The Best Hotels in Istanbul, Turkey

Home > Istanbul Hotels
Updated: February 21, 2021

Our Favorites

• Best Hotel: Four Seasons Bosphorus
• Boutique Hotel: Ibrahim Pasha
• Cheap Hotel: Hanedan Hotel
• Family Hotel: Four Seasons Bosphorus
• Hotel Pool: Ciragan Palace
• Near Airport: YotelAir
• Blue Mosque: Ibrahim Pasha
• Hagia Sophia: Four Seasons Sultanahmet

Istanbul Hotels – Tips & Advice

The 36 Best Hotels in Istanbul

1. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul – Sultanahmet

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Hotel phone: +90 212 402 3000
This world-class hotel has been beautifully fashioned from a century-old former jail, and much of the architectural style still remains throughout. All rooms and suites are attractively furnished and most overlook the serene inner courtyard and lush gardens. The historical design precludes a pool, but guests can utilize all the facilities (via a free shuttlebus) at the other magnificent Four Seasons hotel alongside the Bosphorus Strait. What’s more, it’s so convenient: only a few minutes’ walk to three of Istanbul’s premier sights – the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, and Topkapi Palace – and the excellent metro which links many of the city’s other major attractions.
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2. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul – Bosphorus

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: The Four Seasons
Hotel phone: +90 212 381 4000
Majestically positioned between the main road and Bosphorus Strait, the Four Seasons is based around a nineteenth-century former Ottoman palace, though most rooms and suites are in stylish wings on either side. All accommodations are lavish and spacious, and the resort-like pool is one of the city’s finest: sparkling blue, waterfront, flanked by sunbeds, and attached to a jacuzzi. With substantial lawns and a playground, the hotel is also ideal for families. It is a little isolated, however: in the suburbs, about 2km from Kabataş with its waterside cafés, museums, ferries, metro station, and amazing funicular to the upmarket shopping district of Taksim.
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3. Çırağan Palace Kempinski – Bosphorus

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Ciragan Palace by Kempinski
Hotel phone: +90 212 326-4646
Magnificently positioned alongside the Bosphorus Strait and with a nineteenth-century former palace onsite, the Kempinski is unrivaled in the capital, if not the entire country, for sheer opulence. The design of the hotel and layout of the shady grounds are very much like a beach resort, and the infinity pool is double-layered, meters from the sea, and with a section for children. Many of the lavish rooms face the water (and are suitable for families), and the amenities are world-class – from the boutiques arcade to the playground and waterfront cafés. The Turkish Bath in the spa should not be missed. It is a little isolated, however: about 2.5km from Kabataş, with its waterside cafés, museums, ferries, metro station, and amazing funicular to the upmarket shopping district of Taksim.
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4. Sumahan – on the Water – Asian Istanbul

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Sumahan on the Water
Hotel phone: +90 216 422 8000
If you want a central location near the sights, this isn’t it. If you want a small boutique hotel right on the Bosphorus, then this amazing hotel is for you. For the best effect, arrive by boat.
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5. Shangri-La – Bosphorus

Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 275 8888
The Shangri-La offers arguably the city’s premier location: alongside the Bosphorus Strait, surrounded by museums, facing a ferry terminal, and within a brief stroll of a metro station and the remarkable funicular to the classy shopping district of Taksim. Although the outside looks fairly bland, the interior is contrastingly very ornate: e.g. the lobby with marble staircases, porcelain vases, and dangling chandeliers. Yet rooms are more elegant and feature old-style prints and soothing colors. Across the three basement levels are some impressive amenities, including an indoor pool with exotic wall decorations, and the main restaurant is just meters from the water.
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6. Swissotel Istanbul – Besiktas

The Swissotel on the Boshphorus
Hotel phone: +90 212 326 1100
Towering over the surrounding parks, upmarket suburbs, and coastline, this majestic hotel is based in two enormous wings. The layout and amenities are more like a tropical resort than an inner-city hotel, especially the massive outdoor pool surrounded by extensive gardens and inviting sunbeds as well as the indoor pool. All rooms and suites are spacious and views are impressive from the floor-to-ceiling windows, so it’s always popular. The serenity means it is a little isolated, however – but only a quick taxi trip to major attractions and a quick walk (via the nearby park) to the waterside cafés, museums, ferry terminal, and metro station at Kabataş.
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7. Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas

Park Hyatt Istanbul - Macka Palas Hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 315 1234
Along a leafy cobblestoned lane with a Gucci boutique on the corner, the Park Hyatt offers arguably the most fashionable address in Istanbul. Within a striking Art Deco building, the interior is contrastingly contemporary but no less appealing than the exterior. Many rooms (all wonderfully soundproofed) face the fascinating streets lined with bistros, consulates, and parks – and the rooftop pool is long and shady. A pleasant stroll leads to the remarkable teleferik (cable car) that heads across the valley to Taksim, which offers even more places to eat, drink, and shop, as well as a station for the excellent metro.
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8. The Ritz Carlton – Sisli

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Ritz Carlton
Hotel phone: +90 212 334 4444
This hotel looms above everything else in an upmarket inner-city district between the Bosphorus Strait (and its ferry terminals) and Taksim (with its metro station and top-end shopping). With numerous shops on lower levels, the lobby is adorned with chandeliers and refined enough for a piano player. Rooms are cozier and more traditionally decorated and feature Turkish-style wall hangings and prints – and the exceptional views include the mammoth football stadium nearby and the distant ocean. And there is a Turkish hammam and two pools: one long, outdoors, and flanked by three jacuzzis; the other much larger and on a basement level.
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9. InterContinental Istanbul – Beyoglu

InterContinental Istanbul Hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 368 4444
Towering over an adjoining park, the InterContinental is the closest five-star hotel to Taksim Square, a vast pedestrian plaza surrounded by classy shops and cafés (and with a station for the excellent metro). Within the hotel, there’s plenty of space for a garden-side café, substantial oval-shaped pool, shopping arcade, and lobby with a spiral staircase. All categories of rooms are very attractive: the soft colors of the sofa, cushions, linen, and carpet match beautifully, and as the only high-rise in the area, views from the full-length windows are among the city’s finest. With abundant gardens and a children’s pool, it’s also ideal for families.
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10. Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel – Sultanahmet

Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 522 3200
Except for the Economy Rooms in the basement, all accommodations are bright and airy, and many face the delightful courtyard café packed with palms. With an annex of more rooms over the road, the Ottoman-era buildings face a quiet side street lined with competitively-priced bistros. The hotel is also an easy walk from the renowned Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and other must-sees, as well as the excellent metro. The main attraction for many, however, is the pool – substantial, outdoor, and surrounded by whitewashed walls – it’s arguably the best of its kind in the old town.
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11. The Marmara Taksim – Beyoglu

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Marmara Taksim
Hotel phone: +90 212 334 8300
Great location near Istiklal Street and Taksim Square. This is a fun and active area with many bars, restaurants, clubs, galleries, art museums, and shops in all directions. Rooms are clean and modern. Nice pool too.
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12. Hilton Istanbul – Bosphorus

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 315 6000
Next to an enormous convention and exhibition center, the Hilton is a major landmark with faultless facilities. Rooms offer rare touches of class such as old-fashioned lamps and dark wooden furniture, as well as balconies with broad views of the city and Bosphorus Strait. A standout feature is the magnificent outdoor pool: within lavish gardens, it’s like a tropical island resort, and with a tennis court, playground, and Family Rooms, the Hilton is perfect for those with children. A lovely short stroll from Taksim, an upmarket shopping precinct with a station for the very useful metro.
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13. Boutique Saint Sophia – Sultanahmet

Boutique Saint Sophia hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 528 0973
The overall design and layout of the lobby and restaurant are certainly more modern than most guesthouses in the historic old town, but rooms in this nineteenth-century building still exude an old-style charm and elegance. The hotel is on a corner, so all rooms offer decent views (and are well soundproofed) – especially those facing the road, which is virtually free of cars (but not trams) and lined with bistros, teahouses, and travel agencies. It’s also very close to the sprawling Gülhane Park, an inviting respite from the relentless tourist buses, and alongside the magnificent Hagia Sophia museum.
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14. Grand Hyatt Istanbul – Sisli

Grand Hyatt Istanbul hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 368 1234
The pleasingly low-level and surprisingly spacious Grand Hyatt offers the sort of shady gardens and attractive resort-style pool usually absent at rival hotels. The roominess continues in the brightly tiled lobby, airy guest lounges, and sumptuous rooms and suites which overlook the street or pool and gardens. With all accommodations catering to three or four people, and a children’s pool, it’s just right for families – and is pet-friendly, too. Best of all is the location: close to Taksim Square, a pleasant shopping plaza with a station for the reliable metro to the old town.
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15. Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul – Sultanahmet

Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 516 9696
The Arcadia is brash and fashionable but no less appealing. Distinct advantages over small, old-fashioned guesthouses nearby are that rooms (as well as the lobby and restaurant) are more spacious, the views are certainly more memorable, and a gym and sauna are offered. It’s along a side street distant from tourist buses, but still just a short stroll to several major attractions. As the tallest building in the area, views from some rooms – and, certainly, the rooftop restaurant – are arguably the finest in the old town and include the nearby Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia museum.
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16. W Istanbul – Besiktas

W Istanbul Hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 381 2121
The W is at a V-shaped junction lined with refined bistros in a top-end residential suburb distant from the tourist buses. The exterior is Ottoman-influenced, low-level, and with neutral colors, yet the interior could not be more contrasting. Through the tiny (and easy-to-miss) entrance and glass corridor reminiscent of a nightclub is the ultra-trendy lobby and restaurant. Rooms are also very sleek, chic, and compact, and the décor minimalist. Amenities are limited to a gym and terrace because of the layout, but it’s all about the uber-fashionable design and location: close to Kabataş, with its ferry terminal, museums, waterside cafés, metro station, and funicular to the classy shopping district of Taksim.
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17. Hotel Sultania Boutique Class – Fatih

Hotel Sultania Boutique Class in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 528 0806
Externally similar to other hotels along the quiet backstreets of the energetic old town, the Sultania is still truly distinctive. Via arched corridors of marble, ornate cornices, and floor-to-ceiling art, all rooms are individually named and themed after a wife of a Turkish sultan. Oozing so much charm and elegance, rooms also feature the lady’s portrait above the bed and a script explaining her history – as well as exquisite bathrooms and cute alcove seating. Adding further to the immense appeal are the restaurants along the street and on the roof, sizable indoor pool attached to the gym and Turkish bath, and free buffet breakfast.
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18. Hotel Amira Istanbul – Sultanahmet

Hotel Amira Istanbul in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 516 1640
This delightful boutique hotel is perfectly positioned within the historic and atmospheric old town. It is surrounded by alluring places to eat, drink, and shop, and within a short stroll of three of Istanbul’s major attractions: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia museum, and Topkapi Palace. (And the metro linking other city sights is also close to the hotel.) All rooms are lovingly decorated with old-style furniture and ceiling decorations, and some are large enough for families of six. Adding greatly to the appeal is the very helpful staff, fitness center, rooftop bar with sea views, and downstairs café offering an excellent buffet breakfast (that is included).
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19. Corinne Art & Boutique Hotel – Beyoglu

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Corinne Boutique
Hotel phone: +90 212 293 9494
This is a wonderful little hotel with charm and warmth. Rooms are simple yet marvelously decorated. Located just off busy, funky, and fun Istiklal Street. The oldest Turkish bathhouse in Istanbul is just steps away.
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20. Witt Istanbul Suites – Beyoglu

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: The Witt
Hotel phone: +90 212 293 1500
Wonderful hotel with a tram stop, Taksim Square, and many good restaurants within walking distance. The staff is amazing. Rooms are large and each has a small kitchenette.
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21. DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul – Sirkeci

DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul - Sirkeci hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 513 2550
It may not blend in so well with the old-style buildings nearby, but the hotel is cozy, comfortable, and fashionable throughout, and the amenities (e.g. gym, but no pool) are as expected at a mid-priced Hilton hotel. With a brightly-colored sofa and quirky art, rooms are a little funky and all can accommodate at least three people. Being on a prominent corner, views of the old town from most rooms and the rooftop bar/restaurant are unobstructed. It’s less than five minutes to major sights such as the Blue Mosque and close to the excellent metro and the lovely Gülhane Park.
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22. Romance Istanbul Hotel Boutique Class – Sirkeci

Romance Istanbul Hotel Boutique Class in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 512 8676
Much more alluring than other hotels in the vicinity, the Romance is, indeed, intimate and exclusive. The class is evident throughout – from the wall decorations in the restaurants to the stylish lobby and the helpful staff. Complete with old-style wooden furniture, all rooms are tastefully decorated with particularly attractive bathrooms. And within this compact hotel in this overbuilt district are an indoor swimming pool, spa, and hammam (Turkish bath). Within a short walk of some of Istanbul’s major attractions, such as the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar, the metro passes the front door and the backstreets overflow with cute bistros and bars.
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23. The Bank Hotel Istanbul – Karakoy

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: The Vault Karakoy
Hotel phone: +90 212 283 0055
The best boutique hotel in the hip and happening Karakoy neighborhood – surrounded by bars, cafes, and art galleries. Beautifully decorated rooms. The rooftop bar has spectacular views of the water and city.
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24. Sirkeci Mansion – Sirkeci

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Sirkeci Mansion
Hotel phone: +90 212 528 4344
A wonderful and charming hotel in a wonderful and charming neighborhood. Many rooms overlook Gulhane Park, and good restaurants and the tram are steps from the front door. The hotel offers tours and free cooking courses and is located a ten-minute walk from the sights of Sultanahmet.
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25. AC Hotel Istanbul Macka – Besiktas

AC Hotel Istanbul Macka in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 327 2828
Being oriented mostly towards business people (especially Turkish) means that it’s more affordable than higher-rated tourist hotels nearby. No pool, but the other amenities (e.g. gym and business center) are of a high standard expected of a hotel within the Marriott chain – and rooms are unfussy but certainly comfortable. Faces a shady street with middle-class housing far from tourist buses and overpriced restaurants. The bistros, boutiques, and metro stations around the upmarket Taksim area are accessible via the remarkable teleferik (cable car) close by.
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26. Hotel Ibrahim Pasha – Sultanahmet

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Ibrahim Pasha
Hotel phone: +90 212 518 0395
The old town is crowded with places to stay, but this hotel is certainly a cut above the rest: the staff is particularly helpful, the free breakfast is first rate, the rooftop terrace is impressive (especially at sunset), and the lovingly furnished guest lounges are lined with bookshelves. Like most hotels in this overbuilt area, the beautifully renovated rooms are compact but the deluxe ones do feature balconies and walk-in wardrobes. What’s more, the setting is historic and the location ideal: quietly set one block from the tourist buses, surrounded by quaint street-side cafés, and only a brief stroll to the major sights and excellent metro.
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27. Mercure Istanbul – Sirkeci

Mercure Istanbul Sirkeci Hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 398 0000
On a corner of a lane teeming with cafés in a pulsating part of the old town, the Mercure is immediately striking – particularly the lobby with brick walls and tiled floors, and the restaurant which is so chic and spacious. Rooms feature an enchanting fusion of the old (e.g. gold-plated Turkish-style bathroom fittings) and the new (e.g. abstract wall art). Many rooms offer fascinating street views and all can comfortably accommodate three to six people. Also, very handy to stations for the excellent city metro and regional trains.
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28. Neorion Hotel – Fatih

Neorion Hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 527 9090
The distinctive Mediterranean-style design and welcoming lobby make the Neorion much more appealing than most other hotels within this quiet residential district of the old town. Some amenities are as expected – e.g. rooftop restaurant with broad views – but others are a surprise, such as the sizable indoor pool with jacuzzi and traditional Turkish bath attached. The lobby features funky furnishings, while, in contrast, rooms are lined with prints of old Constantinople (as Istanbul was known). As well as great rates (that include breakfast), it’s also within walking distance of major attractions and stations for the city metro and regional trains.
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29. Ottoman Hotel Imperial – Sultanahmet

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Ottoman Imperial
Hotel phone: +90 212 513 6150
Wonderful location just steps from the Hagia Sofia and the tram stop. The staff here is very friendly and helpful. This is a good value hotel for the location and quality.
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30. Idylle Hotel – Sirkeci

Idylle Hotel in Turkey
Hotel phone: +90 212 511 0290
This lovely and recently-renovated boutique hotel is on a prominent corner within a bustling area of the old town, and a stop for the excellent metro is just outside the front door. All rooms (which are adequately soundproofed) are attractively furnished and decorated, some overlooking the delightful Gülhane Park. Unusual among rivals, breakfast is included (and served on the rooftop restaurant/bar) and the exceptionally helpful staff is very aware of travelers’ needs. In fact, a backpacker-style travel agency and office for the hop-on/off Big Bus Istanbul company is attached.
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31. Sultanahmet Palace Hotel – Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet Palace Hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 458 0460
This pretty little boutique hotel is very close to three of Istanbul’s major attractions: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia museum, and Topkapi Palace. Past the likable courtyard garden café is the lobby with Byzantine-style marble and tiles. All rooms are stylish, especially the Junior Suites which face the distant sea, while some others offer views of the Blue Mosque that brand-name five-star hotels would charge the earth for. Also a short walk to the excellent metro, which connects more of the capital’s many sights.
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32. Walton Hotels Taksim Pera – Beyoglu

Walton Hotels Taksim Pera in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 224 9499
Inside a terraced building over 120 years old, the Walton wonderfully merges the old (e.g. antique furniture) with the new (e.g. contemporary art). Rooms are very spacious and have been individually and lovingly decorated with genuine feminine touches by the effusive manager/owner. No space for any amenities, except a tiny terrace at the back, but the overwhelming attractions are the old-style charm and first-class location: in the Taksim area, close to a very long pedestrian street which extends between two metro stations and is packed with places to eat, drink, and shop.
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33. Peradays – Beyoglu

Peradays Hotel in Istanbul
Hotel phone: +90 212 245 1270
This hotel is compact, hip, and very easy to miss. Sharing the same 120-year-old building with the classier Walton Taksim Pera hotel (also reviewed), the Peradays has been lovingly converted into a fashionable and affordable guesthouse. Each room features a different layout and is individually decorated: some have raised beds that allow more living space, while others have quaint Mediterranean-style balconies overlooking the quiet side street. In the Taksim area, the guesthouse is two blocks from a very long pedestrian street that’s crowded with places to eat, drink, and shop, and stretches between two stations of the excellent metro.
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34. Azade Hotel – Sultanahment

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Azade
Hotel phone: +90 212 517 7173
Great location in the Old Town. The rooftop restaurant (where the free breakfast is served) has great views of the surrounding sights. The Blue Mosque is less than a two-minute walk away.
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35. Ahmet Efendi Eva – Sultanahmet

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Ahmet Efendi Eva
Hotel phone: +90 212 518 8465
A charming, small, and family-run hotel in a residential area a five-minute walk from the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. If you want warm and friendly hosts, this is your place.
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36. Sari Konak – Sultanahmet

The Best Luxury Hotels in Istanbul: Sari Konak
Hotel phone: +90 212 638 6258
Beautifully furnished with a warm atmosphere. Perfect location in the Old City and walking distance to all the tops sights. Triples and Family Suites are great for larger parties.
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Where To Stay in Istanbul – The Best Areas for Visitors

Sultanahmet

The city’s historic heartland, Sultanahmet is a showcase of grand churches, mosques and palaces built by order of Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans. Walk along any of this neighbourhood’s cobbled streets and the layers of history are easy to discern – public squares where Byzantine emperors hosted chariot races, mysterious sunken cisterns built by Roman engineers, millennia-old churches commissioned by Justinian the Great and a profusion of mosques, tombs and medreses decorated with exquisite İznik tiles and richly coloured stained glass. Home to Turkey’s two most revered monuments – Aya Sofya and Topkapı Palace – this part of the city is also where many of the country’s most impressive museums are located, displaying priceless collections of Turkish rugs, mosaics and sculptures. There’s more on offer than museums, too. Visitors can enjoy being pampered in the steamy surrounds of a meticulously restored Ottoman-era hamam, sip a glass of tea in one of the open-air cafes in tulip-laden Gülhane Park or shop for quality souvenirs in the atmospheric Arasta Bazaar. It’s touristy, of course (almost every visitor to the city kicks off their itinerary here) but other parts of the city are easily accessed via taxi or tramway so it’s easy to escape the sightseers and head to other neighbourhoods to check out the local bar, restaurant and club scenes. Accommodation options in the streets below the Blue Mosque are excellent and cater for all budgets.

    The Best Eateries in Sultanahmet

  • Balıkçı Sabahattın – One of the city’s best fish restaurants, bustling vibe, indoor and outdoor seating
  • Deraliye Restaurant – Refined and unusual Ottoman Palace cusine, stylish surrounds, welcoming staff
  • Erol Lokantası – Traditional workers’ eatery serving ready-made food, great for a cheap and cheerful lunch
  • Ahırkapı Balıkçısı – Tiny neighborhood fish joint, simple but ultra-fresh food, no-frills service
  • Seasons Restaurant – International dishes with a Turkish slant, seating in a glass pavilion, known for its Sunday brunch

Eminönü

İstanbul is often described as a crossroad linking east and west, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Eminönü. Located where the Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara meet, the atmospheric docks here are the busiest in the city. Ferries from the Asian suburbs arrive and depart regularly, as do large Bosphorus-bound tour boats and smaller Golden Horn commuter services. Surrounding the docks is a profusion of colourful shopping precincts and bazaars including the famous Ottoman-era Spice Bazaar, the disheveled streets of the Küçük Pazar (Little Bazaar) below the Süleymaniye Mosque and the bustling mercantile hub of Tahtakale, which links Eminönü with the Grand Bazaar. Crowds are a given here – made up of both locals and tourists – but there are a few tranquil spots where visitors can regain their breath and bearings, including the diminutive but gorgeous Rüstem Paşa mosque on Hasırcılar Caddesi near the Spice Bazaar and the dockside Yeni Camii (New Mosque) with its distinctive cascading domes and tapered minarets. Easily accessed by tram from both Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu, it’s a neighbourhood that is best explored during the day, particularly around lunchtime when the many local eateries and food stands do a brisk business (head to Hocapaşa Sokak on the Eminönü/Sirckeci border to find the best of these). At night, most of the streets are graveyard-quiet.

    The Best Eateries in Eminönü

  • Hamdi Restaurant – Top-quality meat, huge and authentic kebap menu, magnificent views from the top-floor dining space
  • Hafız Mustafa – Two branches, delectable lokum (Turkish delight) and milk-based puddings
  • Bereket Döner (Hacı Kadın Caddesi, Küçük Pazar) – Local favourite in the Küçük Pazar serving an excellent döner kebap
  • Şehzade Cağ Kebabı (Hocapaşa Sokak 3a, Sirkeci) – Known for its Erzurum-style lamb kebap, one of many popular eateries in Hocapaşa Sokak

Beyazıt/Grand Bazaar

Crowning one of the city’s seven hills, the magnificent Süleymaniye Mosque is the major landmark in this neighbourhood, but it’s not the greatest attraction – that honour belongs to the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar), a sprawling and atmosphere-laden shopping mall dating from 1461 that is an essential stop on every visitor’s itinerary. Most of the buildings in this part of town date from the Ottoman era, and exploration by foot really pays off – there are pretty timber houses, ornate tombs and imperial mosques aplenty. Head here around lunchtime to grab a simple but tasty snack at one of the innumerable eateries in and around the bazaar, and also consider investigating one of the traditional çay bahçesis (tea gardens) where locals love to catch up with friends over a tulip-shaped glass of tea and a fragrant nargile (waterpipe). Like neighbouring Eminönü, the street action here is limited to the daylight hours – it’s very quiet at night. Two major tram stops, Beyazıt/Grand Bazaar and Çemberlitaş, service the bazaar and the Süleymaniye Mosque is only a short walk away.

    The Best Eateries in Beyazıt/Grand Bazaar

  • Kuru Fasulyecı Erzincanlı Ali Baba – Much-loved eatery overlooking the Süleymaniye Mosque, specializes in white beans cooked in spicy tomato sauce
  • Gazientep Burç Ocakbası (Parçacılar Sokak 12, Grand Bazaar) – Best kebaps in the bazaar, tables in a narrow lane off Yağlıkçılar Caddesi
  • Aynen Dürüm (Muhafazacilar Sokak, Grand Bazaar) – Great choice for a quick kebap lunch, choose your meat and then DIY garnish with herbs and pickles
  • Fes Café (Halicilar Caddesi, Grand Bazaar) – Welcoming café located on one of the bazaar’s most atmospheric lanes, perfect people-watching spot
  • Erenler Nargile ve Çay Bahçesı (Yeniçeriler Caddesi 36, Beyazıt) – Set in a vine-covered courtyard, popular with shopkeepers and students from nearby İstanbul University

Western Districts

To head off the usual tourist paths and discover a very different İstanbul you need go no further than the neighbourhoods collectively known as the Western Districts. Easily accessed by foot or bus from Beyazıt, this part of town is predominantly residential and is staunchly conservative – families are large, mosques are well patronized and headscarves are the rule rather than exception. A saunter along the major shopping strip of Fevzi Paşa Caddesi gives a fascinating insight into current fashions and fads, and a visit to one of the many local street markets offers plenty of local colour. The best of these are the bustling Çarşamba Pazarı (Wednesday Market), held in the streets surrounding the huge Fatıh Mosque, and the Kadınlar Pazarı (Womens Market) nestled in the shadow of the ancient Aqueduct of Valens in Zeyrek. A short walk west from Fatıh is one of the city’s great Byzantine treasures, the mosaic-laden Karıye Museum (Chora Church). Its off-the-beaten-track location next to the massive city wall built during the rule of Emperor Theodosius II once meant that this exquisite monument remained unvisited by most tourists, but in recent years it has started to feature on a growing number of itineraries. Also worth visiting is the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, symbolic headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church. Located in Fener on the Golden Horn, the Patriarchate’s main church was built in the 19th century and features an elaborately gilded icon screen.

    The Best Eateries in the Western Districts

  • Asitane – Swish surrounds, location next to the Karıye Museum, specializes in Ottoman Palace cuisine
  • Fatıh Karadeniz Pide – Black Sea–style pide (Turkish pizza) enjoyed with strong tea or frothy ayran (yoghurt drink)
  • Kömür Türk Mutfağı – Kebaps, salads and stews, particularly busy at lunch
  • Sıırt Şeref Büryan Kebap (Itfaye Caddesi 4, Kadınlar Pazarı) Known for its tender slow-cooked lamb, bustling atmosphere, indoor and outdoor seating

Beyoğlu

There’s a lot more to İstanbul than monuments, something that is immediately apparent when visiting the areas north of the historical peninsula. Accessed over the Galata Bridge, the neighbourhoods of Karaköy, Tophane and Galata are an easy walk from Sultanahmet and Eminönü, and those clustered around Taksim Square and the pedestrianised thoroughfare of İstiklal Caddesi are only a short tram ride away. All of these neighbourhoods are replete with cafes, eateries and boutique accommodation options, but each also has a unique flavor and specific attractions – Tophane has the cutting-edge İstanbul Modern gallery, Karaköy and Cihangir are home to lively bar and club scenes, Galata is known for its jazz venues and cultural centres, Asmalımescit and Tepebaşı are full of popular meyhanes (traditional Turkish taverns), Tünel hosts an historic lodge where Dervishes whirl and the cobbled streets of Cukurçuma are where you’ll find some of the city’s most alluring antique shops and designer boutiques. Commercial galleries and privately endowed museums are thick on the ground – top choices include the Pera Museum in Tepebaşı, Arter on İstiklal Caddesi and Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Cukurçuma – and one of the city’s best produce markets, the Balık Pazarı, is found just off Galatasaray Square midway along İstiklal Caddesi. The action in this part of town is 24hr, crowds are a given and the party atmosphere is infectious. Don’t miss it.

    The Best Eateries in Beyoğlu

  • Karaköy Gümrük – Stylish decor, locally sourced produce used to create modern riffs on traditional dishes
  • Karaköy Güllüoğlu – The city’s most famous baklava shop and cafe, also serves excellent böreks (savoury pastries)
  • Antiochia – Flavourful southeastern Turkish cuisine, convivial atmosphere
  • Zübeyır Ocakbaşı (Bekar Sokak 28) An İstanbul institution, succulent meats cooked over coals, popular with large groups

Nişantaşı

Only a 30-minute walk from Beyoğlu, the modern neighbourhood of Nişantaşı is also easily reached via metro from Taksim Square (Osmanbey station). The local equivalent of Beverley Hills or Knightsbridge, this is where İstanbul’s moneyed elite live and where cashed-up locals head to buy designer homewares and fashion. It’s also where many business travellers choose to stay while in town, with a profusion of five-star and boutique hotels on offer. High-end department stores Beymen and Vakko are found on Abdi İpekçi Caddesi, as are big-name international labels such as Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo. Celebrated local designers including Gönül Paksoy have boutiques on Atiye Sokak and popular chains such as Yargıcı and Paşabahçe are located on the major thoroughfare of Teşvikiye Caddesi. After shopping up a storm, locals can often be found enjoying a power lunch or catch-up coffee at one of the many cafes and restaurants on the leafy side streets.

    The Best Eateries in Nişantaşı

  • Hünkar – Traditional lokantası (eatery serving ready-made food), popular with businessmen, attentive service
  • Saray Muhallebicisi – Specialises in traditional Turkish milk puddings, perfect for a morning pastry and glass of tea
  • The House Café – Stylish and perennially packed café serving meals and coffee, branches on Atiye Sokak and Teşvikiye Caddesi
  • Beymen Brasserie (Abdi İpekçi Caddesi 23) Long-standing favourite serving classic French dishes, premium seating is on the terrace

The Bosphorus

Visitors have been sailing up and down the mighty Bosphorus Strait ever since Greek and Roman times, and the village-style neighbourhoods strung along its Asian and European shores have been home to disparate communities ever since. Before the Republic, İstanbullus of Armenian heritage often lived in Örtakoy and Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy was popular with the Jewish community and those with Greek heritage often lived in Arnavutköy, Örtakoy or Yeniköy. These days the Bosphorus neighbourhoods tend to be divided along different lines – some trendy, some moneyed, some bohemian and some religiously conservative. The strait is lined with ornate timber mansions built by the Ottoman elite (some now converted to five-star hotels complete with private launches), and monuments include the majestic fortress of Rumeli Hisarı, constructed by order of Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452. The hilly hinterland is dotted with forests, formal gardens, Ottoman palaces, Art Nouveau villas and an ever-expanding portfolio of luxury residences. To explore, hop aboard the full Bosphorus cruise operated by Şehir Hatları, which sails all the way to the Black Sea, and then make your way back to town by bus, stopping to visit palaces, castles and atmospheric village squares on your way. Alternatively, buy a ticket for one of the shorter Bosphorus cruises leaving from the Eminönü and Kabataş docks, which travel in a loop to the Fatih Bridge and back, or for the handy hop-on, hop-off service operated by Dentur Avraysa.

    The Best Eateries on the Bosphorus

  • Sumahan on the Water – Çengelköy restaurant serving modern interpretations of traditional Turkish mezes, super-glam surrounds, water views
  • Antica Locanda – Assured Italian cuisine served in a converted church building in pretty Arnavutköy
  • İsmet Baba Restaurant – A Kuzguncuk institution, fresh fish, bustling vibe, water views
  • Inciralti – Old-style meyhane (tavern) set in a gorgeous old house in Beylerbeyi, request a garden table in summer

Kadıköy

Hopping aboard a ferry travelling between Europe and Asia is one of İstanbul’s most memorable experiences. Taking a mere 25 minutes, this crossing of continents offers photographic opportunities aplenty (this is, after all, home to one of the world’s most spectacular skylines) and it also gives passengers a fascinating insight into local life – hipsters sit next to Islamic clerics, designer-suited businessmen next to headscarved housewives, university students next to labourers. Some chat, others read or doze, many order a glass of tea and a chewy, sesame-studded simit (bread ring) from the on-board waiters. Of the two major ferry routes between Eminönü and the Asian suburbs, most visitors choose to take the service to the predominantly residential district of Kadıköy, best known for its fresh produce market. A short walk from the ferry dock, this is where you should come to sample the city’s best Turkish coffee at city institution Fazıl Bey, eat at one of its most influential restaurants Çiya, and admire the top-quality fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish and other produce sold at the many street stalls and shops on colourful Güneşlibahçe Sokak. Shopping opportunities of a different form are available at boutiques in the upmarket residential enclave of Moda and on glitzy Bağdat Caddesi, which is known for its luxury shops and pricey cafes. For a more down-to-earth experience, Kadife Sokak and Moda Caddesi are littered with bars, cafes and clubs.

    The Best Eateries in Kadıköy

  • Çiya Sofrası – Dedicated to preserving and celebrating traditional Anatolian cuisine, food served from bain-maries, indoor and streetside seating
  • Kadı Nımet Balımçılık – Fish stall and restaurant in the heart of the produce market, ultra-fresh food, genial service
  • Fazıl Bey – Freshly roasted and ground coffee beans used to make excellent Turkish coffee
  • Baylan Pastenesı – Retro decor, good coffee, known for its icecream sundaes, pastries and macaroons
  • Korkmaz Büfe (120 Moda Caddesi, Moda) – Thought by many to serve the best döner kebap on the Asian side, get there early – it’s usually sold out by 2pm

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  1. Best Places To Eat in Istanbul

    Hi,

    I believe you should add Pandeli restaurant to your Eminönü area list. It’s an old place closed for some time and reopened this year. At the moment it’s the highlight of both the area and Istanbul’s food scene.

    Best,
    Hulya Eksigil

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Thanks! Will check it out on my next trip to Istanbul.

  2. Itinerary for Europe Trip

    HI Dave,

    Am planning a trip at the moment Italy, Croatia, and Greece, My dilemma at the moment is how to best navigate from Athens to Naxos and Ios, how best to tackle this and in what order, are you able to offer any advice?

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Athens to Naxos to Ios. Ferry is easiest though if you’re already in the Athens airport then you could fly to Naxos then ferry to Ios. Also, Santorini is a short ferry ride from Ios and has many international flights (to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Naples, and Venice) so you could depart Greece from there.

  3. Getting from Santorini to Istanbul

    Hi Dave
    Firstly congratulations on the most informative and helpful travel guides I’ve ever read. We are hiring a car and traveling from Bodrum to Istanbul over 7 days. We will then be flying to Cappadocia for 3 nights before going onto our next destination. During the 7-day car trip can you recommend what towns to stay at overnight and any must-see destinations. We would like to go to Ephesus, Canakkale, and Gallipoli although saying that I’ve heard Canakkale is not as nice as it used to be back in the 90’s. Also what is the best way to get to Bodrum from Santorini? BTW, I’ve taken your guidance for our trip in the Greek Islands (Islands and hotels) where we’re going prior to Turkey.
    Thanks, Debbie

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      I have limited experience on the sights and destinations between Bodrum and Istanbul so can’t be much help there. For getting to Bodrum from Santorini you’ll need to ferry to Kos (or Rhodes) and then take a different ferry the next day (port authorities sometimes want your passport handed in the night before) to Bodrum.

  4. Nice Hotel near Blue Mosque / Top Attractions in Istanbul

    Greetings from Texas!

    My husband and I are planning to visit Istanbul end of December for a good seven days. We are in our golden age. After reading your advice to tourists, I cannot resist but ask you your professional expertise. Please advise: 1) Neat and classy hotel close to Blue Mosque
    2) Must do and must see top of the list while in Istanbul.
    Thanks in advance.
    Regards
    Jazmin

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The best hotel near the Blue Mosque is the Hotel Ibrahim Pasha. It’s also a great choice in winter, as it has a welcoming open fire in its ground-floor lounge.

      A week in Istanbul will allow you to see most of the top-drawer attractions. Don’t miss Aya Sofya, Topkapı Palace, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, the Kariye Museum (Chora Church), the Grand Bazaar and the Süleymaniye Mosque. Consider signing up for one or two culinary walks – those offered by Istanbul Eats are excellent. You may also like to take a walking tour of one of two historic neighbourhoods – the tours offered by Istanbul Walks are very good.

  5. Kadikoy, Karaköy, or Cihangir

    Hello Dave,

    Looking for a cool, hip hotel with a Turkish vibe in a neighbourhood with old streets, few tourists as well bars, cafes and shops.
    I have been looking at Kadikoy, Karaköy and Cihangir .. Can’t figure where to stay!

    help!

    thanks,
    Emma

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      All are wonderful neighborhoods. If you’re really looking for something different/less-touristy then Kadikoy is the place (though still plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes). The downside is that it’s a bit of a trek to get to Sultanahmet and the main tourist sites.

  6. Cappadocia or Antalya?

    Hii Dave,

    The information you provide is really helpful and amazing. Thank you for that!

    I am traveling to Istanbul on September and I don’t know whether to go to Cappadocia or Antalya!! I am planning to stay for one week and I will be in Istanbul for 4 days and can’t decide where to go next!!
    Also can you recommend a hotel to stay in Antalya near the beach and affordable as well? And what would be the best area to stay in Istanbul that would be near the shopping areas and the monuments?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      If you want to be near the Grand Bazaar and the major monuments (Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace), stay in Sultanahmet. But if you want to be close to art galleries, the city’s smaller museums, boutique shopping and the best restaurants and bars, stay in one of the Beyoğlu neighbourhoods (Galata, Karaköy, Cihangir etc).

      Choosing between Cappadocia and Antalya should be relatively easy, as they offer very different experiences. Go to Antalya to spend time in resorts and on the beach, and also take day trips to ancient sites including Termessos and Olympos. But if you are keen on ancient Byzantine culture, boutique hotels, trekking and soaking up the ambiance in rural villages, you should choose Cappadocia.

  7. Great Website

    Hi,
    Just wanted to say I am so much impressed by the quality of your website and all the information you provide on numerous destinations. Have been living in Istanbul for more than 20 years and I find your recommendations and explanations on Istanbul very much informative and right on spot; in fact you know much more than I do on some activities and attractions taking place in Istanbul !
    Congratulations…
    Tolga

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Thanks Tolga. Just want to make a website that is super helpful.

  8. Witt Istanbul or TomTom Suites?

    We are going to Istanbul next June/July on our honeymoon. After reading many reviews, we just can’t decide between the Witt Istanbul Suites and TomTom Suites. Which one would you choose?

    Thanks!

    Jana

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      These are both wonderful, well-located boutique hotels with high levels of service.

      If you want contemporary style, opt for Witt Istanbul and ask for the penthouse (room 61) or the king panoramic room with terrace (room 62). Both are glamorous, spacious and have stunning views. There’s a pretty rooftop sitting area but it’s not possible to eat or drink there. The hotel is an extremely steep walk from the Tophane tram stop or a downhill walk from Taksim Square.

      TomTom Suites isn’t quite as stylish but the rooms are extremely comfortable. The location is very close to the Tophane tram stop (making it very easy to get to and from the Old City) and the lavish and delicious breakfast here is one of the best in the city. It is served in the top-floor restaurant with its amazing views (don’t bother eating here at night because the food is overpriced and underwhelming). Some rooms here have large jacuzzis, too.

  9. 1 Day in Istanbul

    We have just one full day/2 nights in Istanbul for an early June visit (for my husband and myself). Seeing as many of the top attractions is our priority.

    Three Questions:
    1) Where would you stay to make the most of our one full day?
    2) We obviously can’t see everything. What would you have us focus on for the day? Any tips for making the most of our time?
    3) Are there generally lines to get into the top attractions? e.g. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque

    Thanks!
    Fari

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      With only one full day at your disposal, you should probably stay in or close to Sultanahmet as that is where you will be spending your time. Due to the current security situation you should be able to find a good hotel deal. Queues at the main attractions will also be much shorter than usual. Prioritise Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and Aya Sofya and visit in that order. Grab a simple lunch at one of the eateries around the bazaar and for dinner sample Ottoman cuisine at Deriliye in Ticarethane Sk near Aya Sofya, eat kebaps at Hamdi Restaurant next to the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü, or take a taxi over to Beyoğlu where most of the city’s best bars and restaurants are found.

  10. Unsafe Areas of Istanbul

    We are considering staying around Sultanahmet or perhaps just outside that neighborhood so it’s a little quieter. Are there any unsafe areas of Istanbul that we should avoid? Are the popular areas of Sultanahmet noisy? Or just busy?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      If you are keen to stay in Sultanahmet but want to be in a relatively quiet area, choose a hotel in the Küçük Aya Sofya area or on the western edge of the Hippodrome rather than in Cankurtaran. The Hotel Ibrahim Pasa or Arcadia Hotel are both good choices. Avoid hotels on or around Akbıyık Caddesi.

      Most areas in the city are safe. That said, be careful when walking near the ancient city walls (vagrants live there) and avoid the deserted Bazaar District, Süleymaniye, and Küçük Pazarı neighbourhoods at night. As in every city, stay away from ill-lit streets and alleyways after dark.

  11. Best Beaches near Istanbul

    Are there any good beaches near Istanbul? Looking mainly for day trips but would be willing to do an overnight trip if there weren’t any good beaches close to the city.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The closest clean beaches are at Kilyos, Ağva, and Şile on the Black Sea coast. Kilyos is on the European side of the Bosphorus and Ağva and Şile are on the Asian side. All can be reached by bus or dolmuş (local minibus) but the trips can be complicated and long. Buses and dolmuşes to Kilyos leave from Sarıyer at the top of the Bosphorus Strait, To Ağva and Şile they depart from Üsküdar. Frankly, if you’re in the city for a short time we can’t see the point of dedicating a day to visiting one of these beaches as they are horribly crowded in summer (especially on weekends) and all have dangerous rips (undertows). If you only have a few days available you’re better to spend that time exploring Istanbul. If you do a few extra days then take a cheap flight to the Turkish coast and spend 2 or 3 days at one of the beautiful beaches along the Aegean Sea.

  12. Four Seasons or Ciragan Palace

    I’m visiting Istanbul with my 18 year old daughter. We’d like to be central, close to the sights, and have restaurants and shops within a short walk. Have researched and trying to decide between the Four Seasons and Ciragan Palace. What would you recommend for us? And are there any can’t-miss restaurants near either hotel?

    Great site,
    Thom

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Most of the Istanbul’s sights are in Sultanahmet and the best places to eat, drink, and shop are on the other side of the Galata Bridge in Beyoğlu. The Four Seasons on the Bosphorus and Çırağan Palace Hotels are both excellent five-star choices with wonderful pools and spas, but to get to Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu you’ll need to take taxis. Also, there are very few places to eat and shop near them (Vogue, Zuma, and Sıdıka restaurants are the only we would recommend). You may be better off staying in Beyoğlu at the Pera Palace or Marmara Pera, or at one of the many excellent boutique hotels there (we particularly like TomTom Suites and Witt Istanbul Suites). From there, the Sultanahmet Sights and Grand Bazaar are only a short tram trip away and there are hundreds of bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops within walking distance.

  13. Honeymoon in Istanbul

    Hi Dave. We’ll be on our honeymoon as part of a trip to Italy, Greece, and Turkey. We’ll be arriving by plane from Rome. 3 questions:
    1. What is the best way to get from the airport to central Istanbul?
    2. Could you recommend a couple romantic honeymoon hotels that have a boutique feel?
    3. Where would you recommend for a romantic dinner. Nothing too fancy that would require really dressing up but otherwise budget not an issue.
    Thanks,
    Rhonda

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      1. This depends on which airport you’re landing at – Atatürk or Sabika Gökçen.

      2. If you are keen to stay near the major sights in Sultanahmet I would recommend booking a deluxe room at Hotel Ibrahim Pasa. If staying in Beyoğlu, where the city’s best cafes, restaurants, bars and art galleries are located, consider staying at Witt Istanbul Suites, or TomTom Suites. For the most romantic hotel choice in the city, opt for Sumahan on the Water, which is located on the water’s edge in Çengelköy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. This is far from the tourist crowds and has excellent service, spectacular views and its own motor launch, which takes guests across to Kabataş where they can connect with the tram to Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar, or to the funicular carrying commuters up to Taksim Square. The launch only makes the trip a few times per day, though.

      3. Good choices for a romantic dinner in Istanbul would be Mikla, Meze by Lemon Tree, and Neolokal. All are located in in Beyoğlu. These are fashionable, so people tend to dress nicely, but they’re not overly glam.

  14. Highlights for One Day in Istanbul

    Visiting Istanbul in mid-May and are making our plans. We have 3 days in the city, would you suggest doing a day trip for one of these 3 days, or is our time better focused on Istanbul itself? If so, what day trips would you recommend?

    Amil

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Three days isn’t all that much time, so you’ll need to plan carefully. Frankly, I don’t think you’ll have time for a day trip. I suggest spending one day in Sultanahmet visiting Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya, the Basilica Cistern, and the Blue Mosque. Spend the morning of the second day visiting the Grand Bazaar and the Süleymaniye Mosque and then head down to Eminönü to hop aboard one of the ferry boats offering scenic tours of the Bosphorus. These take between 90 minutes and two hours, and are most enjoyable. On your third day, walk or take a tram over the Galata Bridge to Beyoğlu, where you can pass your time visiting its wonderful art museums (the Pera Museum and Istanbul Modern are stand-outs); having a traditional Turkish bath treatment at the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam; sampling the hip cafe and bar scenes in Karaköy, Galata, Asmalımescit and Cihangir; shopping in Galata and Çukurcuma; and winding down at night in one of the many glam rooftop bars and hopping meyhanes (taverns) in this part of town.

  15. Highlights for One Day in Istanbul

    We have one full day in Istanbul and would like to spend it walking around the main sites of Istanbul. Could you recommend a general route or itinerary to take in the “best of Istanbul” in a day? We’re staying at the Sirkeci Mansion (good location?) and visiting in early April. Thank you.

    Pam

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      You’ve chosen your hotel well – Sirkeci Mansion is located between Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu, so you’ll be able to walk to both. It’s also known for its high levels of service. It is impossible to explore both sides of the Galata Bridge in one day, so I would recommend spending your day walking around the Old City and then heading to Beyoğlu in the evening. Start by walking through Gülhane Park, which is located next to your hotel, so that you can admire the thousands of tulips that bloom there in April. Then head up the cobbled street next to the Archaeological Museum and into the first court of Topkapı Palace. From there, move on to Sultanahmet Square, home to both Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. Don’t overlook the Aya Sofya tombs just before you arrive in the square. Next, wander around the ancient Hippodrome, consider visiting the Basilica Cistern and then continue west to the Grand Bazaar. After wandering through its labyrinthine laneways and stopping for a cheap and quick lunch at one of the many food stands here, move on to the Süleymaniye Camii, the most magnificent Ottoman mosque in the city. Then backtrack to the Grand Bazaar and head down Çakmakçılar or Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu to the bustling shopping quarter around the Spice Bazaar, which is close to your hotel. This walk will take half a day with no museum or mosque stops, and a full day if you decide to visit three or four of these (limit yourself to two if Topkapı is one of these, as that requires a half-day in itself). At night, head over the Galata Bridge, where the Istanbul’s best bars, restaurants, and clubs are located.

  16. Best Neighborhood of Istanbul for First Timer

    What would you recommend as the best neighborhood of Istanbul for a first timer? We have 4 nights in the city. We love history and culture (but admittedly know very little about Turkish history). We are not fond of overly tourist areas but understand if you want to be near the action you have to compromise. I wouldn’t call us foodies but visiting a few good Turkish restaurants would definitely be of interest. Thoughts?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      As you’re not particularly fond of touristy areas (a good call!), I would avoid Sultanahmet and instead stay in Karaköy, a hip area next to the Galata Bridge in Beyoğlu. This part of town was settled by the Genoese in the 13th century, and when you explore the narrow streets here and in neighbouring Galata you’ll encounter plenty of reminders of the area’s Byzantine and Ottoman past. From Karaköy,, the major sights in Sultanahmet and around the Grand Bazaar are only a short tram trip away. And returning on foot is easy, as it’s all downhill. If you choose to stay here there are plenty of great boutique hotels to choose from, as well as a vibrant bar, cafe, and restaurant scene dominated by young locals rather than tourists, so you’ll really get a taste of city life.

  17. Bosphorus Tour / Fastest Way from Istanbul to Santorini

    My husband and I will be in Istanbul in early May. Besides the major sites (which we will walk to) we’d like to see the Bosphorus. What is the best way to experience the Bosphorus? Tour, local ferry, walking along the shore, private tour – or perhaps some combination of these? Also, what is the fastest way from Istanbul to Santorini. We are on a tight schedule and really only have time for 2 or 3 days in Istanbul, 2 or 3 in Santorini, and 1 or 2 days in between. Should we go through the Greek Islands by ferry to Santorini or fly? Is there a direct ferry to Santorini from Istanbul or (more likely) nearby from the Turkish coast? Thank you, Tanya.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      There’s loads to see on the Bosphorus so it’s important to plan your day(s) carefully. If you only have a half-day to spare, it might be best to head to the ferry dock at Eminönü and hop on one of the many boats offering short tours. These run every day in May, take between one and two hours and cost around TL12 per ticket. You’ll see sights on both the Asian and European sides of the strait but there’s no opportunity to alight from the boat.

      If you have a full day available there are a number of options. The most popular (though crowded and touristy) is the Full Bosphorus Cruise operated by Şehir Hatları. This leaves Eminönü at 10.35am every morning and sails the full length of the strait to Anadolu Kavağı. From there, you’ll be able to take the return ferry after a three-hour lunch stop or hop on a local bus to take you back to the Asian suburb of Üsküdar, which is known for its Ottoman-era mosques and is only a quick commuter ferry ride away from Eminönü. The Full Bosphorus Cruise is inexpensive (TL25 return, TL15 one way) but there’s not much to see in Anadolu Kavağı. And if you want to take the bus back to town, you’ll need an İstanbulkart.

      Perhaps a better alternative is to head to Kabataş at the Beyoğlu end of the tram line and buy a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off cruise operated by Dentur Avrasya. Aim to take the first ferry of the day at 12.45pm and then alight to visit pretty Küçüksu Kasrı, built as a hunting lodge in 1856 and now open as museum – there’s a waterfront café right next door that’s perfect for a simple lunch or tea break. Then take the 2.50pm ferry to the ornate palace of Berlerbeyı, built in 1865 as a residence for Sultan Abdül Aziz I and his family. After taking the compulsory guided tour of its amazing interior you can head back to the ferry dock to catch the last service of the day back to Kabataş at 5.10pm. A ferry ticket costs TL15. Note that neither Küçüksu Kasrı nor Berlerbeyı are open on Mondays and Thursdays.

      Also, if you and your husband are foodies, you might like to consider the Born on the Bosphorus tour operated by the expert crew at Culinary Backstreets. This focusses on food and visits three very different Bosphorus neighbourhoods (one on the European side and two on the Asian side), giving a fascinating glimpse into the local lifestyle.

  18. Which Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul?

    We will be in Istanbul and Greece in late April and have heard great things from friends about the Four Seasons Istanbul but now that I look there appears to be 2 Four Seasons hotels and I can’t determine which is more appropriate for our stay. We are a couple in our 30s. We want to do lots of sightseeing, particularly the Agia Sofia, during our 3 day stay in Istanbul. We will then spend 1 week in Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini before returning to London. Please advise.

    Thanks,
    Paula

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Yes, there are 2 Four Seasons in Istanbul – Four Seasons Sultanahmet and The Four Seasons on the Bosphorus. They are both fantastic hotels but very different. The Sultanahment Four Seasons is in the heart of the historical district with most of the top sites (including the Agia Sofia) within walking distance. It is in a converted prison and is just loaded with character and charm. It does not have a pool, however (a big deal to some, not a high priority for others). The Bosphorus Fours Seasons is a little outside the city (about a 30 minute taxi drive) and has a beautiful location on the water. The pool is huge and one of the best in Istanbul. The hotel is in a converted palace (yes, a different feel than a converted prison) and is all about luxury amenities, leisure, and comfort. You can’t go wrong with either but since you’re in Istanbul primarily for sightseeing I would lean towards the Four Seasons Sultanahmet.

  19. Best Time to Visit Istanbul / What Neighborhood / Istanbul to Santorini

    We are planning a trip to Turkey and Greece for the summer. Are plan is to fly from Paris to Istanbul, spend a 3 days in Istanbul, then to Greece for 2 weeks, then back to Istanbul (where we will meet our daughter) and spend 3 more days there. We are interested in beaches, history, good food, and boat trips on the Bosphorus. Here are our questions:

    1) What is the best time of year to visit Istanbul and Greece?
    2) What is the best neighborhood of Istanbul for us to stay? We have had a few recommendations. Is the Sultanahmet or Beyoglu a better neighborhood for tourists?
    3) What is the best way to get from Istanbul to Santorini? Our main interest in Greece is Santorini but we’d also like to see one or two other islands and maybe Athens? Should we fly direct from Istanbul to Santorini or fly to Athens and then ferry to the islands?

    Thanks.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      1) The best times to visit Istanbul and the best times to visit the Greek islands are a little different but the best time to visit both would be June and September.
      2) The 2 best neighborhoods to stay are Sultanahmet and Beyoglu. I would stay at Sultanahmet at the start of your trip (probably when you’ll be more interested in sightseeing) and Beyoglu at the end (when you’d probably want to cap your trip with a few great meals and some shopping). Sultanahmet is where most of the top sights of Istanbul are located. Beyoglu has great shopping, restaurants, boutique hotels, and art galleries.
      3) To get from Istanbul to Santorini you’ll need to fly via Athens (there are no direct flights between Istanbul and Santorini). If you wanted to spend a day or two in Athens then you could stop there and take the ferry onwards.

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