Live Like a Local in the Coolest Airbnbs and Holiday Rentals in Istanbul

Istanbul is home to many fantastic Airbnbs
Istanbul is home to many fantastic Airbnbs | © YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo

Most visitors to Istanbul make a beeline for the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia, but there’s so much more to see in this vast Turkish city – from the snaking Bosphorus to the buzzing bars of Besiktas. And the best way to experience all its diversity – whether you’re haggling in the souks, snacking on sesame-seeded simit bread or sipping strong black coffee in tiny cafes – is to live like a local. Stay in an airbnb-style holiday apartment and explore new corners of this old city as a resident. Here’s our pick of the best, bookable on Culture Trip.

A simple stay in trendy Karaköy

Short-term Rental
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Courtesy of Galata Waterfall Apartment / Expedia
Chic bars and nightclubs, trendy eateries, slick contemporary art galleries and cool boutiques – Karaköy may have once been a gritty sweep of waterfront, but it’s rapidly developing into Istanbul’s must-see cool district. These apartments – in studio, one- and two-bedroom formats, sleeping two to six people – have a homely feel with seating areas and kitchenettes, in case you’d rather cook than take advantage of the area’s copious local restaurants. Housekeeping is available on request.

An open-plan suite for friends

Short-term Rental
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Courtesy of Karakoy VAV Suites / Expedia
Looking for modern accommodation to match trendy Karaköy’s hottest bars and restaurants? These one- and two-bedroom suites, sleeping five, have everything a group of friends or style-conscious family might need. Open-plan lounges have big comfy sofas for spreading out and kitchenettes are on standby for preparing simple meals; the Executive Condo has a balcony dining area for enjoying your home-cooked feasts. Landmark Galata Tower is just a six-minute walk away.

A hotel-style stay for families

Short-term Rental
Map View
Courtesy of Gen Suites / Expedia
Room service and a 24-hour front desk are just a couple of the hotel-style perks at these studio apartments, sleeping two, four or six people. Decorated in sandy hues, with city views and kitchen and dining areas, the open-plan spaces would best suit travelling families who enjoy sharing spaces. Set to the north of Taksim Square, popular for its boutiques and cafes, the neighbourhood has a local feel that lets you experience the real Istanbul beyond the Blue Mosque.

A sightseer’s paradise in Sultanahmet

Short-term Rental
Map View
Courtesy of Efe Apart Hotel / Expedia
If it’s your first time in Istanbul, some sights are a must: grand Sultanahmet Square, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the haunting Basilica Cistern, just for starters. These apartments are just minutes away from them all, letting you cram in sightseeing from dawn until dusk. The one- and two-bedroom apartments, sleeping two or four, are comfortable and simple, equipped with rainfall showers and kitchens. Housekeeping and a concierge are there if you need them.

A shopper’s favourite in the north

Short-term Rental
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Courtesy of Dream of Holiday Istanbul / Expedia
In the northerly reaches of the city, not often explored by weekending tourists, these apartments – ranging from one to four bedrooms and sleeping between three and nine people – are a short drive from Istanbul Sapphire, a landmark skyscraper packed with shops and an observation deck, where you can see all of Istanbul carpeted below you against the glittering Bosphorus. After soaking up the panorama, return to cook dinner in your homely kitchenette.

A style maven’s hideaway

Short-term Rental
Map View
Courtesy of Beytul Galata / Expedia
Is style a priority when picking your stay? Clean and contemporary, with exposed brick accent walls, statement lighting and cushion-lined sofas, these studio and two-bedroom apartments, sleeping three or six, converge to create your perfect stay. A short walk from medieval lookout point, Galata Tower, in trendy restaurant and bar-packed Karaköy, it’s perfectly placed for taking in Istanbul’s nightlife, too. A daily housekeeping service makes you feel like you’re at a hotel.

A colourful stay in buzzy Taksim

Short-term Rental
Map View
Courtesy of Sirena's Suites / Expedia
With its photogenic red street cars, cluttered souvenir shops and sweet emporiums brimming with gooey rose-flavoured lokum (Turkish delight), the Taksim neighbourhood is one of Istanbul’s most memorable. Set between Taksim Square (seven minutes’ walk away) and the Bosphorus, these studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments let you make the most of it. Sleeping between two and seven people, each is individually styled with colourful bedspreads and curtains and kitchen spaces.

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  • A hotel-style pad in swish Sisli

    Short-term Rental
    Map View
    Courtesy of Imza Suite / Expedia
    Upmarket Sisli, with its shopping and chic restaurants, is the setting for these studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, sleeping two, four or six people. With hotel-style luxuries, such as valet parking, concierge service and dry cleaning, a stay here makes you feel like you’re one of the well-heeled locals. The smallest apartments are compact in size, but with so much to explore in this city, you’ll be out too much to notice.

    Beyoğlu lookout with Golden Horn views

    Apartment
    Map View

    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 walls while the breakfast stools and bench-top bar are a smart use of space. The bedroom also boasts killer views outside.

    Tophane loft apartment in a historical building

    Apartment
    Map View

    Hugging the southern shores of the Beyoğlu district, Karaköy is Istanbul’s hottest postcode, with a wave of hip boutiques, galleries, cafes 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 in its two double beds. There is also a rooftop patio with vistas to Asia and Sultanahmet.

    Designer loft in Galata

    Apartment
    Map View

    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.

    Tom Smith contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on April 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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