Where to stay in Istanbul for first time: 5 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Istanbul as a first-time visitor can be a headache. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find the safe places to stay in Istanbul for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Istanbul for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Istanbul and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Istanbul is the largest city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey located in both Europe and Asia, straddling the Bosporus Strait that separates the two continents. 

Istanbul is home to numerous iconic landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar. These sites showcase a blend of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Islamic architecture.

The city has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, metro lines, and ferries, facilitating movement within the city and between its European and Asian sides.

Is Istanbul safe to visit?

Yes, Istanbul is generally considered safe for tourists. But as a popular tourist destination, there are the risks of pickpocketing, tourist scams, terrorist attacks, and public demonstrations. It is recommended to practice common sense precautions to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

You should take extra care of your belongings and be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas such as Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar. If you’re a woman, you should avoid traveling alone, especially at night. It is best to travel with a companion or in a group.

Also, opt for official taxis, make sure they use a meter. Understanding and respecting the local culture is important. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious or conservative areas.

Stay away from large crowds or public gatherings, especially during demonstrations. Some of the popular places for protests happen at Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, and Kadikoy on the Asian side.

Where to stay in Istanbul for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Istanbul for first-timers and tourists are Sultanahmet (Old Town), Taksim (New Town), Sisli, Karakoy, and Kadikoy (Asian side). It’s crucial to stay vigilant, secure your belongings, and avoid poorly lit areas at night no matter where you stay.

Sultanahmet is the best area in Istanbul for first-timers who want to stay in the historic heart of the city. This area is known for its historical sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. It’s a popular tourist district and generally considered safe.

While Sultanahmet provides a historic atmosphere, Taksim offers a more modern and vibrant experience. Taksim (the New Town) is a lively area with a vibrant atmosphere, numerous shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Close to Istiklal Avenue, a popular shopping street.

Sisli is a modern and upscale district with shopping malls, high-end stores, and a variety of dining options. Good public transportation connections.

Kadikoy (Asian side) offers a more relaxed and local atmosphere. It has a good food scene, lively markets, and scenic views of the city. Its location requires crossing the Bosphorus to reach the main tourist attractions on the European side, which may take some time.

You should avoid unsafe parts of the city, especially at nightlife. These areas include Dolapdere, Tarlabaşı, Gaziosmanpaşa, Kasımpaşa, Kumkapı, Kuştepe, and Sultanbeyli.

During my trip to Istabul, I stayed at the 3-star budget-friendly HaciBayramHotel. It was a good value for money hotel in the central Old Town, an easy walking distance from the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern. Also easy access to the tram and hop on hop off the bus stop. My room was very clean and comfortable, and the breakfast room had stunning views of the Blue Mosque.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Istanbul for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Istanbul first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Istanbul first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Istanbul, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Istanbul have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

5 Safe areas to stay in Istanbul for first-timers and tourists

1. Sultanahmet (Old Town)

Sultanahmet is an excellent choice for first-time visitors who want central locations and proximity to major attractions. It is the historic heart of the city and is home to some of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern. 

You’ll also have easy access to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. The Grand Bazaar offers a wide array of shops selling jewelry, textiles, spices, and ceramics.

The neighborhood has a rich historical atmosphere with narrow streets, traditional Ottoman architecture, and a sense of the city’s past.

Being centrally located means you can easily navigate to various attractions on foot. It’s a great advantage for those who want to make the most of their time exploring the historical sites.

Sultanahmet is not only a historical and cultural hub but also a lively area with restaurants, cafes, and shops. It attracts visitors from around the world who come to immerse themselves in the fascinating history and architecture of this remarkable part of Istanbul.

Best places to stay in Istanbul in Sultanahmet for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel, 5-star hotel centrally located in the heart of Istanbul old city, within easy walking distance to all major sights like The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Grand Bazar. Easy access to Sultanahmet Tram Stop. It has an outdoor pool, botanic garden, tour desk, airport transfer, free parking, and good buffet breakfast.

Mid-range ($$): Tan Hotel – Special Category, popular 4-star hotel located in a calm area in central historic Sultanahmet district, easy access to a tram line for services to many sights including Taksim Square. 5-10 mins walk from major attractions including the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar. They have a very nice rooftop terrace with stunning views of Bosphorus and Blue Mosque.

Budget ($): Hotel Nena, 3-star good value for money Turkish and Byzantine architecture style hotel in a prime location, easy distance from iconic Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar. It has excellent breakfast, airport shuttle, and 24-hour front desk.


2. Taksim (New Town)

Taksim is an excellent base for first-timers and visitors who want to experience Istanbul’s modern side, enjoy a lively atmosphere, and have easy access to nightlife and shopping. 

Taksim is one of the main nightlife hubs in Istanbul. There are numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues, making it an excellent choice if you enjoy going out in the evenings.

Taksim is home to Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue. You’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, and street performers, creating a bustling and dynamic environment.

Taksim is well-connected to various parts of the city through public transportation, including buses, trams, and the funicular. This makes it convenient for exploring other neighborhoods and attractions.

Best places to stay in Istanbul in Taksim for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Sofitel Istanbul Taksim, great 5-star hotel located close to everything, only 2 mins walk from Taksim Square, featuring a  fitness center, indoor pool, a 24-hour front desk and currency exchange. Easy access to Taksim Metro Station, Istiklal Street and Dolmabahce Clock Tower..

Mid-range ($$): CVK Taksim Hotel Istanbul, popular 4-star hotel located in the middle of Taksim Square, in the Beyoğlu district. It has an onsite Mediterranean restaurant with the beautiful views of Bosphorus. You can find many restaurants, coffee shops, and a metro station nearby. Perfect location for shoppers, and is a happening place till late in the night.

Budget ($): Union Hotel Port, 3-star good value for money hotel located 10 mins walk from Taksim Square. Close to Dolmabahce Clock Tower, Istiklal Street and Dolmabahce Palace. It has a 24-hour front desk, airport shuttle and laundry services. Easy access to a bus/tram stop, and Kabatas boat station.


3. Sisli

Choosing Şişli as your accommodation in Istanbul is a great option for those who prefer a modern and upscale atmosphere with convenient access to shopping, dining, and business districts.

 Şişli is known for its commercial and business activities. The area is home to upscale shopping malls such as Istanbul Cevahir and Kanyon, making it a paradise for shopping enthusiasts.

Şişli offers a wide range of dining options, from fine dining to casual eateries. You can explore various cuisines in the numerous restaurants scattered across the neighborhood.

Best places to stay in Istanbul in Sisli for tourists:

Luxury ($$$): Gleam Collection Hotel, 5-star good value for money hotel, located in a quiet street in Şișli, a luxury area where you can find many international restaurants. Easy walk from Osmanbey metro. a great base for a relaxing stay in Istanbul. Easy to get a taxi due to the central location.

Mid-range ($$): Hilton Istanbul Bomonti, 4-star hotel located in the heart of Bomonti, a short walk from Osmanbey Metro Station for train to Taksim Square. Rooms have views across the European side to the Asian side. Short distance from Bomonti Beer Factory, Nisantasi, City’s Mall, and Cevahir Mall.

Budget ($): Istanroom by Keo, 3-star good value for money accommodation close to Osmanbey metro station, making it a convenient base for exploring the city. The hotel has baggage storage, airport shuttle, family rooms, and 24-hour front desk.


4. Karakoy

Karakoy is an excellent option for travelers who appreciate a blend of historical charm, trendy vibes, and artistic flair. This area is within walking distance to Galata Bridge and Eminönü, providing easy access to both the historical and lively parts of Istanbul.

Karaköy is known for its artistic scene, trendy cafes, and design-focused spaces. The neighborhood has a creative energy that attracts artists, designers, and those who enjoy contemporary culture.

Karaköy offers a diverse culinary scene, with numerous cafes, restaurants, and street food options. It’s a great place to explore both traditional Turkish cuisine and international flavors.

Best places to stay in Istanbul in Karakoy for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Azzap Hotel Galata, 5-star hotel that has a  Convenient location, near the Galata tower,  Suleymaniye Mosque, and Bosphorus Bridge. Close to transport yet walkable to everything. They have a nice rooftop restaurant and delicious breakfast.

Mid-range ($$): Suleymaniye Mosque, great 4-star hotel, in a good location, close to Galata tower and galata bridge. Within walking distance to public transport (tram T1, a metro station). You can find many cafes and restaurants in its surroundings.

Budget ($): Karaköy VAV Suites, 3-star accommodation, centrally located in Karakoy, close to Galata Tower, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Museum Of Illusions Istanbul – İstiklal, and The Museum of Innocence. Easy access to public transport, near Şişhane Metro Station, T1 station, and a ferry station.


5. Kadikoy (Asian side)

Kadıköy is a great base in Istanbul for tourists who want to experience a more local and authentic side of Istanbul. It offers a diverse cultural experience, a great food scene, and a relaxed atmosphere. 

Kadıköy has a more local and laid-back atmosphere compared to some areas on the European side. It offers an authentic experience of Istanbul away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy areas.

The Asian side provides beautiful views of the European side, especially during sunset. You can enjoy the panorama of historic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque from across the Bosphorus.

Kadıköy is renowned for its excellent food scene. You can explore local markets, try traditional Turkish dishes, and discover unique eateries. The Moda and Çiya neighborhoods are particularly known for their culinary offerings.

Consideration: If your primary focus is on visiting attractions on the European side, you’ll need to factor in travel time, either by ferry or by crossing one of the bridges. However, the ferry ride itself can be a scenic and enjoyable experience.

Best places to stay in Istanbul in Kadikoy for visitors:

Luxury ($$$): Wyndham Grand Istanbul Kalamış Marina Hotel, 5-star hotel, located next to Kalamis Marina and Kalamis Park, in a nice neighborhood, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Within walking distance to Kadikoy Seabus Port, Ferry Port and Metro Station for services to the European side of the city. Easy access to Fenerbahce Marina, Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, and Bagdat Avenue shopping district.

Mid-range ($$): The Marist Hotel Kadikoy, great accommodation, located in a quiet street close to the Kadikoy transport hub including metro, ferry, HavaIst buses. 5 mins walk from the Moda district with many shops, cafes and restaurants. 1 hour by direct metro to Sabiha Airport.

Budget ($): Khalkedon Hotel Istanbul, good price hotel located in Kadıköy district, 5 mins walk from the Besiktas-Karakoy-Eminonu pier and Çarşi Tram and Bus Stop. It has a rooftop terrace with views of the Bosphorus Strait. You can find many  cafes, designer shops and fine dining restaurants nearby.


In conclusion, Sultanahmet (Old Town), Taksim (New Town), Sisli, Karakoy, and Kadikoy/Asian side are the best places to stay in Istanbul for first-timers and tourists. While these areas are generally safe for accommodations, it’s always essential to take standard precautions wherever you go.

You can continue reading about Istanbul and other tourist destinations in Turkey in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Istanbul. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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