Every city is unique, but there's nowhere akin to Istanbul. Straddling two continents, Istanbul (once Constantinople) has always been a place of vibrant fusion between east and west. The last stronghold of the Roman Empire, the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman capital, Istanbul's history is one of dramatic sieges and conquests, and of immense trading wealth. Much of Istanbul's glorious past is still visible and visitable. Amongst the famous domes of mosques and graceful Orthodox churches, visitors can see the Roman catacombs, Byzantine battlements, Ottoman palaces - some of which have now been converted into the best places to stay in Istanbul.
But Istanbul's golden days are certainly not behind it. This city is as lively as ever, packed with great restaurants, forward thinking galleries and 'hip' bars and clubs. It might be Istanbul's historic wonders which draw you here, but it might just be the modern wonders which draw you back.
Istanbul's position, on both sides of the Bosphorus, which is a narrow straight between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, can probably be held responsible for the city's importance and wealth, but also its desirability when it came to plunder.
For the modern day visitor it also means magical views and a number of waterfronts to explore. Most of Istanbul's most bucket-list-worthy sights are in the Sultanahmet District, but it's certainly getting out and about into Istanbul's other districts, and onto the water to explore further into the Golden Horn estuary.
Most visitors head immediately for the Sultanahmet district, where the city’s iconic sights – the 6th-century Aya Sofya cathedral, the great mosques, Topkapi Palace – cluster within walking distance of each other. As well as being home to a number of stylish boutique hotels, this is also where you'll find many of the best places to stay in Istanbul if you're on a budget.
Most of Istanbul's luxury hotels are located on the shores of the Bosphorus, across the Golden Horn from the historic centre.
Close to Taksim, the previously slightly seedy inner-city areas around Beyoglu and Cihangir are undergoing something of a renaissance, with new bars, clubs, restaurants. For hipsters it is easily one of the best places to stay in Istanbul.
Many of the best places to stay in Istanbul might appear to be fairly top end in terms of pricing, but there are still a sizable chunk of properties that are great value, whilst not scrimping on service. Our top picks are:
Istanbul (Ticarethane Sokak 15,)
Recently renovated in modern Turkish design and an unbeatable location. Superb rooftop bar-terrace where fantastic sea views can be enjoyed. Well designed uncluttered rooms with wall-hung killim rugs and traditional colours. An excellent base for exploring and reasonable rates too.
Istanbul (Mehmet Pasa Sokak 11/13)
A friendly oasis offering four-star comfort in the heart of the old town. Enjoy breakfast in the lovely garden courtyard and al fresco dining in the Turkish restaurant. Elegant rooms feature polished wood floors, kilims and wooden furniture. A real steal in a great location.
An elegant base for exploring the sights of Sultanahmet. Fantastic views over the city and sea from the roof top terrace. Rooms festure parquet floors and cream furnishings dotted with Turkish artifacts. The triple suites are ideal for groups or families.
Istanbul (Mumhane Cd No:31)
A small simple guesthouse close to the Bosphorus. Charming contemporary rooms have white walls, exposed brickwork and splashes of colour. A great location and excellent value.
Istanbul (Ş. Hüseyin Ay Sk No:50)
A highly modern hotel designed for the 21st century visitor, whether travelling alone, as a couple, in a group or as a family. Chic contemporary white rooms with all the mod cons. Meeting spaces, restaurant, bar and terrace. Excellent value too.
Istanbul (Akbiyik Caddesi 34110)
Well designed combination of period style and modern facilities in this Ottoman house and adjoining 15th-century Hammam. Attractively furnished rooms with antiques, Turkish rugs, wall-hangings and Islamic folk art. An ‘archaeological garden’ for relaxing in. A tranquil crashpad in central Istanbul.
Istanbul (Meşrutiyet Cd No:70)
A sophisticated collection of apartments with kitchenettes in a bustling area of Istanbul. Chic contemporary suites have parquet floors, quirky interior design, all the mod cons and stand alone bath tubs. A stylish spot for couples and families.
Luxury hotel in historic 19th century Neo-Renaissance mansion. Elegant rooms have funky individual decor, high ceilings, marble bathrooms and double glazed windows. Centrally located in city, within walking distance of sights including Galata Tower and Taksim Square. Roof terrace with city views.
Istanbul (No:12 Taksim)
Fun hotel in the heart of Taksim in Istanbul. Rooms modern and contemporary, with individual decor, free wifi, air conditioning and private balconies. Centrally located close to bars, restaurants and historical sites. Hip and stylish. Ideal for a city weekend break.
A gorgeous have of peace and tranquility in a quiet neighbourhood. Chic, contemporary, and understated living space filled with natural light, wooden floors, characterful pieces of furniture. Rooms and connecting rooms are spacious and modern. A unique spot with no frills attached.
Istanbul (Hayriye Hanım Sk,)
A quiet hotel in a traditional Turkish neighbourhood. Rooms are elegant with creamy furnishings. Swimming pool, restaurant, and roof top terrace bar. A charming spot and great value too.
Boutique hotel located in Sultanahmet, with a spectacular and unique panorama view from its roof top restaurant. Chic rooms in Ottoman style decor and friendly staff ensure great value for money. Ideally situated to explore Istanbul.
Uniquely furnished hotel which combines maritime design with a focus on comfort. Located between the old and new cities of Istanbul, allowing for easy forays into both sides of Turkey's capital. Full Turkish breakfast brought to your room, where anti-stress mattresses and LED TV come as standard.
Nestled in Cukurcuma, 'the Soho of Istanbul', Hammamhane is a renovated apartment-hotel. All rooms are uniquely designed with an eye to contrasting traditional and contemporary styles. Exposed brickwork is the backdrop to colourful yet clean furniture. All studio units boast fully equipped kitchens.
Istanbul (Bostanbaşı Cd No:19)
A striking Ottoman townhouse with enormous suites. Rooms and suites have high ceilings, chandeliers, floor to ceiling windows, parquet floors and creamy furnishings. Lovely lounge-bar-restaurant. A stylish, romantic, and family friendly spot in the Beyoglu district.
Istanbul (Mesrutiyet Cad, Asmalimescit, Beyoglu)
Housed on the top floor of a grand 1874 building, with a roof terrace and restaurant with views over the Galata District. This charming hotel has been restored maintaining its high ceilings, wooden floors & attractive period furniture together with the modern necessities to create an excellent hotel
A beautifully restored, luxury hotel with a slick, modern decor inspired by the original bank interior. Bedrooms are elegant with high ceilings and opulent details. The hotel boasts a swanky bar serving refined cocktails, a spa and fitness suite. Great location for exploring the city.
Istanbul (Teşvikiye Fırın Sk No:41)
A large and impressive art hotel with cutting edge modern design. Enormous rooms and suites have all the mod cons, contemporary furnishings, balconies, and lots of natural light. Excellent restaurant, spa, and art gallery. Very stylish, very central.
A sophisticated townhouse hotel in a fishing village outside Istanbul. Chic spacious rooms and suites in creams and ochres with stunning views over the Bosphorous. Restaurant, gym, and lots to do. Stylish and family friendly.
Istanbul (Mustafa Paşa Sk No:43)
A small stylish hotel with an excellent restaurant and spa in the heart of the Sultanahmet. Contemporary rooms and family rooms have parquet floors, plush furnishings, and balconies. An excellent restaurant and terrace with spectacular views.
Istanbul (Abdi İpekçi St No:34)
A super sophisticated hotel in Istanbul's most upmarket neighbourhood. Rooms and suites of epic proportions are sultry and sophisticated. Floor to ceiling windows, neutral tones, fireplaces, all the mod cons. Gym, meeting rooms, massage. Extremely sleek.
Istanbul (Tomtom Kaptan Sk No:18)
A superbly renovated former convent with chic, but understated rooms and suites. Contemporary rooms and suites have lots of natural light, subtle tones, parquet floors and all the mod cons. Delightful bistro, roof top terrace, and minutes from the best shopping. Stylish, not pretentious.
Set just back from Taksim Square in the heart of bustling Istanbul, this quiet and cool oasis blends contemporary interiors with understated Ottoman opulence. Welcoming staff and first class service. Magnificent roof terrace with stunning views from the 11th floor. Luxurious spa and two restaurants
Istanbul (No 34 Taksim)
An area of tranquillity in an otherwise busy part of Istanbul, this hotel offers everything needed for a break from the hectic city. Private garden, gym and traditional massage facilities offer a sense of calm, complimented by the Italian restaurant and bar. The hotel is almost emission free.
A collection of historic buildings, reminiscent of the city’s Ottoman past, converted to a stylish hotel next door to Aya Sofya. Picturesque painted wooden houses each with 10 en-suite rooms and apartments in Ottoman style - maroon velvet, gilt and ornate furniture. A lovely garden terrace bar.
One of Istanbul's more lively and stylish hotels. Chic contemporary design throughout. Rooms and suites some with four poster beds have all the mod cons, hot tubs, balconies. Excellent restaurant, cabana style terrace, and a bar that attracts party goers.
Istanbul (Kuleli Cd No:51)
Designer chic loft suites in a stunning location overlooking the Bosphorus. Loft-style suites have all the mod cons, crisp clean lines, fireplaces, polished wood floors, and kilim rugs. Excellent restaurant, terrace, and lots to do. Luxurious, romantic, and family friendly.
A sophisticated and contemporary hotel in Istanbul's arty Beyoglu district. Loft-style suites with wooden floors and large open spaces - ideal for the design conscious. Each room has a mini kitchen and microwave. Fantastic roof top sunbathing terrace. Well situated for getting around the city.
A beautiful white mansion on the water's edge. Sumptuous elegant rooms and suites in creams with all the mod cons and balconies. Wonderful riverside restaurant and bar. Easy access to all attractions. Romantic, gourmet, family friendly.
Istanbul (Meşrutiyet Cd No:98)
A grand hotel with traditional opulent interiors and sophisticated rooms and suites. Three restaurants to choose from, extensive spa, and gorgeous terraces. A stylish choice filled with historic grandeur.
Istanbul (Yildiz Mh.)
Pampering luxury in the former palace of Ottoman Sultans on the banks of the Bosphorus. Lavish interiors are reminiscent of glamour from a bygone era. Award winning restaurants, huge pool terrace, great spa, and celestial views over the Bosphorous. A wonderfully romantic destination.
A stunning hotel that combines modern design and timeless glamour. Stylish cosmopolitan rooms have parquet floors, elegant furniture, lots of natural light, marble bathrooms and giant balconies. Fantastic French restaurant and terrace. A very special hotel.
Istanbul (Askerocagi Caddesi 15)
An impressive luxury 5* hotel with stunning views of the Bosphorus. Elegant contemporary rooms with large windows, crisp linen, antique furniture and traditional artworks. Enjoy the award-winning spa, rooftop pool and wide selection of bars and restaurants. Ideal for business or pleasure.
Ottoman style grandeur in this converted prison. Elegant rooms with large windows, soft hues and antique furniture overlook the historic part of the city. A small but indulgent spa. Dine on phenomenal cuisine in the pretty courtyard. A luxurious choice ideally placed to explore the city.
Pure opulence in this gorgeous riverside property. The ultimate place for romance and indulgence. Rooms feature rich coloured fabrics and walls and mix modern luxuries with traditional artifacts. A world renowned spa, private boats, elegant dining spaces and a glorious pool. A truly spoiling stay.