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Best hotels in Istanbul 2023: Where to stay for great views and culture

Mary Novakovich finds the best places to stay in the city where Europe meets Asia

Mary Novakovich
Monday 25 April 2022 20:16 BST
<p>This city represents colour and history like no other</p>

This city represents colour and history like no other

Fascinating, compelling and more than slightly frenetic, Istanbul is one of Europe’s great cities, as well as its largest.

The only place in the world to straddle two continents (Europe and Asia), and the former seat of not one but three empires, Istanbul represents colour and history like no other. It’s an extraordinary “tale of two cities”, combining ancient architecture and a warm, friendly people, alongside chic concept stores, craft breweries and, of course, endless types of coffee.

With a hotel scene as wildly varied as the city’s sights and districts, it can be tough to pin down where to base yourself among the huge collection of boutique, luxury and imaginatively converted hotels.

While the old city, Sultanahmet, is full of Istanbul’s biggest attractions – including Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque – many visitors prefer Beyoglu and Karakoy on the other side of the Golden Horn.

Wherever area you choose to make your home in Turkey’s former capital, here’s a selection of the 10 best hotels to get you started.

The best hotels in Istanbul are:

Eclectic hotel right in the heart of the action

Best for being in the thick of things: Hotel The Public

Neighbourhood: Beyoglu

This hotel is right in the throbbing heart of Beyoglu, specifically just off the main pedestrianised artery Istiklal Caddesi. The style is eclectic, to say the least – lots of exposed brickwork, colourful art on the walls, the odd vintage touch, plus some rooms with terraces (worth paying extra for).

Pan-European food is served in 1901 Cafe and Bistro, and the lobby bar branches out into an attractive courtyard.

Enjoy a mix of rustic and industrial chic

Best for families: Hammamhane

Neighbourhood: Beyoglu

Surrounded by the antiques shops and trendy cafes of Cukurcuma, Hammamhane is built around the restored Cukurcuma Hamami Turkish baths.

The hotel’s style is a cushy mix of rustic and industrial chic, with exposed brick walls and beamed ceilings. They all come with kitchenettes and plenty of room for extra beds and cots, as well as private terraces. There’s also a family room with its own garden and adjoining rooms.

Modern and stylish, with indoor and outdoor pools

Best for ultra-modern luxury: Raffles Istanbul

Neighbourhood: Zorlu Centre

Set away from central Istanbul in the shiny Zorlu Centre and the business district – but easily reached by metro – Raffles Istanbul is as stylishly modern as its sleek surroundings. Contemporary but by no means minimalist, the rooms mingle neutral decor with discreet splashes of Turkish art, as well as sweeping views of the city.

Enjoy top-class pan-Asian cuisine in Isokyo after cocktails in the Long Bar, or a lavish afternoon tea in the Lavinia Lounge. There’s a spa, too, with indoor and outdoor pools.

Slick elegance combined with comfort

Best for city views: Witt Istanbul Suites

Neighbourhood: Cihangir

In a handy spot between Beyoglu and the Bosphorus waterfront, Witt has been creatively designed by leading Istanbul studio Autoban. But there’s comfort too among the slick contemporary elegance, as well as marble kitchenettes. The style leans heavily on Fifties modernism, which works beautifully with the wooden floors and mirrored brickwork.

If your room doesn’t have its own terrace, head up to the roof and chill out in the garden, soaking up superb views of the city.

18th-century building with works of art and a funky bar

Best for arty chic: Bankerhan Hotel Galata

Neighbourhood: Galata

This friendly boutique hotel in a late 18th-century building is as much of an art gallery as it is a hotel. Works from contemporary Turkish artists adorn the exposed brick walls of the funky bar and breakfast area, as well as the 36 rooms.

The decor is streamlined – very much so in the case of a handful of Japanese-style rooms – but it’s worth splashing out on a deluxe sea-view room overlooking the Bosphorus. Its artfully ramshackle look is perfectly in keeping with this up-and-coming part of Karakoy.

A sumptuous hotel with incredible views of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

Neighbourhood: Sultanahmet

You’d never know this sumptuous, sprawling hotel was once a prison when it was built in 1919. Where prisoners used to exercise is now a fragrant courtyard garden, overlooked by the arched windows of the handsomely designed rooms that subtly evoke Ottoman times.

It’s a gorgeous place for a restaurant, and there’s also a roof terrace that offers knockout views of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

A charming mix of Ottoman textiles, art and exposed stone

Best for friendly charm: Hotel Empress Zoë

Neighbourhood: Sultanahmet

Several townhouses join together to form this quirky boutique hotel, all of which huddle around a lovely courtyard garden where you can see ruins of a 15th-century hammam. It’s a charming jumble of Ottoman textiles, art and exposed stone, capped with some wonderful views from the terraces of Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus.

The small rooms really are small, so upgrade to one of the larger ones, preferably with a terrace.

A stunning spa, plus rooftop restaurant with amazing views

Best for the sights: Hotel Yasmak Sultan

Neighbourhood: Sultanahmet

With Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque within a few minutes’ walk, Yasmak​ Sultan makes a convenient spot for exploring the old city. There’s a delightful Old World air about the place, with heavy silks and brocades, and gilt-edged furnishings.

What makes this hotel really stand out is the spa with its indoor pool and, notably, a very good rooftop restaurant with fantastic views.

In the buzz of Beyoglu with a glamorous rooftop restaurant

Best for laid-back chic: Tomtom Suites

Neighbourhood: Beyoglu

Tomtom Suites is surrounded by the buzz of Beyoglu but feels cosily cloistered – aptly, as it’s a former Franciscan convent. Its modern, spacious suites exude a feeling of calm, with polished wooden floors, faintly Fifties-style furnishings and original artworks.

If you really want to treat yourself, go for the luxury suite with its substantial kitchen and large private terrace. The rooftop restaurant is just as glamorous.

A 19th-century distillery with views of the Bosphorus

Best for city escapes: Sumahan on the Water

Neighbourhood: Cenglekoy

A converted 19th-century distillery makes a luxurious bolthole from the city – right on the banks of the Bosphorus on the Asian side. You can take the ferry to the European side or splash out on the hotel’s private boat taxi.

Some of its modern rooms have fireplaces and two levels, but all look out on the Bosphorus, as does the waterfront restaurant and terrace. There’s also a wellness centre with a hammam for relaxation, as well as a well-stocked library. All very civilised.

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