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Once the capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has a very rich and interesting history and is filled with interesting sights to explore. Mosques, bazaars, palaces, gardens, hammams, Turkish coffee…there’s so much to experience in this vibrant city.
While Istanbul may not be Turkey’s capital today (that would be Ankara), Istanbul is still the country’s economic, historic and cultural capital. It’s a cosmopolitan city with a trendy vibe, boasting lots of great restaurants and stylish places to stay.
Many of the city’s Ottoman mansions and former homes have been renovated and turned into boutique hotels, retaining their original historical features while offering an air of contemporary luxury. Think velvet fabrics, hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, precious metals and luxe design elements that give off an oh-so-hip feel.
Istanbul is one of the more affordable cities I’ve visited and you can find some very stylish boutique hotels here for a fraction of what you’d pay in a city like New York.
If you need some help choosing where to stay, here’s a selection of some of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul, handpicked by yours truly.
And if you want some inspiration for what to do in Istanbul, check out my epic 2-day Istanbul itinerary, which features major sights like the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, as well as hammams and places to eat.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
If it’s your first visit to Istanbul then I’d suggest either staying in the Sultanahmet area, or the Galata/Karakoy area. Both these areas are on the European side of Istanbul and are packed with things to see and do.
If you want to be located within walking distance of all the major sights in the Old City then Sultanahmet is where you’ll want to stay. Here you’ll find attractions such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
However, I’d recommend staying across the water in Karakoy/Galata area, which is the ‘trendy’, modern part of Istanbul and home to many of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul. Here many of the hotels and restaurants have rooftops with amazing views of the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus.
Karakoy is filled with cute cafes, restaurants and boutiques and the Karakoy tram stop is just a few stops from Sultanahmet. If you’re staying here, you can still be at the Hagia Sophia within about 15 minutes.
Galata is an adorable hilly neighborhood known for its winding streets and the famous Galata Tower. This area is packed with bars and restaurants and really comes alive at night. From here you can walk along the famous Istiklal Street, which runs all the way to Taksim Square and is lined with high-street shops, bars and restaurants.
There’s generally a lot more nightlife going on in Galata than in the Old City, which is why I’d say it’s better to stay here and take the tram to Sultanahmet.
Best Boutique Hotels in Istanbul
Located just a 2-minute walk from the Spice Bazaar, Mest Hotel was designed using magnesite bricks brought from various countries in Europe in 1880. A Turkish breakfast is served in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, which offers scenic views of the Golden Horn and Galata Tower, as well as Eminönü Square and the New Mosque.
The hotel offers a total of 36 rooms, some of which have exposed brick walls, stand-alone bathtubs or balconies with views over Istanbul. Each room has a television, telephone, wifi, air conditioning, shower-wc, hair dryer, kettle with hot drink set and wardrobe.
10 Karakoy is a very stylish boutique hotel situated in the trendy Karakoy neighborhood of Istanbul, just a short walk from the Karakoy tram stop. The hotel is housed within a historic, neoclassical building that was reimagined by architect Sinan Kafadar and transformed into a contemporary, modern hotel.
In total there are 71 guest rooms and suites, including spacious Loft and Terrace suites. Rooms feature high ceilings, wide windows with jalousies, artwork from renowned Turkish masters, and marble bathrooms stocked with Ciel bathroom amenities.
Each guest room also features custom-designed furniture by Sinan Kafadar, an LED television with full cable access and an iPod docking station.
Guests can enjoy an international breakfast buffet at Brasserie Ten and delicious mezzes at BAHANE ON10 – a rooftop restaurant with views of the Historical Peninsula. The Sky Terrace also has excellent views of the city and is a great place to watch the sunset with a glass of champagne or a cocktail in hand.
Azzap Hotel Galata
This is where I stayed on my trip to Istanbul and I loved it! I snagged a deal on Booking.com for $237 for 3 nights with an upgraded room and breakfast. Azzap Hotel is located amongst the winding streets of Galata, very close to the Karakoy Tram. It was very convenient for getting to Old Istanbul and yet it was also just a short walk from the Galata Tower and tons of bars and restaurants.
Rooms are very tastefully decorated, with warm and precious materials, stylish furniture and original paintings. They’re quite compact but comfy and quiet, which is definitely what I needed after a busy day of sightseeing. Reception staff were very helpful and were able to organize a yellow taxi back to the airport as well as a to-go breakfast since I was leaving early.
Breakfast is served in a rooftop restaurant with panoramic sea views and there’s also a rooftop bar with views of the Golden Horn and Old City.
Sura Hagia Sophia
Sura Hagia Sophia is one of only a few hotels in central Istanbul that has an outdoor pool, so it definitely deserves a spot on this list of best boutique hotels in Istanbul. If you want to don your bathing suit and take a dip after you’ve hit the sights, this may be the hotel for you. The pool is super Instagram-worthy and even has a view of the top of the Hagia Sophia.
In addition to a pool, the Sura Hagia Sophia has a Turkish Bath & Spa where you can enjoy a massage or pampering treatment. There’s also a charming Hasbahce – an outdoor terrace inspired by the gardens of the Ottoman sultans, which features lots of flowers and greenery.
All rooms feature air conditioning, complimentary Wi-Fi, LCD TVs, work spaces and walk-in showers. Breakfast is served from 07:00 to 11:00 and features a Turkish-style open buffet.
Georges Hotel Galata
Georges Hotel Galata is located just a few meters from the Galata Tower and
, housed in a building that dates back to 1882. The hotel’s rooftop restaurant, 24, offers stunning views of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, Prince’s Islands and the Asian shores of Istanbul.
If you want to be located in the center of Sultanahmet, check out Hotel Poem, which is a short walk from the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The hotel’s theme is based on the poets, writers, musicians and artists who have visited Istanbul and were inspired by the city.
Cervantes, Andre Chenier, Pierre Loti, Edmondo de Amicis, Pushkin, Hemingway, Agatha Christie, Andersen, Saint-Exupery, Tchaikovsky, the Lumiere Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn are among the names that feature throughout the hotel’s rooms.
Rooms are bright with lots of natural light and some feature private patios, terraces or balconies with sea views.
Another great boutique hotel in Sultanahmet, Hotel Amira offers 34 rooms, a rich buffet breakfast, free WiFi and a fitness center.
Rooms are tastefully decorated and feature air conditioning, free cable/wireless internet connection, a laptop-size safe, complimentary water, kettle set, and LCD-TV. Bathrooms are equipped with either a jacuzzi tub or rain shower and hairdryer.
Facilities include a fitness center which is open 24/7, plus a multi-level terrace bar and restaurant called Amiralto Roof Bar & Restaurant. The restaurant has a relaxed yet sophisticated vibe and is perfect for sundowners or a memorable dinner with a view.
Every morning guests can enjoy a full Continental breakfast including fresh juices, coffee and tea selections, cheeses, salami, muesli, fruits, eggs, freshly baked breads and baked goods.
Ecole St. Pierre Hotel
Ecole St. Pierre Hotel is housed in a former French primary school from the 19th century. The Galata walls inside the building are from the Genoese Empire and date back to the 13th century.
The hotel retains elements of Galata’s rich history while offering a boutique luxury feel and contemporary design elements. Rooms feature exposed brick and hardwood parquet floors, along with authentic colors and textures to reflect the building’s history.
After a day of sightseeing, guests can dine in the Italian restaurant IL CORTILE Ristorante & Pizzeria, which is located in the courtyard of the building.
Situated in Galata near the Galata Tower, Hotel DeCamondo is a hotel with a rich and interesting history. The building in which the hotel stands was a peaceful house owned by the Camondo family, who were known as the Rothschilds of the East.
The family was one of thousands of Sephardic Jewish families who had to leave Spain in 1492, expelled by the monarchs after the Reconquista. The Camondos moved to Venice and then to Constantinople (now Istanbul), where they made their wealth with banking company “Isaac Camondo & Cie”.
The 32 rooms and suites of Wings Hotel DeCamondo feature free Wi-Fi, rain showers, bathrobes & slippers, 43” or 49” Full HD LED TVs with free Netflix, minibars and complimentary tea and coffee making facilities.
On-site there are two restaurants; Moise Karaköy is an innovative and contemporary Turkish restaurant with magnificent views of Istanbul’s Old City, while Vigneron is a wine house serving platters and light bites.
Soho House Istanbul
Members-only club Soho House has an outpost in Istanbul, set in Palazzo Corpi, the former home of a Genoese merchant. Anyone can book to stay in the hotel, although members get special rates. All of the luxuriously appointed rooms feature super king size beds and some of the larger rooms have freestanding baths.
Istanbul House also features a spa, hammam, blow-dry bar, barber shop, fitness center and boxing ring. There are also a number of bars and dining options, including two fine dining restaurants. House Kitchen serves an international menu with House favorites, while Apheleia Terrace serves dishes from Mykonos with a Mexican twist.
Amiral Palace Boutique Hotel
One of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul’s Sultanahment area is Amiral Palace, which is about a 5-minute walk from the Blue Mosque. The hotel boasts a fitness center, a hammam, sauna, steam bath and indoor swimming pool where guests can relax and unwind after a busy day.
Hungry guests can dine in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, Amiral Roof, which serves Turkish cuisine with a stunning Marmara Sea view.
Rooms feature high quality furniture, satellite TVs, minibars, hairdryers, safety deposit boxes and tea and coffee making facilities. Turkish delight is also offered at check-in.
Throughout history, emperors of Islamic civilizations have owned a talismanic shirt, which is supposed to have its own unique power or effect on the wearer. Ottoman sultans wore talismanic shirts to help them achieve victory, ward off evil, bring them wealth and bring them peace.
Each room at Romance Istanbul is decorated around a different talismanic shirt with its own story and the shirts on display in the hotel are replicas from the 16th century collection at Topkapi Palace.
Rooms are decorated in the style of royal palaces of the Ottoman Empire and some feature balconies or terraces where guests can enjoy room service breakfast or a pre-dinner cocktail.
Additional facilities at Romance Istanbul include an indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, hammam and three restaurants.
A Final Word…
One thing worth noting is that most of the hotels in Sultanahmet and central Istanbul don’t have outdoor swimming pools. Many have rooftop restaurants and terraces but you’ll be hard pressed to find a hotel with an outdoor pool unless you stay further out.
These are just some of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul but there are actually many stylish hotels throughout the city. If you keep checking for deals you can often find some great prices on 4 and 5-star hotels. I’m a huge fan of Booking.com simply because they have a great rewards program. If you reach Genius Level 2, you can get 15% off hotels plus things like free breakfasts and free room upgrades.
Oh, and if you want to make sure you get the best hotel deals in Istanbul, check out my 24 handy tips for how to get cheap hotels.
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