The Best Boutique Hotels in Istanbul, Turkey

Enjoy Bosporus views from the terrace of Poem Hotel
Enjoy Bosporus views from the terrace of Poem Hotel | Courtesy of Hotel Poem / Expedia
Photo of Phoebe Taplin
12 February 2021

The Turkish city formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople has a funky modern personality, evidenced by hip bars and restaurants – and cool neighbourhoods such as Karaköy and Galata. In recent times, 19th-century Ottoman mansions and old guest houses have re-emerged as boutique hotels for history-hungry visitors. Trendy or old-school, they flaunt design features from gilded plasterwork and opulent velvet sofas to pared-down wood floors and chic industrialism, all boosted by contemporary comforts. Here are some of Culture Trip’s favourite boutique-style places to relax after a day spent exploring Istanbul.

Romance Istanbul Hotel

Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Romance Istanbul Hotel / Expedia
Velvet chairs, brocade bedspreads and marble bathrooms with mosaic-walled showers are standard-level opulence for the 40 fancy rooms in the Romance Hotel, located a leafy stroll away from Topkapi Palace. Luxury rooms come with their own terrace and the Romance suite has a jacuzzi that really comes into its own when you’re knackered after a day’s sightseeing. You won’t go hungry: a big breakfast buffet and choice of three restaurants make sure of that; at the Sultania restaurant, opposite, glowing tones are inspired by the Hoca Pasa mosque nearby; or sit out on warm evenings, dining on grilled sea bass.
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Bankerhan Hotel

Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Bankerhan Hotel / Expedia
Stylish minimalism characterises the snug, wood-floored rooms at the Bankerhan, tucked in the boutique-lined, cobbled lanes of Galata. There are glimpses of brick vaulting in the ceilings and other original details retained in the 18th-century building. Some rooms have views of the broad blue Bosporus, and the ferries that ply it are a short stroll away. There’s a cosy cafe on the ground floor and a modern art gallery nearby. Next door, take a photo at the highly Instagrammable art nouveau Kamondo stairs, then follow a series of winding alleyways up to the medieval Galata Tower, a five-minute walk away.
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Celine Hotel

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Celine Hotel / Expedia
The 14 Ottoman-style rooms in this renovated 19th-century mansion blend traditional and modern: think underfloor heating and stained glass. Tuck into fresh omelettes, olives, cheese and pastries in the light-filled breakfast courtyard, with its exposed brick walls, then set out to tick off the stunning sights of the Byzantine promontory, right on your doorstep. There’s plenty to see nearby, from the mosques beyond palm-shaded Sultanahmet Square with its Egyptian obelisk to the Roman column of Constantine, towering over its street corner.

Hotel Ibrahim Pasha

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Hotel Ibrahim Pasha / Expedia
From the wicker chairs on the hotel’s tiled roof terrace, you get views over the spired Blue Mosque, a few steps from the door, to the maritime expanses beyond. Below, contemporary elegance with a historical frisson permeates these two knocked-through early 20th-century Ottoman mansions. Next door to the Islamic Arts museum, the hotel is named after Suleiman the Magnificent’s friend Ibrahim Pasha, who built the 16th-century palace that now houses the museum. The lobby, with its leather sofas, log fires and library of guide books, is as appealing as the magnificent terrace. The spacious, tasteful bedrooms are full of thoughtful details, from the fruit bowl to the individual decor.

Obahan Hotel

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Obahan Hotel / Expedia
Chains of eight-pointed stars and wrought-iron railings with window boxes decorate the striking façade of the immaculate Obahan Hotel. With its funky-functional rooms, it stands on a cobbled lane in Sultanahmet district, near major historic sights. Start with a big Turkish breakfast (the giant glistening honeycomb is a picture), then venture out to see the ruins and gardens of the Bukoleon Palace, a landmark of 5th-century Constantinople. In the linden-lined streets to the north, lunch on spiced lamb and aubergine kebabs from one of the many street vendors.

SuB Karaköy – Special Class

Hotel
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Courtesy of SuB Karaköy - Special Class / Expedia
With industrial good looks and a popular cafe-bar, this is a great boutique find in the hip waterfront Karaköy quarter, near the Galata Bridge. Expect to find brushed-concrete walls and bolted metal bedsteads, luxury bedding, wooden floors and rain showers (very stylish all round). The colourful, glass-walled SuB Lounge is the place for traditional breakfasts, including menemen (scrambled) eggs, with peppers and tomatoes in a copper pan you dip bread into; and try the samosa-like fried börek pastries stuffed with feta. They do decent wine, as well as the national aniseed tipple, raki.
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Poem Hotel

Budget Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Hotel Poem / Expedia
Between the mosque-circled walkways of the Sultanahmet parks and the wide, seagull-flecked waters of the Bosporus is this quirky little idyll, of right, colourful rooms all named after international writers, actors, characters and composers with an Istanbul connection. Paintings over the beds depict the eponymous figures in situ, so Pushkin leans on a waterside chair and James Bond waves his gun near time-worn cupolas. The Charlie Chaplin room comes with a patio; the French exotic-story writer Pierre Loti gets a leafy, sea-view terrace.

White House Hotel Istanbul

Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of White House Hotel Istanbul / Expedia
The daytime view from the flowering roof terrace of this luxurious spot is of mosques, palaces and sparkling blue water; after dark you’ll see domes and minarets floodlit sodium-orange. You can breakfast up here, or bring your own food for lunch (there’s a fish and kebab shop next door). The stately hotel entrance, flanked by gilded, acanthus-topped columns, overlooks a cheerful street near the Hagia Sophia. Lavish bedrooms, with French windows and balconies, favour peach, cream and gold with plenty of Ottoman-style carvings and ogees: all in all, a high-end relaxation spot after a hard day’s sightseeing.
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Bosphorus Palace Hotel

Boutique Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Bosphorus Palace Hotel - Special Class / Expedia

These 12 bespoke rooms present a splendid example of Neo-Ottoman architecture, showing off lofty ceilings, handcrafted Italian furniture and gold-leaf detailing. Located just north of the 15 July Martyrs Bridge (the one that looks like a grey Golden Gate) on the Anatolian banks of the Bosporus, this four-star boutique hotel might be smaller than the Beylerbeyi Palace down the road, but it’s hardly any less glamorous. Its precursor, the Debreli Ismail Pasha Mansion, burned down in 1983 and was reconstructed in the 1990s complete with waterfront restaurant and a leafy garden that used to be the palace’s harem.

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Neorion Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Neorion Hotel / Expedia

Named after Byzantium’s grand port on the Golden Horn, the Neorion Hotel greets travellers as they would have been welcomed in days gone by. The facade is intricately decorated with tiles and brickwork, the lobby is loaded with Anatolian relics, the café serves traditional Turkish meze and the in-house spa offers a glimpse into the hammam experience. Situated between the Topkapı Palace and the Galata Bridge, the 30 rooms are old-fashioned – prepare to be greeted with a piece of folk art above your pillow – but represent good value.

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Tomtom Suites

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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The building that Tomtom Suites is housed in used to be a convent
Courtesy of Tomtom Suites / Expedia

Originally a 19th-century convent that housed Franciscan nuns, the Soeurs Garde-Malades Apartment was revamped in 1901 before falling into disrepair two decades later. But much like the rest of the multicultural Galata district, the building was rejuvenated in the 2000s by Tomtom Suites, faithfully restoring the structure to become one of Istanbul’s top all-suite hotels. Hidden on a quiet street between İstiklal Avenue and the Karaköy waterfront, the 20 suites have huge bedrooms, hammam-style bathrooms decked out with whirlpool baths and access to a rooftop lounge with views as far as the Princes’ Islands.

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  • Georges Hotel Galata

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel, Apartment
    Map View
    Courtesy of Georges Hotel Galata / Expedia

    Local designers transformed this 1882 structure into a trendy boutique hotel in 2011, blending vintage elements such as decorative plasterwork and sunny french windows with contemporary touches like exposed brick and patterned hardwood floors. But the highlight might be the rooftop GalatAda24 restaurant and lounge bar, both for the cutting-edge contemporary Turkish cuisine and for the vistas across the Golden Horn towards Istanbul’s peninsula. A Parisian flavour streaks through the 20 rooms, while the personalised butler service is pure luxury.

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    Ajia Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of Ajia Hotel / Expedia

    The Kanlıca neighbourhood is renowned for its especially creamy yoghurt, and the Ajia is equally as decadent. This huge white Ottoman mansion stands on the Asian shore of the Bosporus and has its own private boat that ferries guests to the European side of the city. Most of the 16 rooms enjoy views over the water, and the seaside restaurant is first-class.

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    The Kybele Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of The Kybele Hotel / Expedia

    There’s no mistaking this larger-than-life property – its Ottoman-era facade is plastered in bright turquoise paint. Its interior is no more subtle, with the lobby full of traditional Turkish lamps, vintage cameras, retro radios, collectable clocks and record players, not to mention the charming (and no less colourful) garden café. Sharing the same block as the ancient Basilica Cistern, this super-central hotel also has the best budget beds on the peninsula, with 16 homely rooms available at reasonable prices.

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    Boutique Saint Sophia

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of Boutique Saint Sophia / Expedia

    This four-star hotel counts the Hagia Sophia as a next-door neighbour, and the facilities live up to the peerless Sultanahmet location. This Ottoman mansion was converted into Boutique Saint Sophia in 1999 then given another head-to-toe facelift in 2013, adding Bianco Carrara marble, Bulgari cosmetics and moody pictures of Istanbul to the 26 rooms and suites. The below-ground courtyard is a highlight, especially come 5pm when high tea is served.

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    The House Hotel Karaköy

    Boutique Hotel
    Map View
    The House Hotel Karaköy was designed by architect Han Tümertekin
    The House Hotel Karaköy was designed by architect Han Tümertekin | Courtesy of The House Hotel Karaköy / Hotels.com

    The headquarters of the Credit General Ottoman Bank date back as far as 1863, and Aga Khan Award-winning architect Han Tümertekin celebrated plenty of the original features when he turned this Beaux-Arts building into a glitzy boutique hotel in the new millennium, retaining the bank’s arched windows, granite floors and even the vaults, which now store wine. The House takes its art seriously – there’s an in-house art curator organising exhibitions throughout the property – as well as its food, thanks to the cosmopolitan Kasa Lokanta and Bar.

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    This is an updated version of an article originally written by Tom Smith.

    These recommendations were updated on February 12, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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