Sofia Adventures

It’s impossible for us to truly explain how much we love Istanbul. Between Stephanie and me, we have visited Istanbul eight times and truly gotten to know this incredible city on the Bosphorus. It feels almost as if a second home to us. Every time, coming back to Istanbul feels like another piece of the puzzle of this maddeningly beautiful city is clicking into place.

It was one of the first cities that either Stephanie or I visited internationally in our adult years: Stephanie went for the first time in 2011 and I made my first visit in 2012. Since then, the siren call of Istanbul has been hard to ignore, and we’ve never regretted a single time we’ve answered its call.

We love Istanbul at any time of year; I especially love Istanbul in winter, which just so happened to be my first visit to it (and when Istanbul hotel deals are at their best).

Where to Stay in Istanbul: A Super Quick Cheat Sheet

No time to read a huge post and just want to cut to the chase? Here are our top picks for where to stay in Istanbul, for first timers or repeat visitors. All three are in our favorite district, Beyoglu, which encompasses everything from buzzy Taksim to seaside Karakoy to hipster Cihangir to quaint Galata.

Turkey - Istanbul - Turkish Spices - Pixabay

Budget: For a great budget-friendly hotel, you can stay in either the single or double rooms at the Dreamers B&B. Colorful and cozy, the B&B boasts a fabulous location in Beyoglu, less than a kilometer from Taksim Square. You can explore all of Beyoglu from here, and then head to Sultanahmet when you’re ready to see the old city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet trendy boutique hotel, we recommend Peradays. It’s perfect for all Istanbul visitors, from first-timers to Istanbul veterans. The lofted rooms are generously large, so you can spread out and relax after a long day of sightseeing. They also have two cats that live here, Pera and Daisy, which you’ll be happy to greet after counting cats all day when out in the city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here. 

Luxury: Istanbul has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but we love Hammamhane, a boutique apartment-hotel that was originally a hammam, and the sister hotel of Peradays. Built in a historic hammam (Turkish bath), the suites are spacious and luxurious. Located in the heart of Cukurcuma, the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

Our Favorite Istanbul Neighborhoods

Galata

Turkey - Istanbul - Galata Tower

The area around Galata Tower is one of the best Istanbul neighborhoods for first-timers, a maze of streets with traditional restaurants, quirky stores selling unique Turkish souvenirs, and stalls selling fresh orange and pomegranate juice seemingly everywhere you look.

Çukurcuma

Istanbul - Turkey - Cukurcuma

More of a micro-neighborhood than a neighborhood proper, Çukur Cuma is actually a street in Beyoglu that is famous for its antiques as well as being home to the Museum of Innocence, the real-life manifestation of Orhan Pamuk’s epic novel of the same name. However, the neighborhood encompasses the surrounding blocks as well, located close to the Galatasaray school.

Taksim

Istanbul - Turkey - trams

One of the best places to stay in Istanbul for first time visitors, Taksim Square is unparalleled in terms of ease of access to the rest of the city. It’s great if you’re visiting Istanbul for a short amount of time or on a layover, as many of the airport buses drop off and depart from here. Aside from that, it offers easy access to Istiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian street and the true heart of Istanbul, as well as the metro to get basically anywhere you want to go in Istanbul.

Karaköy

Istanbul - Turkey - Karakoy at night

Located on the bank of the Bosphorus, Karaköy is one of my most beloved Istanbul neighborhoods. It’s full of hip restaurants and bars, funky street art, and a youthful vibe everywhere. You can also stroll here all the way to the foot of the Galata Bridge, and it’s a prime location for exploring the Asian side of Istanbul via the Karaköy-Kadıköy ferry.

Balat

Turkey - Istanbul - Colorful Houses - Canva Purchase

The most Instagrammable neighborhood in Istanbul, Balat is colorful and funky. Historically, it was the Greek Orthodox and Armenian neighborhood; nowadays, it’s gotten a bit of a hipster facelift à la Karaköy. You’ll find small coffee roasters, bespoke art shops and galleries, and vintage stores catering to a hip subset of Istanbulites.

Arnavutköy

Turkey - Istanbul - Wooden Houses of Arnavutkoy

A delightfully beautiful neighborhood to visit by day, with its traditional wooden architecture, Arnavutköy also pops off at night when it becomes one of the hotspots of Istanbul nightlife. While the neighborhood is beloved by people who know Istanbul well, many tourists have yet to hear much about Arnavutköy, so there’s a good chance you won’t be around many other fellow travelers and can fall into local life a little more.

Beşiktaş

Turkey - Istanbul - Ortakoy Mosque

The heart of the luxury hotel district in Istanbul, waterfront Beşiktaş is beloved for its epic Bosphorus views and proximity to Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortaköy Mosque. There are tons of rooftop bars in this area offering sweeping views and cocktails, though prices may be a bit steep in this neck of the woods.

Sultanahmet

Turkey - Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Canva

Sultanahmet is my top recommendation for where to stay in Istanbul for firsttimers who want to be in the heart of the tourist action. While it dies down a bit at night and therefore isn’t ideal for travelers who want to take advantage of Istanbul’s buzzy nightlife, it is great for early birds and photography enthusiasts who want to get out and get photos of Istanbul’s most photogenic and busy spots before the crowds get there.

Don’t Leave Without Travel Insurance!

Finally, make sure you always travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

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