Where to Stay in Istanbul

Monday 18 November 2013

It's been months since our trip to Istanbul and since I wrote my first post, post-trip.  It was one of those trips that has been swirling around in my head ever since we returned and while I've been meaning to blog about it, I also wasn't ready to share it.  When an experience was really good, it can be hard to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and sometimes, it's just nice to let it settle and be what it is without the pressure to articulate it.  All that to say, I think it's time.

Istanbul is a really, really big city that straddles both the Europe and Asia continents and having never been there before, it was a little overwhelming trying to figure out the best place to stay in terms of location and hotels.  (And we all know I'm a little nuts about finding good accommodation.)

My research told me that the majority of the main tourist sites were found in Fatih, also known as Old Town, in the European part of the city.  It also told me that traffic in this booming city can be horrendous which led me to believe that it might be easiest to stay in Old Town.  Generally, I don't like to stay in the tourist centres - while the sites are fantastic, it's nice to be able to escape the crowds and the restaurants geared towards foreigners at the end of the day.  So, I compromised and booked the first few nights in Sultanhamet before we'd cross the Galata Bridge to Beyoglu for our final couple of nights.

Our first hotel was Hotel Sultania located on a pedestrian street lined with restaurants and hotels, mere minutes from Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and The Blue Mosque.  The hotel itself is relatively small with 42 rooms all named after famous Sultan's wives in the Ottoman Empire and it's decorated with traditional Ottoman style.  Our room was spacious, comfortable and very clean and while the decor was a little kitschy, it seemed fitting for the area.  The staff was also really friendly and intent on making sure we had a lovely stay.

Our stay in Fatih was certainly convenient.  We didn't need taxis or public transit as everything in the area was easily reachable on foot and it allowed us to hit the main sites within the first couple of days.  Finding restaurants was a little more difficult as there were hundreds around but the kind with inflated prices and that don't feel particularly authentic.  But, we enjoyed the convenience.

After a couple of full days visiting the sites that make Istanbul a famous tourist destination, we were definitely ready to cross the Golden Horn to our second hotel, The House Hotel Galatasaray.  As our taxi weaved up a tiny, one way road lined with junk shops, I did have a moment of panic wondering if perhaps I hadn't made the right choice but the feeling was quickly dispelled.  In fact, booking this hotel might have been one of the best decisions I've ever made..

There are three House Hotels in Istanbul all designed by well-known Turkish designers, Autoban and all located in restored apartment buildings.  (This company also claims the scrumptious and beautiful House Cafés found throughout the city.)  The Galatasaray was the first of the 3 hotels to open and is found just down the hill from Istikali Avenue, a popular, pedestrian shopping road leading up to Taksim Square, yet set amongst apartment buildings, galleries, and independent shops.

Our room was stunning.  In fact, upon pushing my bags to the side, I asked Joe if we could move in.  The attention to detail was evident and it felt welcoming and homey yet luxurious.  The shower in the middle of the room was surprisingly quite functional and the lounge on the top floor was impeccable with fantastic views over the neighbourhood.  We loved this hotel.

In the end, both Hotel Sultania and The House Hotel Galatasaray were great choices.  For a first visit to Istanbul, if you have the time, I highly recommend choosing to stay in a couple of different neighbourhoods and especially outside of Fatih for a more well-rounded view of the city.  If we are lucky enough to return to Istanbul (and my goodness I hope we are,) we'll probably forgo Fatih and stick to Beyoglu... and probably the House Hotel Galatasaray.

-Hotel Sultania often has different deals featured on their website.  We were able to secure free transport from the airport.
-We booked The House Hotel Galatasaray through Design Hotels for a better rate.


  1. I'll definitely be remembering these when we make it to Istabul sometime. Look like great hotels!

  2. you are so inspiring me to go there. i know what you mean about a place swirling around your head, i can't leave tokyo behind!

  3. Just stumbled upon your blog via bloglovin' and I love it! Beautiful pics. I'll keep this in mind in the event that I visit Istanbul :)

    xx, Christie

  4. we were in Istanbul this summer.. we stayed at the Hotel Armada also in the SultanAhmet area.. such a wonderful trip.

  5. So so so lovely! Um, is that shower directly in the room or is that just an extravagant bathroom with a desk in it?

  6. I need to take a lesson from you and Jess on waiting to post til its right. I usually feel like I need to post right after a trip, which I've only created for myself! These rooms are gorgeous! I'm bookmarking now if we get a chance to head to Istanbul. Thanks for the recs!

    1. Sometimes I like posting right away when everything is fresh - it's nice to be able to document all of the little details that get forgotten down the road. Other times, I like to keep it a little closer to my heart for awhile - perhaps that's the sign of a really special trip!

  7. I can't wait to visit Istanbul again as an adult! I went when I was a surly teen and it was not the most memorable experience :) I am bookmarking this in my wanderlust wishlist for Turkey!

  8. The house hotels are the BEST, right? I wasn't lucky enough to stay there, but toured and photographed all three locations a few years ago for a magazine story and fell in love with the Galatasaray hotel. Those rooms are amazing and the neighborhood feel offers a totally different side to Istanbul that most visitors don't get the chance to see. I need to find a way to get back to Istanbul soon, it is one of my favorite cities!

    1. That is so cool that you photographed all 3 properties! I had no idea!

      Istanbul is a pretty special place, isn't it? I really hope we get back there some day too.

  9. *sigh* Istanbul. Loved this post and glad you loved Istanbul!


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