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 (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 (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.
A comfortable base for exploring the sights of Sultanahmet with fantastic views over the city and sea from the roof top terrace cafe. Elegant rooms with parquet floors and cream furnishings. The triple suites are ideal for groups or families.
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.
Istanbul (Ticarethane Sokak 15,)
Recently renovated comfortable rooms and an unbeatable location at an affordable price - plus superb rooftop bar-terrace where delicious breakfasts and fantastic sea views can be enjoyed. Well designed uncluttered rooms with wall-hung killim rugs and traditional colours.
Istanbul (Akbiyik Caddesi 34110)
Well located combination of period style and modern facilities. Adjoining Ottoman houses and a 15th-century hammam. Attractively furnished rooms with antiques, Turkish rugs, wallhangings and Islamic folk art. Also, an ‘archaeological garden’ for relaxing in.
A collection of historic buildings, redolent 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 too.
Istanbul (Mehmet Pasa Sokak 11/13)
Friendly oasis offering four-star comfort with a surprisingly affordable price tag in the heart of the old town. A lovely garden courtyard and breakfast area. Rooms with polished wood floors, kilims and wooden furniture. A real steal in a great location.
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
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
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.
Modern all-suite hotel in a newly trendy part of the city. 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.
Special boutique hotel located right at the heart of Sultanahmet. It enjoys a spectacular and unique panorama from its excellent roof top restaurant - in fact nominated as the best hotel and restaurant by the New York Times. Chic rooms and suites in Ottoman style decor. Stunning.
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.
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)
Excellent leisure facilities, a good location in the newer part of the city, and some super-value special deals for visitors. Elegant contemporary rooms with excellent views over the Bosphorous, superb spa and pool, wide selection of bars and restaurants. Great for the business and pleasure.
Istanbul (Yildiz Mh.)
Pampering luxury in the former palace of Ottoman Sultans on the banks of the Bosphorus. Excellent seaside restaurant, huge pool terrace, highly regarded restaurants, great spa, and celestial views over the Bosphorous. A cocoon for sybarites.
Superb food with views to match, exceptional service and rooms that are impossible to leave. Fabulous views from the roof top terrace of the minarets of Sultanahmet. Understatedly elegant rooms in neutral tones with private balconies. The restaurant serves the best modern Turkish cuisine.
Over-the-top opulence, extreme luxury, great views and the most expensive rooms in town. The ultimate place for romance and indulgence. Excellent food and terraces overhanging the sea to dine on, beautiful pool terrace, lavish rooms. A hotel fit for a Sultan and his Sultana.