Whether you are a digital nomad or work remotely, having a laptop as an office has fast become a trend on the rise, allowing people to reside wherever they can and want anywhere in the world. As a result, Türkiye has become a popular destination for digital nomads, with many moving to Istanbul and the southern coast. While both have their bonuses, no one can deny the majestic beauty that Türkiye’s cultural capital has to offer, never mind the endless cafes, arts venues and historic sights, making Istanbul a prime city to relocate to if you have the freedom of working from your computer rather than an office.
But anyone who has visited this vast city spanning two continents will know that not only is Istanbul huge, but it is also widely diverse. Considered Europe’s largest city with an area of 5,343 square kilometers (2,062 square miles) and a population well over 15 million, it can be admittedly easy for a foreigner to become overwhelmed trying to choose which neighborhood is the best fit for you. This is why I have compiled a list of the top five areas in Istanbul that are prime destinations for digital nomads, be it for their abundance of cafes and workspaces, exercise and adventure opportunities, and easy access to transportation.
While this list is not specified in the order of preference, Kadiköy’s colorful and bustling neighborhood, Moda, is undoubtedly my No. 1 pick, and let me tell you why! Located on the somewhat quieter Asian side of Istanbul, Moda was formerly primarily a residential area but has become one of Istanbul’s most popular destinations over the past decade or so. Not only does Moda have a vast number of new-generation coffee shops, cafes and international fast food and dining options, as well as the Bahariye pedestrian shopping avenue, but the neighborhood parallels a lengthy landscaped coastal park and walking and bicycling path that continues uninterrupted primarily for nearly 40 kilometers along the Marmara Sea. In addition, Moda neighbors Kadiköy’s transportation hub from which ferries take off for the European side of the city and to the Princes’ Islands. Also a popular neighborhood for foreigners, the rental prices are some of the highest in Istanbul, especially in the heart of Moda, which has retained many of its classic characteristics of being an esteemed residential area, with parks, tennis courts, and old school tea gardens.
When I first came to Türkiye on a Fulbright scholarship 20 years ago, Beyoğlu’s Cihangir was the most popular neighborhood for expats, especially among foreign academics and journalists. While Moda may now take the crown for being the most expat-friendly area in Istanbul, Cihangir remains a close second. Located below the Taksim and above Kabataş, Cihangir is a residential area that houses several cafes and acclaimed restaurants serving international cuisine. While not the best spot to start a long coastal walk, it is a central neighborhood for many strolling adventures. From Cihangir, it is easy to walk downhill to the Kabataş ferry station and on to Karaköy and Galataport or to head toward Istiklal Street through the antique-shop and gallery-laden Çukurcuma neighborhood. Rental prices are also high in this neighborhood, in which many top-floor homes boast views of the Bosporus and even the stunning silhouette of Sultanahmet.
Located at the base of Istiklal Street, which is the opposite end from Taksim, Galata is a wonderfully colorful historical area that has more recently become a more in-demand residential destination. Most notably known for its spectacular Galata Tower, which provides panoramic views of the city, Galata has a bohemian vibe hosting several cafes serving up international cuisine and lots of galleries, jewelry and musical instrument shops. From Galata, in one direction, you can easily stroll Istanbul’s shopping and entertainment center, which was and still is Istiklal Street, or you can walk downhill to Karaköy, which houses a variety of cafes and Galataport, with excellent restaurants. Many new-wave co-working spaces are also located within walking distance.
Bomonti is situated at a crossroads of several multicultural neighborhoods, such as Kurtuluş and Nişantaşı, and is fast becoming a famous residential district among hipsters and foreigners. Moreover, the area is close to other more prominent communities, such as the upscale Nişantaşı region. In addition, it is somewhat near the high-rise and professional hub districts of Şişli and Levent. But what Bomonti offers, in addition to more affordable rents, are attractions such as the Bomontiada entertainment complex, several co-working spots, plenty of cafes and coffee shops, and a weekly organic market that was the first of its kind in Istanbul and is quite an enjoyable event. The same market space in Feriköy also holds a weekly antique market and a farmers market.
Located on the Asian side of the city, Bağdat Caddesi is a 14-kilometer avenue known for being one of if not Istanbul’s most famous shopping districts. Spanning from Kızıltoprak, Feneryolu, Selamiçeşme, Çiftehavuzlar, Göztepe, Caddebostan, Erenköy, Şaşkınbakkal, Suadiye to Bostancı, means there are a lot of different options for the neighborhood to choose from that offer the same benefits. The reason any of these regions is excellent for a digital nomad is that not only is Bağdat Avenue itself lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as ample-sized sidewalks to stroll on, but most neighborhoods also have cafes situated in their inner streets and all of these regions parallel the landscaped coastal park and walking and bicycling path lining the Marmara Sea. So, if it’s exercise, the ease of walking, and lots of cafes and dining options that are your priority, rather than a lively nightlife, then this area is ideal. Loads of comfortable housing options in this area are also easier to drive in than others. A minibus “dolmuş” or bus will take you quickly to Moda or even across the Bosphorus to districts such as Taksim and Levent on the European side of the city.