It is no secret that the unique charm of Istanbul is one of a kind. Straddling between Europe and Asia, the city has quite a bit to offer and you want to be staying in the right area to get the best experience. After spending 10 days in Istanbul and a fair amount of research, we’ve got a pretty good idea of where to stay in Istanbul and all the best hotels to recommend you for each area!
Each area has its own charm and its pros & cons. So it really depends on what you’re looking for on your trip to Istanbul. During our 10-day trip to Istanbul, we first spent 2 nights in the Sultanahmet area and then stayed in the Galata/Karakoy area for the remaining days. For us, that was perfect to maximise the first 2 days for sightseeing and the rest to just chill, discover restaurants, and soak up the city. Anyhow, keep reading on in this article to find out what each area has to offer and book your next stay in Istanbul!
Which Area to Stay in Istanbul
If you’re only visiting for a few days, you could consider staying in the Sultanahmet area where major attractions such as Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, etc. are literally at your doorstep and there are plenty of photo spots for an iconic Istanbul rooftop picture. But don’t say I didn’t warn you, not only is it touristy but the food is pretty poor in this area. For this reason, I don’t particularly rate Sultanahmet as the best area to stay but it’s certainly the most convenient for sightseeing.
Our favourites are the more modern areas of Beyoğlu (i.e. Galata & Karakoy) and Besiktas. Both are popular location picks to stay in Istanbul, have more of a European vibe, and are home to plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops. You can also feel more of the beat and pulse of the city in this area. Food and accommodation are generally a little bit cheaper and more modern around there. Additionally, it’s still central enough for sightseeing.
Alternatively, the Asian side of Istanbul (i.e. the Anatolian side) such as Uskudar and Kadikoy presents a different and more local feel of the city. This doesn’t mean you’d miss out on sightseeing as the European side of the city is just a ferry ride away! We personally enjoyed the Kadikoy area a little bit more than Uskudar. But either way, everything on the Asian side is noticeably cheaper and offers a different buzz.
Best Hotels to Stay in Istanbul Turkey
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Where to stay in Sultanahmet Old City Istanbul
Why should you stay at Sultanahmet Istanbul? Sultanahmet is the cultural and historic heart of Istanbul. It’s a good location to stay if you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time and only for 2-3 days. Nearby attractions include Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, etc. Furthermore, if you’re looking for an iconic Istanbul rooftop photo spot, Sultanahmet is where you’d find them. The downside is that the Sultanahmet area is very touristy and restaurant options tend to be rather poor.
Situated in the heart of the Old City, Henna Hotel is the perfect affordable boutique hotel to stay in when visiting Istanbul. Not only is the hotel just a stone throw’s away from the famous Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, but the hotel also has a beautiful rooftop area that offers a direct view of the two landmarks and the perfect Instagram shot! It is one of the more modern hotels in the area and is of great value for money. This is the hotel we stayed at for the first few days during our 10-day Istanbul trip and we enjoyed it there. Read more about our review of Henna Hotel Istanbul here.
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Another hotel that boasts a fantastic location for sightseeing in the Sultanahmet area is the Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel. Albeit a little bit small, their rooms are generally modern and comfortable. The hotel features traditional Ottoman-style architecture and its highlight ought to be their outdoor swimming pool with views of Hagia Sophia clearly visible in the background. Turkish bath and spa treatments are also available should you be looking to pamper yourself on your holiday to Istanbul. All in all, it is no doubt quite a popular pick if you decide to stay in the Old City of Istanbul.
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay at the heart of Old City Istanbul with all the grandeur and character, AJWA Sultanahmet should definitely be your top pick. Each room is a masterpiece of art, featuring luxurious modern furnishing with traditional Ottoman-style accents and Damascus mother-of-pearl decor. Without a doubt, it is definitely a place for style, luxury, and comfort. Plenty of exquisite artworks from various famous Azerbaijan artists are showcased around the hotel and its rooftop also boasts breathtaking views of the Marmara Sea, the Princes Islands and, of course, Sultanahmet.
Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton
As part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, the Hagia Sofia Mansions offers elegant hotel rooms to cater for your stay in Istanbul. Located on a charming cobblestone street, the hotel features timeless Baroque-style furnishing and a gorgeous courtyard for dining. In addition to their spa and pool facilities, each room also has its own Turkish Hammam and deep soaking bathtub to help you relax after a busy day of exploring the city.
Four Seasons at Sultanahmet
Four Seasons Hotels always have the best locations and offers world-class luxurious comfort. The Four Seasons at Sultanahmet is no exception. A fun little fact, did you know the hotel is actually set in a former jailhouse? Worry not, there’s nothing jail-like anymore in the building. The building now showcases a romantic neoclassical decor and features modernly polished rooms and marble bathrooms with a deep soaking tub. Its rooftop lounge offers great views all over the Old City and there are also luxurious spa & wellness facilities at the hotel.
Where to stay in Galata & Karakoy (Beyoğlu)
Why should you stay in Galata / Karakoy Istanbul? Galata and Karakoy are the heart of European culture in Istanbul and a modern up & coming area. It’s the perfect location to stay if you are looking for food & shopping without being far away from major sights. Nearby attractions include Galata Tower, Galataport, Istiklal Street, Taksim Square. Additionally, historical sights in the Old City are just across the Galata Bridge and not too far away.
Ecole St. Pierre Hotel
Ecole St. Pierre Hotel is practically located right next to the Galata Tower and is very centrally located for exploring modern European Istanbul. It is revamped from a historical French primary school building and also comes with Italian history. Expect a chic and charming boutique-style hotel stay at Ecole St. Pierre, with beautiful courtyards and options to choose between modern and historical rooms. An extra little history fact: you can find remains of old Byzantine city/defence walls still existing inside their restaurant!
Georges Hotel Galata
Georges Hotel Galata is one of the most sought-after hotels in the area. The hotel is particularly known for its spacious balconies and stunning views of the Bosphorus & the Golden Horn. It is an award-winning luxury boutique hotel housed in a restored historical building but with all the contemporary flourishing for a modern stylish stay. Moreover, Georges Hotel Galata has got a lovely rooftop restaurant and its central location means it’s only within a 5-minute walk to reach the likes of Galata Tower, Istiklal Avenue, and the Karakoy neighbourhood.
Relatively new to the Galata/Karakoy area, you can trust that Root Karakoy can give you a comfortable modern stay when in Istanbul. The hotel is just a few steps away from the Karakoy waterfront and is within walking distance, albeit uphill, to the likes of Galata Tower and Istiklal Avenue. You can find a lovely lobby lounge & bar at the hotel to mingle, as well as a lovely dining area at the mezzanine floor and spa facilities. Basically, it has everything you need for a great city break in Istanbul at an affordable price.
The Bank Hotel Istanbul
The stately bank facade of The Bank Hotel Istanbul oozes modern European charm. As one would expect, the hotel is no short of elegance and is full of curated art for a tasteful stay in Istanbul. Its rooftop restaurant & bar is a popular hit, boasting international cuisine and spectacular views towards the Old City. In addition, plenty of art galleries and museums are located nearby the hotel and the Galata Tower is just a few minutes away on foot.
Soho House Istanbul
You may already be familiar with the Soho House brand in London, so you would know Soho House Istanbul is no exception in being the trendy hip hotel in the area. The hotel encompasses 3 original buildings, including the Chancery and the Annex, a new Glass Building, and the members’ club 19th century Palazzo Corpi. Additionally, its beautiful courtyard is home to the Cecconi restaurant and there are plenty of hip restaurants just a stone’s throw’s away from the hotel along Istiklal Avenue.
The Tomtom Suites is an all-suite hotel in Istanbul situated in the multicultural and vibrant Galata area. It is tucked away on an uphill quiet street between İstiklal Avenue and the Karaköy waterfront, and serves as a convenient location for sightseeing and city experiences. Each suite boasts huge bedrooms and hammam-style bathrooms decked out with whirlpool baths. Additionally, its rooftop lounge also offers spectacular panoramic views as far as the Princes’ Islands.
Where to Stay in Besiktas Istanbul
Why should you stay at Besiktas Istanbul? Besiktas is the hip & upscale hub of Istanbul where you can find every luxury international hotel name around the area. It is similar to its neighbouring Beyoğlu area for European vibes and offers plenty of food & shopping options. It is still close enough to the heart of the city and easy to travel around to and from. Nearby attractions include the Dolmabahce Palace, Ortakoy Mosque, Taksim Square, and is close to the Nisantasi area for shopping malls. Furthermore, if you are a football fan, it is also home to the Turkish Besiktas football club!
Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
Looking for a romantic stay in Istanbul? The Çırağan Palace Kempinski will make you feel like royalty in its dreamy 19th-century Ottoman palace! The 5-star hotel boasts an iconic infinity pool with views of the Bosphorus as well as stunning views of the Bosphorus Bridge and Maiden’s Tower. Similar to other Kempinski Hotels around the world, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski ooze luxury and style. If you’re really looking to splash out, this should be your top pick.
Swissotel The Bosphorus
Another top-rated luxury hotel in the area is the Swissotel The Bosphorus. Stunning rooms aside, the hotel also boasts an exclusive rooftop pool and an award-winning spa. The hotel is tastefully decorated by world-renowned designer Khuan Chew and features a unique mix of Swiss design and Turkish culture. Location-wise, it is bang on near the Dolmabahce Palace and Ortakoy Mosque, as well as easily walkable within a couple of minutes to Taksim Square.
The Stay Bosphorus
The Stay Bosphorus is located right by the waters and is situated near the picturesque Ortakoy. It boasts magnificent views over the Bosphorus and features late 19th-century architecture of an Ottoman-clan mansion with a slick contemporary touch. The family who built the original building were also the architects of other well-known architectural masterpieces in the city including the Beylerbeyi Palace and Ortakoy Mosque. Above all, it’s a modern and comfortable place to stay for travelling to Istanbul.
Turkuaz Suites Bosphorus Hotel
Turkuaz Suites Bosphorus Hotel is a stylish modern all-suite hotel and a relatively more affordable option in the area without compromising in luxury and comfort. All rooms are very well-equipped to make you feel at home and some also with a private terrace to soak up the city. Additionally, the hotel is surrounded by design galleries and is within walkable distance to many cafes & restaurants.
Where to stay in Uskudar & Kadikoy Istanbul
Why should you stay in Uskudar & Kadikoy Istanbul? Both Uskudar and Kadikoy are located on the Asian side of Istanbul, which is less touristy compared to the European side and where you can get a more local feel of the city. Kadikoy, especially, is known as a lively gathering and hangout place for young locals. Nearby attractions include the Beylerbeyi Palace, Maiden’s Tower, Camlica Mosque, Bagdat Avenue (a.k.a the Istiklal Street of the Asian side). The European side of Istanbul can be easily reached via ferry operating from either Kadikoy or Uskudar.
Bosphorus Palace Hotel
The Bosphorus Palace Hotel is housed in a gorgeous restored historical building by the Bosphorus Strait. It features splendid rooms in Neo-Ottoman style, lavish gardens, as well as stunning views of the Bosphorus and the European side of Istanbul. Furthermore, it is very close to the Beylerbeyi Historical Summer Palace and the Bosphorus Bridge. Its elegance and grandeur have no doubt earned a name for one of the top hotels to stay in Istanbul.
Sumahan – on the Water
The Sumahan sits along the Bosphorus Strait and is renovated from a 19th-century distillery. Its rooms feature original wood-beamed ceilings or fireplaces, complemented with modern furnishings and Turkish-style marbled bathrooms. Facilities include a chic waterfront restaurant, traditional Turkish hammam, fitness centre, etc. To get to the European side, The Sumahan is only a five-minute walk away from Çengelköy Ferry Pier.
Wyndham Grand Istanbul Kalamış Marina Hotel
Looking for a proper relaxing holiday in Istanbul? Wyndham Grand Istanbul Kalamış Marina has everything to offer for a holiday to remember. The hotel has 2 outdoor pools, a heated indoor pool, and a 3500m² spa and fitness centre. Also, it is only a 10-minute walk away from the vibrant shopping street of Bagdat Avenue and the lively areas of Kadikoy. As mentioned, you can still easily reach the European side of Istanbul via ferry and not miss out on major sights of the city.