Areas and Suburbs in Istanbul

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There are a number of suitable areas and suburbs in Istanbul with appealing accommodation options for expats. Factors to consider when selecting an area are proximity to working environment, proximity to international schools if with children, commute distance and access to basic amenities.

turkish houses on the quay

In Town

Etiler, Ulus, Levent, Ortakoy
These neighbourhoods are on the European side, on the hills above the Bosphorus. Depending on which side your site/house faces, you can have the most amazing Bosphorus views. The area is very central, and lots of shopping and restaurants are here too. As of late it's become very popular with expats, and there is a wide variety of luxury housing available - both villas and apartments.

Nisantasi and Tesvikiye
This fashionable shopping district of Istanbul contains several older apartment blocks, most without Bosphorus views. It is also very central, but apartments are smaller with no gardens or pools, and sometimes no elevator. This is typical city living.

The European side Bosphorus villages

Bebek, Kurucesme, Arnavutkoy, Rumeli Hisar
These are the more central Bosphorus neighbourhoods. If you want to be down on the waterfront, you will need to live in stand-alone housing – mainly apartments (no Sites). These generally tend to be more expensive, especially since they are in prime areas along the Bosphorus and you pay a premium for the location.

Emirgan, Yenikoy, Tarabya 
These neighbourhoods are further north along the Bosphorus shore, but 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 to be very expensive – beyond the average expat budget. However, there are several sites in the hills above the coastal road with panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Most expats who choose these suburbs will live in these areas.

The European suburbs

Kemerburgaz is about 20 to 30 minute drive northwest of central Istanbul. The area is quiet and lush with leafy green foliage, but has recently been undergoing a lot of development and building activity. Decent hospitals, supermarkets and shops for daily needs are in the area.  

There are several sites here, the most exclusive being Kemer Country, which is built around a golf course and a forest. There is also a country club on the property. Kemerburgaz sites have villas as well as apartment options. This is a great location for those who want to be out of the city but not too far away.

Alkent 2000
Alkent 2000 is another well-developed, large housing estate located about an hour’s drive west of central Istanbul. The site contains its own sporting facilities, supermarket options and malls nearby. Though it is quite a commute from central Istanbul, it is 10 minutes away from the main international school in Istanbul. Generally speaking, it is a popular choice for expats with school-going children, but otherwise it can leave expats feeling fairly isolated.

Zekeriyakoy is further north at the edge of the Belgrade Forest, near the shores of the Black Sea. There are large villas with gardens and pools available here. The British international school is in Zekeriyakoy, so this is a good area for those expats who wish to educate their children in the British system. Its drawback is that it is quite far out of town – and while there are basic amenities available in Zekeriyakoy, one has to travel a fair distance for most other things, including petrol.

Asian side

Most expats tend to live on the European side, but there is a thriving expat community on the Asian side as well. The Asian side has many site options and many are set among stunning greenery overlooking the Bosphorus.

Travel from Europe to Asia is easy enough – the two options at the moment are either by ferry, or via the two bridges.

Traffic on the bridges can sometimes be backed up, especially during rush hour.

A toll has to be paid for using the bridges and cash is not accepted at the toll booths. If you cross the bridge regularly, it is worth investing in an automatic toll pass which you can recharge. This ensures that you simply drive through the toll gate (called OGS in Turkish) and your machine, which you attach to your windscreen, is scanned. There is a deposit to be paid for the use of this machine. The other option is to have a rechargeable card which you swipe each time you pass through the card toll gate (KGS in Turkish).

Our Istanbul Expert

Shireen's picture
Bombay, India
Bombay, India
Shireen Mistry has recently returned to Bombay after living in Istanbul for 5 years. Her time in Istanbul (2003-2008) was...

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