Deciding where to live in Istanbul is an important choice. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, such as the commute time between your home and your university, areas compatible with your daily routine, and what kind of experience you expect to have while in Istanbul. Istanbul’s neighborhoods are diverse and vary not only in terms of their history but also their day to day pace of modern life. Therefore it’s recommended that you actually walk through a few neighborhoods in order to help decide which area is suitable for you.
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city or ‘il’. ‘İl’ can be divided further into districts called ‘ilçe’ and then an ‘ilçe’ can be divided into neighborhoods called ‘semt’. Istanbul is an ‘il’, and its various districts Beşiktaş, Beyoğlu and Kadıköy are ‘ilçe’. Examples of a ‘semt’ in Istanbul would be Cihangir, Nişantaşı, Galatasaray or Etiler. Sometimes the names of an ‘ilçe’ and ‘semt’ can overlap, like in Beşiktaş or Kadıköy.
Istanbul is no doubt an expensive expat destination and it shows especially with the prices of an average apartment’s rent. Before you even start looking, it should be noted that rents can range tremendously depending on location, type of accommodation, and the extent of any kind of view or outdoor space. Houses and apartments with a view of the Bosphorus are always more expensive. Istanbul has many furnished accommodation options, which cost more than unfurnished ones. The most common ways of finding a room are through real estate agents (‘Emlakçı’ in Turkish), newspapers, and online rental sites (Hürriyet Emlak, Sahibinden, Facebook and Craiglist). Be aware that like any other big cities in the world, you might come across people or agencies that may not be fully trustworthy. If at all possible the best option is visiting the accommodation that you have discussed over the phone or online. Never sign for an agreement or contract if it’s not in a language you understand. Don’t forget that many people earn their living renting flats to exchange students and the prices they offer are always higher than normal.
The center of the Asian side, Kadıköy, is located along the Sea of Marmara and faces the historic peninsula on the European side. It has been one of the fastest growing districts in Istanbul for the past 25 years and has great shops, markets, and entertainment which make it so popular. However Kadıköy is still much more peaceful and tranquil if we compare it to the chaotic European side. Like Taksim, Kadıköy is overflowing with hundreds of restaurants and bars. The only difference is that after 2am only a few groceries and bakeries are open. In other words Kadıköy usually goes to sleep at night. Here, retirees live with young people in harmony. Kadıköy is a middle class neighborhood and has a more local feel. It is definitely less expensive than the European side. As an added bonus, it’s a transportation hub which means it’s quite easy and cheap to get to other parts of the city. Reaching the European side takes around 20 minutes by ferry. The low apartment rents make Kadıköy the best neighborhood for students. Moda, just to the south of Kadıköy, is more expensive than central Kadıköy because it’s close to the action but far enough on the outskirts to remain quiet and relaxed. While not overpowering, Moda has a bit of an artsy vibe as well. Retirees usually live here so it’s not really a student area. Even a little noise can cause a big problem here. The seaside in Moda is a refuge for locals with large rocks where you can sit, drink your beer, and gaze upon the Sea of Marmara.
Photo Credits: MacPepper