Downtown Istanbul – a Guide for Activities and Accommodation at Istanbul City Center

It can be your first time in Istanbul and you have no idea where to stay? Or maybe you have been here before, but you want to learn what is more to discover? At this article, we will try to enlighten you about what distinct regions of Istanbul can offer you…

Review your travel plans before choosing your area of stay in Istanbul. You must decide which of the Sultanahmet, Galata, Eminönü, Taksim and Anatolian Side regions to choose according to your plans.

The most famous hotels in the city are located on Çırağan Street, Maslak, and 4th Levent. Besides, if you like to be in the nightlife or crowded environments, you can choose Beşiktaş, Kadıköy, and Taksim. If you want to be close to the attractions, but to stay away from the nightlife, the Golden Horn region is the ideal address for you.

Let us have a closer look at the regions to stay during your visit to Istanbul.


On your first trip to Istanbul, you can choose hotels in the Eminönü district. Staying in this area is more advantageous in terms of both walking to tourist attractions and traveling to other regions by sea. Attractions such as Gülhane, Galata, Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are easily reached on foot. Moreover, it is a very nice experience and quite easy to get to Kadıköy, Üsküdar and Prince Islands from Eminönü pier by sea boats and ferries.

If it’s not your first visit to Istanbul and you don’t like the crowd, and you’re not a fan of spending a lot of money on luxury restaurants, you should choose other areas to stay in Istanbul.

Taksim Square

If you are coming to Istanbul to experience the nightlife, to see the most beautiful sights and to eat at the most popular restaurants, you should choose accommodation in Taksim.

Taksim hotels are relatively expensive, but they deserve every penny in terms of the quality of service offered. There are many bars and nightclubs within walking distance.  Istanbulites also prefer the Taksim area for nightlife.

Taksim Square is full of galleries, restaurants, and shops. You can walk to many lively and vibrant places such as İstiklal Street, Pera, Cihangir, Galata, Asmalımescit from Taksim Area. Here you will find the most popular fish restaurants, taverns, bars, and cafes.

From late night to early morning, you can visit many sights. At the Fish Market, you can taste the Lacerda of Tunç Balık and the double roasted Turkish delight of the 90 years Üçyıldız Şekerleme. You can have delicious side dishes alongside your drinks at Çiçek Pasajı.

But if you don’t come to Istanbul for nightlife and you don’t like crowded places, Taksim may not be suitable for you. You can choose to stay in other parts of Istanbul.


If you’re not looking for luxurious hotels and expensive places to stay in Istanbul, Galata is for you. You can book one of the hostels in the Galata district with great views. These accommodations are both more convenient and more authentic than other nearby areas.

Galata, the historical district of Istanbul Beyoğlu, is located between Tünel and Karaköy. Hosting the Galata Tower, one of the most important structures of the historical city skyline, the neighborhood has the appearance of the multicultural structure of Istanbul, bringing the past and the present together.

After passing through Tünel at the end of Istiklal Street, where millions of people walk with its ever-bustling crowd, you come to the Galata district. Galata is a popular destination for young people, intellectuals and tourists thanks to its new venues. The streets are very pleasant to walk around.

Galip Dede Street is the main street of Galata, which starts from Tünel Square, passes in front of the Galata Mevlevihane, and descends to Karaköy next to the Galata Tower. Although the number of music shops, studios, and instrument-making workshops that are being shut down is increasing, they are still beautifying the vibe and sound of Galip Dede.

Go jogging to Galata Tower, or go down to Karaköy and have fun in interesting theme-cafes, bars, and taverns. It is very easy to reach Karaköy and Eminönü by Kabataş tram from Galata. And Istiklal Street will be right next to you.

Here you can use the art nouveau-style Kamondo Stairs from the 19th century, watch Istanbul from the top of the Galata Tower, and have a real artisan restaurant experience at the Historic Bankalar Restaurant.

If you come to Istanbul with your group of friends, the Galata area is the best option.


Besiktaş is one of the oldest districts of Istanbul. Besides its deep-rooted history, it is also one of the busiest and busiest areas of the city today.

Besiktaş, which is one of the most vibrant areas of business and social life in the city, is also one of the most preferred places for accommodation. It is always popular with business centers, plazas, hotels, and entertainment facilities. Educational institutions such as Galatasaray University and Kabataş High School are also located in Beşiktaş.

You can visit nearby parks and museum during your stay in Beşiktaş. Abbasağa Park is located just behind Barbaros Boulevard, which is mostly preferred by the people living in Beşiktaş for relaxation. Many special events are held here by the people of Beşiktaş. (Open-air cinema, iftar during Ramadan, meetings etc.) In the park, there are many areas for walking animals and a basketball court.

Turkey’s largest maritime museum in the area, located in the Beşiktaş coast. Besides, this museum is the first military museum established in Turkey. It contains many works in the field of maritime. At the Istanbul Naval Museum, reign boats, sailor’s clothes, manuscripts, ship models, banners, maps and photos, paintings, monograms, crests, galleys, navigational instruments, ship head figures and weapons are on display.

Besiktaş Fish Market was established many years ago, restored many times, and it still retains its position. Hundreds of different kinds of fish can be found here. Besides the fish market, Besiktaş Meyhaneler Street has many rakı and fish restaurants.

In response to the need for this popularity and intensity, there are quite a lot of hotels in Beşiktaş. Besiktaş, one of the most preferred districts for accommodation in Istanbul, is a center of attraction with hotel prices suitable for almost any budget. In addition to small, medium-sized hotels, there are also high quality and luxurious facilities.

Besiktaş hotels are preferred because of their central location and close to transportation networks. The fact that there are many hotels in Besiktaş allows hotel prices to offer many options. Besiktaş has 4 and 5-star luxury hotels as well as boutique hotels, apart hotels, hostels, and daily rental apartments.

If you are planning to make long-term accommodation and want to benefit from the budget prices of Besiktaş hotels, you can choose apart hotels and daily rental apartments. For short stays for business or tourist purposes, you can stay in luxury hotels where Beşiktaş hotel prices are higher.


Sultanahmet is a particularly good neighborhood for the first-time visitors of the city. Sultanahmet Square is close to most places of interest. The marvels of architecture, the famous Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia are in this square.

There are many hotels within walking distance of the square in Sultanahmet. Here you can buy souvenirs from the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. You can taste the eggplant pie of Pandeli Restaurant, which has been in service since 1901, and you can visit the Blue Mosque, Kariye Museum, Istanbul Archeology Museum, Topkapı Palace.

Golden Horn (Haliç)

The Golden Horn, known for its landscapes inspired by the bards, has long been one of Istanbul’s favorite places.

Throughout the history of the development of Istanbul,  the Golden Horn, a natural and safe port, was very significant. The fertility of the surrounding land, plentifulness of fish, freshwater streams, and its shape, gives the Golden Horn the meaning of the symbol of fertility.

The best thing to do here is to sit in one of the parks and watch the sunset in the future. The Golden Horn is still home to the old Istanbul neighborhoods. There are fewer tourists here because the nightlife in Taksim is distant. Instead, here is a tranquil paradise for those who want to enjoy a quiet environment.


Ortaköy is one of the most active and popular places of the city in all seasons. It is located on the shores of the Bosphorus and is one of the region’s foods, beverage, entertainment, and shopping centers.

Ortaköy, which is one of the leading settlements of Istanbul in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, is a neighborhood where both Istanbulites and tourists frequently visit and spend time with pleasure. It is an attraction center with its historical buildings, cafes, bars, restaurants, tea gardens, famous kumpir (baked loaded potatoes) shops, and unique Bosphorus view.

Ortaköy offers a variety of accommodation options. The hotels located in Ortaköy are preferred primarily due to their central location and the ease of transportation. Also, almost all of the hotels in Ortaköy have spectacular views of the Bosphorus.

The hotel prices are generally above average in Ortaköy, and since there are not many hotels in the neighborhood, the prices are almost the same. If you stay here, you will be very close to the most attractive areas of Istanbul, such as Beşiktaş, Taksim, Etiler, Kuruçeşme, and Bebek.

Ortaköy is waiting for you if you are looking for a comfortable and enjoyable journey in Istanbul.


While you are visiting Istanbul, you can prefer the Anatolian side to get away from the traffic and have a nice morning walk against the Bosphorus. As the Anatolian Side is full of residential, business, and commercial areas, here is more popular among Istanbulites than tourists. However, there are also many places to see on the Anatolian side. Üsküdar is a great district to experience old Istanbul, walk in the green groves and watch the city from afar. It is also possible to reach almost everywhere you want via Marmaray, Metrobus, and ferries.

Çamlıca Hill, Maiden’s Tower, Fethipaşa Grove, and Kuzguncuk are the most preferred places to visit in the region. Here you can dine at affordable prices and enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul.

Another alternative that can be done in Üsküdar is to go to the baths. There are many historical baths in Üsküdar. The most prominent of these are the Şifa Bath, the Valide Atik Bath, the Tiled Bath, the Aga Bath, and the Bulgurlu Bath.

Eating dinner at the Maiden’s Tower, the center of legends, which dates back 2,500 years ago, is one of the best activities to do in Istanbul.

Located on 16 hectares of green area, Fethipaşa Grove is an ideal place for breakfast, especially at the weekend. It is one of the rare places where you can enjoy Istanbul with the mesmerizing view of the Bosphorus.

Kuzguncuk is a colorful seaside neighborhood surrounded by wooden houses on the Anatolian coast of Istanbul, north of Üsküdar towards the Bosphorus, where you can walk around and have a nice time. For those who want to relax in Kuzguncuk, we suggest the place called Çınaraltı Cafe, once considered Can Yücel’s place. Sitting under the shades of the plane trees at Çınaraltı Cafe and sipping your black tea against the Bosphorus, will be a nice activity to experience.


Another place you can stay on the Anatolian side is Kadıköy. Always lively and crowded, Kadıköy is also one of the most preferred areas for the young population and for those who will stay in Istanbul. Kadıköy is known as the heart of the Anatolian side. The ferry piers along the quay, the coastline leading to Moda, and the stunning view of the historic Haydarpaşa Train Station fascinate everyone who comes here.

Bahariye is the shopping and entertainment region of Kadıköy. Theaters, opera houses, and movie theaters in Bahariye Street play an important role in cultural activities. At the same time, restaurants, cafes, and bars in Bahariye are among the popular choice for everyone from seven to seventy.

Kadıköy boutique hotels are preferred by local and foreign tourists and business travelers since it is a very decent and historical district.

Scheduled ferry services are organized to the European side and also out of the city. This feature makes here more attractive for those coming from outside of Istanbul. Bahariye streets remain active 24/7, where you can go out to be a little discharged in the evening after discovering Istanbul during the day.

Bagdat Street, where many boutiques, world-famous brands, and cafes are located, is also here. In the Kadıköy center, there are many options to explore from entertainment venues where alternative music is staged to fish restaurants, third generation coffee shops, and theater centers. Moreover, the actual nightlife of Istanbul is being experienced in Kadıköy.

Kadıköy, which is preferred for both touristic and business stays, has many hotels, pensions, boutique hotels, and apart hotels. Among these hotels, there are 5-star luxury hotels as well as more economical hotels.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I love Istanbul. I have been to 10 different countries. Istanbul is in the top 3 cities. I like to play soccer too :)

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