If you’re familiar with my Turkey travel articles, you know of its vast diversity. Turkey presents a mix of busy cities and serene coastal spots, with varied terrains and climates for any traveler.
Turkey isn’t just great for trips; it’s also ripe with opportunities for those looking to settle down. My guide highlights the best places to live in Turkey – showcasing their culture, lifestyle, and beauty.
Whether you prefer the buzz of a modern city, coastal calm, or historic allure, Turkey offers a dream home for all.
There are the beach resorts of the Turquoise Coast, for instance, the rugged wonderland of Cappadocia or the vibrant streets of Istanbul. Amidst all this splendor, it can be hard to pinpoint where exactly you might want to put down roots. Living in a place, after all, is not the same as exploring it as a tourist.
To help you out, I have personally made you a list of the best cities to live in Turkey, compiling a list of pros and cons for each habitation to give you a clearer idea of what you’re in for. We’ve also roughly estimated monthly expenses for a single individual living alone so that you can identify what fits within your budget.
Don’t forget that even within cities, rent varies enormously according to the neighborhood, so make sure you factor that in when assessing the estimated cost of living in Turkey for each place.
All of the following Turkish cities for expats contain the necessary amenities to make living there a delightful experience. The major difference between them is that they all showcase a different side to the multi-faceted jewel that is the Turkey of today.
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1. Istanbul – Best Place In Turkey For City Slickers
Cost Of Living: $750-800
Istanbul is the best city to live in Turkey if you value a place that is both rich in history and has a thriving modern scene. A large city – the nation’s largest; in fact, there are almost 10 million more people here than in the capital, Ankara.
This makes for an international, cosmopolitan vibe that will satisfy those who like their creature comforts, including high-speed internet.
The best place to live in Istanbul for tourists is probably Sultanahmet or Galata since both are well located for reaching the most popular attractions. For longer-term relocation, Moda on the Asian side of the Bosporus has become a very trendy part of town.
If you want to stay on the European side, Cihangir has been an expat locus for many years, though prices are steeper than you’ll find around more up-and-coming areas of Kadikoy.
Pros Of Living In Istanbul
Istanbul is a great spot for expats in Turkey. Not only is it the most liberal part of a country that can sometimes skew conservative, but it’s also where you’ll find the densest population of English speakers. We’ve tried our hand at learning Turkish, and it’s no walk in the park, so if languages aren’t really your thing, Istanbul is your city.
Great Public Transport
The metro and the tram are both efficient and easy to navigate. You can also take advantage of ride-hailing apps like Uber or BiTaksi. These Istanbul public transport options make getting around quite easy.
No other bustling city in Turkey has as vibrant a nightlife as Istanbul, with a ton of bars and clubs where you can dance the night away.
Full Of History
Istanbul has a rich, well-preserved history stretching back to the Roman Empire. Living here means constantly coming upon gorgeous remnants of Byzantine and Ottoman civilization.
Cons Of Living In Istanbul
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city, with floods of tourists melding with an enormous local populace. In other words, it’s like every other major metropolis around the world and not a place to live if you’re seeking tranquility.
The cost of living in Turkey is highest in Istanbul, where the rent for a decent apartment far outstrips the average monthly wage for local workers. This is not the city to come to if you are hoping to make your money stretch further. Having said that, daily groceries and street food are still cheap, so it is possible to live on a budget if you’re strict with yourself.
Particularly downtown, the roads are often clogged with cars. Public transport can also become nightmarish during rush hour when the local people pack into metro carriages like sardines.
2. Izmir – Best Place In Turkey For In Turkey Weekend Warriors
Cost Of Living: $550-600
Turkey’s third-largest city, Izmir, is less frenetic than Istanbul without being devoid of modern amenities. Public transportation is solid, and the internet is getting faster all the time. You could think of it as ‘city life lite’, offering many of the benefits of an urban area but without as much overcrowding.
One of the best things about living in Izmir is that it’s on the road to everywhere. Many flights come through here, heading east to Cappadocia or south to Bodrum – both lovely places to visit for a long weekend.
Plus, the coastal city resorts of Cesme and Alacati are an hour’s drive away when you crave some sun, sand, and sea. In short, anybody who likes frequent weekend getaways will have abundant convenient options if they are based in Izmir.
Pros Of Living In Izmir
Almost halfway down the western side of Turkey, Izmir is famous for its mild weather, which rarely gets too hot or too cold but always stays just right. That’s at least partly why it’s become a popular destination for retirees.
Beside The Sea
Speaking of Turkey’s Aegean Region, Izmir is right on the sea, with many scenic spots to gaze out across the brilliant blue of the water.
Good Transport Hub
Thanks to Izmir’s geographical location halfway down Turkey’s Aegean coast, the airport has bountiful domestic and international flights, including direct planes to London, Stockholm, and Barcelona, among other destinations. These reasonably priced routes mean you can easily get away whenever you feel like it.
While the city proper doesn’t have any particularly beautiful beaches, there are lots within driving distance. In fact, to the west of the city are some of the most popular resort towns for locals, who avoid tourist-filled spots along the Mediterranean Coast in favor of the Cesme peninsula.
Cons Of Living In Izmir
Compared to Istanbul and some of the other popular tourist haunts, English is in short supply. You may find it challenging to get your point across in more complex matters where pointing and nodding just won’t cut it.
Lack Of Job Opportunities
If you’re hoping to work in Turkey, Izmir doesn’t have as many jobs for expats compared to Istanbul or Ankara, while digital nomads need to make sure they check that the internet connection where they’re living is up to scratch.
Cruise ships are a great way to see the world. However, if you have ever lived somewhere that is a perennially popular stop with these giant floating hotels, you will know that they can also become a bit of a nightmare. While Izmir isn’t as badly afflicted as, say, Dubrovnik, it’s something to bear in mind.
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3. Bodrum – Best Place In Turkey For Beach Bums
Cost Of Living: $650-700
Bodrum has been famous for a while now as one of the most popular beach resorts in all of Turkey, where the rich and famous come on holiday, rocking up in their yachts just off the coast or heading to an exclusive resort with a private beach. At the same time, affordable, all-inclusive hotels have also meant that the less affluent traveler can also find a place to call home.
Living in Bodrum means having ready access to the beautiful coastline of the Turkish Riviera all year round. However, you will have to share it with the incoming tourist crowd, particularly during the summer months.
That can have its pros and its cons, with the significant influx creating a party vibe that will appeal to some and put off others. If you ever tire of the beautiful scenery, you could always take a boat trip and escape to one of the nearby Greek islands, particularly Kos, which can be reached by ferry in under an hour.
Pros Of Living In Bodrum
There are tons of beaches around the Bodrum area, from pure sandy expanses to more wild and rocky stretches. No matter whether you prefer pristine, umbrella-ed spots or more off-the-beaten-track experiences, there’s a beach for you.
Part and parcel with the beaches come a wide variety of watersports that will keep any active types busy. Sure, you will find lots of gimmicky things like banana boats and parasailing, but you can also get seriously into windsurfing and scuba diving in these waters.
Bodrum’s popularity as a resort town has led to the growth of a vibrant nightlife scene, which goes full throttle during the high season and quiets down a little in the off period.
Hot in the summer and relatively mild winters, Bodrum is one of the best warm cities to live in Turkey. Like most of the nation, however, it does get a bit wet in the winter.
Outside of the major cities, Bodrum has one of the largest populations of expats, drawn by its jolly, sunny attitude. You’ll find it easier to communicate in English and have plenty of support from fellow overseas residents.
Cons Of Living In Bodrum
Bodrum’s popularity has led to some pretty punch prices for such a small place, reflected throughout its restaurants, bars, and rentals. There are some decent bargains to be had in terms of accommodation, but you’ll have to set your sights a little further afield from the most attractive neighborhoods.
As we’ve already noted, Bodrum attracts a lot of visitors, which can feel a bit overwhelming in high season when the public beaches are swarming.
Lack Of Local Life
Some people go abroad to experience the world through a different lens. That isn’t really something you’ll find in Bodrum, which is low down our list of the places we’d recommend you go for an immersion in the authentic side of Turkey.
4. Antalya – Best Place In Turkey For Connoisseurs of Life
Cost Of Living: $700-750
If you combine the city of Izmir with the beachy lifestyle of Bodrum, you might end up with something like Antalya. Turkey’s fifth-largest city is a bustling place that’s as full of rich history as its brilliant beaches. It’s certainly not as cosmopolitan as Istanbul or Ankara, but there’s no shortage of places to shop and eat.
Antalya has become known as Turkey’s “capital of tourism” thanks to its popularity as a holiday destination. By some estimates, it’s the country’s second most frequented spot after Istanbul, as well as being one of the most common places for expats to set up shop.
While the city’s public transportation caters adequately for downtown exploration, having a car will open up a whole new world of glorious places to delve into.
Pros Of Living In Antalya
Capital Of Tourism
There’s a lot to do in Antalya, from clambering about ancient ruins like Hadrian’s Gate and the Hidirlik Tower to heading to the beach.
Life’s A Beach
Speaking of beaches, one of the most highly rated coastal cities in all of Turkey is in Antalya: Konyaalti, which is picturesquely framed by the Taurus Mountains.
Historical Day Trips
Aside from the remnants of previous civilizations scattered throughout Antalya proper, the surrounding countryside is also home to some incredibly preserved sites – like the ancient city Aspendos or Perge, which are both within an hour’s drive.
Away from the beach, there are some gorgeous walking trails to the north of Antalya city center. Some of the best treks include one to the Duden Waterfalls and one that takes in the ruins of Termessos.
For those who like a challenge, the Lycian Way is a 509-kilometer coastal route that starts in Antalya and ends in the beach town of Fethiye.
Cons Of Living In Antalya
Capital Of Tourism
Things tend to be more geared towards expat tourists than they are towards expat residents. That’s not to say Antalya is a bad place to live; it’s just that you should be prepared for the locals to assume you’re only on holiday.
A lot of people enter Antalya. These part-time residents combine with the sizable full-time population to result in streets that are often busy, particularly in the summer, when the roasting temperatures make the roiling roads even less bearable.
Given what we’ve already said about Antalya, you could be forgiven for thinking that most Turkish people here speak English. That’s simply not the case. Time to get the translation app out on your phone…
Cost Of Living
After Istanbul, Antalya is probably the most expensive place to live once you factor in all the inflated prices caused by its popularity.
5. Bursa – Best Place In Turkey For Authentic Turkish Living
Cost Of Living: $475-525
Bursa was an important stepping stone in the Ottoman Empire’s rise to prominence. After it was captured from the Byzantines in 1326, it became the first major capital of the growing superpower. Much of that past is still visible today, having been preserved and/or carefully restored over the centuries.
Despite the modernity that has inevitably come to Turkey’s fourth-largest city, Bursa has done better than most in preserving its culture and history. That’s what makes it the ideal destination for people looking for the traditional side of the country, behind the beaches and bars.
Pros Of Living In Bursa
The most famous ski resort in all of Turkey is in the Bursa region. For winter sports fans, there really isn’t any better place to be than on the slopes of Uludag Mountain, shooting across powder.
Each season in Bursa is very different, going from the snows of winter to the spring thaw, to the summer warmth, to the colorful autumnal leaves. While for some, a milder winter might be attractive, for those who like to experience something fresh every three months, Bursa’s the best.
Whole Lotta History
Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, and though it was later superseded by Edirne and, ultimately, Constantinople (Istanbul), a lot of stunning monuments were built in the city during the 1300s and the early 1400s, including the 20-domed Grand Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Green Mosque, and the Muradiye Complex.
Bursa is a cheap place in Turkey terms. Public transport, daily groceries – even the rent in Bursa is much less damaging to the wallet compared to other major cities in Turkey. In fact, it’s almost half as expensive as Istanbul.
Bursa is a the perfect place to go if you’re a fan of good eats. The city has many delicious traditional restaurants to offer. as well as being the home of the Iskender kebab: a pide flatbread topped with thin slices of meat and slathered with spicy tomato sauce, yogurt, and butter.
Cons Of Living In Bursa
To go along with its long Ottoman architecture and history, Bursa is also one of the more old-fashioned places in Turkey. It’s undoubtedly less open-minded than cosmopolitan Istanbul, forward-looking Izmir, expat haven Antalya, and glitzy Bodrum.
Not A Beach Destination
Bursa does have beaches, but they don’t come close to being as beautiful as those along the Turquoise Coast. Plus, the weather doesn’t really allow for as long of a swimming season. If you’re considering living in Turkey to be close to sandy beaches and the sea, Bursa is not the place to base yourself.
The lack of English speakers is something that comes up often in Turkey – only 17% of Turks are estimated to be able to speak it in total – but Bursa is one of the more difficult places to live if you don’t possess at least some Turkish proficiency.
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6. Ankara – Best Place In Turkey For Polished Urbanites
Cost Of Living: $600-650
In some ways, the opposite of Antalya, Ankara (the capital city of Turkey) doesn’t attract tourists. Instead, it is geared much more towards operating as a smoothly run, well-oiled machine. Filled with modern facilities and thoughtful urban design, Turkey’s capital and second-largest city is a good place that attracts business people and politicians alike.
As a place to settle down, life in Turkey doesn’t come better suited to young professionals and burgeoning families, who can greatly benefit from access to public services such as education and healthcare.
Pros Of Living In Ankara
Top-notch shopping centers, stylish skyscrapers, and green parks – Ankara has all that one could desire from a modern standpoint, catering to the needs of a sophisticated, money-minded class that likes everything neat and tidy.
A Carefully Conceived City
One of the benefits of being a (relatively) newly built-up metropolis is that Ankara has better infrastructure than all the other major cities in Turkey. This comes complete with a well-organized public transport system that’s convenient and easy to use.
Lots Of Jobs
The capital has a thriving economy, one that is built on politics (all the world’s Turkish embassies are, of course, located here) but that has incorporated many other industries, too.
Cons Of Living In Ankara
Even if you plan to live in Ankara and travel to attractions elsewhere, almost nothing is near the city center. It was chosen to become the capital specifically because it was further inland, away from possible invaders, and thus is also far from all the historic cities and beaches.
Lack Of Sights
If you’re only planning to live in Turkey in the short term, you probably don’t want to be based in Ankara, which doesn’t boast any truly notable attractions, aside from arguably the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and multiple museums that don’t really hold a candle to what you can find in Istanbul.
This might be a pro for some people, but Ankara isn’t much of a party town compared to the most beautiful places we’ve named on this list. If you’re a bit of a night owl, Ankara probably isn’t for you.
As you can see, no matter what you’re looking for, Turkey has a place for you. There are places with plenty of shopping ops, low cost of living, international schools, good food, and outdoor activities in every part of my country.