The districts of Istanbul form one large city that is Turkey’s beating heart. Sitting on both the Asian and European continents, they highlight Istanbul past and present. From the historical districts like Fatih to the new, modern suburbs on the outskirts. Some earn fame for their Bosphorus location while others excel in something special, like shopping, nightlife or as a creative inspiration for artisans.
Whether you plan just to visit or are looking to relocate, some basic knowledge will put you in good stead. In this article, we cover the district briefly, but if you want to buy property, and speak with an agent with insider local knowledge, call us today. Let us start with areas on the Asian side. Although less populated and away from typical tourist areas, its growing popularity in recent years, brings in independent travellers looking to discover Istanbul’s secrets.
Districts of Istanbul
A Glimpse at the Asian Side
1: Atasehir: Think of this district as the Asian business and economy hub. A mass housing development, aimed at middle- and upper-class families attracts buyers, and many big businesses have their headquarters based here.
2: Cekmekoy: Made of up 21 neighbourhoods, an inland location and lack of historical sites mean rarely few tourists venture here. But numerous small parks make it a family-friendly area, and the university attracts a large student population.
3: Kadikoy: Now, we get to probably the most famous Asian district, that boasts of growing tourism. As a major ferry port, it is always a hub of activity, and there is much to see and do for tourists. When dining out, visit the top-notch Kadikoy fish market and surrounding restaurants.
4: Pendik: This district has a lot going for it, including a boat service across the Marmara Sea to Yalova. Other notable points of interest including the Aydos hill, castle, forest, Erenler mosque, and Formula 1 racetrack. The popular coastline areas also feature parks and walking paths.
5: Sancaktepe: 19 neighbourhoods make up inland Sancaktepe, and for working locals, is an ideal place to the nearby TEM highway, and Sabiha Gokcen airport. The local council reports a rapidly growing increase in population thanks to projects to preserve large amounts of green space.
6: Sultanbeyli: This landlocked working-class neighbourhood kept a low profile throughout history, until the 1980s when new transport links boosted the local population. As popularity still grows, it aims to be a green city by minimizing waste, recycling, and reducing the impact of urban living on the environment.
7: Umraniye: On the property market, Umraniye is the golden child. Growing in popularity because of numerous development and investment, it is a shopping and education hub. Luxury houses as well as good connections to bridges crossing over to the European side make it a favourite with working-class families.
8: Uskudar: As another significant ferry port, Uskudar’s seaside ambience brings in day-trippers from near and far. Seaside cafes with views like the Maiden Tower, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and more run along the promenade, giving the district more of a holiday feel.
9: Adalar – Princes Islands: Made up of nine smaller islands of which Buyukada is the most famous, Adalar lives in a separate world. The old Ottoman architecture of mansions, an off-shore location and traffic-free streets make up a good daytime excursion for both locals and tourists.
10: Tuzla: Previously a small fishing village, Tuzla is now a shipbuilder’s haven, but the coastline position and fish restaurants bring in people from all areas. Sitting right on the outskirts of Asian Istanbul, it maintains a small-town ambience, making it hard to believe it is part of Turkey’s most famous province.
11: Beykoz: Covering the northern tip, Beykoz’s miles of coastline features many small suburbs to explore. Many locals say it is a great area to live because of large amounts of green spaces. Large mansions (yali houses) owned by wealthy people are the housing market’s focal point.
12: Sile: Picturesque Sile mainly earns fame as a summer getaway for Turks who own second homes there. Other claims to fame include a castle and locally made cloths. Numerous beaches are a favourite haunt in summer but unsuitable for young children because of strong sea currents.
13: Maltepe: Commanding a view of the Prince’s Islands, Maltepe throughout history was a weekend getaway destination for affluent locals. However, when the Bosphorus bridge was built, more people turned to live there thanks to easier commuting times.
14 :Kartal: Facing the Adalar islands, Kartal is a highly populated district. One reason is excellent transport links including Sabiha Gokcen airport just 15 minutes away. In recent years, much development into luxury homes bought in buyers from near and far.
The European Side
1: Arnavutkoy: This district was thrust into the limelight when the new Istanbul international airport was constructed there. Additionally, other projects like the canal route have bought in foreign and domestic investors.
2: Avcilar: Facing the Marmara Sea, Avcilar is one of numerous districts experiencing rapid expansion in its housing market. New developments of lifestyle residences, as well as investment into transport and infrastructure, put it on the map.
3: Bakirkoy: Middle-class Bakirkoy has three claims to fame, notably as home to Turkey’s oldest racecourse and where Turkish airlines base their headquarters. In recent years, the shopping mall concept took off with stalls, entertainment, and shopping outlets all under the same roof.
4: Besiktas: As a desirable place to live, Besiktas earn countrywide fame. Attracting middle- and upper-class working families, anyone seeking to know more about Istanbul, would do well to visit the small villages like Ortakoy, a weekend hangout destination, known for its mosque.
5: Beyoglu: Sitting on the opposite side of the Golden Horn to the historical Fatih district, everything about Beyoglu is modern from the shopping and nightlife scenes to art and culture. Istiklal Avenue running through it from Taksim square is Turkey’s busiest street. It is also close to the famous Galata neighbourhood.
6: Sariyer: As one of Istanbul’s most prestigious areas, the Sariyer districts include high profile neighbourhoods like Taraba. The Bosphorus location and proximity to the heart of new Istanbul, attract wealthy locals looking for the more delicate side of life.
7: Zeytinburnu: Despite being home to numerous landmarks and near the famous touristic Fatih district, Zeytinburnu keeps a low profile on the international scene. The once-thriving leather industry moved out, and large shopping malls like Olivium replaced it.
8: Bagcilar: Sitting inland, Bagcilar, an ideal location for commuters because the TEM highway and the E5 nearby, is undergoing efforts by the local council to improve park, and green spaces and bring house buyers back.
9: Basaksehir: Welcome to a modern district, known for a high concentration of health and medical facilities. Basaksehir invested in a central town square project to modernise its property industry. Efforts have paid off.
10: Bayrampasa: Many people pass through Bayrampasa without realising it because that is where the central otogar bus station is. Other than that, it keeps a low profile, but the artichoke statue in the central town reflects its history as a significant producer of the vegetable.
11: Catalca: This leisurely district hosts many locals using it as a weekend getaway. Cilingoz National Park makes it popular with those who like camping and exploring the great outdoors.
12: Fatih: This district includes the old city Sultanahmet neighbourhood that is Turkey’s top sightseeing attraction because of its historical status as the ruling capital for both the ottoman and Byzantine empires. Landmark buildings include the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.
13: Eyup: Many Muslims make a pilgrimage here to see the Eyup sultan mosque. Pierre Loti Hill, another tourist attraction is reached via cable car and when at the top, visitors get a fantastic view over the Golden Horn.
14: Bahcelievler: This residential area with a middle-class ambience includes outskirt neighbourhoods that are home to notable factories. Due to its strategic position, near the E5 highway, excellent transport links attract home buyers.
15: Beylikduzu: As another high-profile investment area for investors, Beylikduzu is home to Atakoy marina and a shopping haven. A beachside atmosphere also makes it a favoured getaway destination. (Read why house buyers like Beylikduzu.)
16: Buyukcekmece: Sitting nearby, the trend for coastal living and real estate investment continues in Buyukcekmece. The lake with the same name is the most prominent landmark aside from an old historical bridge dating from the ottoman empire.
17: Esenler: A low profile and lack of tourist attractions kept Esenler off the international travel scene, but recent attempts by the local council to upgrade and modernise infrastructure and transport is seeing a growing housing market with affordable prices.
18: Esenyurt: For property buyers, Esenyurt is a rising star. Affordable prices, a central location, excellent transport links, and a new, modern housing market accompany other community projects that have thrust it into the limelight. (More about Esenyurt.)
19: Gaziosmanpasa: Before the turn of the century, Gaziosmanpasa received mass criticism. A growing population, poorly planned housing developments and no work, prompted the government to invest in it, and slowly but surely Gaziosmanpasa is turning around.
20: Gungoren: Covering just 8 square kilometres, Gungoren is a smaller district hence has fewer opportunities to put itself forward as a place to invest or travel to see. The local council is trying, though, by investing in its property market and transport infrastructure.
21: Kagithane: In terms of totally reinventing itself, Kagithane steps up to the podium as housing developments change its ambience. Its most famous landmark, the Istanbul sapphire is Turkey’s 4th tallest building.
22: Kucukcekmece: Lining the sea of Marmara, this district also sits next to Kucukcekmece lake, which is the community’s focal point. New housing is bringing in buyers from abroad and the rest of Turkey and the district predicts a great future thanks to a prime location.
23: Silivri: Welcome to a long stretch of coastline that makes Siliviri, an ideal getaway destination, and the second-largest district consisting of 26 neighbourhoods. As the ideal holiday destination, the utterly different ambience makes it hard to believe it is part of Istanbul.
24: Sultangazi: Sitting directly next to the TEM highway, Sultangazi’s name refers to a distinguished Ottoman empire gentleman, and the word sultan to reflect the Ottoman emperors. This small area breaks down into three precincts.
25: Sisli: Last on our list of districts Sisli’s high profile status includes affluent neighbourhoods like Nisantasi that is home to Turkey’s most expensive shopping district and a must-see place for anyone who wants to make it in society.
Where to Buy Property in Istanbul: We give a brief introduction to the housing market, the buying process, the law regarding foreigners and which districts of Istanbul are property hotspots.