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 site in Turkish.
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 the most popular areas and suburbs in Istanbul for expats.
Etiler, Ulus, Levent, Ortaköy
These neighbourhoods are in the Beşiktaş district, on the European side of Istanbul. They 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 very central and is home to many shops and restaurants. These neighbourhoods have become very popular with expats. There is a wide variety of luxury housing available, including both villas and apartments.
Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye
Nişantaşı and Teşvikiye are located in Şişli, a fashionable shopping district in Istanbul containing several older apartment blocks, most without Bosphorus views. These neighbourhoods are also very central. Apartments are smaller with no gardens or pools, and sometimes no elevator, which is typical of most city living in Istanbul.
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 prime areas along the Bosphorus, which is a premium location.
Emirgan, Yeniköy, Tarabya
Located in the Sarıyer district, these neighbourhoods 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 very expensive. However, 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 a lot of 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 several 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 who 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 contains its own 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 Belgrade Forest and near to 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, including petrol.
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 and a number of them 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. 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.
►For information about finding a home in the city, see Accommodation in Istanbul
Photo credits: Svetlana Gumerova; Hulki Okan Tabak; Anna; Umut Yilman. All sourced from Unsplash.
"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.
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.
Shireen Mistry has recently returned to Bombay after living in Istanbul for 5 years. Her time in Istanbul (2003-2008) was spent exploring and getting to know the city intimately. She has also travelled around Turkey and finds the country a beautiful and fascinating place, and the people gentle and friendly. She particularly enjoyed discovering boutique hotels in various regions of Turkey, as she believes that a charming hotel set in beautiful surroundings enhances the whole travel experience of discovering a new place. Shireen made it a point to learn the Turkish language, so as to fully be able to immerse herself in the country. From 2006-2008, Shireen was Co-Chairwoman of the International Women of Istanbul, a highly regarded and well established voluntary organisation that served as a social group for foreign women in Istanbul, as well as a volunteer group for several local women's and children's charities. Amongst some of the activities of the IWI, were the organisation of several orientation tours around various parts of Istanbul for newcomers and also several cultural and cooking programmes. Being a part of this organisation has enabled Shireen to gain a deeper insight into Istanbul, and Turkish life in general, so much so that she now considers Turkey her second home.
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