Where to Stay in Istanbul – Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet

Picture of Sultanahmet by night in Istanbul, Turkey

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information

Should I stay in Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu? That’s a question people often ask me while they’re planning their trip to Istanbul. The problem is that there is no straightforward answer to it. It’s merely a matter of preference. Let me explain the pros and cons of both locations.

Golden Horn

Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu are almost neighboring areas, if it wasn’t for the Golden Horn (Haliç). The Golden Horn is a flooded river valley, connecting with the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. This historical natural harbor is now a main departure point for ferries, both going up the Bosphorus and heading for the Asian side.

The Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.

The Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.

The Golden Horn actually separates the old heart of Istanbul (Sultanahmet, Eminönü and Fatih) from the modern part of Istanbul (Taksim, Şişli, Beşiktaş, etc.).

There are two bridges crossing the Golden Horn: the Unkapanı or Atatürk Bridge, and the Galata Bridge. Especially the latter is of interest to tourists because it is the shortest way between Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu.

On the upper deck you’ll pass by a seemingly eternal line of fisherman while witnessing the bustling activity on the Golden Horn. A visit to the lower deck will provide you with a ringside seat in one of the many cheap cafés to watch boats come and go.

Sultanahmet

The biggest incentive to book a hotel in Sultanahmet is obviously its proximity to major sightseeing spots such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, etc. They are all within walking distance of most hotels located in this area. The flip side is unfortunately that Sultanahmet turns into a pretty dead neighborhood once the sun sets. After dark the streets are empty and good night entertainment is scarce.

Beyoğlu

Nevizade in the Beyoğlu area.

Nevizade in the Beyoğlu area.

Beyoğlu is home to Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata area with its famous tower, Istiklal Caddesi, etc. But the area is mostly known for its cozy neighborhoods (i.e. Cihangir, Galata), wide array of restaurants and cafés, and famous Istanbul night life. Beyoğlu is basically open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But no need to worry, hotels are located in quieter areas, still within walking distance of all the action.

My Advice

The truth is that it’s inevitable to spend time in both areas. So you’ll always have to travel between the two, being it by public transportation or by taxi. I stayed in hotels in both areas on numerous occasions, and always felt I had the best time staying in the Beyoğlu area. I love to arrive at my hotel after a full day of sightseeing, freshen up for a nice dinner, enjoy the nightlife and being able to walk back home surrounded by people whenever I feel it’s time to recharge the batteries.

Photo Sources [1] [2] [3]

What's Next

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Ikram April 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Would you lean more towards staying in Beyoglu (versus Sultanahmet) if told traveling with kids aged 2, 5 and 8 and an elderly lady?

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

Hi Ikram,

If you have no plans to leave the hotel let’s say after 19:30, then I would recommend staying in Sultanahmet.

Erlend

Reply

Magdalena June 12, 2013 at 2:01 am

I planned my trip to Istanbul for July. I booked hotel in Sultanahmet area but with this protests I don’t know what to do….how safe it to go?!!!

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Hi Magdalena,

It’s as safe as before the protests. Moreover, it looks like the protests ended as of today.

Erlend

Reply

janet June 18, 2013 at 4:45 am

It is a pleasure to read your very thorough and interesting presentation about Istanbul. We are traveling there from Miami, Florida in the U.S. and your informative blog has really helped us to organize our trip! Thank you for sharing all your knowledge and helping us get to know this city

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Janet,

Thanks a lot for your kind words. Glad I could help.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Ara June 28, 2013 at 2:15 am

Excellent, very informative and detailed.
Would you name the hotels you would stay, trust and would be comfortable the most for a family or 3?

Thanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hi Ara,

I can really vouch for Witt Istanbul. Its location is central, services excellent and rooms top notch.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Karin August 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I loved your small article, I’m travelling to Istanbul in a couple of weeks, never been there and just wondered where to book my hotel, now I know..thanks:)

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Hi Karin,

I’m glad I could help make the best decision.

Erlend

Reply

Kalvin January 15, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Hi Erlend,

I’m happy to find this site in preparing my upcoming trip to Istanbul. I have reserved Hilton Istanbul Bomonti, from the map I saw it’s a bit of distance to everything else. Is it really inconvenient and does it have any nightlife around? I may cancel my booking with a penalty of 100usd if its really unfit.

Thanks for your advice.

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 16, 2014 at 10:09 am

Hi Kalvin,

It’s not exactly in the city center, but then again, it’s not that far away either. From your hotel to Taksim is about 3 km.

Basically, you just need to walk the street of your hotel to the main street, and there take the metro (Osmanbey) for one stop. Also by taxi it wouldn’t cost much.

Canceling your current hotel would cost you just over 200 TL. You can take a lot of taxis for that amount of money.

Your choice,
Erlend

Reply

Cynthia March 6, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Hi,
Can you get from Atturk Airport to the Sultanahmet area by tram? If so, what is the route/tram number? Or, is it better to get a taxi – approximately how much should a taxi cost?

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Cynthia,

Here you’ll find the details for going from Atatürk airport to the city center.

Erlend

Reply

Arman M March 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Hi,
I am leaving for Istanbul in a few days for a week. My family has booked Hilton Garden Inn at Golden Horn. I have gone through some reviews and read that it has a bad location as it is very far. I loved your article, so can you please tell me whether it is a bad choice for hotel? Is there anything we can do around the hotel and modes of transportation from there as I have no idea about the locations there. Thanx.

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Hi Arman,

I never stayed in the hotel, but I’m sure it’s ok. The location however is not ideal. Close by are Pierre Lotti and Miniatürk, but for the major sightseeing spots you will probably need to take a taxi. There may be public transportation options, but you better ask the hotel staff for the best solutions.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Arman M March 18, 2014 at 10:08 pm

ok thanx so much. That will be of help. Could you tell me what would be good to do in pierre loti?
I love your blog btw! :)
p.s. I will get hotel shuttle to taksim and kabatas throughout the day.

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 19, 2014 at 7:26 am

Hi Arman,

Except for drinking tea and enjoying the view, there is not much else to do at Pierre Lotti cafe.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Leslie March 30, 2014 at 5:51 am

Dear Erlend,
Your insights seem valuable. I will be leading a travel course of 15 college students in Istanbul for two weeks in January 2015. We will want convenient access major sites and also to feel as if we are taking part in the contemporary culture of Istanbul. Some of the students will be more independent than others, although limiting the temptations of nightlife appeals to me as the chaperone. Where would you have your 18-year-old stay in Istanbul, unattended full-time and left to his/her own impulses?
Thanks.

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 30, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Hi Leslie,

Nightlife is very much part Istanbul and omnipresent in the city center. I would educate them about the rules you expect them to follow, and make sure they go out as a group and not as individuals. The social control of a group is strong and mostly common sense prevails. It seems only natural that they would want a taste of Istanbul’s nightlife given their age. The bars mentioned there are all safe. To be better safe than sorry, maybe go over these common tourist scams.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: