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Where to stay in Istanbul on your Istanbul holidays will be determined by whether you want to explore the cultural and historic sites, enjoy the city’s nightlife or bask in the warm comforts of small town village life.
Istanbul has a well developed city transportation system and most areas are easily accessible by bus, tram or metro. One is spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to stay in Istanbul for any level of luxury and it is not hard to find one that fits your budget or the size of your travel group.
I have stayed at quite a few Istanbul hotels over the years and my requirements were as follows:
- Close proximity to the tram or metro station.
- Within walking distance to some of the major attractions.
- Ground floor accommodation or a building with an elevator that worked.
- Maximum price range to a 5 star UAE hotel (US$100 – 225 per night)
Best area to stay in Istanbul
Old City – Sultanahmet, Fatih, Laleli, Eminönü, Sirkeci
The most popular area with first time visitors to Istanbul is the Old City on the European side of the city.
Many of the city’s famous landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace are clustered around Sultanahmet square. A number of museums border Gülhane Park and a visit can be combined with a relaxing meal at the restaurant or a leisurely stroll with Bosphorus views.
This area is also home to traditional tradesmen’s worskhops including metalsmiths, jewelers and makers of Narghile or the waterpipe and decorative unit used for smoking shisha.
Istanbul City Center – Beyoğlu district
Business travelers often find the Beyoğlu district on the opposite side of the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet more suitable for their needs. In the past this area was inhabited by Greeks, Genoese and Venetians followed by a multitude of foreign traders who brought their own culture, religion and communities. The area is characterised by elegant European architecture, mansions, churches and embassies.
Popular neighborhoods like Karaköy (formerly Galata), Şişhane, Cihangir, Tophane and Taksim are now the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife.
Read More: Istanbul food tour – Hidden Beyoğlu
Asian side – Üsküdar and Kadikoy
The sprawling residential neighborhoods of Üsküdar are wonderfully authentic places to feel the pace of real Istanbul life. It is accessible by Ferry from Eminönü or Besiktas or the Marmara undersea metro line.
I love the Kuzguncuk neighborhood with it’s quaint houses and family owned businesses and it’s places of worship standing side by side.
The fresh produce markets behind the Mihrima Sultan mosque have fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and preserves from across the region. Restaurants with hyper local specialities serve home style cooking and are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Read More: Istanbul food tour – Born on the Bosphorus
During the peak summer season you may find that the Old City hotels are much more expensive than the Istanbul city center or Asian side hotels. Everything is just a tram, metro or ferry ride away so both the European and Asian sides are equally accessible with short commute times.
Read More: 13 Unmissable things to do in Istanbul
Hotels in Sultanahmet Istanbul
The best area to stay in Istanbul for a first time visitor is in Sultanahmet where all the historical monuments, museums and places of interest are located. Many of them are within close walking distance to each other.
Affordable: Hotel Miniature
My favorite boutique hotel in Istanbul and the best place to stay in Istanbul is without a doubt the historic Hotel Miniature. The rooms are modern and decor is tasteful and a double room is suitable for a solo traveller or a couple.
- The rooms are thoughtfully decorated and has everything one would require for personal use.
- They even provided a little dish of Turkish delight and a teddy bear as a welcome gift.
- The hotel is located within walking distance to the historical sights of Sultanahmet and the tram station, and a 7 minute walk to Sirkeci tram and metro line.
- There are small grocer shops down the road in the event that you need any personal essentials or snacks.
- This hotel is also a two minute walk from my favorite Istanbul restaurant, Deraliye Ottoman Palace Restaurant – Istanbul.
- The reception staff will gladly arrange bookings for dinner or entertainment and all the staff are helpful and courteous and will go out of their way to be of assistance.
Deluxe – DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul Sirkeci
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul – Sirkeci on a family trip and received a room upgrade as a Hilton Honors rewards club member.
- The hotel is up the road from the Sirkeci tram station and directly opposite one of the metro line exits.
- It is within walking distance to the Sirkeci shopping node and very close to many cafes and authentic Turkish local restaurants.
- The entrance to Gülhane Park was down the road and the restaurant there serves a very delicious Turkish breakfast.
- Gülhane is also the closest tram station to the hotel.
Other hotels that I have stayed at in the same area include:
- Best Western Plus The President Hotel near the Grand Bazaar – Check rates and availability
- Crowne Plaza Istanbul / Wyndham Istanbul Old City – Check rates and availability
Luxury: Ajwa Hotel Sultanahmet
This hotel is a recent addition to the Istanbul luxury hotels offering.
- It is decorated in the Ottoman style with ornate mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture and hand made silk carpets.
- The historical Turkish, the Çemberlitaş Hamamı constructed in 1584 is a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Hotels in Beyoğlu Istanbul
I stayed on this side of the city on my second visit to Istanbul many years ago when I stayed at The Marmara Pera. The European styled architecture makes Istiklal Street feel like any other European capital and gives the Cihangir neighborhood a distinctly French flavor.
Affordable: Nuru Ziya Suites
When deciding on where to stay in Istanbul on my most recent trip, I chose the Nuru Ziya Suites in the Beyoğlu district because it was centrally located near Istiklal Avenue, and within walking distance to Taksim square. With stays of 3 days or more they also included a free transfer to or from the airport.
- The self-catering executive suite at Nuru Ziya Suites had a bed as well as a sleeper couch that they provided bed linens for. This self-catering apartment type hotel room easily accommodates 3 adults and a continental breakfast buffet was included in the price.
- The kitchen had a microwave and hob as well as crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils. All the rooms include an iPad, 32″ Smart TV/Satellite Receiver, Wireless Phone/Internet, Mini-Bar, Espresso Machine.
- There were shops, cafes and public transport links a short walk away.
- The only downside was the location on a very steep hill but it was good exercise walking up to Istiklal street or down to the Cihangir neighbourhood.
- There are amazing food stalls, cafes and food producers in the streets behind Istiklal Street for less than half the price of the touristy eateries of the Flower Passage.
Deluxe – Pera Palace Hotel
The Pera Palace hotel gained notoriety as the location where it is rumored that Agatha Christie wrote The Murder on the Orient Express. When I stayed at the Marmara Pera many years ago, the window overlooked the dilipated gardens of the hotel.
- Pera Palace was the first and oldest luxury hotel of the Ottoman empire until it fell into disrepair.
- The hotel is a special category museum hotel protected by law, and underwent a complete renovation and restoration that was completed in 2010.
- The decor and hospitality offerings combines Ottoman and European influences and the grand entrance destroyed by a World War 2 Nazi bomb has been fully refurbished with marble and gold leaf.
- The location near the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art and the Pera Museum is within walking distance of the Şişhane metro station.
Luxury – Soho House Istanbul
This modern luxury hotel is spread across three buildings arranged around a central courtyard. The roof terraces boast spectacular views across the Golden Horn.
- Contemporary styling and design includes a rain-forest shower, freestanding baths and comfortable cow-hide sofas and armchairs.
- The hotel wellness facilities include it’s own traditional hammam and modern equipped gym for relaxation and workouts.
- The Şişhane metro station is a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Hotels in Taksim Istanbul
This is by far my least favorite part of the city and not one I visit very often or for very long. It is always crowded and the restaurants and cafes on the main arteries are so overpriced it’s not funny. That being said, if being in the thick of things appeals to you then it’s the perfect area to stay in Istanbul with bargain hotel deals.
Affordable – Bonne Sante Hotel
- The hotel is located on Taksim end of Istiklal Street and within a few minutes walk from the Taksim metro station.
- This is a good budget option for Istanbul and has family sized suites.
Deluxe – Hotel Divan Istanbul
This hotel is located a short walk from Taksim Square and Gezi Park and has contemporary design and decor.
- There is an on-site traditional hammam, indoor pool and fitness center.
- This hotel has two bedroom suites and connecting rooms to accommodate families.
Luxury – The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul at the Bosphorus
This hotel has spectacular views of the Bosphorus and across the Asian side of the city.
- There are no metro stations nearby but the hotel is only a 10 minute drive to the historical center of the city.
- Design and decor is modern and there is a sun terrace with pool, open-air spa rooms and hot tubs for guest use.
- The spa has an extensive array of treatments for face and body.
Hotels in Uskudar and Kadikoy Istanbul
This area is mostly residential with typical Istanbul local neighborhoods and apartments available for long or short term letting. It is much quieter than the Old City or Beyoğlu district. This area is highly recommended for it’s wonderful food markets and slow relaxed pace of life. My favorite area is at Kuzguncuk, a sleepy suburb that feels like a small village.
- Pasaport Pier Istanbul – Check rates and availability
- Koşuyolu 2+1, Nature House with a Garden – Check rates and availability
- Doubletree by Hilton Istanbul Moda – Check rates and availability
Top hotels in Istanbul – Luxury hotels starting at US$ 225 per night
The best hotels in Istanbul from the world’s premier hotel resort brands are located along the Bosphorus. These Istanbul resorts are the best luxury hotels in Istanbul with all the bells and whistles and includes the following:
- Shangri-La Bosphorus Istanbul – Check rates and availability
- Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul – Check rates and availability
- Four Seasons hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus – Check rates and availability
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