At the crossroads of Europe and Asia in more ways than one, Istanbul is a city you’ll never forget. Spread across three distinct peninsulas and two continents, Istanbul can be a bit overwhelming, though at its heart it’s a bucket list destination packed with delicious food, beautiful destinations, and centuries of history for you to explore.
In this ultimate guide to where to stay in Istanbul, we share the best neighborhoods Istanbul has to offer and everything you’ll need to know to plan your time in this bustling capital. You’ll find the best hotels, guesthouses, and hostels in Istanbul and tips for getting around and enjoying all of the city’s best sites. Let’s get started planning your dream trip to Istanbul!
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Istanbul is a sprawling capital city of more than 15 million people, spread across a huge area it’s a challenge to navigate even for return visitors. Composed of incredibly diverse neighborhoods and unique areas, it’s more important here than ever to make sure you find the best place to stay in Istanbul for the type of trip you’re looking for.
These are some of the most popular areas to stay in Istanbul, both for first-time visitors to the city and for more seasoned travelers looking for a great experience:
- Sultanahmet: This is where to stay in Istanbul for history and sightseeing. You’ll be right in the heart of it all in Sultanahmet, steps from the city’s rich history and most popular attractions.
- Eminönü – Grand Bazaar: This is where to stay in Istanbul for proximity to everything, with more of a local, authentic flavor than you’ll find in Sultanahmet.
- Beyoğlu: This is where to stay in Istanbul for the cool restaurants and cafes, great accommodations, and killer views. Beyoğlu is the coolest area of the city – by far!
- Kadıköy – Istanbul’s Asian Side: This is where to stay in Istanbul for more authentic local flavor, cheaper prices, and tons of up-and-coming shops, cafes, and accommodations.
Istanbul Neighborhoods Map
Check out the Istanbul neighborhoods map we’ve made to accompany this article; it includes all the spots we mention in this article! Feel free to click around, and you can even download it for your trip.
Where To Stay in Istanbul
Whether you choose to stay in one of our favorite neighborhoods like Beyoğlu or Kadıköy on Istanbul’s Asian side, or the classic Sultanahmet in the shadow of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, these are some of the best places to stay in Istanbul, at every budget!
Whether you’ve visited Istanbul before or this is your first time in the city, you’re sure to be spending a lot of your time in the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. Home to all the major attractions like Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sofia, among plenty of other historic landmarks, the Golden Horn is buzzing and busy, attracting a good number of travelers with its historic charm.
It can get busy, touristy even, in the main areas of Sultanahmet, but the proximity to the city’s best attractions can’t be beat. These are the gems of Sultanahmet, among the best places to stay in Istanbul.
Agora Hostel ($)
One of the best hostels in Istanbul, Agora Hostel is one of those hostels you dream of. An awesome, walkable location, with comfortable, quiet rooms and big lockers, it even has an incredible rooftop deck with sweeping views. It is a bit more expensive than other hostels in more distant parts of the city, but you’ll get much more for the price.
The hostel also offers surprisingly great private room options, some of which are much nicer than similarly-priced hotels in the area. Even if you don’t normally stay in hostels, this place is a great choice worth considering!
Esans Hotel ($ – $$)
The friendly, locally-owned Esans Hotel is no frills and no fuss, but just perfect for an affordable yet comfortable stay in Sultanahmet. Most rooms are quite spacious, an especially welcome treat at this price point in the historic center, with modern bathrooms. The stunning Sultanahmet and harbor views from the hotel’s terrace and restaurant are jaw-dropping.
Ibrahim Pasha Hotel ($$)
Mere steps from the Hippodrome and Sultanahmet’s other star attractions, the Ibrahim Pasha Hotel is a friendly boutique hotel, modern and renovated with great amenities amid a sea of more historic (but also more antiquated) hotels in the area. Standard rooms can be small, but warm furnishings with comfortable beds and ultra-modern bathrooms make for a homey, comfortable experience.
The rooftop terrace is worth a visit even if you’re not staying here; views of the Blue Mosque are some of the best in the city, making the perfect backdrop for morning coffee or an evening drink.
Hagia Sofia Mansions ($$$)
A collection of 17 individual mansions hidden between Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia, Hagia Sofia Mansions is a one-of-a-kind hotel burst with personality and luxe details. With a Turkish hammam and deep soaking tub in every bathroom, a large, shaded patio for al fresco dining, and stunning Hagia Sofia views from the terrace, you’ll fall in love with this hotel in an instant.
Rooms are colorful, vibrant, and spacious, a great match for the sights and sounds just outside the hotel’s doors. Plus, on-site amenities like a fitness center, restaurant, spa, and subterranean pool with historic stonework surrounds make Hagia Sofia Mansions an easy choice among the best places to stay in this sought-after neighborhood.
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Eminönü – Grand Bazaar
Just a short walk or drive from the popular Sultanahmet, the Eminönü area near the Grand Bazaar and the university is another great choice to consider when deciding where to stay in Istanbul. While this neighborhood has just as much liveliness as Sultanahmet, it feels much more local and less overwhelmed with tourists during the summer high season of travel.
Of course, the biggest attraction in Eminönü is the Grand Bazaar, considered by many to be the most famous market in the world. It sets the tone for this entire neighborhood, as you’ll find tons of shops and stalls throughout the area selling everything from carpets and homewares to souvenirs and fresh foods.
Walkable to all the attractions, Eminönü is a great choice for travelers looking to explore Istanbul’s Golden Horn. You’ll find a great mix of accommodation options, with these among our favorites:
Primero Hotel ($ – $$)
Located just steps from the Grand Bazaar and the attractions in Sultanahmet, Primero Hotel is a great budget hotel option in the neighborhood. Rooms can be a bit small but are exceedingly clean and comfortable, making for a great value stay. You can’t beat the location here, and the free, delicious breakfast is a huge plus.
FER Hotel ($$ – $$$)
A modern, luxe boutique hotel located between the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque, FER Hotel is a favorite in the neighborhood, known for its beautiful design and excellent service. While the hotel lacks a lot of the charming historic elements that other hotels in the area are known for, it makes up for it with spacious rooms, fantastic amenities, and incredible service. It’s no wonder it’s won awards for being a stand-out boutique property.
AJWA Sultanahmet ($$$)
The impressive – even ornate! – luxury hotel AJWA Sultanahmet is among the best places to stay in Istanbul. While many of the city’s most impressive hotels line the waterfront, AJWA Sultanahmet is located south of the Grand Bazaar, quite near the eastern part of Sultanahmet in a quieter corner between these lively neighborhoods. It’s the perfect luxury hotel for travelers looking for the best of the city at their fingertips.
Expect stunning views of the harbor and the entire Golden Horn, somehow even more impressive than the hotel’s lovely interiors. With less than one hundred rooms, you’ll enjoy the friendly, personalized service of a boutique hotel along with the amenities of a larger property.
It’s easy to see why the neighborhoods on the northern peninsula of Istanbul’s European side are so cool. In Beyoğlu‘s vibrant neighborhoods like Karaköy along the water and Galata slightly inland, you’ll find plenty of great places to stay, eat, and party, with everything from budget-friendly options especially popular for backpackers to some of the nicest hotels in Istanbul along the Karaköy waterfront.
Beyoğlu is no Sultanahmet, but don’t bristle at this area if you’re a first-time traveler looking to stay in the heart of all the action. Beyoğlu is a great spot for everyone from first-time visitors to more seasoned travelers to Istanbul, and it is easily among the city’s coolest neighborhoods with the most to offer travelers. Views are spectacular, and Sultanahmet attractions are just a short taxi away.
The Central House Istanbul Galata ($)
The stylish, comfortable Central House Istanbul Galata is one of the best hostels in the hostel-packed Galata area of Beyoğlu, a standout favorite backpackers will fall in love with. Offering dorm rooms and excellent private options, this could even be a great spot for long-term travelers or digital nomads checking out Istanbul. The hostel’s spacious common areas are perfect for meeting other travelers or getting a bit of remote work done after a day of sightseeing.
Ada Karakoy Hotel ($ – $$)
Located in the upscale Karakoy area of Beyoğlu, Ada Karakoy Hotel is a no-frills, modern boutique hotel at a great price. While it’s nothing fancy, the rooms are clean and comfortable, the breakfast bar and terraces overlook the water and surrounding mosque turrets are impressive, and the neighborhood is packed with great places to eat and plenty to see and do.
SuB Karakoy ($$)
For stunning views, comfortable and beautifully designed rooms, and excellent service, SuB Karakoy is a standout favorite in the Karakoy area of Beyoğlu. The vibrancy of the hotel’s unique design matches the neighborhood, with its up-and-coming bars and restaurants and cool, friendly vibes. Lounges and bars throughout the hotel offer relaxing moments with panoramic views over the water and the surrounding neighborhood.
Kadıköy – Istanbul’s Asian Side
With so much to see and do on the European side of Istanbul, it might seem like an odd choice to consider basing yourself in the Kadıköy area on Istanbul’s Asian side… but hear us out. Kadıköy can be the perfect spot for an affordable stay in a cool neighborhood, and you’ll enjoy so much that most other Istanbul travelers never get to see.
Spend your mornings and afternoons exploring the major attractions on the city’s European side before catching the ferry across the Bosphorus and returning to enjoy bustling cafes and restaurants in this cool, up-and-coming area. Bağdat Caddesi, aka Baghdad Avenue, is packed with lively places to eat and drink, with plenty of places to stay nearby.
Kadıköy and the rest of the Asian side of Istanbul are also perfect if you’re getting ready to continue traveling overland through the rest of Turkey – Haydarpaşa train station is nearby and easily accessible. It might not be the most instagrammable spot in Istanbul, but you’ll love staying here.
Yolo Hostel Kadikoy ($)
A favorite spot for backpackers and budget travelers staying on the Asian side of the city, Yolo Hostel Kadikoy is just five minutes from the Bosphorus on a lively, cool street in a buzzy neighborhood. Tons of organized activities and excursions make it a very sociable hostel – but not overwhelming loud or party-oriented – so it will appeal to a range of travelers.
Dorm rooms are quite spacious, and “pod-like” bunk beds offer a lot of privacy. The hostel also offers surprisingly spacious private rooms, which are a great, affordable choice you’ll love even if you don’t usually stay in hostels.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Istanbul – Moda ($$)
Just a short, waterfront walk from the metro station and ferry for the short trip to the Golden Horn, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Istanbul – Moda is a modern and comfortable new hotel for a hassle-free stay in the trendy Moda area.
What the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Istanbul – Moda lacks in personality or charm it makes up for in amenities. A large fitness center, spa, massive pool deck with stunning harbor view, a big eatery make for a convenient trip, whether you’re here for business or just looking for a comfortable, modern base from which to explore Istanbul.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.