To me, the best part of Istanbul isn’t the grandeur of Topkapi Palace or the historical significance of the Hagia Sophia. 

What makes Istanbul special has to be the variety of neighbourhoods. Heck, in some areas, every street and alleyway offers a different vibe from the next one. 

On a long walk through the city, you can stumble into incredible views of the Bosporus, or streets lined with upscale boutiques at any moment. Istanbul is so much more than the historical quarter of Sultanahmet. In this article, I explore the best neighbourhoods in Istanbul from more of a local perspective, given that I lived 8 months in the city.

The 11 Best Neighbourhoods to Stay in Istanbul

Here is a short version of my list of the best neighbourhoods in Istanbul. The city has everything from chill coastal neighbourhoods to upscale shopping districts. Find the one that suits you best.

  1. Beşiktaş: This area is famous for its sporting culture, having one of Turkey’s biggest football teams, and is a hub for shopping, entertainment, and dining. It’s a great location for those who want to be in the thick of the action. Bestikas has everything.
  2. Kadıköy: A lively district on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is known for its bohemian vibes, bustling markets, and vibrant nightlife. It’s usually the first recommendation locals give when discussing the best neighbourhood in Istanbul.
  3. Nişantaşı: This upscale neighbourhood is famous for its designer boutiques, trendy cafés, and art galleries. If you prefer luxurious surroundings, Nişantaşı might be the right choice for you.
  4. Karaköy: Karaköy is a rejuvenated area once known for being a financial district and red light zone. Now it’s a popular neighbourhood filled with trendy cafés, start-ups, and nightclubs.
  5. Cihangir: Known for its intellectual and artistic residents, Cihangir is filled with cozy cafés, antique stores, and bookshops. It’s often compared to Paris’s Montmartre for its bohemian charm.
  6. Sarıyer: With its mix of natural beauty and amenities, Sarıyer provides a tranquil and high-end living environment. Plus, the district boasts prestigious schools and universities, making it an excellent choice for families. 
  7. Moda: Moda, located on the Asian side, is another trendy neighbourhood known for its quiet streets, parks, chic cafés, and a lovely promenade along the seaside.
  8. Kuzguncuk: Nestled on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kuzguncuk is a peaceful, charming neighbourhood that has preserved its old-world charm. Its picturesque streets lined with wooden Ottoman houses make for a beautiful place to live.
  9. Arnavutköy: Known for its beautiful vacation homes, known as Yalı, seafood restaurants, and location on the Bosphorus, Arnavutköy is a popular residential area for those looking for a mixture of tradition and modernity.
  10. Etiler: This upscale neighbourhood is home to some of Istanbul’s most prestigious schools and universities. It’s also known for its high-end restaurants and shopping malls.
  11. Küçükyalı: An upper-middle-class residential neighbourhood located on the Marmara Sea, Küçükyalı offers peace and quiet while still being well-serviced by public transit. It’s perfect for those seeking a calmer lifestyle within reach of the city center.

Besiktas – Best District in Istanbul

Average rental price: High

Safety: Excellent

Transportation: Excellent

Food: Good

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Good

Social Life: English spoken

Nightlife: Lively

Proximity to tourist attractions: Good

A bustling district located on the European side of Istanbul, Besiktas offers a variety of coastal neighbourhoods within its boundaries. Renowned for its architectural marvels like the Dolmabahçe Palace, it’s also home to the famous BJK Vodafone Park, making it a hub for football enthusiasts.

Staying in Besiktas is a unique experience that allows residents to immerse themselves in the daily rhythm of Istanbul life. It’s a little more upscale than the rest of Istanbul, and there are both quiet residential neighbourhoods and nightlife hubs contained within.

Besiktas Digital Nomad
Besiktas Digital Nomad

That said, Besiktas is at its best once the sun sets, revealing an array of entertainment options ranging from bustling nightclubs and lively bars to tranquil waterfront cafes. Numerous venues feature live music, while various clubs cater to every music taste, offering everything from pop and rock to traditional Turkish tunes.

If you’re looking to stay here, you’ll find leafy residential streets and apartments with stunning views of the Bosphorus. Moreover, the district’s central location makes it an excellent base from which to explore other parts of Istanbul.

Pros of Living in Besiktas District

  • Vibrant cultural and social scene.
  • Great options for dining and shopping.
  • Close to many of Istanbul’s key attractions and landmarks.
  • Well-served by public transportation.
  • High safety levels compared to other districts.

Cons of Living in Besiktas District

  • Can get quite crowded, especially on match days due to the football stadium.
  • Noise could be a concern for those seeking a quieter lifestyle.
  • The cost of living and rental prices are higher than in other districts.
  • Traffic congestion can be an issue during peak hours.

Kadikoy – Best District in Istanbul for Nightlife

Average rental price: Mid-High

Safety: Good

Transportation: Excellent

Food: Diverse and Delicious

Proximity to Coworking spaces/laptop cafes: Good

Social Life: Good

Nightlife: Superb

Proximity to tourist attractions: Accessible by transit

Dubbed the ‘hipster neighbourhood’ of Istanbul, Kadikoy is an eclectic mix of energetic nightlife and a hurried big-city daytime scene that truly embodies Istanbul’s charm.

Residing in Kadikoy puts you amid Istanbul’s most dynamic nightlife. As the sun dips below the horizon, the district lights up with numerous bars, clubs, and music venues opening their doors. The diversity of these venues is astounding, with everything from rock bars and jazz clubs to rooftop lounges offering spectacular city views.

However, the allure of Kadikoy doesn’t end when morning arrives. By day, Kadikoy is a bustling neighbourhood that captures the essence of daily life in Istanbul. From shopping at the local markets, and strolling through the district’s beautiful streets, to enjoying the sea view at Moda, there’s always something to do or see in Kadikoy.

Pros of Living in Kadikoy District

  • Vibrant and diverse nightlife, catering to different tastes.
  • Access to a broad array of local and international cuisine.
  • Excellent public transport links to other parts of the city.
  • Enthralling daytime scenes with local markets, cafes, and parks.
  • Lower rental prices compared to districts on the European side.

Cons of Living in Kadikoy District

  • Can become crowded, especially during evenings and weekends.
  • Noise from nightlife venues may be disruptive for those seeking tranquillity.
  • Commuting to the European side can be time-consuming during peak hours.

Nisantasi – Best Neighbourhood for Shopping

Average rental price: High

Safety: Excellent

Transportation: Excellent

Food: Good

Proximity to Coworking spaces/laptop cafes: Good

Social Life: OK

Nightlife: OK

Proximity to tourist attractions: Excellent

Nestled within the bustling city of Istanbul, the Nisantasi quarter shines as the premier destination for all shopping enthusiasts. Lined with high-end boutiques, designer stores, and opulent shopping centres, this neighbourhood captures the essence of a luxurious and stylish lifestyle.

Living in Nisantasi places you in the heart of Istanbul’s shopping district. The neighbourhood is studded with a myriad of brand-name boutiques, antique shops, and contemporary art galleries. From international luxury brands to local artisanal treasures, Nisantasi offers a retail experience that is truly unparalleled.

Nisantasi, best neighbourhoods in Istanbul
Shopping in Nisantasi, one of the best neighbourhoods in Istanbul

But shopping is not the only attraction in Nisantasi. The district also houses a host of upscale restaurants, chic cafes, and art venues. Here, one can enjoy a delicious meal, sip on a cup of Turkish tea, and immerse oneself in the city’s thriving art scene. And with its close proximity to Istanbul’s major landmarks, Nisantasi offers a lifestyle that perfectly blends convenience, entertainment, and elegance.

Pros of Living in Nisantasi Neighbourhood

  • Premium shopping experience with a range of high-end boutiques and luxury brands.
  • Access to top-notch restaurants, cafes, and art venues.
  • Close proximity to major landmarks and tourist attractions.
  • Safe and secure environment with well-maintained public areas.
  • Excellent public transport links.

Cons of Living in Nisantasi Neighbourhood

  • Higher rental prices due to the upscale nature of the district.
  • Can become crowded, especially during peak shopping hours.
  • Not as vibrant in terms of nightlife compared to other neighbourhoods.
  • The predominance of high-end brands might not suit all shopping preferences.

An Emerging Gem: Karakoy

Average rental price: Moderate to High

Safety: Good

Transportation: Excellent

Food: Exceptional

Proximity to Coworking spaces/laptop cafes: Good

Social Life: Good

Nightlife: Good

Proximity to tourist attractions: Excellent

Karakoy is one of Istanbul’s most fascinating and rapidly evolving districts. A blend of the historic and the contemporary, this neighbourhood is one of the more touristy ones in Istanbul, complete with its rich history, buzzing bars, and thriving food scene.

Karakoy effortlessly marries the past with the present. From historic buildings, churches, and mosques to art galleries, trendy boutiques, and hip cafés, the neighbourhood is a rich tapestry of Istanbul’s diverse heritage and dynamic modernity.

Karakoy is not just about the artsy lifestyle, it’s also about the mouthwatering gastronomic experiences. With its famous seafood restaurants, charming coffee shops, and popular street food vendors, Karakoy offers an array of delightful culinary adventures that appeal to both locals and tourists alike. Sample a Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich) from the vendor at Karakoy Pier.

Pros of Living in Karakoy Neighbourhood

  • A vibrant blend of history and modernity, offering diverse cultural experiences.
  • Thriving culinary scene with an array of restaurants, coffee shops, and street food vendors.
  • Great accessibility due to its proximity to the tram line and ferry port.
  • Growing art scene with a few galleries.
  • Very close to major tourist attractions in Sultanahmet and Galata

Cons of Living in Karakoy Neighbourhood

  • The area can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons.
  • Higher noise levels due to its nightlife and bustling street activities.
  • Rapid gentrification may not appeal to everyone.
  • Karakoy’s mix of highs and lows perhaps embody the pros and cons of living in Istanbul

Cihangir: A Bohemian Oasis in the Heart of Istanbul

Average rental price: Moderate

Safety: Good

Transportation: Excellent

Food: Wide variety

Proximity to Coworking spaces/laptop cafes: Excellent

Social Life: Active

Nightlife: Close by

Proximity to tourist attractions: Excellent

In the heart of Istanbul, cradled between the Bosphorus and Istiklal Street, lies the charismatic neighbourhood of Cihangir. Known for its bohemian flair, you almost get the feeling that you’re living in European capitals like Paris or Prague with the beautiful 19th-century architecture here.

Staying in Cihangir is an adventure of discovery as you explore its winding, narrow streets dotted with an eclectic mix of vintage stores, cozy cafes, and traditional teahouses. The district’s historical architecture coupled with views of the Bosphorus Strait makes it an irresistible attraction for both locals and expatriates.

Foodies will relish the array of dining options in Cihangir, ranging from local street food to gourmet restaurants. There are even plenty of non-Turkish food options nearby. The district is also well-regarded for its café culture, with plenty of coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafes available.

Pros of Living in Cihangir Neighbourhood

  • Diverse dining options catering to varied taste buds.
  • Proximity to major city landmarks and cultural sites.
  • An established expatriate community, offering a sense of familiarity for foreigners.
  • Availability of coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafes.
  • Local boutiques and vintage stores for unique shopping experiences.

Cons of Living in Cihangir Neighbourhood

  • The area can get quite busy, particularly during the weekends.
  • Hills and narrow streets may not be ideal for everyone.
  • The district’s popularity may lead to higher rental prices.

Sariyer – Best Residential District of Istanbul

Average rental price: High

Safety: Excellent

Transportation: OK

Food: Good, maybe far away

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Poor

Social Life: Quiet

Nightlife: OK

Proximity to tourist attractions: OK

Nestled at the northern end of the Bosphorus on Istanbul’s European side, Sariyer provides a tranquil escape from the fast pace of downtown. This neighbourhood is a unique blend of unspoiled natural beauty, historic charm, and upscale residences that provide a sense of serenity and space, making it an appealing choice for those who value both quality of life and proximity to the city’s amenities.

Staying in Sariyer is a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of Istanbul, which is usually cramped. Its close proximity to Belgrad Forest and the Bosphorus means it’s not uncommon to wake up to the sweet, fresh scent of nature and breathtaking sea views. Sariyer’s shoreline is dotted with fish restaurants, cafes, and tea gardens where residents can enjoy the district’s gastronomic offerings.

Pros of Living in Sariyer District

  • Close to nature with easy access to Belgrad Forest and Bosphorus.
  • Prestigious residential area with spacious houses and apartments.
  • Offers a quiet and peaceful living environment.
  • A wide selection of seafood restaurants along the shore.
  • Close to some historical sites like Rumeli Hisari and Rumelifeneri.

Cons of Living in Sariyer District

  • Distance from the city center might make commuting lengthy.
  • Less vibrant nightlife compared to other districts.
  • A limited number of coworking spaces and laptop-friendly cafes.
  • Higher cost of living due to the district’s upscale nature.

Moda: The Seafront District of Creativity and Culture

Average rental price: Very high

Safety: Excellent

Transportation: Good

Food: Wide variety

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Abundant options

Social Life: Active

Nightlife: Good

Proximity to tourist attractions: OK

Moda, an integral part of the Kadikoy district, breaks away from the stereotype of Istanbul with its towering residential buildings and modern living. This thriving neighbourhood on the Asian side of Istanbul offers a unique take on city life, with its thriving commerce, arts scene, and nightlife.

When one chooses to stay in Moda, they’re met with a slice of contemporary Istanbul. The district’s seafront is alive with a variety of shops, cafes, and bakeries, ready to cater to every whim. Further inland, the neighbourhood is studded with performing arts theatres, proving itself to be a cultural hotspot in its own right. For those seeking leisure, Kadıköy Moda Coast Park offers a waterfront promenade and picnic areas, perfect for an evening stroll or weekend unwind.

Honestly, Moda reminds me somewhat of my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, if I didn’t get that deja vu feeling I might rank it higher. To some, Moda appears extraordinarily original, but to me, it’s just another residential highrise district. It is quite different from the more touristy areas of Istanbul, which is likely what makes it so highly acclaimed

Pros of Living in Moda

  • Variety of shopping and dining options
  • Thriving arts scene with several theatres
  • Active nightlife, particularly along Kadife Street
  • Outdoor leisure at Kadıköy Moda Coast Park
  • Proximity to the seafront

Cons of Living in Moda

  • Predominantly high-rise living may not suit everyone’s taste
  • Noise and activity levels can be high due to commercial and nightlife activities
  • The cost of living can be higher due to modern amenities and seafront location

Kuzguncuk: A Haven of Tranquillity and Tradition in Istanbul

Average rental price: Moderate

Safety: Safe and quiet

Transportation: Good connectivity via public transport

Food: Variety of local options

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Limited

Social Life: Community-centric and quiet

Nightlife: Limited

Proximity to tourist attractions: Moderate, with a focus on cultural sites.

Among the forest of modern buildings and popular urban districts of Istanbul’s Asian side, the Kuzguncuk neighbourhood stands as an exception. Nested in Uskudar, Kuzguncuk is an oasis of tranquillity and a reminder of Istanbul’s diverse past. This neighbourhood’s architecture represents a mix of cultures, faiths, and architecture, wrapped up in a friendly, community-centric environment.

Living in Kuzguncuk is akin to stepping into a gentler time. Here, one finds charming old wooden houses, narrow streets and green spaces. There is a strong sense of community spirit here, and it is not uncommon to know your neighbour or the shop owner around the corner. This part of Istanbul offers a slower pace, where the appeal lies in the small and simple things.

Pros of Living in Kuzguncuk

  • Sense of community and friendly neighbourhood
  • Green spaces and beautiful old architecture
  • Peaceful environment away from city noise
  • Quaint buildings and cafes
  • Independent local shops and art galleries

Cons of Living in Kuzguncuk

  • Fewer modern amenities compared to other districts
  • Less active nightlife
  • Limited options for large-scale shopping

Arnavutkoy: An Exquisite Waterside Jewel in Istanbul

Average rental price: High-end

Safety: Generally safe

Transportation: Well-connected via public transport, including ferries

Food: Excellent, especially for seafood lovers

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Few

Social Life: Relaxed and refined

Nightlife: Good but limited.

Proximity to tourist attractions: Some historic sights, and convenient ferry access to attractions on the Asian side.

Arnavutkoy, once a distant vacation spot, offers an idyllic stay in Istanbul. Gracing the European shores of the Bosphorus Strait, this quarter showcases a picturesque hilly landscape with restored Ottoman mansions, seafood restaurants, and a delightful waterfront promenade. Arnavutkoy carries an air of sophistication, combined with a hint of nostalgia.

Arnavutkoy Digital Nomad
Arnavutkoy Digital Nomad

Staying in Arnavutkoy lets you indulge in the sights and sounds of waterfront life. You can enjoy leisurely strolls along the promenade, delight in views of colourful Ottoman mansions, and relish the delectable offerings of seafood restaurants. Its location is also ideal for ferry rides across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of the city. With its unique charm and quieter setting, Arnavutkoy provides a more relaxed and refined experience of Istanbul living.

Pros of Living in Arnavutkoy

  • Picturesque location on the Bosphorus shore
  • Beautiful Ottoman-era architecture
  • Excellent seafood restaurants
  • A more relaxed pace of life
  • A rich sense of history

Cons of Living in Arnavutkoy

  • Higher cost of living due to its desirability
  • Not many modern amenities or shopping centres
  • Less active nightlife compared to city centre districts
  • Some may find it quieter than other neighbourhoods

Etiler: A Chic Oasis Amidst Istanbul’s Metropolitan Energy

Average rental price: Extremely high-end

Safety: Considered very safe

Transportation: Accessible public transport; however, can experience traffic during peak hours

Food: Upscale dining options abound

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Several options are available

Social Life: Sophisticated and chic

Nightlife: Exclusive, with high-end bars and clubs

Proximity to tourist attractions: Close to several upscale attractions, but a bit far from historic landmarks.

Etiler, a sought-after neighbourhood nestled in the heart of Istanbul, invites residents and visitors alike to enjoy a distinctly stylish lifestyle. This prestigious district is known for its luxury residential complexes, high-end shopping avenues, and an exquisite array of gourmet dining options. Lining the streets are a variety of upscale boutiques and stores, interspersed with fashionable cafés, making it a coveted spot for the style-conscious.

Staying in Etiler presents a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the more upscale side of Istanbul. Residents can relish the chic dining culture, engage in exclusive shopping experiences, and even enjoy serene views of the Bosphorus.

Pros of Living in Etiler

  • Prestigious residential area with luxurious housing options
  • High-end shopping and dining experiences
  • Proximity to the Bosphorus with serene views
  • Access to top-quality schools and healthcare facilities

Cons of Living in Etiler

  • Higher cost of living due to its upscale nature
  • Traffic congestion during peak hours
  • Could feel too modern for those seeking traditional charm

Kucukyali: A Tranquil Coastal Locale in Istanbul

Average rental price: Reasonably priced

Safety: Generally safe

Transportation: Good connectivity to the city center

Food: Local eateries with a focus on traditional cuisine

Proximity to Coworking spaces/ laptop cafes: Limited options

Social Life: Quiet, community-focused

Nightlife: Limited, quieter options

Proximity to tourist attractions: Distant, yet only a half-hour train ride away.

Kucukyali, a serene neighbourhood nestled along Istanbul’s coastline, offers a refreshing contrast to the city’s otherwise fast-paced rhythm. Known for its scenic beauty, the district invites a lifestyle replete with calming sea views, breezy walks, and the occasional seagull’s call. The district’s homely atmosphere, combined with the proximity to the sea, makes Kucukyali a peaceful retreat in Istanbul’s expansive metropolis.

Kucukyali
Typical scenes in Kucukyali

Living in Kucukyali, residents can enjoy the pleasure of a small-town suburban feel within a big city. The neighbourhood hosts a range of local amenities including a variety of eateries, local markets, and open green spaces, with the Marmara Sea adding to its charm. Staying here provides an opportunity for a quieter lifestyle without compromising on accessibility to the broader city’s attractions and conveniences. 

Pros of Living in Kucukyali

  • Calm and peaceful atmosphere with a small-town feel
  • Proximity to the Marmara Sea offers breathtaking sea views
  • Local markets and eateries are good when available
  • Green spaces for relaxation and leisure activities

Cons of Living in Kucukyali

  • Might be too quiet for those seeking an active nightlife
  • Distance from the city center and major business districts
  • Limited high-end shopping and dining options

My Favourite Neighbourhood

Choosing the right neighbourhood in Istanbul depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle, whether you’re in search of history, sociable people,, or a quiet coastal respite. This diverse city has something for everyone, encapsulating a world of experiences within its numerous distinct districts. If you’re still wondering whether this city is right for you, I wrote a more formal write-up about being a digital nomad in Istanbul. I’ll go over more about finding accommodations, daily life, and much more.

Finding accommodation in these neighbourhoods might be your biggest challenge. Ensuring that they are actually suitable for remote work, and livable for a months-long stay is difficult when many hosts in Istanbul try to obfuscate certain details

Dealing with hosts and booking platforms in Istanbul is my least favourite part about the city for sure. If you want a more consistent solution, we’re in the process of curating a large database of digital nomad apartments. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

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