Istanbul is an overload for the senses. One moment you’re dodging dangling copper lamps and silk saris in the Grand Bazaar. The next you’re gazing at the great domes of the Hagia Sophia. Then you’re lost in the historic court rooms of the Topkapi Palace, following in the footsteps of the Ottoman sultans. Then you’re soaking in a hammam or smoking shisha on the roadsides with an aromatic cardamon coffee. Straddling the gap between Europe and Asia, steeped in millennia of history, and home to some of the most ancient markets in the world, it’s hardly a surprise this megacity is one of Turkey’s biggest draws.
These days, many of the millions of travelers who pass Istanbul’s way choose to book an Airbnb instead of a conventional hotel. Offering more privacy, extra square metreage, and locations in some of the city’s most enthralling quarters, stays offered on the platform have got a lot going for them. This guide has all you need to get started on booking Airbnbs in Istanbul, from neighbourhood insights to individual property recommendations…
Get booking! Airbnb is totally legal in Istanbul. Local authorities have asked all hosts to register their properties and get the necessary Tourism Operation Licence from the government, but that’s not your responsibility as a traveler. All you have to do is go a-searching for the place that’s perfect for you and press ‘book’. What’s more, if you have any concerns or questions about the property you’re looking at – whether they’re about the internet connection, the location, or the price – you can simply send a message direct to the owner to have your queries answered.
Where should I stay in Istanbul Airbnb?
Where better to begin than the ancient core of Istanbul? That’s actually so large that it spreads over the Golden Horn through mosque-topped Sultanahmet(1), past the bazaars of Eminönü(2) (a shopper’s heaven), and across the water to Karaköy & Galata(3). If you’re keen to sample the more off-track delights of the Asian Side, head over the Bosphorus to Kadiköy-Moda(4), one of the metropolis’s burgeoning café and dining hubs. For quieter stays by the water amid handsome Ottoman mansions, choose Arnavutköy(5). To be with hipsters between sleek cocktail bars and modern Taksim Square, Cihangir (6) could be the option.
Home to the city’s most famous history sights
Immerse yourself in old Istanbul
Quite expensive place to stay
Sultanahmet is rich in Ottoman-era sights and grand mosque domes and Byzantine basilicas. This is where Istanbul shows off its thousands and thousands of years of hertiage. You won’t be short of things to do, because this is the stomping ground of institutions like the venerated Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, the iconic Hagia Sophia, and the vast Topkapi Palace (the onetime home of the Ottoman rulers). The southern side of the district, south of Sultanahmet Square, is where you’re likely to find the most Airbnbs, clustering around the lively water’s edge between Turkish grills and rooftop bars.
Eminönü starts on the waters of the Golden Horn. There, ferries and boats of all shapes and sizes bring travelers and locals flocking back and forth. Delve just a few streets in and then you’ll be lost in a sea of markets. Yep, this corner of the city has been the epicentre of Istanbul’s trading for millennia, ever since the days of the Old Silk Road. A visit to the Grand Bazaar is a must. It’s the biggest covered market on the planet, bursting with trinkets, jewellers, carpet sellers – the list goes on. Between your shopping and haggling, don’t miss the great Mausoleum of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and the imposing minarets of the mighty Süleymaniye Mosque.
Spilling down a hillside on the northern edge of the Golden Horn in European Istanbul, this duo of neighbourhoods is part history, part lived-in energy. Head to Karaköy on the quaysides for a taste of ramshackle Turkey. It’s a place where shisha houses and kebap stalls jostle above traffic-filled lanes. Galata holds the older monuments and buildings as the streets slope upwards to the north. In fact, some of the city’s oldest settlements were discovered in those parts, along with iconic landmarks like the Genoese Galata Tower and the bustling shopping and dining hub of İstiklal Avenue.
The first district to whisk us over to the Asian Side of Istanbul is buzzy Kadiköy-Moda. It’s an upcoming quarter of lively bars and cafés, all packed into blocks that pulse with tooting traffic and calling salespeople from dawn till dusk. There’s a palpable feel of bonhomie in the area’s mainstay mezze kitchens – places like Koço. There’s also a hipster edge to proceedings, coming courtesy of the fashion shopping down in Moda, the art-house cinemas, and the independent DJ clubs spinning cutting-edge EDM into the early hours (head to the nightlife strip of Kadife Sokak to find those).
Escape the heady aromas of the Grand Bazaar and the crowds of Galata by choosing to stay in Arnavutköy. It’s bathed in the salty breezes that come of the Bosphorus and bejewelled with gorgeous timber-built mansions that date back to the Ottoman period. A holiday here means morning coffees on the quaysides and evenings of fine-dining Turkish seafood. Quiet, relaxed and off the beaten path, it’s unfortunately quite a trek to the mainstay attractions of downtown Istanbul from here. But that might be just about the only downside.
Something of a hotbed for political radicals, Cihangir has taken on a new guise as one of Istanbul’s more edgy neighbourhoods in recent years. A triangle of bustling streets and little plazas that’s rolls down to meet the Bosphorus to the south of Taksim Square, it flaunts a mass of gorgeous Art Deco frontages and turn-of-the-century architecture. Expect to find cafés dotting all the corners, ice-cream outlets with artisan products, and a resident crowd of both local and international professionals.
Just one glimpse at the sweeping urban panoramas on offer from the sunroom of this lovely apartment and you might not be able to resist a stay. Situated right next to the soaring Galata Tower in the heart of old Istanbul, the pad has some seriously jaw-dropping views up its sleeve. When you finally tire of them – if that’s even possible! – you can retreat to the large L-shaped lounge or the spacious contemporary bedroom.
Boutique Three Floors Art House and a Fully Private Garden
It’s hard not to be enchanted by this Plus-rated character property. Vintage living areas with patterned tiles, mustard-coloured sofa seating, wine racks and upcycled coffee tables begin the charms. Then you get that leafy patio with its swinging hammock chairs. Then you get the vintage-infused bathrooms with their brass features and exposed-brick walls. Basically, this is a gorgeous Airbnb choice if you’re looking for a whole house to call your own.
Families should feel right at home in this highly rated Airbnb. It’s got a large terrace with great city views and an oversized dining area so you can all eat together each night, along with enough sleeping space for up to 10 guests. The best part? That has to be the location. It puts you smack dab in the heart of Sultanahmet, close to the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and all the other major attractions.
Close enough for you all to see the sights, yet far enough away to offer extra room for bigger groups, this complete house rental is perfect for parties of up to 16 people. It’s been beautifully finished with luxurious furnishings, mezzanine floors, and grand décor. There’s a lounge, a dining space, and even a closed-off outdoor patio for those al fresco drinks before dinner or a night on the town.
You’ll find good bang for your buck on offer down in the Antique Hostel. Sleeping is in a shared, six-bed dorm with comfy and clean bunks and air conditioning throughout. A breakfast buffet of breads, cheeses, salads and fruit is included in the rate. WiFi is free. Location wise, the establishment sits near the Hagia Sophia and the other major sights of Sultanahmet!
There’s a high chance that somewhere booked over Airbnb in Istanbul will be cheaper than a hotel. Nightly rates in these sorts of private home stays can be considerably lower than in fully managed establishments. In addition, there’s oodles of scope to cut costs. Do that by sharing larger properties with your whole travel crew or staying long-term to get fantastic weekly and monthly discounts to the tune of 25-50%.
It’s worth noting that Airbnbs don’t offer the same service as a conventional hotel. Breakfast buffets, daily housekeeping, in-room food ordering – these are the sorts of frills that you’ll have to sacrifice. However, if they’re luxuries you do want during your Turkey trip, consider somewhere like the four-star Hotel Titanic City Taksim. It’s got its own hammam spa, a beautiful indoor swimming pool, and a prime location near Taksim Square.
Sprawling Istanbul bridges the divide between Europe and Asia in bold style. Make a pilgrimage here to see the vaulted domes of the Hagia Sophia, dine on spice-scented mezze, haggle through the Grand Bazaar – it’s endless. Oh, and there are some pretty darn good Airbnbs in the mix too…