Istanbul’s skyline is a patchwork of rugged rooftops jostling for their glimpse of the Bosphorus, and beneath them are hundreds of Airbnbs waiting to invite travellers in to live like a local. Here are Culture Trip’s favourites.
With its opulent palaces, towering mosques, tantalising cuisine and dramatic seaside landscape, Turkey’s biggest city is one of the most spellbinding destinations in Europe – and Asia. Whichever side of the Bosphorus you’re keen to explore, a growing number of comfy short-term apartment rentals have thrown open their doors to visitors. These are the top Airbnbs in Istanbul.
The Loft in Taksim
This loft in Taksim has incredible city views | Courtesy of A C Pearl Holiday Istanbul / Airbnb
This uber-stylish studio makes the most of every square inch at its disposal, with a cosy queen bed leaving plenty of room for the chic kitchen, lounge room and breezy patio downstairs. Located in Cihangir – an artistic neighbourhood known for its European influences – this apartment feels spacious thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows gazing out over Beyoğlu’s patchwork quilt of rooftops. It also features luxurious leather and suede furniture plus a hammock on the balcony. The kitchen is compact yet fully equipped, but you might not feel like cooking. This Airbnb is only a short stroll from the bars and eateries around Taksim Square.
On the one hand, this budget-friendly one-bedroom flat invites you to curl up with a good book – the huge blue-denim couch, sizeable library and warm exposed-brick walls create a homely vibe. On the other hand, however, it invites you to get out and explore Istanbul, with its floor-to-ceiling glass doors framing a picture-perfect view of Beyoğlu, the Golden Horn and the historical peninsula beyond. The kitchen is as eye-catching as it is functional. Traditional Turkish tiles line the floor and wall while the breakfast stools and bench-top bar are a smart use of space. The bedroom also boasts a glimpse of the killer views outside.
With hardwood floors, calming pale-blue walls and a balcony perched above a leafy courtyard, this warm one-bedroom flat lies in the fashionable Yeldeğirmeni chunk of Kadıköy – a neighbourhood brimming with creative studios plus artworks spilling out onto the walls, too. As it’s on the Asian side of the city, sleeping here will also help you save a few liras. Use that extra money to sample a few of the local eateries your Airbnb superhost Yiğit enthusiastically recommends, such as kebab shop Çiya, seafood destination Kadı Nimet Balıkçılık, legendary pickle store Özcan Turşuları, and the brand-new snack joint Basta! Street Food Bar.
This Airbnb is among the best budget-friendly options you can find on the doorstep of the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet – the place visitors want to be on the historical peninsula. The studio itself has a glam timber-and-brick fit-out with a glittering teal streak, an ultra-modern bathroom with artisanal toiletries and a balcony boasting views of the Bosphorus. However, the apartment block’s amenities are also a huge drawcard, with a daily cleaning service, a private Turkish bath and sauna, fitness facilities and a restaurant where residents enjoy 10 percent off.
Hugging the southern shores of the Beyoğlu district, Karaköy is Istanbul’s hottest postcode, with a wave of hip boutiques, galleries, cafés and bars washing over the historic port. This Airbnb exemplifies the neighbourhood’s modern transformation, giving a ramshackle old boarding house for sailors a very contemporary facelift. Retaining the block’s original brickwork, beamed roof and sunny arched windows, this loft apartment has room for four guests across its two double beds. There is also a towering rooftop patio with vistas to Asia and Sultanahmet.
Most Airbnbs in Istanbul are studio apartments or one-bedroom flats that cannot accommodate any more than a couple – making this three-bedroom, three-bathroom property such a rare find. With space for as many as eight guests, this Sultanahmet flat is one of the most spacious places to stay on the historical peninsula – and a scenic one, too, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that frame a view of the ocean. The host, Mustafa, earns rave reviews for his communication, and he can also organise transfers to and from the city’s two airports.
The sun-drenched windows, cowhide rug, large gold-framed mirrors and plush, pillow-laden, peach-coloured couch all feel like elements of an upscale hotel rather than an affordable Airbnb. Situated just 100 metres (328 feet) off the crowded İstiklal Street that forms the spine of Beyoğlu, this one-bedroom apartment feels much quieter than its super-central location suggests, even when you step onto the private balcony.
This Airbnb’s listing admits that the apartment block it occupies is “a bit crummy”, but the apartment itself certainly isn’t. Moda No88 is furnished in a vintage 1950s style, with retro furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances, beautiful chevron wood flooring, an old piano and loads of plants to green up the space. There is room for four guests across two bedrooms, including one that catches a peek of the Hagia Sophia across the water in the distance. Located in the bohemian Moda neighbourhood of Kadıköy on the Asian side of the city, this apartment is an affordable option.
Welcome to a high-ceilinged haven in the heart of historic Galata, only steps from the Medieval tower for which this part of Beyoğlu is famous. The painted brick walls and raw plank wood flooring give this one-bedroom loft an urban inner-city feel. The living room’s fireplace and library, modern marble bathrooms, brand-new kitchen and snug dining room all help guests feel at home. The open-plan layout is brightened up with pops of colour and cutting-edge contemporary artworks, which suits the vibe of this cool corner of Istanbul.