Istanbul Neighborhood: A Breakdown MADE For Travelers

Here’s a quick breakdown for travelers who need to know just enough…

Neighborhood Breakdown Istanbul

Traveling to Istanbul is an exciting adventure but which neighborhoods should you really explore? Here’s a quick breakdown for travelers who need to know just enough…

Taksim

Taksim is the heart of Istanbul, due to the historical and political significance of Taksim Square as well as the many commercial zones located in that area. Taksim Square continues to be the assembly point for political protests and celebrations such as the Gezi Park protests and Gay Pride Istanbul. Large, modern hotels such as the InterContinental Istanbul are located in Taksim along with the central metro station, making it a busy hub for tourists as well. One will find no shortage of places to eat around Taksim, especially late at night when one can stumble around and easily find delicious Turkish fast food such as Islak hamburgers and pides (kind of like Turkish pizzas).

Beyoğlu

Beyoğlu is the liveliest commercial and nightlife zone on the European side of the city. All visitors to Istanbul will no doubt end up in some part of Beyoğlu during their stay as it technically encompasses the areas of Tophane and Galata as well. At the heart of Beyoğlu is the long pedestrian street, İstiklal Caddesi, where lights are always flashing and there are plenty of things to see and do. Along both sides of the street there are tons of shops, restaurants, hostels, hotels and clubs, and in between the side streets that branch off from the main street one can find popular bars and hidden restaurants such as 1924 Rejans, one of the most classic restaurants in Istanbul. Beyoğlu is the place to go for those looking to party well into the night, as there are clubs and bars to suit all tastes and age groups, although 360 Istanbul is our pick as the most stylish and cutting edge venue that’s guaranteed to be a good time.

Istikal Caddesi in Beyoglu

Beyoglu

Tophane

Tophane is a part of Beyoğlu known as the arts district, because it’s the location of the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and several art galleries that are scattered around the area. Oddly enough, it used to be where the Ottomans manufactured cannons and the location of the Imperial Armory and therefore has a long history and industrial remnants. It’s also where our favorite heavenly Turkish bath, Kiliç Ali Pasa Hamam, is located, within the larger Kiliç Ali Pasha complex which includes a mosque and training center for religious texts. It’s a quiet neighborhood along the Bosporus, perfect for strolling around to observe architecture and get your fix of art.

Tophane Kilic Ali Pasha complex

Karaköy

Karaköy is definitely the trendiest place to be in the city center. The bustling area around the port and Galata Bridge is full of swanky new boutique hotels, restaurants and shops, as well as tons of people commuting by tram, boat, cars and bikes between different parts of the Golden Horn. Parallel to the pier are the super hip, popular alleys that are chock full of cozy and colorful cafes, bistros and vintage shops where hipsters and creative freelancer types hang out at all times of the day. You can also catch lots of the city’s cool street art and graffiti on the walls all around the area. For the best baklava you can buy for yourself and your friends back home, go to the famous shop, Karaköy Güllüoğlu, located right behind the pier as you get off Galata Bridge.

Street art in Karakoy

Galata

Galata is the lovely, elegant area with a bohemian feel surrounding historic Galata Tower, which you can climb up to see a breathtaking view of the Golden Horn and the Old City from the other side. It’s a quiet neighborhood where people come to shop in cute boutique stores, hang out in adorable cafés with vintage décor and relax in stylish hotels separated from the hectic city center. If you’re looking for a sophisticated yet affordable restaurant to eat dinner, Galata is the place to go as the area becomes romantically lit with tea lights at night and the warm red glow of Galata Tower.

1. The trendy district around Galata Tower

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet in the Old City is the tourist hotspot of Istanbul, where you’ll find all the biggest attractions including the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern. Thus it’s always packed with tourists and long lines, as well as street vendors selling snacks. It’s considered to be part of the larger Fatih district which encompasses much of the city’s oldest attractions such as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and the Yeni Cami mosque. All of these can be found on the other side of Galata Bridge across from Karaköy and are easily accessible by walking or by tram.

7. Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque

Ortaköy

Ortaköy is the swankiest and most glamorous district of Istanbul along the Bosporus. Here you’ll find all the illustrious five-star hotels such as the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus, Shangri-La Bosporus and Ciragan Palace Kempinski. During the day there are lots of beautiful cafés, bistros and boutiques to pop into, and at night there are the legendary mega-clubs such as Reina, Sortie and Anjelique where you can be seen and party right next to the Bosporus into the early morning.

Kadiköy

Take the ferry over to the Asian side of Istanbul across the Golden Horn and you’ll be welcomed by the slightly calmer but still lively port of Kadiköy. Here you’ll find commercial shopping malls located alongside charming street markets, which are the real draw of the area. In the narrow, brightly lit alleys of the open air market Turkish food products of the most authentic and highest quality are sold, such as fresh pomegranates, sweet, sticky baklava, mouthwatering Turkish delight and brightly colored spices. There are also tons of hole in the wall restaurants along the alleyways where you’ll find limitless options of meat kebabs, fish, mezes and other traditional Turkish food.

Port of Kadikoy

Moda

Although Karaköy might be a trendy place to hang out, Moda on the Asian side of the Bosporus is the truly cool place to be, for those who are in the know. It’s said to be a little bit more artistic, alternative and intellectual than the other hotspots in the city. Walking around the quiet, understated streets of the neighborhood, you’ll see small dimly lit cafés with makeshift furniture, antique stores, shops selling handmade wares and workshops for young artists sharing and learning skills. There’s definitely more of a chill, communal vibe in Moda that provides a lovely break from the overwhelming hubbub on the European side of the city.

tea at a cafe in moda

Balat

Recommended by our favorite Istanbul Instagram-er, Sezgi Olgaç, Balat is an old neighborhood which used to be the city’s Jewish quarter. The buildings in the narrow streets come in many different colors that are washed out from old age, giving the area a charming vintage feel. This may be what makes the area perfect for taking photographs, as Sezgi enjoys doing, and she projects that Balat will be the newly trending hub of the city in the upcoming year.

Nadia Cho

Communications Associate

As the empowered female behind the blog: International Women of Mystery, Nadia reps Team JST traveling the world in search of exclusive features on hidden gems and cool hotspots. You can find her exploring metropolitan cities or lounging on tropical beaches.

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