Istanbul, one of the most romantic and sensual cities in the world, is a magnificent place for a honeymoon or vacation for two. Its mix of ancient and modern; the sights and sounds of the streets, bazaars, and calls to prayer; and the proximity to water, from the Golden Horn to the Bosphorus, present an exceptional environment for a romantic getaway. Istanbul is so exciting, in fact, that you'll need a serene place to retreat at night. In order, these are my top choices for sophisticated and sensual places for couples to stay. All but the last three are on the city's European side.
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If the objective on your honeymoon or romantic getaway is to be as close as possible to the city's major attractions — the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace — while lodging in luxury, you can't do better than the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. The hotel is a five-minute walk from every one of them. Originally a prison (the private courtyard was once the inmates' exercise yard), the property has just 65 rooms and suites and does sell out. So if you have your heart set on being in the middle of things, book a stay well in advance.
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If you're drawn magnetically to water (as well as luxury), choose the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus as your base of operations. Converted from a 19th-century Ottoman palace, it's located at the water's edge and has more of a resort feel than the preceding hotel. The large spa includes a private suite for two as well as men’s and women’s hammams and a skylit indoor pool. Its outdoor swimming pool and adjacent cafe overlook the Bosphorus Strait, passing yachts and ferries, and Istanbul's Asian side. At night the property is particularly romantic.
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Park Hyatt Istanbul Macka Palas opened in 2008 in a building that dates to 1922. Renovated to harmoniously blend Art Deco architecture with state- of-the-art amenities, 90-room hotel is located in the Nisantasi district, a fashionable part of modern Istanbul that's popular with brand-attentive shoppers. Spa bathrooms in select rooms feature a bathtub big enough for two (bath salts and remote control to adjust mood lighting are thoughtfully provided), a shower with a steam option, heated floor, and separate water closet. Dedicated honeymoon suites on the eighth floor offer a big, white-sheeted, king-size bed; a private terrace off the bedroom; and a spacious living room.
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Traditionalists will appreciate Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel by the Bosphorus. There's a precise, practiced formality at this stately property, which prides itself on maintaining high standards of hospitality. Of all the places I've visited, it reminds me most of New York's large, graceful Waldorf-Astoria — if that property had a huge swimming pool beside the Bosphorus. Once the residence of Ottoman sultans, nearly three-quarters of the guest rooms have a sea view and all have balconies. Culturally oriented, the hotel hosts monthly classical music concerts and readings. The late John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Caroline Bessette, visited it on their 1996 honeymoon.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Close to lively Taksim Square, The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul provides honeymoon couples and other romantics with a luxurious perch from which to explore both the modern and ancient city. Spa lovers can indulge a deux in two couples suites. With the Open Air Spa, there's both indoor and outdoor pampering: massages, facials, and body treatments plus private space to sunbathe. There's also a huge indoor pool in the spa and an outdoor pool for all guests.
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If you find wide, encompassing views from up high romantic, choose the modern Marmara Pera, a member of the Marmara hotel collection in the city. Sunset and evening views of the Golden Horn from the rooftop bar, pool, and terrace are simply dazzling. In the upscale Pera district of the city, it's surrounded by shops and consulates. Taksim Square is about a ten-minute walk away. Among luxury romantic Istanbul hotels, the Marmara Pera is an affordable choice.
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Another hotel with romantic views, The Marmara Taksim stands on the tallest of Istanbul's seven hills and rises 20 stories. Most guest room windows, as well as the pool on the terrace, overlook Taksim Square, the city beyond, and the Bosphorus. From its big picture windows, the hotel's Panorama Restaurant has a sweeping view of The Bosphorus. It serves Turkish cuisine and serenades honeymoon couples and other lovers with live piano music Monday through Saturday nights.
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Another Taksim Square high-rise, the InterContinental Istanbul cossets couples in large, comfortable quarters with marble bathrooms. Sexy Jacuzzi suites, ideal for honeymoon couples and other romantics, feature round bathtubs positioned beside a big picture window. Ceylan InterContinental Istanbul contains a restaurant, spa, outdoor pool, and hair salon.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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An intimate, elegant, 14-room hotel on Istanbul's Asian side, the Bosphorus Palace Hotel is a renovated mansion with opulent furnishings and marble baths in the Kadikoy area. Note: The vast majority of Istanbul's attractions are located on the city's European site. If you are planning your honeymoon or a first visit, you may want to consider Asian-side hotels on a return visit, when you are more familiar with ferry travel and other intra-city transportation.
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We find something so comforting and familiar about staying at a Marriott hotel. This high-rise on the Asian side of Istanbul provides the comforts of a typical Marriott combined with suites that have round bathtubs overlooking the water, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a Turkish bath, Pilates and spin classes. Honeymoon couples and others who want to treat themselves can upgrade to the club level. Marriott rewards points can be applied toward a stay.
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A glass behemoth towering over Istanbul's Asian side, the Doubletree Istanbul occupies a major crossroads now that the subway linking the area to the city's European side as well as locations further east is open. Standing tall, it affords great views of Kadakoy and the Marmara Sea coastline and is convenient to the ferry landing and market. Sweet Dreams bedding ensures a good night's sleep, and the hotel is close to a variety of restaurants where couples can savor authentic Turkish cuisine. Wi-fi is strong and complimentary at the property. The sweet shop in the lobby sells delectable pastries, although you may develop a taste for Turkey's inexpensive and savory simit bread sold on street corners everywhere.