Cruise along the glittering Bosphorus, buy spices in the Grand Bazaar and marvel at the 1,500 year old Hagia Sophia while staying in these top hotels in Istanbul.
Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, offers the best of worlds: European and Asian, traditional and modern, the bustling mainland and evergreen islands. When it comes to hotels, the choices seem endless – from riverfront palaces to hotels once frequented by Agatha Christie and Greta Garbo. Here are the best places to stay in the ancient city.
Located in the district of Sultanahmet and just a five-minute walk away from some of Istanbul’s top attractions, White House Istanbul combines old-world charm with modern luxury. This traditional hotel has 22 airy rooms decorated in hues of white and gold, and is known for its friendly staff. Enjoy a Turkish or international buffet breakfast at the Roof Garden, which offers views of the old city and the sparkling waters of the Bosphorus.
This family-run hotel in Istanbul’s Beyazit district is within walking distance of the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace. Established in 1986 and built in a former mansion, Niles Istanbul features 19th-century design elements throughout, including hand-painted ceiling decorations in the lobby inspired by the Ottoman era. The hotel has 29 standard rooms, eight junior suites and two duplex suites that have heated mahogany floors and private hammam-style Turkish baths. If you’re looking to explore the city’s most historic sites, this hotel is the perfect base.
Cross the Golden Horn and dive into the lively district of Beyoğlu, where modern restaurants, nightlife and shopping blend in with historical landmarks. Pera Palace has existed here since the 19th century, and is now a reminder of the past with its elegant tea salon and patisserie, stylish restaurant and Orient Bar. Modern amenities include a spa and indoor pool. Many prominent guests have stayed at this five-star hotel, including Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway and Greta Garbo. Istanbul Modern, Pera Museum and numerous galleries are right around the corner.
Down the street from Pera Palace lies Soho House Istanbul, an extravagant hotel and members’ club that has 87 refined rooms. It took Italian architect Giacomo Leoni nine years to complete in 1882; he imported marble and rosewood from his home country and hired famous artists to paint scenes of Greek mythology on the ceilings. This mansion was originally the home of a powerful Genoese merchant and shipbuilder, and later housed the US consulate. Today, the hotel is especially known for its celebrated Cowshed spa, which offers luxury hammam experiences, top-notch gym and exclusive bars and lounges.
The intimate side streets of Istanbul’s bohemian Çukurcuma neighbourhood are dotted with antique shops, design stores and charismatic cafés. The 18 high-ceilinged rooms of The Stay Galata Hotel are in a preserved 19th-century mansion that still has its original marble stairways and tile flooring. Enjoy a drink at the terrace bar and lounge overlooking the old city and Galata Tower. An exceptional blend of historical charm and modern minimalism, this hotel is ideal for stylish travellers curious to experience what the sophisticated residents of Galata love about this neighbourhood.
This hotel is walking distance from Bomontiada, a vibrant arts and culture complex. Once an Ottoman Empire beer factory, the complex is now home to a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as popular music venue Babylon. Visit the weekend vintage bazaar in Bomontiada, or wander along the fashionable streets of Nişantaşı and Beyoğlu. The 51 rooms and suites at The House Hotel Bomonti were designed by British interior design firm Conran and Partners, and exude the studio’s signature contemporary style – think concrete floors and walls and plenty of marble and timber.
A restored 17th-century palace, formerly home to sultans from the Ottoman era, Çırağan Palace Kempinski is now a world-class luxury hotel. This famous five-star establishment has 310 rooms with a luxury spa and butler service. Located on the shores of the Bosporus Strait, it offers magnificent views of the Asian coast – best experienced from the outdoor infinity pool. It’s close to Dolmabahçe Palace and between the dynamic districts of Beşiktaş and Ortaköy, so there are plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and long strolls by the waterfront.
Just an hour’s ferry ride from Istanbul’s mainland, the Princes’ Islands make for a relaxing getaway. No cars are allowed, and this results in an eco-friendly, laid-back ambience far away from the city’s traffic. On the biggest island, Büyükada, the Splendid Palace instantly grabs attention with its silver domes and nostalgic red shutters. Treat yourself to a vacation here and enjoy the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool, garden, restaurant, bar and café. When it’s time to retire, head back to one of the 60 rooms or nine suites, some of which have magnificent views of the azure Marmara Sea.
Tom Smith contributed additional reporting to this article.