Perhaps the most enchanting city we have ever visited, Istanbul is one of the largest and most populated ones too. We know from personal experience that choosing where to stay in cities of that size can be rather difficult. Even though we spent only 5 days in the city, we managed to get a clear picture of the best places to stay in Istanbul. Therefore, we decided to write this guide so as to help all of you who plan a trip to this city of magic make the right choice. Both in terms of neighbourhoods and hotels.
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Istanbul neighbourhoods: A quick overview
Istanbul is a huge city divided into forty districts which, in their turn, are subdivided into many neighbourhoods. For the sake of encyclopedic knowledge, you can refer to Wikipedia for more. In this article, we are only mentioning the neighbourhoods which are relevant and useful to short-term travellers to Istanbul.
Fatih is a huge district on the European side of Istanbul and home to one of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods: Sultanahmet. The latter is the very heart of Istanbul Old City. It is where Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and other top attractions are located. Sultanahmet has no shortage of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to boutique B&Bs. This is regarded by many as the best area to stay in Istanbul for very short stays focused on sightseeing or for everyone’s first time in the city.
Fener forms part of the larger Balat neighbourhood that lies along the Golden Horn. We literally fell in love with Fener. It is a feast of colour and laid-back ambience with quaint cafes and restaurants. That said, we don’t believe there are any accommodation options whatsoever. At least not now, at the time of writing those lines. So, why are we including Fener in this guide? Because we absolutely love it and, since it is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, our guess is that it won’t be long before quaint B&Bs start popping up there too.
Yet another large district on the European side of Istanbul, Beyoglu, or Pera as it is also known, is equally popular with travellers. It is home to iconic Istanbul attractions such as the Galata Tower with its stunning views, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square. Neighbourhoods such as Asmalimescit and Cihangir are Istanbul at its best with their unique architecture, cobbled streets and lively atmosphere. Istiklal Street is a 24/7 vibrant hub and living proof that Istanbul is indeed a city that never sleeps. To cut a long story short, it feels as though Beyoglu summarises the essence of Istanbul itself.
Besiktas district runs along the European coast of the Bosphorus Strait. With high-end neighourhoods such as Arnavutköy, Bebek, Ortaköy and Sinanpaşa, Besiktas is home to some of the best luxury spas and hotels in Istanbul as well as top attractions such as Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortaköy Mosque.
Moving on to the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy includes fancy neighbourhoods such as Caferağa and Osmanağa which boast nice Istanbul hotels and lively atmosphere in an off-the-beaten-path location.
Üsküdar includes large part of the Asian coast of the Bosphorus strait. The latter is lined with utterly pretty wooden residences built right on the seashore. These are called yali and nowadays some of them have been turned into hotels. Beylerbeyi is one of the most prominent neighbourhoods in the district.
Why Beyoğlu is one of the best places to stay in Istanbul
Now that you’ve had a quick look at the best neighbourhoods in Istanbul, it’s time for us to tell you which one is our favourite. Ooops! Too late for that! It seems that the subheading above is a dead giveaway. As far as we are concerned, Beyoglu is the best place to stay in Istanbul. To be more specific, our favourite part of Beyoglu is the area around Istiklal Street and all its side streets. This area should definitely be everyone’s top choice for accommodation in Istanbul.
First of all, this area never feels lonely, sketchy or weird. Not even at night. In fact, it’s after dark that it gets even more vibrant. There are people everywhere, while shops, bars and restaurants stay up until very late. Not once did we feel uncomfortable on our way back to our hotel in the evening. Secondly, this area is very well connected to the rest of the city by public transport. With Taksim Square on one end, the Tünel on the other and the nostalgic red tram running its entire length, Istiklal along with its surrounding streets enjoy the very best location in Istanbul.
We’d never choose Sultanahmet, not even for a short trip. Super crowded and touristy at day, it gets rather lonely and awfully quiet at night. That’s a definite no-no for us. A luxury hotel in Besiktas wouldn’t be a bad idea for future trips to Istanbul. Only after we would have enjoyed the rest of the city’s charms to the fullest that is. Similarly, we would leave the off-the-beaten-path Asian side of Istanbul for our third or fourth time in the city.
Taksim Square is a major transport hub.
The Tünel is a historical funicular line connecting seaside Karaköy to uphill Beyoğlu.
Where to stay in Istanbul: Two amazing Beyoğlu hotels
When it comes to accommodation, you are spoilt for choice in Beyoglu. From shining huge hotels to quaint little guesthouses and B&Bs, the neighbourhoods of Beyoglu are home to some of the best hotels in Istanbul. Prices are generally reasonable especially if you book your room well in advance. Where we stay during our travels is really important to us. A bad or a good stay can have great impact on how we remember a trip as a whole. During our 5-day trip to Istanbul we were lucky enough to stay not in one but two equally awesome but totally different hotels in Beyoglu district.
The Peak Hotel
Just as we were trying to figure out where to stay in Beyoglu Istanbul, our friend Anni from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in Athens came to the rescue when she arranged a complimentary stay for us at The Peak Hotel. The latter is a modern 4-star hotel right in the heart of the beautiful Asmalimescit neighbourhood in Beyoglu. To be entirely frank, we didn’t think we’d ever love this hotel. The reason is that we are not particularly fond of big (as in 100+ rooms big) hotels. They are usually impersonal and lack character. However, The Peak Hotel quickly changed our minds.
First of all, the hotel is located in a prime location. No, the word prime doesn’t even begin to describe it. A short walk from both Istiklal Street and the Tünel, The Peak Hotel sits on the spot where the heart of the city beats. Night and day. The area around the hotel feels utterly safe and is filled with amazing restaurants where locals hang out. Suffice it to say that there is even a 24h mini-market right next door.
Ideal for business people and holiday-goers alike, The Peak Hotel offers spotlessly clean and super comfortable rooms. One of the most pleasant surprises for us was the hotel’s café-bar. Instead of being awkwardly tasteless and boring (sorry, but this is usually the case with big hotel cafés), it was actually very cosy and a great place to enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon or even a nightcap. Furthermore, the hotel is home to two restaurants and a wellness centre with gym.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mehmet, the general manager and soul of The Peak Hotel and a person who really knows what hospitality is all about, not only for making us feel literally at home but for changing our perception regarding big city hotels as well. We’ll definitely meet again, Mehmet!
It was with great pleasure that we accepted an invitation to spend a couple of nights at Peradays Hotel. Being offered yet another complimentary stay in a completely different accommodation type was ideal for us to quench our thirst for experiencing as much of Istanbul as possible. Furthermore, this was a fantastic opportunity to collect loads of information about Istanbul so as to help you plan your own trip to the city.
A boutique hotel with just nine rooms, Peradays Hotel is a cosy home away from home. In fact, the place really did feel like home to us from the moment we walked inside the beautiful 19th century building which once belonged to an Italian family. We were greeted by the owner Murat and a couple of fluffy kittens who stole our hearts for ever.
Peradays Hotel boasts a unique architectural style and smartly decorated rooms. The common area is very cosy and it’s where the delicious homemade breakfast is served every morning. However, it’s also an excellent spot to relax with a book and a cup of tea any time of day. Another favourite nook of ours was the sunlit (or moonlit) seating area at the building’s terrace.
Peradays Hotel enjoys a fantastic location. Istiklal Street is within easy walking distance and the same goes for Nevizade Street, a vibrant pub and restaurant area which buzzes with life in the evening. Last but not least, keep in mind that Peradays Hotel also offers airport shuttle service upon request.
As a side note, we simply adore people who give animals, especially the less fortunate ones like stray cats and dogs, shelter and a loving home. For this, alongside being an excellent boutique hotel, Peradays will always have a special place in our hearts. Murat, we hope to hang out again with you and all those precious kittens soon!
We hope we managed to give you an idea of the best places to stay in Istanbul. OK, we may have been a bit (?) partial to Beyoglu but for good reason. Make sure you keep coming back to this article in the future for updates. You see, Istanbul is a city we will never stop going back to. Until next time, though, if you have any questions, let us know in the comments!
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