Where to stay in Istanbul for savvy travelers

King suite at Istanbul Doubletree by Hilton Sirkeci

Where to stay in Istanbul on your Istanbul holidays will be determined by whether you want to explore the cultural and historic sites, enjoy the city’s nightlife or bask in the warm comforts of small town village life.

Istanbul has a well developed city transportation system and most areas are easily accessible by bus, tram or metro. One is spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to stay in Istanbul for any level of luxury and it is not hard to find one that fits your budget or the size of your travel group.

Read More: Comprehensive travel guide for Istanbul holidays

I have stayed at quite a few Istanbul hotels over the years and my requirements were as follows:

  • Close proximity to the tram or metro station.
  • Within walking distance to some of the major attractions.
  • Ground floor accommodation or a building with an elevator that worked.
  • Maximum price range to a 5 star UAE hotel (US$100 – 225 per night)

Best area to stay in Istanbul

Old City – Sultanahmet, Fatih, Laleli, Eminönü, Sirkeci

The most popular area with first time visitors to Istanbul is the Old City on the European side of the city.

Many of the city’s famous landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace are clustered around Sultanahmet square. A number of museums border Gülhane Park and a visit can be combined with a relaxing meal at the restaurant or a leisurely stroll with Bosphorus views.

This area is also home to traditional tradesmen’s worskhops including metalsmiths, jewelers and makers of Narghile or the waterpipe and decorative unit used for smoking shisha.

Read More: Istanbul food tour – Backstreets of the Bazaar Quarter

Istanbul City Center – Beyoğlu district

Business travelers often find the Beyoğlu district on the opposite side of the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet more suitable for their needs. In the past this area was inhabited by Greeks, Genoese and Venetians followed by a multitude of foreign traders who brought their own culture, religion and communities. The area is characterised by elegant European architecture, mansions, churches and embassies.

Popular neighborhoods like Karaköy (formerly Galata), Şişhane, Cihangir, Tophane and Taksim are now the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife.

Read More: Istanbul food tour – Hidden Beyoğlu

Passages and alleys off Istiklal Avenue Beyoglu

Asian side – Üsküdar and Kadikoy

The sprawling residential neighborhoods of Üsküdar are wonderfully authentic places to feel the pace of real Istanbul life. It is accessible by Ferry from Eminönü or Besiktas or the Marmara undersea metro line.

I love the Kuzguncuk neighborhood with it’s quaint houses and family owned businesses and it’s places of worship standing side by side.

The fresh produce markets behind the Mihrima Sultan mosque have fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and preserves from across the region. Restaurants with hyper local specialities serve home style cooking and are popular with locals and tourists alike.

Read More: Istanbul food tour – Born on the Bosphorus

Bosphorus ferry ride on Istanbul holidays

Bosphorus ferry ride

During the peak summer season you may find that the Old City hotels are much more expensive than the Istanbul city center or Asian side hotels. Everything is just a tram, metro or ferry ride away so both the European and Asian sides are equally accessible with short commute times.

Read More: 13 Unmissable things to do in Istanbul

Hotels in Sultanahmet Istanbul

The best area to stay in Istanbul for a first time visitor is in Sultanahmet where all the historical monuments, museums and places of interest are located. Many of them are within close walking distance to each other.

Grand Bazaar outside markets

Affordable: Hotel Miniature

My favorite boutique hotel in Istanbul and the best place to stay in Istanbul is without a doubt the historic Hotel Miniature. The rooms are modern and decor is tasteful and a double room is suitable for a solo traveller or a couple.

  • The rooms are thoughtfully decorated and has everything one would require for personal use.
  • They even provided a little dish of Turkish delight and a teddy bear as a welcome gift.
  • The hotel is located within walking distance to the historical sights of Sultanahmet and the tram station, and a 7 minute walk to Sirkeci tram and metro line.
  • There are small grocer shops down the road in the event that you need any personal essentials or snacks.
  • This hotel is also a two minute walk from my favorite Istanbul restaurant, Deraliye Ottoman Palace Restaurant – Istanbul.
  • The reception staff will gladly arrange bookings for dinner or entertainment and all the staff are helpful and courteous and will go out of their way to be of assistance.

Check rates and availability

Deluxe – DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Sirkeci

We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul – Sirkeci on a family trip and received a room upgrade as a Hilton Honors rewards club member.

  • The hotel is up the road from the Sirkeci tram station and directly opposite one of the metro line exits.
  • It is within walking distance to the Sirkeci shopping node and very close to many cafes and authentic Turkish local restaurants.
  • The entrance to Gülhane Park was down the road and the restaurant there serves a very delicious Turkish breakfast.
  • Gülhane is also the closest tram station to the hotel.

Check rates and availability

Other hotels that I have stayed at in the same area include:

Luxury: Ajwa Hotel Sultanahmet

This hotel is a recent addition to the Istanbul luxury hotels offering.

  • It is decorated in the Ottoman style with ornate mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture and hand made silk carpets.
  • The historical Turkish, the Çemberlitaş Hamamı constructed in 1584 is a few minutes walk from the hotel.

Check rates and availability

Hotels in Beyoğlu Istanbul

I stayed on this side of the city on my second visit to Istanbul many years ago when I stayed at The Marmara Pera. The European styled architecture makes Istiklal Street feel like any other European capital and gives the Cihangir neighborhood a distinctly French flavor.

Affordable: Nuru Ziya Suites

When deciding on where to stay in Istanbul on my most recent trip, I chose the Nuru Ziya Suites in the Beyoğlu district because it was centrally located near Istiklal Avenue, and within walking distance to Taksim square. With stays of 3 days or more they also included a free transfer to or from the airport.

  • The self-catering executive suite at Nuru Ziya Suites had a bed as well as a sleeper couch that they provided bed linens for. This self-catering apartment type hotel room easily accommodates 3 adults and a continental breakfast buffet was included in the price.
  • The kitchen had a microwave and hob as well as crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils. All the rooms include an iPad, 32″ Smart TV/Satellite Receiver, Wireless Phone/Internet, Mini-Bar, Espresso Machine.
  • There were shops, cafes and public transport links a short walk away.
  • The only downside was the location on a very steep hill but it was good exercise walking up to Istiklal street or down to the Cihangir neighbourhood.
  • There are amazing food stalls, cafes and food producers in the streets behind Istiklal Street for less than half the price of the touristy eateries of the Flower Passage.

Check rates and availability

Deluxe – Pera Palace Hotel

The Pera Palace hotel gained notoriety as the location where it is rumored that Agatha Christie wrote The Murder on the Orient Express. When I stayed at the Marmara Pera many years ago, the window overlooked the dilipated gardens of the hotel.

  • Pera Palace was the first and oldest luxury hotel of the Ottoman empire until it fell into disrepair.
  • The hotel is a special category museum hotel protected by law, and underwent a complete renovation and restoration that was completed in 2010.
  • The decor and hospitality offerings combines Ottoman and European influences and the grand entrance destroyed by a World War 2 Nazi bomb has been fully refurbished with marble and gold leaf.
  • The location near the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art and the Pera Museum is within walking distance of the Şişhane metro station.

Check rates and availability

Luxury – Soho House Istanbul

This modern luxury hotel is spread across three buildings arranged around a central courtyard. The roof terraces boast spectacular views across the Golden Horn.

  • Contemporary styling and design includes a rain-forest shower, freestanding baths and comfortable cow-hide sofas and armchairs.
  • The hotel wellness facilities include it’s own traditional hammam and modern equipped gym for relaxation and workouts.
  • The Şişhane metro station is a few minutes walk from the hotel.

Check rates and availability

Hotels in Taksim Istanbul

This is by far my least favorite part of the city and not one I visit very often or for very long. It is always crowded and the restaurants and cafes on the main arteries are so overpriced it’s not funny. That being said, if being in the thick of things appeals to you then it’s the perfect area to stay in Istanbul with bargain hotel deals.Istanbul Taksim Square eateries

Affordable – Bonne Sante Hotel

  • The hotel is located on Taksim end of Istiklal Street and within a few minutes walk from the Taksim metro station.
  • This is a good budget option for Istanbul and has family sized suites.

Check rates and availability

Deluxe – Hotel Divan Istanbul

This hotel is located a short walk from Taksim Square and Gezi Park and has contemporary design and decor.

  • There is an on-site traditional hammam, indoor pool and fitness center.
  • This hotel has two bedroom suites and connecting rooms to accommodate families.

Check rates and availability

Luxury – The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul at the Bosphorus

This hotel has spectacular views of the Bosphorus and across the Asian side of the city.

  • There are no metro stations nearby but the hotel is only a 10 minute drive to the historical center of the city.
  • Design and decor is modern and there is a sun terrace with pool, open-air spa rooms and hot tubs for guest use.
  • The spa has an extensive array of treatments for face and body.

Check rates and availability

Hotels in Uskudar and Kadikoy Istanbul

This area is mostly residential with typical Istanbul local neighborhoods and apartments available for long or short term letting. It is much quieter than the Old City or Beyoğlu district. This area is highly recommended for it’s wonderful food markets and slow relaxed pace of life. My favorite area is at Kuzguncuk, a sleepy suburb that feels like a small village.

Top hotels in Istanbul – Luxury hotels starting at US$ 225 per night

The best hotels in Istanbul from the world’s premier hotel resort brands are located along the Bosphorus. These Istanbul resorts are the best luxury hotels in Istanbul with all the bells and whistles and includes the following:


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  • Reply
    Catherine @ To & Fro Fam
    August 19, 2019 at 4:27 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Istanbul! I’m hoping to visit sooner rather than later so saving this pin for later.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Istanbul looks like an amazing city – thanks for the helpful guide about where to stay!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2019 at 6:25 am

    We stayed out near the airport on the European side on our first night before our road trip in Turkey, but then we stayed in the old town at the end of our trip. Such a great area to stay! Wish I had seen this post first to help us find a hotel there.

  • Reply
    Merrie Rodriguez
    August 17, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Great guide!! I hope I get the chance to go one day

  • Reply
    Tania Muthusamy
    August 17, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    I definitely plan on going to Istanbul soon, so this article will be very handy. I think I would probably stay in the old city, as you suggested, for first timers. Thank you.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I always prefer to stay close to the city center to that all the main attractions are close by. The list of hotels is fairly comprehensive, will definitely refer it when I plan my trip.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Istanbul is quite up in my list! Will keep your advice well in mind. this place looks so cool!

  • Reply
    Liz Bayardelle
    August 8, 2019 at 6:09 am

    This is such a fantastic guide! Also, I had no idea how beautiful isstanbul was. I might have to add that to my travel list.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 9, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      It’s an amazing city and has so much to offer travelers interested in history, ancient culture and good food.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2019 at 4:32 am

    I have never considered visiting Istanbul but it certainly sounds like there is lots to do. The hotels also seem to be much cheaper than in North America. I always prefer to stay at a non-chain hotel when travelling so that I can support the local businesses. A bonus that most of the main attractions are within walking distance.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 9, 2019 at 6:33 pm

      Although many of the major international chains are present there are just as many independent and small family owned hotels even in the historical center.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2019 at 2:51 am

    What a detailed post! Im sure i’ll finally get to visit Istanbul someday so ill be sure to check this post again, you have some really great tips! Love your photos too!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 9, 2019 at 6:39 pm

      You should pin it so you can refer back to it at any time when you decide to take the plunge and visit Istanbul 👍

  • Reply
    Cynthia | What A Girl Eats
    August 8, 2019 at 2:47 am

    I have heard nothing but great things about Istanbul! What a great guide for planning a trip there.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 9, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks Cynthia, I try to include information that I also look for when planning a trip, and hope it helps.

  • Reply
    Whitney Kutch
    August 8, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Istanbul looks amazing! I’ve been all over the place, but haven’t made it there yet. I’ll add it to my list!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      August 9, 2019 at 6:41 pm

      You should go! It truly is an amazing city with something for every traveler.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post, Istanbul is on my never ending bucket list!

  • Reply
    Megan Kulluk
    August 7, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Awesome detailed post. I have been planning a trip to Istanbul and was unsure what area I wanted to stay in. Can’t wait to get there, so much to see and do!

  • Reply
    August 7, 2019 at 8:19 am

    I love the old city area!!! Istanbul is a beautiful city

  • Reply
    Viano Dee
    August 7, 2019 at 6:23 am

    Istanbul is so beautiful. Funny I’ve seen a couple of articles on it in the past week but I like that you give details about where to stay. Very detailed piece.

  • Reply
    August 6, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing the travel information here. I love Hilton hotels. They are usually very nice.

  • Reply
    August 6, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    I’ve always wanted to travel there! I save your post on Pinterest so I can refer back!

  • Reply
    August 6, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    I’d love to visit Istanbul! The Old City resonates with me. I’d definitely stay in that area.

  • Reply
    Paula Stewart
    August 6, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    With its continental breakfast and kitchenette, I believe we have chosen the Nuru Ziya Suites, also. Being able to fix some of our meals in the room is always a great money saver.

  • Reply
    Subhashish Roy
    August 6, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Istanbul has certainly been a place I have wanted to visit. Your pictures and great information on stay would be of great help when I plan.

  • Reply
    August 6, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Great to hear Istanbul tourism is getting strong. One expo here in PH and one area is solely for the city. Wow!

  • Reply
    Indya | The Small Adventurer
    August 6, 2019 at 11:18 am

    I’ve never thought about visiting Istanbul before, but these photos have certainly got me intrigued! I’m particularly interested in the streets filled with umbrellas. That is so strange but cool and colourful!?! 😯

  • Reply
    Brittany Nicole
    August 6, 2019 at 6:41 am

    These are great suggestions! Im definitely going to keep this post in mind when i get to travel to Istanbul.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    this place has been on my bucket list forever and i love how you broke everything down on what to do! eek! cant wait to pin a few of these for the future!

  • Reply
    Alek ZD
    August 5, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Awesome post!! I don’t know when I’ll get around to getting to Istanbul, but I’ll definitely keep this post saved. Istanbul seems like such a historical and engaging city, and I can’t wait to go. Thanks for the advice.

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