Exploring Istanbul's Districts: A Journey of History, Shopping, and Culinary Delights

Istanbul is a city that symbolizes the spirit of two continents, where history and modernity converge in an enchanting blend. Istanbul, with more than 15 million population, has diverse districts, each of which has its own character. In this blog, we embark on some of Istanbul’s districts, each offering a unique chapter of this magnificent city’s story.

We will navigate through the districts of Sarıyer, Şile, Adalar, Kadıköy, Üsküdar, Beşiktaş, Şişli, Fatih, Bakırköy, and Beyoğlu. In this blog, we will unravel the hidden gems, share historical and attraction landmarks, explore bustling shopping centers, unveil transportation and accessibility options, ensure your safety, and introduce you to the remarkable dining experiences in each of these districts.

Table of Contents

Fatih: Istanbul’s Historic Heart

Fatih, located at the heart of Istanbul, is a district with rich history and cultural significance. This area is renowned for its iconic landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. It’s a place where the past meets the present, where you can find a modern shopping center beside historical architecture.

Attractions in Fatih

Fatih is the jewel in Istanbul’s crown when it comes to historical landmarks. It houses some of the most iconic sites in Turkey, making Fatih an essential destination for any tourists. Fatih is home to the Hagia Sophia, a symbol of architecture that has adorned Istanbul for centuries. Nearby, the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmad Mosque) stands as an example of Ottoman architecture. Topkapi Palace, where Ottoman sultans once resided, and the underground wonders of the Basilica Cistern should not be unforgettable.

Shopping Centers in Fatih

Besides its historical treasures, Fatih offers unique shopping experiences. The Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest cover markets, invites visitors to explore every corner of the Grand Bazaar to find unique treasures. The Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Bazaar, is another must-visit.

Transportation and Accessibility of Fatih

This area is located in the center of Istanbul, therefore making it easily accessible by various means of transportation. Tram, bus, or even a leisurely walk from nearby neighborhoods are the ways you can reach the Fatih.

Is Fatih Safe?

Generally, Fatih is a safe district for tourists. However, like any major city, it’s essential to remain cautious and mindful of your belongings, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots where pickpockets happen.

Best Restaurants and Cafés in Fatih

Asitane Restaurant: This restaurant is known for its authentic Ottoman Palace cuisine

Balat Sahil Restaurant: This is a meyhane (a traditional Turkish tavern) located in the Balat neighborhood. This restaurant is known for its cozy atmosphere and unique and excellent mezes.

Siirt Şeref Büryan 1892:  this restaurant is a renowned büryan (slow-cooked lamb). The restaurant’s origins can be traced back to 1892 when it was first opened. 

Paçacı Mahmut Usta: located in the Fener-Balat neighborhood that specializes in traditional Turkish soups, partially paça çorbası (a soup made from lamb or beef trotters)

Beyoğlu: Istanbul’s Dynamic Epicenter

Beyoğlu, nestled on the European side of Istanbul, is known as a dynamic district for its bustling Istiklal Avenue. Istiklal Avenue is a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops, cafés, and theaters. Beyoğlu is also home to the iconic Galata Tower, offering panoramic views of Istanbul’s skyline.

Attractions in Beyoğlu

Beyoğlu history is etched in its cobblestone streets and countries-old buildings. Galata Tower, one of the most iconic symbols of Istanbul, and the nostalgic Tünel, one of the world’s oldest underground railways, are just some examples. Istikla Avenue, where vibrant street with shops, restaurants, and theaters, is the beating heart of Istanbul’s modernity and is a must-see destination. 

Shopping Centers in Beyoğlu

Beyoğlu offers a vast shopping experience. From the luxury boutiques of Nişantasi to the quirky boutiques of Karaköy or even walking along Istiklal Avenue you will find everything from high fashion to unique handcrafted goods.

Transportation and Accessibility of Beyoğlu

By tram, bus, and taxi, Beyoğlu is readily reachable from any location in Istanbul. Due to its location in the middle of the city, both tourists and residents may easily access and move around Beyolu.

Is Beyoğlu Safe?

Beyoğlu is safe, but you should be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas. And avoid exploring the area at midnight.

Important Restaurants and Cafés in Beyoğlu

F&B Culture: this is a popular restaurant known for its delicious food and cozy atmosphere. 

Fuzyon: the restaurant offers Turkish and international cuisine with a focus on seafood and vegetarian options

HafIz Mustafa 1864 Peraa dessert and restaurant known for its wide variety of Turkish desserts including baklava, Turkish delight, and other sweets. This restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

MiklaMikla is among the best restaurants in the world, located atop the hip Marmara Petra Hotel. It offers a menu with some of the most creative fine cuisine in Istanbul.

Urban Cafenestled in a backstreet close to Galatasaray High School, offers a full dining menu and an ideal place to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Kadıköy: Istanbul’s Cultural Haven

Kadıköy is a bustling district in Istanbul’s Asian side with its rich history, vibrant markets, and scenic waterfront.

Attractions in Kadıköy

Kadıköy’s history is deeply rooted in its streets. The Haydarpasa Train Station is a magnificent landmark in front of the sea with its beautiful architectural gem. The historical Moda Pier is a passenger ferry pier located in the Moda neighborhood. In 2022 Moda was restored, and now it serves passenger ships and yachts again. 

Kadıköy is known for its cultural vitality. Kadıköy Bull Statue and the famous Fish Market, where you can savor delicious seafood.

Shopping Canters in Kadıköy

For people who love shopping, Kadıköy is a paradise. There are some top shopping malls in Kadıköy such as Optimum outlet Alışveriş, Palladium, Akasya Shopping Mall, and Emaar Square. Bağdat Avenue is a popular shopping street in Kadıköy that is known for its luxury and high-end shops. It was ranked as the 4th best shopping boulevard in the world by a French firm.

Transportation and Accessibility of Kadıköy

Kadıköy is easily accessible by ferry, metro, and bus. The district’s central location makes it a convenient starting point for exploring the Asiam side of the city. Kadıköy is a pedestrian-friendly district, and walking through its streets is one of the best ways to explore.

Is Kadıköy Safe?

Kadıköy itself is a safe neighborhood. These areas are no specific areas in Kadıköy that tourists should avoid. That being said, Kadikoy is especially the place where people like to party and spend their evenings. You can find lots of young people drinking and having the time of their life wherever you turn.

Best Restaurants and Cafés in Kadıköy

Ciya Sofrasi: this Mediterranean and Turkish restaurant is known for its authentic Turkish cuisine and traditional dishes.

Pidesun: this restaurant is known for its Samsun Pide, a type of Turkish flatbread with various toppings

Basta Street Food: this small restaurant is located on a busy corner in Kadıköy and offers a variety of dishes.

Kadıköy Fish Market: this market offers a variety of fresh seafood, including fish, shrimp, and calamari.

Beşiktaş: Where Tradition Meets Trend

Nestled on the European side of Istanbul, Beşiktaş is a dynamic district that effortlessly blends tradition with modernity. As you start to explore this corner of the city, you will face a mix of historical landmarks and contemporary attractions making Beşiktaş an essential stop on your Istanbul journey.

Historical and Attraction landmarks in Beşiktaş

Beşiktaş prides itself on its rich history. Dolmabahçe Palace is a masterpiece that once served as the Ottoman Empire’s administrative center. Nearby, Yıldız Park is a historical and urban park and serves as one of the largest public parks in Istanbul. This park was originally part of the imperial garden of Yildiz Palace. Ortaköy Square is one of the historical and popular attractions in Beşiktaş. It was originally a small fishing village, and now it has a lively atmosphere and stunning views of the Bosphorus Bridge. This district’s nightlife around Barbaros Boulevard and the bustling Beşiktaş Pier add a contemporary edge to its charm.

Shopping Centers in Beşiktaş

You can reach shopping centers in all tastes. From the bustling markets of Beşiktaş’s Bazaar to the upscale boutiques along Akaretler Street, you will discover a wide variety of shopping experiences.

Transportation and Accessibility of Beşiktaş

You can easily visit Beşiktaş with various transportation options, including buses, ferries, and the Marmaray metro line. Once you’re in Beşiktaş, navigating the district is a breeze. The efficient public transportation system, including buses and trams, makes it easy to explore every corner of Beşiktaş.

Is Beşiktaş Safe?

Beşiktaş is a safe neighborhood and has low crime rates, this makes it a comfortable place for residents and visitors alike.

Important Restaurants and Cafés in Beşiktaş

Vogue Restaurant & Bar is a chic rooftop eatery offering stunning city views. The restaurant serves global dishes with a focus on molecular cocktails.

Summit Bar & Terrace is a popular rooftop bar and restaurant located on the 14th floor of the |Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel.

Banyan is a famous dining establishment with multiple offering a variety of cuisines and dining experiences.


Üsküdar: Where History and Tranquility Converge

Üsküdar nestled in the Asian side of Istanbul. This area is a treasure trove of historical landmarks and a peaceful ambiance that make Üsküdar an essential destination in your journey.

Historical and Attraction Landmarks in Üsküdar

The Maiden’s Tower also known as Leander’s Tower is a tower located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. The Şemsi Pasha Mosque is an Ottoman mosque located in the large and densely populated district of Üsküdar. The mosque was designed by Mimar Sinan and offers a picturesque waterfront location, which has made it one of the most attractive mosques in the city. 

Fethi Paşa Grove is a large park on the hillside leading down to the Bosphorus shore in the area called Paşlimanı. It is easily accessible by walking up the hill or by car and offers panoramic views of the strait and the European side of Istanbul.

Shopping Centers in Üsküdar

Üsküdar offers a unique shopping experience, with traditional markets like the Üsküdar Fish Market and boutique shops along Bağlarbaşı Street. There are several shopping malls in the area such as Üsküdar Plaza, Üsküdar İş Merkezi, and Üsküdar Forum.

Transportation and Accessibility of Üsküdar

This district is easily accessible by ferry, metro, and bus, making it a convenient starting point for your exploration of the Asia side of Istanbul. The best way to explore Üsküdar is on foot, allowing you to soak in its peaceful ambiance.

Is Üsküdar Safe?

Yes, Üsküdar is safe for everyone. In fact, Üsküdar is known for its conservative locals which can be both good and bad depending on what you are expecting. For example, if you like to dress flashy or show lots of skin, you may catch people looking at you. But don’t worry, these are not hostile but curious stares. 

The Best Restaurants and Cafés in Üsküdar

Rainbow Café & Restaurant, Known for its diverse menu and pleasant atmosphere

Metet Közde Döner is a popular restaurant in Kuzguncuk, known for serving nicely cooked and flavorful dishes.

Villa Bosphorus is a well-known restaurant in the Beylerbeyi neighborhood, offering seafood specialties in a spacious and relaxed setting.

Bridge Restaurant is a popular establishment in the Kuzguncuk neighborhood, known for its traditional Turkish cuisine, polished setting, and terrace seating with scenic views.

216 Café Trend is a café and restaurant located in the Selmani neighborhood, that offers a variety of dishes. 

Sarıyer: Where Nature and Heritage Unite

Nestled on the European side of Istanbul, Sarıyer is a district where the nature meets the history. As you embark on a journey through this corner of the city, you’ll be enchanted by its serene landscapes, historical landmarks, and a deep connection to Istanbul’s natural beauty.

Attractions in Sarıyer

Rumeli Fortress also known as Rumelihisarı or Boğazkesen Fortress, is a medieval Ottoman fortress that was built in 1452 as part of the conquest of Constantinople. Nearby, you’ll find the charming Emirgan Park, known for its historic pavilions and vibrant tulip display during spring. 

Shopping Centers in Sarıyer

İstinye Park Alışveriş Merkezi is one of Istanbul’s most prestigious and popular shopping malls. It features over 300 high-end shops, including well-known designer labels like Parsa, Armani, Chanel, and Dior. 

Kanyon Alışveriş Merkezi is a nearby option, located in the Levent neighborhood, is known for its modern architecture, and offers a range of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Vadistanbul AVM is a shopping center in another popular shopping destination in Sarıyer. 

Transportation and Accessibility of Sarıyer

Sarıyer is easily accessible by various means, including buses and taxis, also because this district’s location along the Bosphorus makes it available by boat and ferry. To navigate the district, local transportation options are available, and you can explore its natural, historical sites, and charming neighborhoods easily.

Is Sarıyer Safe?

This district is safe for tourists to explore, but it’s important to be aware of the current travel advisors and exercise caution while traveling in the area. Locals living around Sarıyer mind their own business and most of them are open-minded and friendly. Also for being one of the most known tourist destinations in Istanbul, you wouldn’t have any trouble communicating as you can find many English speakers there. 

The Most Important Restaurants and Cafés in Sarıyer

Uzunya Beach & Restaurant is a popular establishment located in Demircikoy, known for its beach, restaurant, and various activities.

Tadinda Anadolu is a restaurant located in Maslak Mahallesi, is renowned for serving traditional Turkish dishes, with some popular items including tarhana soup with ground beef.

Azur Restaurant is a seafood restaurant known for its experienced and young team of chefs, they offer a variety of seafood dishes with unique touches and flavors.

Ratatouille is a hidden gem, offering a cozy and intimate setting for visitors. The café is known for its delicious breakfast options and freshly baked goods.

Şişli: Where Modernity Meets Tradition

Şişli, a bustling district situated in the heart of Istanbul’s European side, is a captivating blend of modernity and tradition. 

Attraction in Şişli

Şişli proudly showcases its historical treasures. The Atatürk Museum is a historic house museum dedicated to the life and achievements of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Istanbul Military Museum is a renowned museum dedicated to one thousand years of Turkish military history, making it one of the leading museums of its kind in the world.

Şişli’s dynamic character is evident in its modern attractions. Nişantaşı is a vibrant and upscale district, which is known for its designer boutiques, stylish cafés, and lively atmosphere.

Shopping Centers in Şişli

This area has vibrant shopping centers for all tastes. Nişantaşı boasts luxury boutiques where you can find the latest fashion trends and designer items. Meanwhile, the Istanbul Cevahir Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in Europe, provides a wide range of options from fashion to electronics.

Transportation and Accessibility of Şişli

Being in the center, Şişli is an accessible place from various parts of Istanbul. You can reach the district by metro, bus, or taxi. Şişli has a well-connected public transportation system. These options provide easy access to Şişli’s neighborhoods, attractions, and cultural hotspots.

Is Şişli Safe?

The district is a safe and enjoyable place for tourists, with the usual precautions advised for any big city. Şişli is the center of workplaces and you can find almost all types of people there. Also, Şişli is the place where you can reach other metro lines and metrobus easily. That’s why you can find many different people there.

Best Restaurants and Cafés in Şişli

Turk Fatih Tutak is an important restaurant located in the Bomonti district. The restaurant is known for its innovative and sophisticated Turkish cuisine, with Chef Fatih Tutak showcasing his love for Turkish terroir and using ingredients from the region and produce from local traders.

Urfa’dan Kebapçı is a known restaurant that offers a taste of Urfa cuisines such as kebabs, and pita bread.

Nusr-Et Burger is a burger joint located in the Şişli, offering high-quality meat and unique seasoning.

Shishly Café & Bistro is a popular restaurant situated at Abide-i Hürriyet street. This restaurant offers a variety of dishes, including burgers, chicken, and steak.

Zamane Kahvesi NisantasI is a popular café located in the Nişantaşı district of Istanbul, known for its cozy atmosphere and delicious menu offerings.

Bakırköy: Where Connection and Convenience Converge

Situated on the European side of Istanbul, Bakırköy is a bustling district known for its vital role in connecting the city to the world. 

Attraction in Bakırköy

Bakırköy may be modern, but it also holds historical gems. Ataköy Marina Mosque is a beautiful mosque located in the Ataköy Marina area that popular attraction for both locals and tourists visiting the marina area. 

Bakırköy, a district in Istanbul, offers a variety of attraction landmarks for visitors to explore. Marmara Forum is a large shopping center that offers a range of entertainment options, including shopping, dining, and a cinema complex. Istanbul Aquarium is located in Bakırköy, the Istanbul Aquarium is a popular attraction for families and nature enthusiasts, offering a variety of marine life exhibits. Floria Istanbul Park is a botanical garden, offering a peaceful and green space for visitors to relax and enjoy nature.

Shopping Centers in Bakırköy

Marmara Forum is a contemporary shopping center offering a hypermarket, cinema, food court, and play areas for kids. Marmara Forum is located next to E-5 road, making it easily accessible. Capacity Bakırköy is a well-known shopping center in the district. Offering a range of retail stores, dining options, and entertainment facilities.

Transportation and Accessibility of Bakırköy

Bakırköy is easily accessible with Marmaray, which connects both European and Asian side of Istanbul. Marmaray’s line is on the most used transportation lines such as Metrobus and Taksim metro. 

Is Bakırköy Safe?

Bakırköy is one of the safest districts in Istanbul thanks to its locals and safety measurements. Especially if you visit the long Bakırköy park right next to seaside, you will understand why. As people are having a picnic, walking their pets, and chilling, you will feel the peace within yourself with waves splashing the rocks on the coast.

Important Restaurants and Cafés (Bakırköy)

VUE Rooftop is a popular lounge, bar, and restaurant located on the 17th floor of the Hyatt Regency Istanbul Atakoy. This establishment offers guests a relaxing atmosphere and a premium range of unique drinks.

Beyti is a renowned restaurant in Istanbul, specializing in roasted meat and traditional Turkish cuisine.

Kale Van Kahvaltı Salonu is a family-style restaurant, known for its extensive menu of breakfast small plates. It offers its laid-back ambiance, making it a popular choice for families and those looking for a leisurely breakfast experience.

Kaktüs Café is a popular coffee and tea shop known for its quality and taste.

Kokpit Café is a famous coffee shop near Atatürk Airport. The café offers a range of quick, hot, and fresh food options, ranging from Turkish to Western European cuisine.

Adalar: Istanbul’s Island Escape

Adalar is a unique and tranquil archipelago nestled in the Marmara Sea, just off the coast of Istanbul. Adalar, meaning “Islands” in Turkish, comprises nine islands, each offering its own distinct charm and natural beauty. 

Attractions in Adalar

Adalar’s history is etched into its landscape, with historical landmarks awaiting your exploration. Aya Yorgi Church is a Greek Orthodox church and monastery located on Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’s Islands in Istanbul. This church is an iconic symbol of the islands, or wander through the remains of ancient monasteries, providing a glimpse into the past that shaped Adlar’s character.

Adalar’s pristine, neutral beauty is a defining feature of the archipelago. You can enjoy with beauty of the pine forests of Büyükada, or embrace the crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands, inviting you to swim, snorkel, or simply bask in the sun.

Transportation and Accessibility of Adalar

Ferries provide a convenient route to the islands, once you have arrived, you can discover the islands with ease. Back then, there were horse carriages but due to new animal protection protocols, they are no longer in service. Instead of these carriages, you can explore Adalar on foot or bicycle. 

Is Adalar Safe?

Adalar is a friendly place that is always open to tourists. Adalar is mostly car-free with no public vehicles allowed on the islands, which adds to the charm of the islands.

Best Cafés and Restaurants in Adalar

Liman Restaurant & Café is a top choice for visitors to Adalar, offering a great atmosphere, lovely decor and design, and stunning views.

Tiara Restorant is a highly recommended restaurant in Büyükada, offering a great view over the promenade. 

J’ai Faim Cafe is a highly-rated establishment in Adalar, offering a delightful dining experience. The café serves a variety of dishes, including breakfast, brunch, and lunch options.

Büyükada Sekercisi Candy Island is a popular café and pâtisserie in Büyükada. Offering a variety of sweet treats, including pastries, cakes, and candies.

Ada Kahvalti is known for its delicious and natural breakfast options, offering a variety of dishes prepared with homemade recipes.

Şile: Where Serenity Meets the Sea

Nestled in Istanbul’s Asia side, Şile is a charming town along the Black Sea, that beckons travelers with its serene landscapes and a deep connection to nature. Şile is known for its beautiful beaches, including the Black Sea coast and a famous lighthouse called Şile Feneri, which is still in use.

Attractions in Şile

Delve into Şile’s history with visits to its historical landmarks. The Şile Feneri is a historical lighthouse still in use. It’s located on the western Black Sea coast in the northeast town of Şile. Şile is a haven for nature enthusiasts. Explore the dramatic Şile Cliffs, where the lush greenery meets the rugged coastline, or unwind on the pristine Şile beach, where golden sands meet the Black Sea’s tranquil waters.

Shopping and Dining in Şile

 You can enjoy a variety of shopping and dining experiences. Şile is a great place to shop for traditional Turkish souvenirs and crafts. This town is known for its textile industry, particularly its fine cotton fabrics.

Transportation and Accessibility of Şile

You can journey by bus or car from Istanbul. The scenic drive along the coast provides a glimpse of the nature awaiting you in Şile. Once you arrive, navigate the town effortlessly on foot or by bicycle, take a chance to explore the charming streets, stroll along the coast, or embark on scenic hikes to immerse yourself in Şile’s tranquil ambiance.

Is Şile safe?

While Şile is generally safe, it’s important to be cautious when swimming, especially in areas without lifeguards.

Best Cafés And Restaurants in Şile

Fusha Şile is a café, restaurant, pub, and bar offering a diverse menu and a cozy atmosphere.

Kokoz is a restaurant known for its delicious Turkish cuisine and friendly service.

Massha Şile is a restaurant offering a variety of dishes, including seafood and Turkish cuisine.

Miss Pide is a pide (Turkish pizza) restaurant known for its tasty and freshly baked pie.Shila Café is a café offering a range of drinks and light snacks, perfect for a quick break during your visit to Şile.