of THE best hotels in this part of the city that will offer a flawless service, regardless of how many days you choose to book here! This property awaits with beautiful views of the sea, a heated outdoor pool and an indoor one, free Wi-Fi and more!
- W Istanbul – In case you didn’t make up your mind about where you’re going to stay in one of the best neighborhoods in the city, I present to you another option! This one is right on the coast, surrounded by many local places where you can eat, drink or dance. There’s entertainment for days here!
- Divan Hotel Istanbul – And because this side of the Bosphorus offers so many luxury hotels, here’s another great choice for you! This superb 5-star hotel has an on-site Turkish bath, spacious and beautiful rooms and even its own on-site restaurant.
Middle-priced (from US$60 – US$120)
- Mercure Istanbul The Plaza Bosphorus – In case you want to stay in a great value hotel on the Bosphorus, take a look at this one, you might fall in love! This is actually a 5-star hotel that has some affordable rooms as well, so if you find a free spot here, make sure to book it!
- Manna Boutique Hotels – Here’s an ideal choice if you want to stay in a superb hotel close to many traditional, local places where you can enjoy some authentic food! This property is definitely recommended to people who want to travel in style without spending too much!
Budget (up to US$60)
- Linden Houses – This is the hotel where I stayed and I had a pleasant experience there! Even though our room was kind of small, it was great for what we needed, aka a space where we could get a good night’s sleep! Plus, the area is great – even though it’s surrounded by tons of bars and local food places, the street is quiet and nice. I’m sure you’ll love it as well!
- Hot Budget Ortakoy – Here’s another great budget choice in an area full of tourists and locals alike, which means you’ll never get bored here! This property offers 3-star service and some clean and cozy rooms, as well as free Wi-Fi and private parking.
Best apartments in Istanbul
In case you’re the type of traveler that prefers a homey feeling and more space, or if you’re traveling in a big group or with your family, then booking an apartment might be one of the best decisions you can take that will make your trip better!
Luckily for you, Istanbul has TONS of great apartments that you can choose from on Airbnb, for all tastes and budgets! Below I have selected the best ones I could find in Sultanahmet, the best neighborhood for first-timers traveling to the city:
Luxury (US$80 and up)
- Q Suite in Old City Istanbul – Yep, it is possible to stay in an apartment and still enjoy some well-deserved luxury! For example, this apartment is simply superb and it’s ideal for two guests. It’s walking distance from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and it awaits with complimentary soft drinks!
- Front of SEA View Apartments Sultanahmet – Here’s another luxurious option that has a view of the sea – just great! It’s an ideal recommendation if you want to enjoy a homey feeling but also to be close to an endless choice of restaurants, bars and pubs!
Middle-priced (from US$40 – US$80)
- Penthause Studio in Sultanahmet – In case you want something with a better price, here’s a great option for you! This apartment is not that big but it’s super cozy and it has some very good reviews from past guests. It’s recommended for up to 2 people and you’ll also have a private kitchen!
- Medusa Apart – This apartment has a more traditional decor, but it’s super cozy nevertheless. It’s more spacious, fit for up to 4 people, which means it’s just great for a family! But probably the best advantage of this space is that it’s only 100m from the Blue Mosque!
Budget (up to US$40)
- Private room in Taksim – It’s hard to believe this cozy hotel apartment is super affordable. Probably that’s one of the reasons why this place is almost always fully booked, so make sure to book yours in advance to stay here. Expect a sunny and bright room complete with a living area, kitchen, and dining. They also offer an airport pick up for an additional cost.
- Private Hotel Room//Heart of Historical Istanbul – And here’s another very good apartment choice that I can recommend to you! It’s five minutes away from the heart of the city and it’s clean and cozy!
Best hotels near Istanbul Airport
The city actually has two international airports – one on the Asian side of Istanbul (Sabiha Gokcen Airport) and one on the European side (Istanbul Ataturk Airport). Because all of the neighborhoods and areas I am recommending in this article are on the European side and because it’s also the most visited half of the city, I’ll talk about accommodation near Ataturk Istanbul Airport (IST) below.
The airport is located in Arnavutköy district, around 40 km away from the city center, so quite far away. In case you have a very early or very late flight, choosing a hotel located as close to the airport as possible might save you some precious time and sleep.
Check out my three best recommendations below (one for each type of budget):
- YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport (Airside) – This is my recommendation for luxury travelers that want to stay in Istanbul airport hotel! Yep, this hotel is right at Terminal 1, so you can’t get closer than this! The rooms are extremely clean and cozy as well, just great for a satisfying night’s sleep!
- YOTEL Istanbul Airport (Landside) – Here’s my second accommodation recommendation located at the same terminal. Just like the first one, I think this is an excellent choice and a super convenient hotel!
- Airport Guest House – If you’re on a budget instead, I can recommend this guesthouse instead. It’s not that close to the airport, unfortunately – it’s 6 km away but it has a paid airport shuttle service that you can use, which is a big advantage!
That’s it! This was my complete guide on Istanbul accommodation! I hope you found this post useful and maybe you already found the best hotel in Istanbul for your stay in one of my lists above, why not?
In this post I have talked about the 6 best areas to stay in the city, with the best hotel recommendations in each of them. I’ve also picked some fabulous apartments and airport hotels for you, so you basically have everything you need here, especially if you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time!
Are you heading to Istanbul soon? Do you have any other questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll gladly help!
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