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Split by the Bosphorus Strait so that it spans both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the literal meeting point of East and West. Inevitably, it is a city of mesmerizing contrasts. On the historic Sultanahmet peninsula, Istanbul’s previous incarnation as Constantinople (the capital of the Roman and Byzantine empires) is evident in its wondrous collection of ancient mosques and Orthodox churches. The commercial Levent district, on the other hand, is a thoroughly modern cityscape of corporate headquarters, upscale restaurants and designer malls. Wherever you’re headed, here’s our pick of Istanbul’s best accommodations, ranging from cheap and cheerful backpacker hostels to contemporary five-star hotels.
Best Overall: White House Hotel Istanbul
The White House Hotel has topped TripAdvisor’s list of Istanbul hotels in recent years. Its charms are manifold, but guests especially love this four-star option for its flawless service and welcoming atmosphere. Located in the heart of the Old City, the hotel is a five-minute walk from the iconic Hagia Sophia Museum. Like the city itself, it seamlessly blends East and West with a Roman-style façade and luxurious Ottoman decor. In each of the hotel’s 22 rooms, expect ornate wallpaper, authentic furniture and a soft cream, peach, and gold color scheme.
In-room amenities include free high-speed Wi-Fi, an LCD TV, and a minibar. The hotel’s undisputed highlight, however, is the rooftop garden. It offers indoor and outdoor seating with breathtaking views of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Bosphorus. Here, you’ll enjoy a generous breakfast buffet and unforgettable sunset views each evening. Although The White House doesn’t have its own restaurant, there are plenty of excellent options nearby. Room service is available around the clock.
Best Budget: Hotel Niles
Hotel Niles is a five-minute stroll from the hustle and bustle of the famous Grand Bazaar. In fact, many of the Old City’s top attractions are within easy walking distance (allowing you to save on public transport). Despite its five-star location, Hotel Niles is incredibly well-priced. Inside, fall in love with 19th-century Turkish decor ranging from rich rugs to sparkling chandeliers. Choose a room, suite or newly renovated maisonette, all of which include air-conditioning, satellite TV and free toiletries.
Although the contemporary single and double rooms are the cheapest, hotel freebies such as Wi-Fi and breakfast may leave you with enough money to splurge on an atmospheric Ottoman suite. Breakfast is served on the rooftop terrace, which boasts beautiful Sea of Marmara views. The hotel is known for its authentic Turkish staples (think apple tea, local cheeses, yoghurt and olives). Other public spaces include an exercise room and a lounge adorned with oil paintings and cozy upholstered furniture.
Best Boutique: Hotel Ibrahim Pasha
Another top choice in the historic Sultanahmet district, Hotel Ibrahim Pasha consists of a pair of 20th-century townhouses built in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. Expect contemporary decor imbued with subtle Turkish flair and enhanced by exemplary personalized service. The hotel has 24 rooms, all of which include satellite TV and an ensuite bathroom with a rain shower and Molton Brown amenities. Under-floor heating is particularly welcome in winter.
For a little extra space, choose a Deluxe Room with a charming separate seating area. A free Turkish breakfast buffet is served in the cozy lobby, and while there’s no restaurant on-site, the knowledgeable concierge can advise on worthwhile dinner destinations in the immediate area. Curl up with a good book by the fireplace in the library or head up to the rooftop terrace for spectacular views of the illuminated Blue Mosque at night.
Best Family: Sultanahmet Suites
Perfect for self-sufficient families, Sultanahmet Suites comprises 11 apartments spread out across four properties located within a few minutes’ walk of each other in the atmospheric historic quarter. Top Istanbul sights such as the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar are within easy reach - even for little legs. Standard suites include a master bedroom with two beds, a separate living room and a dining area, all adorned with colorful Turkish rugs.
Free Wi-Fi keeps older kids entertained, while modern kitchens allow you to save money by self-catering. For larger families, connecting suites are available. When you don’t feel like cooking, Café Sfendon serves simple meals to satisfy all tastes. The hotel’s 24-hour management can arrange laundry, grocery shopping and airport transfers, plus there’s ample parking on-site. Mom and Dad can even stay in shape in the hotel exercise room.
Best for Romance: Hotel Empress Zoe
Nestled between the Bosphorus and the Blue Mosque, Hotel Empress Zoe is steeped in Istanbul history. Its picturesque wisteria-covered townhouses overlook the ruins of a 15th-century bath house. Inside, the decor blends natural elements of wood and stone with original Islamic artwork. There are 25 impeccably designed rooms and suites, all of them with Internet and central heating for cozy winter stays.
For special occasions, splash out on the Penthouse Suite. Here, you’ll find a luxurious Double bed, a marble hammam bath and a private terrace with impossibly romantic Blue Mosque views. Free breakfast is served in the garden amidst fountains, flowers and ancient architecture. The rooftop terraces offer Sea of Marmara panoramas and in the evening drinks are served in the garden or inside by the fireplace.
Best Luxury: Raffles Istanbul
Raffles Istanbul is located next to designer shopping and Zorlu Center (an upscale dining destination) on the European side of Istanbul. Expect modern architecture, contemporary artwork and some of the largest rooms in the city. For the most luxurious stay, book the two-bedroom Raffles Suite. Privileges include a private terrace with jaw-dropping Bosphorus views, a helicopter or private yacht tour and private Chef’s Table dining.
The hotel has an impressive choice of bars and restaurants, including Rocca (known for its contemporary Turkish cuisine); and Arola by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola. There’s an open-air movie theatre on the rooftop, as well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Raffles Spa offers indulgent Turkish baths and massages. A heated heliport, chauffeur car service and 24-hour Raffles Butlers complete your five-star experience.
Best for Nightlife: The Marmara Pera Hotel
Located on the European side in cosmopolitan Pera, The Marmara Pera Hotel is a few steps from the pubs, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues of the city’s famous Istiklal Street. Start the evening’s festivities at Mikla, the hotel’s signature rooftop restaurant. Here, you can savor celebrated Anatolian cuisine while sipping fashionable cocktails and admiring beautiful Golden Horn vistas. In winter, the party moves downstairs to Café Marmara, a cozy spot for fine wines and a la carte meals. Rooms and suites offer key pre-party ingredients (like a minibar and an iPod dock), while free Wi-Fi, a 32” TV and a comfy king bed make post-party recovery a little easier. Other amenities include a health club and a heated rooftop pool.
Best for Business: Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levent
For a convenient location in one of Istanbul’s busiest commercial centers, choose Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levent. The hotel has 23 meeting rooms with space for up to 1,200 delegates. Upgrade to a room with Executive Lounge access and enjoy free refreshments in a sophisticated private space perfect for working or connecting with colleagues. All rooms guarantee a good night’s sleep with black-out curtains and a goose down duvet. Best of all, Wi-Fi is fast and free. There are several bars and restaurants, while an outdoor pool and full spa allow you to unwind between meetings.
Best Hostel: Cheers Hostel
Warm and welcoming Cheers Hostel provides an affordable option for backpackers near Hagia Sophia and historical Gülhane Park. The hostel’s varied room choices range from multiple-bed dormitories to private double, triple and family rooms. You’ll benefit from heating and air-conditioning, while linens and towels are included. Bathroom facilities are shared, but breakfast is complimentary and free Wi-Fi is available in the cozy communal lounge. Wintergarden Panoramic Terrace Bar is a highlight, with great city views, an atmospheric fireplace and a bar for self-mixed cocktails in the evenings.