This is the first question that will come to your mind if you are thinking of visiting Istanbul. Istanbul Is the only city in the world which is connected to both Europe and Asia. The bosphorus bridge divides the city namely into Its asian and European sides. In a city as beautiful as Istanbul with such vast cultural and geographical diversity it can be difficult to choose one place to stay however let me give you some insight from my personal experience.
We visited Istanbul In March and since we were traveling with two young kids (a 3yr old and a toddler) we decided to not explore others parts of turkey leaving a whole 10 days trip only for istanbul. We were looking for a place touristy enough to have good places around to eat, explore but also wanted to keep the traveling time within the city as minimum as possible to avoid the crazy istanbul traffic and to keep the children from driving us insane during traffic time (kinda obvious). We zeroed down on two of the most well known and tourist friendly places In Istanbul which were Sultanahmet and taksim. Ironically these two places are also quite different from each other in terms of the vibe and the entire scene and nonetheless both are equally good on their own.
Taksim is known as the heart of modern Istanbul. More like the downtown of Istanbul, it is a major cultural hub for the young crowd. you can call it as the “IT” place of Istanbul with various restaurants and pubs nearby with a vibrant night life. The streets are always buzzing with people. Lined with numerous restaurants on the Istiklal street (a.k.a food street of Istanbul) you will never be hungry on this side of Istanbul. owing to its modern and young vibe It also has several international chain of restaurants ( Starbucks , McDonald’s , KFC to name a few) along with some high street clothing brands. The historic taksim square is just around the corner with the famous red tram for all your insta worthy pictures. It also has a number of hotels within walking distance of taksim square. Adjacent to the taksim square is the underground tram station if you wish to go sightseeing from this part of the city.
Sultanahmet is known as the old town of istanbul. If quaint architecture and historical buildings interest you then this is your place to be. It has some amazing restaurants serving ottoman cuisine. You will find many shops selling souvenirs, spices and Turkish crockery. If taksim has your modern young vibe then Sultanahmet is all old world charm depicting the colorful istanbul culture. One serious advantage Sultanahmet has over taksim is it’s close proximity to all the major historic places such as Sultan Ahmed mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi museum. Even places like Galata Tower, spice market and grand bazaar are on the Sultanahmet side of the bridge which means if you are staying near taksim you will have to cross the bridge every day via cab or take multiple routes if traveling by tram.
So at the end I would say where you want to stay depends on your plans and itinerary for the trip. If you are traveling with family including kids and want to keep your commute time minimum or want to save your cab fare and soak up all the rich culture I would suggest you consider Sultanahmet or if bar hopping and enjoying the nightlife is your scene then taksim would be ideal for you.
For us, we stayed at double tree by Hilton in Sultanahmet and honestly it was quite convenient and comfortable for us there. With metro and tram stations at just walking distance from our hotel we never had to bother with cab fares and traffic.
Have you visited Istanbul ? If yes do let me know where did you stay and how was your experience.