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.
There are just two suites to choose from, one (the one-bed Deluxe Apartment) with a balcony terrace overlooking the Old City’s red roofs, affording glimpses of the blue Bosphorus. But even if the other (which sleeps seven) can’t match it for those views, it has interiors that are every bit as contemporary and charming, gilded with traditional touches such as framed miniatures of Islamic dresses, Ottoman-style tiles and rugs. Besides, at these rates, you’re just booking a base so you can explore the area – and as the name suggests, you’re just steps from the Blue Mosque.
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.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.