If you’ve not visited Istanbul before, self-catering in a pad of your own might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But it’s so worth it. Be absorbed into neighbourhood life: pop to the corner store for milk; get to know the owner of the local restaurant, who’ll slide you free rakı; and generally immerse yourself. We know the hippest apartments in this unmissable Turkish city.
If you fancy planting yourself in real-deal Istanbul – far from the souvenir vendors, close to some damn-groovy neighbourhoods – Joy Suites will be right for you. The decor is international-airbrushed rather than Turkish-trad: an elegant, neutral palette of whites, greys and blacks, compact bathrooms and kitchenettes. But you stay here to step out – and to savour sensory Turkey. Perhaps a hip taverna in nearby Cihangir, or beers before mod-Med dining at Kilimanjaro restaurant, up the road in Bomontiada: a beer factory now abuzz with nightlife.
Just a couple of winding streets away from the magical Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), PiPort has a major selling point in its location, right in the heart of Istanbul’s Old City. The two-bedroom apartments are clean and comfortable (with sensational views over the wind-whipped blue Bosphorus strait). Mini fridges on countertops, clashing wallpaper and patterned curtains won’t win many interior-design awards, but you can’t argue with a warm-and-breezy alfresco breakfast on the roof terrace, taking in those astounding wraparound views.
You can practically reach out and touch the soaring domes and minarets of Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii – a Blue Mosque mini-me – from these apartments. You’re also just a stone’s throw from the real thing, not to mention the rest of the higgledy-piggledy, terracotta-roofed labyrinth of the Old City. Inside, rooms mix modern fittings, such as wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, with trad styling accents – Oriental rugs, candelabra-lights hanging from ceiling roses and frilly cornicing. It’s a genuine home from home for cozy nights spent horizontal, after a hectic day’s sightseeing.
On a sloping street in the centre of boho-buzzy Cihangir, with its antiques shops, art galleries and hammams, this 18-room boutique hotel is as cool as they come. It achieves modern retro in an original way, with mirrored brick walls, modern interpretations of mid-century furniture and elegant, sculptural ceiling lights. There’s no restaurant (no need, given the range Cihangir has to offer), but breakfast is served, after which you can rest-and-digest up on the rooftop Permaculture Garden: abundant with aromatic herbs and shrubs, it reveals the awesome skyline, punctuated with minarets the size of needles from this distance.
You’ll be pushed to find a comfier, more calming bolthole than this boutique hotel, resplendent in cotton-fresh whites and sandy taupes, And if you favour buzzy-contemporary living over tourist-list ticking, you’re ideally placed here in the Galata quarter of old-European Beyoglu. Take a red-tram ride along frenetic shopping street Istiklal Caddesi. After dark explore the funky bars and restaurants in the backstreets that lead off it. And the following morning gaze across at the eye-catching medieval Galata Tower from the terrace of the Tower Suite – the room to book.
Ispartakule district bears little relation to the postcard image of Istanbul – mosques, minarets, bazaars and old winding alleys. Then again it’s a pretty undemanding walk to the streets of Sultanahmet, which has those attractions in spades. All Seasons Suites are certainly stylish and homely – handy, too, if you want to admire the monumental Fatih Mosque. Visit the famous Spice Bazaar for fresh local ingredients (fish, vegetables) with which to rustle up dinner in your fully-equipped designer kitchen. You’ll be an honorary local before you know it.
You’ll find this family-run block of apartments beside the southern reaches of the Bosphorus – not that far from the iconic sights of Sultanahmet, but in a somewhat anonymous area. That said, the old fishing district of Kumkapi is very close, and the restaurants there are must-visits. The apartments themselves are contemporary and Ikea-stylish, welcoming you with neutral tones and charming antique artworks. The family’s restaurant, Doyuran, downstairs, serves your daily Turkish breakfast of pillow-soft bread, butter and honey, cheese and fresh fruit; worth setting the alarm for.
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