Hotel Empress Zoe in Istanbul, Turkey

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Updated: August 13, 2020

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Review of Hotel Empress Zoe in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hotel Empress Zoe – Enchanting historic hotel in the heart of the Sultanahmet.

The five historic houses that make up this lovely hotel are woven together by a labyrinth of stairways and enclose a serene and shady garden. Although you couldn’t be more in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district, Empress Zoe is as tranquil as a mountain escape. Art is everywhere in the form of local textiles, unique framed paintings, or whimsical frescoes. None of the 25 rooms are alike and every turn brings a surprising touch of simple beauty. The garden is equally well-tended, with flowers and ivy pouring around café tables, and is enlivened by a friendly orange cat. From the shade of a tree, you can gaze into the crumbling and abandoned depths of the oldest hamam in Istanbul that sits just next door. The service is exceptionally friendly.

Hotel Empress Zoe – Location

  • Address: Akbiyik Cad. No 10, Sultanahmet, Istanbul.
  • Nearest Metro/Tram: Sultanahmet (0.4 mile, 9-minute walk).
  • Area: Right in the heart of Sultanahmet, off a calm and safe street.
  • How to Get There: The tram is the handiest option from here, although the hotel can arrange taxis and drivers.
  • Handy to: The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkaki Palace.

Hotel Empress Zoe – The Basics

  • Ages: Children will love the grounds and garden. The convenient location and attentive service make this a good choice for families.
  • View: Rooms have views either of the garden or the city (including the Blue Mosque) and Sea of Marmara.
  • Parking: No parking on-site but there’s a private lot a few doors down where guests can park for €15 per day.
  • Extras: The ambiance here puts you in a magical, calming Istanbul, making you want to hang out in the garden and in your room more than you expect. Don’t miss climbing up to the rooftop terrace for views of the Blue Mosque and the surrounding architecture.
  • When to Book: April through June and September through October are the busiest months, though it’s advisable to book at least 2 months in advance any time of year, particularly if you have a special room in mind.
  • How to Book: Booking.com will have the best rates.
  • Phone: +90 212 518 2504
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Website: emzoe.com

Hotel Empress Zoe – Amenities

  • Pool: No pool.
  • Spa: No spa but the staff can recommend ones nearby.
  • Fitness Center: No fitness center.
  • For Disabled Guests: The historic nature of the hotel means that it isn’t wheelchair accessible. There are a ground-floor suite and a triple room that require going up only a few steps and are a good choice for those with limited mobility.

Hotel Empress Zoe – Food and Drink

  • Restaurant: No restaurant, but numerous dining options nearby.
  • Lounge/Bar: The breakfast area turns into a bar at night.
  • Breakfast: An excellent Turkish buffet breakfast is included in the rate. Take it out to enjoy in the garden.
  • Room Service: 24-hour room service available.

Hotel Empress Zoe – Rooms

  • Room Types: Because each room is so unique, there are 19 room types at Empress Zoe for the 25 available rooms.
  • Smoking Rooms: The hotel is smoke-free.
  • Best Room: The Penthouse Suite is a luxurious nest with a hamam-style bathroom and tons of windows with views of the Blue Mosque, and is the top choice for couples.
  • For Families: The Maison Zoe Duplex Suite is the best choice for families, with 2 bedrooms that include a queen bed, double bed, and 2 single beds, as well as a to-die-for little terrace that looks out to the garden and the sea.

Hotel Empress Zoe – Local Transport

  • Walking: The hotel is an easy walk to all of the historic sights of the Old Town.
  • Metro, Tram, and Bus: The Sultanahmet tram stop is a 9-minute walk (0.4 mile) from the hotel.
  • Taxis, Uber, Lyft: Uber operates in Istanbul, or the hotel can call you a reliable taxi.

Hotel Empress Zoe – What’s Nearby?

Recommended Tours

Best Nearby Restaurants

  • Balikçi Sabahattin – A famous fine dining seafood restaurant, where you choose your own fish from a display. Enjoy in a beautiful garden setting, although the service can be a hit or a miss. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Cooking Alaturka – Sample Anatolian specialties in multi-course meals and learn how to cook them at the school here if you fall in love with the dishes (you might). 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Matbah – Another restaurant specializing in Ottoman palace cuisine, Matbah has a fresh, seasonal menu served in a magnificent, modern indoor-outdoor setting with views of the Zeynep Sultan Mosque. 8-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Sultanahmet Köftecisi – Expect to queue with locals at lunch for this famous place’s meatballs and bean salad, washed down with an ayran yogurt drink. 9-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Pudding Shop – This place was the epicenter of the 1960s and 70s hippie trail and today you’ll find bland food but plenty of nostalgia. It’s worth stopping in for a tea if you’re into this era of Istanbul’s history. 10-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Çigdem Pastanesi – Central, long-running, and popular spot for delicious cakes and pastries. There’s also tea and decent coffee. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Sedef Iskender – In the running as Istanbul’s best doner kebap. Dine in the simple café or get your food wrapped to go. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Deraliye Ottoman Cuisine – The dishes here were once served in Ottoman palaces and each comes with its own history. There’s a good wine selection, great service, and a cooking school as well. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Aslan Restaurant – Hidden upstairs near the Grand Bazaar, this friendly place has crisp white tablecloths, a well-priced menu of Turkish favorites, and truly fantastic deserts. Waiters speak English and are happy to cater to the few tourists who find their way here. 16-minute walk (0.7 mile).

Best Nearby Cafes

  • Dervis Aile Çay Bahçesi – Stop in for a coffee, tea, and toast, with a view of the Blue Mosque and great people-watching. Shady outdoor seating with comfortable chairs. 5-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Café Turing – Comfortable coffee house right off the Hippodrome, serving traditional Turkish coffee and tea. 8-minute walk (0.3 mile).

Best Nearby Bar

  • A’Ya Rooftop Lounge – Grab a cocktail and mezze with the best view on this side of town (in the summer). It’s atop the Four Seasons Hotel. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).

Nearby Shopping and Cool Shops

  • Iznik Classics – For high quality, handmade ceramics, this is one of the best options in Istanbul. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Arasta Bazaar – A low-key alternative to the Grand Bazaar, this small, traditional market has some classy shops mixed among cheap souvenir stalls, carpet sellers, and more. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Cocoon – One of the best textile shops in Arasta Bazaar that sells silk scarves, cushion covers, and more from Central Asia. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Jennifer’s Hamam – Jennifer has some of the finest hamam items, from Turkish towels to soaps, in the city. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Galeri Kayseri – Excellent English language bookseller with lots of books about Turkey. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).

Nearby Attractions

  • Topkapi Palace – This ornate, grand complex was the court of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to 19th centuries, and vies with Hagia Sophia as the city’s top sight. It’s a huge place, so give it at least a half day, and don’t hesitate to pay a little extra to get into the harem with its hallways, exquisite tiles, and fascinating history. 5-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Carpet Museum – Learn about Anatolian carpet making via examples from mosques around the country. 5-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Hagia Sophia – The history here is incredible: consecrated as a church in 537 AD, converted to a mosque in 1453, and made into a museum in 1935. The interior inspires audible gasps. Don’t miss the mosaics on the upper level. 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Museum of Great Palace Mosaics – 250 square meters of an estimated 3,500-square-meter mosaic pavement is found at this museum. The colors and images are definitely worth the visit. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • The Blue Mosque – Easily the most photogenic building in the city, the best way to take in the elegant domes and minarets of this mosque are by walking towards it from the Hippodrome. The interior isn’t as breath taking but is worth a visit. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Hippodrome – Now a central square and city park (with an incredible view of the Blue Mosque), this was where chariot races took place in the time of the Byzantine Empire. Check out the pink granite Obelisk of Theodosius, brought from Egypt in AD 390, at the center of the Hippodrome. 9-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Basilica Cistern – The largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul is a dark, cool respite from the city streets. Walkways lead by subtly-lit columns to the Medusa head column base. 9-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts – An astonishing collection of antique carpets, calligraphy, and many other artifacts dating from the 8th through 19th centuries are on display at this excellent museum. Note that because it’s less visited than other major sites, this is a great place to pick up an Istanbul Museum Card (discounted rates if you visit several museums), without having to queue. 9-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Istanbul Archaeological Museums – Three museums hold the treasures of Topkaki Palace: The Museum of the Ancient Orient holds large pre-Islamic statues, reliefs, and more; the Archaeology Museum has sarcophagi and a huge display on Istanbul’s history; and the Tile Pavilion has some beautiful ceramics and tiles among its collection. 11-minute walk (0.6 mile).
  • Grand Bazaar – A labyrinthine, centuries-old, chaotic, and colorful shopping bazaar where sellers hawk everything from Turkish Delight to old books. 20-minute walk (1 mile).

Nearby Market or Grocery

  • Greens – There are quite a few simple markets all around town, but this grocery store has a particularly good selection of fresh goods and even sells wine. 13-minute walk (0.6 mile).

Hotel Empress Zoe – The Hotel

The hotel is a mix of modern and ancient.

Hotel Empress Zoe feels at once a thousand years old and like a stylish modern home.

Original walls are maintained.

The two sisters who own the hotel have used the original walls and structure as part of the design.

The garden is beautiful.

You may never actually want to leave the beautiful and serene garden.

Breakfasts are worth it.

Breakfasts are exceptional and prepared with love.

The double room's bed has an embroidered canopy.

The double room with a view has an exquisite Turkish embroidered bed canopy.

Another room also has a canopied four-poster bed.

The large double room has similar embroidery on the four-poster bed.

Some rooms offer sea views.

Sea views look out over wonderful rooftops and spires.

Rooms are uniquely decorated.

Each room has its own unique furniture and fine textiles.

Plants climb up the hotel.

Plants climb up from the garden to frame views from rooms with terraces.

The roof terrace has wonderful views.

You can almost feel the sea breeze from up here.

One of the rooms has an authentic hammam bathroom.

When Empress Zoe says a “hammam bathroom”, expect to find one with the same fixtures and fine marble as the best hammams in Istanbul.

The city's oldest hammam is next to the hotel.

The oldest hammam in the city sits abandoned next to the hotel and you can see it from some rooms.

Staircases are also beautiful.

Each staircase is individual and beautiful.

The common spaces are very communal.

The indoor communal spaces are very inviting.

Some rooms have nice garden views.

Garden view rooms on the upper floors look down on this.

Beautiful art can be found throughout the hotel.

Truly beautiful art graces the walls of the rooms and throughout the hotel.

The hotel has a friendly cat.

This orange cat is particularly friendly and likes hanging out with guests in the garden.

Cigdem serves delicious cakes and pastries.

Sweet tooth? Walk past the Blue Mosque and along the Hippodrome to Cigdem for its delicious cakes and pastries.

Turing serves good Turkish tea and coffee.

Wander down the back street to get a Turkish coffee or tea at Turing.

Arasta Bazaar has some good shopping.

It’s only a few minutes down the back road to get to easy going, fun shopping at Arasta Bazaar.

Cocoon sells fine textiles.

Within Arasta Bazaar is Cocoon, a great stop for fine textiles.

Aslan restaurant is very cozy and friendly.

It’s worth the walk through the Hippodrome, along the main drag, and left towards the Grand Bazaar at the Column of Constantine, to get to the adorable and friendly Aslan restaurant.

The Blue Mosque is close by.

You actually walk around the Blue Mosque to reach the entrance from the hotel.

Iznik sells fine ceramics nearby.

It’s a quick walk down a delightful, quiet street to shop for some of the finest ceramics in town at Iznik.

Pudding Shop is a 1960s style restaurant.

Walk past the Blue Mosque and gardens to the main drag where you’ll find Pudding Shop, leftover from the 1960s hippie trail.

Sultanahmet Koftecisi is very popular with locals.

On that same main drag and past the Blue Mosque, queue up for delicious meatballs at lunch time with devoted locals at Sultanahmet Koftecisi.

Topkapi Palace's harem is a must-visit.

Take the backstreet and turn right at the Carpet Museum to reach Topkapi Palace, one of Istanbul’s top sights – and don’t miss this area, the harem.

The Basilica Cistern has a cool Medusa pillar.

Walk past the Blue Mosque and veer right around the gardens in the Hippodrome to get to this underground cistern and cool Medusa pillar base.

Cruise boats depart from the Eminonu Pier.

It’s a long walk through town or a quick hop on the tram to get to the Eminonu Pier from where, boats leave to cruise the Bosphorus Riiver.

Hagia Sofia is magnificent.

A short stroll down backstreets and past gardens takes you to the awe-inspiring Hagia Sofia.

The ancient Grand Bazaar is always busy.

It’s a long walk mostly down the main drag to reach the ancient, bustling, and colorful Grand Bazaar.

Sedef Iskender is known for its kebaps.

You get to walk past the Blue Mosque and through the Hippodrome to get one of the best kebaps in the city at Sedef Iskender.

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is near the Blue Mosque.

Walk around the Blue Mosque to get to the excellent but under-visited Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

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