The best places to live in Istanbul
There are many suitable areas and suburbs in Istanbul that have appealing accommodation options for expats. Many expats live in gated apartment complexes consisting of a collection of apartment blocks, or they live in houses in suburban gated communities called siteler.
Factors to consider when selecting an area include proximity to work and schools, commute distance and access to basic amenities. Below is an overview of Istanbul's most popular areas and suburbs for expats.
Etiler, Ulus, Levent, Ortaköy
These neighbourhoods are in the Beşiktaş district, on the European side of Istanbul, and spread out over the hills above the Bosphorus. Depending on which side a house faces, expats can find a home with amazing Bosphorus views.
The area is central and is home to many shops and restaurants, and these neighbourhoods have become popular with expats. There is a wide variety of luxury housing available, including both villas and apartments. Naturally, accommodation in these neighbourhoods goes for a premium, so expats are encouraged to budget well.
Nişantaşı, Teşvikiye, Esentepe, Gayrettepe and Mecidiyeköy
Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye are located in Şişli, a fashionable shopping district in Istanbul containing several older apartment blocks, most without Bosphorus views. These neighbourhoods usually attract elites and celebrities, while Esentepe and Gayrettepe are typically home to middle-class families. Students often live in Mecidiyeköy, as this neighbourhood is also quite central. That said, apartments tend to be smaller and sometimes have no pools, gardens or elevators.
Bosphorus villages on the European side of Istanbul
Bebek, Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Rumelihisarı
These are the more central Bosphorus neighbourhoods. If expats want to be on the waterfront, they will need to live in apartments. These tend to be expensive, especially since they are in a premium location along the Bosphorus.
Emirgan, Yeniköy, Tarabya
Located in the Sarıyer district, Emirgan, Yeniköy and Tarabya are further north along the Bosphorus shore but are no less exclusive. There are large waterfront villas, pretty tree-lined streets, cafés and beautiful views. Most waterfront housing is not available for rent, and if it is, it will be exorbitantly priced. That said, there are several housing complexes in the hills above the coastal road with panoramic views of the Bosphorus.
Suburbs on the European side of Istanbul
Kemerburgaz is a 20- to 30-minute drive northwest of central Istanbul. Although the area has recently undergone development, it is still quiet and lush with leafy green foliage. Decent hospitals, supermarkets and shops can also be found in the area.
There are many housing complexes and gated communities in Kemerburgaz, as well as apartments. This is an ideal location for those who want to be out of the city but still want to be a commutable distance away.
Alkent 2000 is a large and prestigious gated community located about an hour's drive west of central Istanbul. The estate boasts sporting facilities, supermarket options and malls nearby. Although it is quite a commute from central Istanbul, it is close to renowned private and international schools. Generally speaking, it is a popular choice for expats with school-going children, but otherwise, it can leave expats feeling fairly isolated.
Zekeriyaköy is further north, at the edge of the Belgrad Forest and near the shores of the Black Sea. There are large villas with gardens and pools available here, as well as some schools. Its drawback is that it is quite far out of town – and while there are basic amenities available in Zekeriyaköy, one has to travel a fair distance for most other things.
Suburbs on the Asian side of Istanbul
Most expats tend to live on the European side, but there is also a thriving expat community on the Asian side of Istanbul. There are many apartments and apartment complexes, several of which are set among stunning greenery overlooking the Bosphorus.
Travel from Europe to Asia is easy enough – options include travelling either by ferry, under the Bosphorus on the metro system or over bridges. Traffic on the bridges can sometimes be highly congested, especially during rush hour.
Central Kadıköy is a vibrant and cosmopolitan area which also serves as a transport hub for the Asian side of Istanbul. As the area is located on the Sea of Marmara, expats can find a great deal of sea-facing apartments at different price points. Despite being home to numerous bars and restaurants, many expats appreciate how much more tranquil Kadıköy feels when compared to the European side of Istanbul.
Üsküdar is an ancient district dating back to the Byzantine era. Üsküdar is a residential area on the waterfront, and it is well-connected to other parts of Istanbul by excellent transport links. Üsküdar is a family-friendly area with many markets and quaint shops. The area is known for being conservative, with few opportunities for nightlife.
►For information about finding a home in the city, see Accommodation in Istanbul.
What do expats think about the neighbourhoods in Istanbul?
"In areas such as Cihangir, Etiler and Beyoğlu more people speak English, and there are a lot of expat groups to connect with." Read more about Lisa's thoughts on living in Istanbul.
Photo credits: Svetlana Gumerova; Hulki Okan Tabak; Anna; Umut Yilman. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Istanbul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Istanbul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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