If you are planning your trip to Istanbul, you are probably wondering where to stay. In a city with over 15 million people, the choice is large. But is it really? As a tourist, you will want to stay close to the attractions and public transportation. Here is where to stay in Istanbul
I did a lot of research before going to Istanbul for the first time and there seemed to be two recommendations: Sultanahmet district or Beyoglu district.
Sultanahmet is the Old Town part of the city, with Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, the Topkapi Palace. All of the most well-known attractions of Istambul are here. Everything within very walkable distances, if you don’t mind the hills. The city was built on seven hills, like Rome, so be prepared for some serious workout! It is full of restaurants, bars, fast foods. There is a very convenient T1 Tram that will take you either to the metro, the ferry, or to the other side of the bridge. If you decide to stay here, make sure that at least you are close to the tram.
Although it is filled with restaurants and attractions, it is all mainly for tourists. Most locals never come here, because the prices are at least double then everywhere else and it is, well, filled with tourists. It’s like staying right next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris or on La Rambla in Barcelona. It’s nice, but busy, expensive and not very authentic.
Beyoglu is the new district with a large shopping street, lots of restaurants, chic bars, cafes, designer stores, handmade goods, great breakfast spots, and the best Baklava in Town!
It is filled with a mix of locals and tourists. Everyone is pretty casual, girls dress freely, like in any European country (contrary to Sultanahmet, where, since it’s also a religious center, women tend to cover themselves a lit more). Great kebabs can be found here, rooftop bars, and local eateries. It is also very well connected with the historical center and other parts of the city worth visiting.
Where to stay: the answer
To me, the answer was clear: I want to stay in the Old Town. And it was a mistake. I planned a few days in Istanbul and I quickly realized that the whole “life” of the city is in Beyoglu. Well, not the whole life, there are other districts well worth visiting, but I will talk about it later. Anyway, in Sultanahmet everything is made for tourists, locals almost don’t go there and frankly, it’s quite boring. The Tram T1 connects Beyoglu with Sultanahmet in less than 10 minutes, so it is very practical to come and visit the Old Town and the Grand Bazaar.
So my recommendation is: stay in Beyoglu, without a doubt. If you want to have a nice dinner, delicious cocktail, or just walk around, it is way nicer then the touristy Sultanahmet. In addition, the prices on this side of the bridge are much friendlier. They double in Sultanahmet, for obvious reasons.
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