Top 7 Neighborhoods to Visit in Istanbul
Istanbul is a well-known city that lies between two continents, Europe and Asia. Previously named Byzantium, then Constantinople, it was once the capital of the Roman and Ottoman Empires. When the Republic of Turkey was founded, the capital moved to Ankara, and Constantinople was renamed Istanbul. With a rich historical and cultural background, you will find many breathtaking things to see and do within Istanbul’s distinctive neighborhoods.
This street starts from Taksim Square, and the area is also known as the Beyoğlu district. You will find charming cafes, pubs, bookshops, cinemas, and passages to walk around. It’s a historical area often referred to as the “heart of Istanbul.” Look for the Flower Passage (Cicek Pasaji) to try some Raki-Balik (a clear, aniseed-flavored liquor taken while eating fish) or find the Ara Kafe owned by the famous Turkish photographer Ara Guler. A stop at the iconic Galata Tower is a must for exploring the medieval history and panoramic views of Istanbul!
Levent is a business district in Istanbul with some of the tallest skyscrapers. There are several shopping malls here – make sure to visit Kanyon, which is known for award-winning architecture. It is easily connected to the city with the Metro line.
This is one of the oldest historical areas in Istanbul. It is known as a cultural hub and very popular among the locals due to a large number of universities, high schools, and Dershanes (extra-curricular schools) located here. There are many cafes, shops, and houses, so start off by the Kartal Heykeli (Eagle statue). You will also find one of the oldest and most beloved sports clubs in Turkey, Besiktas J.K., and their stadium nearby. Make sure to visit the Naval Museum, which is Turkey’s largest maritime museum, and Dolmabahce Palace, which is lovingly revered by many Turkish people as it was used by the first president of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a presidential residence. Dress elegantly if you would like to visit Çırağan Palace for afternoon tea at the Gazebo Lounge.
This neighborhood stretches from the Besiktas district to the Bosporus. Locals enjoy visiting Ortakoy for a walk or just to hang out. Try a Kumpir (the Turkish version of a baked potato, which is taken to a whole new level with tons of toppings!) or a waffle (again, tons of toppings!) from any of the kiosks. It’s also the perfect spot for photos with the Mecidiye Camii, also known as the Ortakoy Mosque, and Bosporus bridge in the background.
Nisantasi is known as a shopping and residential district, with some of the higher-end brands and new designer shops and boutiques. The many universities in this area ensure that it is booming with trendy architecture, and the art students and young professionals give it a buzzing atmosphere. Stop by Maçka Sanat Parkı, which is full of cats and statues. It’s perfect for a nice walk during the day, and in the evening dress stylish.
There are many upscale dining options facing the Bosporus in this elegant neighborhood. If you’re craving a sandwich, visit Susam. Lucca is a great option for all-day dining or head to the well-known Nusr-et for a steak. There are several designer shops (Yargici) and historic architecture such as the Consulate of Egypt and wooden-style villas (Yalis) to look out for. You might even catch a glimpse of celebrities and paparazzi here as well. Feel free to dress casually here, since this area is well known for expats and locals who enjoy exercise through long walks along the sahil (seaside).
This district is a cultural and transportation hub located on the Asian side of Istanbul. Everyone uses public transportation in Istanbul, and this is the main area for those commuting between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. Visit the Haydarpaşa railway station, which opened in 1872. Just across from the Kadıköy Metro station, there are many shops and markets, so it’s usually crowded. You will find traditional Turkish restaurants with the typical tost and döner, as well as bars with jazz and rock music, and backgammon houses. The ambiance in this district is more working-class so you will feel the buzz of what a usual day looks like.
Know Before You Go:
- Use the Metro and public transportation to get around — you will avoid getting stuck in traffic.
- Be kind to the cats and dogs found everywhere.
- The area you are in matters for how you dress, so plan for the district you’re visiting and dress accordingly.