Sofia Adventures

It’s impossible for us to truly explain how much we love Istanbul. Between Stephanie and me, we have visited Istanbul eight times and truly gotten to know this incredible city on the Bosphorus. It feels almost as if a second home to us. Every time, coming back to Istanbul feels like another piece of the puzzle of this maddeningly beautiful city is clicking into place.

It was one of the first cities that either Stephanie or I visited internationally in our adult years: Stephanie went for the first time in 2011 and I made my first visit in 2012. Since then, the siren call of Istanbul has been hard to ignore, and we’ve never regretted a single time we’ve answered its call.

We love Istanbul at any time of year; I especially love Istanbul in winter, which just so happened to be my first visit to it (and when Istanbul hotel deals are at their best).

Where to Stay in Istanbul: A Super Quick Cheat Sheet

No time to read a huge post and just want to cut to the chase? Here are our top picks for where to stay in Istanbul, for first timers or repeat visitors. All three are in our favorite district, Beyoglu, which encompasses everything from buzzy Taksim to seaside Karakoy to hipster Cihangir to quaint Galata.

As Istanbul is a very affordable destination, here are our rough prices for what we consider each category. We searched for a room in about 4 months ahead of time in shoulder season, so just keep in mind that if you are booking last minute or during the peak season, the prices may be a bit higher and our budget categories may not correctly correspond.

  • Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $10-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $50 for a double.
  • Mid-range: Around $50-100
  • Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Turkey - Istanbul - Turkish Spices - Pixabay

Budget: For a great budget-friendly hotel, you can stay in either the single or double rooms at the Dreamers B&B. Colorful and cozy, the B&B boasts a fabulous location in Beyoglu, less than a kilometer from Taksim Square. You can explore all of Beyoglu from here, and then head to Sultanahmet when you’re ready to see the old city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet trendy boutique hotel, we recommend Peradays. It’s perfect for all Istanbul visitors, from first-timers to Istanbul veterans. The lofted rooms are generously large, so you can spread out and relax after a long day of sightseeing. They also have two cats that live here, Pera and Daisy, which you’ll be happy to greet after counting cats all day when out in the city. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here. 

Luxury: Istanbul has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but we love Hammamhane, a boutique apartment-hotel that was originally a hammam, and the sister hotel of Peradays. Built in a historic hammam (Turkish bath), the suites are spacious and luxurious. Located in the heart of Cukurcuma, the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.

Our Favorite Istanbul Neighborhoods

Sultanahmet

Turkey - Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Canva

Sultanahmet is my top recommendation for where to stay in Istanbul for the first time if you want to be in the heart of the tourist action. This is where you’ll find the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque and basically all of Istanbul’s best tourist attractions.

While Sultanahmet dies down a bit at night and therefore isn’t ideal for travelers who want to take advantage of Istanbul’s buzzy nightlife, it is great for early birds and photography enthusiasts who want to get out and get photos of Istanbul’s most photogenic and busy spots before the crowds get there. It’s also a great base if you have a limited time to stay in Istanbul and want to see all the touristic top 10 without much time in transit.

Budget

For its location and looks, you’ll be surprised by the price of this gorgeous hostel with both dorms and private rooms in the heart of Sultanahmet. Second Home Hostel has dorms with all my favorite perks: privacy curtains, personal reading lights, personal outlets, and lockers. The aesthetics of this hostel are gorgeous and don’t scream “backpacker”, something that’s become increasingly important to me, as I can’t stand another squeaky metal bunk bed that reminds me of summer camp!

For a little more privacy without paying much more, there are private double rooms, some with shared bathrooms and others with ensuites. The vibe of the hostel is extremely friendly and social, hence the name. Note that breakfast is not included but can be added for just five euros.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

Want to feel like Turkish royalty without paying a price to match? Check out Saba Sultan Hotel just 200 meters from the Blue Mosque. With a Turkish-inspired décor, a gorgeous terrace with views over Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and its minarets (perfect for Instagram photos!), large windows, and stunning antique furniture, this is a fantastic yet affordable place to stay in Sultanahmet.

The breakfast spread is lush, with olives, freshly baked Turkish bread, and other classic Turkish breakfast items on offer. The staff is helpful and friendly, ready to direct you to any of Istanbul’s main sights which are just within a stone’s throw of the hotel!

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Luxury

For the ultimate luxury Istanbul experience, check out the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet – truly one of the best places to stay in Istanbul. The hotel itself looks like a palace – in keeping with its neighbors Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia, and the Blue Mosque!

The interior is inspired by Turkish opulence and luxury, with arched walkways, marble tiling, beautiful chandeliers, and gorgeous gardens where you can enjoy a meal or some Turkish tea. There’s a wonderful terrace where you can picture-perfect photos of you with the stunning Hagia Sofia or Blue Mosque as your backdrop!

The rooms are modern and comfortable, not excessively formal but rather full of individual personality that makes you instantly feel at ease. The rooms have bespoke pieces created by Turkish artisans such as hand-woven kilims or hand-crafted wooden furniture that give you a one-of-a-kind experience. With only 65 guest rooms, it’s an intimate experience fit for a king.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here ««

Galata

Turkey - Istanbul - Galata Tower

The area around Galata Tower is one of the best Istanbul neighborhoods for first-timers, a maze of streets with traditional restaurants, quirky stores selling unique Turkish souvenirs, and stalls selling fresh orange and pomegranate juice seemingly everywhere you look.

Some of our favorite restaurants are here, such as Café Privato which has one of the best Turkish breakfasts in all of Istanbul. It’s close to Tünel so you can easily make your way down the hill if you don’t feel like walking down to Galata Bridge, or you can wind your way through the beautiful alleyways full of unique boutiques and spunky street kitties. There are a ton of hotels in Galata, so we’ve tried to pick our very favorites that stand above the rest.

Budget

There aren’t any hostels that I know of in the immediate Galata area, but there are some great priced budget hotels that I can recommend. The best value-for-dollar option is Jurnal Hotel, which has small and sleek double rooms within just a few minutes’ walk to Galata Tower for an insanely affordable price.

While the rooms undoubtedly are on the small side with not much room to spread out, the cleanliness is on point, and all the amenities you’d need are there: a TV, an electric kettle, an en-suite bathroom, free coffee/tea and water bottles, and daily housekeeping. It’s a great option if you want to be in the heart of Galata and you’re saving your coins for shopping!

»» Check prices and availability, read guest reviews, or book online here ««

Mid-Range

Rooftop breakfast with a view of the Galata Tower for less than 50 euros a night? It’s definitely possible at the Galataport Hotel, literally 200 meters away from the gorgeous Galata Tower.

Price and location aren’t all it has going for it, though: guests love it, with an average review score at the time of writing of a whopping 9/10! The rooms are decorated with a classic Ottoman style, slightly dated but delivering a ton of old-school luxury. They’re roomy and spacious, with modern bathrooms and windows delivering insane views.

»»Check prices and availability, read reviews, or book online here ««

Luxury

While there are several great luxury properties near Galata, my top pick is Adahan Istanbul, which is in a lovingly restored historical building dating back to 1874, with only 40 rooms so that individual attention is given to each guest. It has a rooftop restaurant with a stunning view over all of Beyoglu, and it’s just a 5-minute walk to Galata Tower. Many of the original details of the 1874 building have been retained: some rooms which even have stunning exposed roof beams with ornate ceiling painting. Meanwhile, the en-suite bathrooms have been given a modern update.

There’s a ton of natural light and the furnishing is kept light and airy, giving you plenty of room to spread out. Many rooms have a private balcony, and for those who don’t the rooftop terrace (where breakfast is served) is a great consolation prize. It’s also quite eco-friendly: purified water is given in glass bottles, they only use organic cotton textiles, and no unnecessary packaged toiletries are given out – only high quality local olive oil soaps and the like.

»»Check prices, availability, and reviews here ««

Çukurcuma

Istanbul - Turkey - Cukurcuma

More of a micro-neighborhood than a neighborhood proper, Çukur Cuma is actually a street in Beyoglu that is famous for its antiques as well as being home to the Museum of Innocence, the real-life manifestation of Orhan Pamuk’s epic novel of the same name. However, the neighborhood encompasses the surrounding blocks as well, located close to the Galatasaray school.

The area is very hip and up-and-coming, with several excellent coffee shops, delicious restaurants, and cute stores all throughout. It’s a small Istanbul neighborhood, but we’ve done our best to find excellent Istanbul hotels in this region. Hint: my absolute favorite hotel in Istanbul is here!

Budget

If you’re looking for a hostel in Çukurcuma/Galatasaray, there’s one in the area that has decent reviews (7.1/10 at time of writing, so not stellar but not horrible) called Neverland Hostel.

It’s on a fantastic street, one of my favorite in Istanbul in fact, with great coffee shops (and incidentally, my dentist). It’s got a bohemian vibe rather than a sophisticated feel, and it’s a bit bare bones, but if you’re after a social hostel in Istanbul this is a great choice as it’s 400 meters away from Istiklal and all of the nightlife in this area and nearby Cihangir and Karakoy.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

Gorgeous and fancy, Faik Pasha Suites is a fantastic choice in the Çukurcuma district just steps away from adorable antique shops and the unique Museum of Innocence. I mean, it’s in an 18th century building that was renovated in line with its original construction techniques and has a literal Turkish bath inside it with sauna, steam room, and masseuses. All that, and rooms are often less than 100 euro per night. SCORE.

Rooms offer a mash-up of new and old, with antique furniture and hardwood floors with HD TVs, iPod docks, fancy coffee machines, and even kitchenettes for light cooking. The bathrooms are new and modern, with marble walls and floors and metal basins crafted by hand. Some suites have their own balconies with stunning city views. Of course, a delicious Turkish breakfast is included.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Luxury

This is my favorite Istanbul hotel! I stayed at Hammamhane for 3 nights and it truly started to feel like home at the end of my stay. Located literally on Cukur Cuma, the main street of the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Hammamhane is a converted boutique apartment-hotel, that was originally a hammam, which should be now open after years of renovations (it was still being worked on when I visited in 2017).

The apartments have literally everything you’d ever need: a fully-functioning kitchen, a washing machine (be still my beating, backpacking heart), a great seating area for relaxing or eating a meal you’ve prepared, one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, and a lovely modern bathroom. Oh, and the breakfast there is hands-on the most delicious I’ve ever eaten in Istanbul, which is some seriously stiff competition. Plus, the staff is some of the loveliest and kindest people I’ve ever met.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here ««

Taksim

Istanbul - Turkey - trams

One of the best places to stay in Istanbul for first time visitors, Taksim Square is unparalleled in terms of ease of access to the rest of the city. It’s great if you’re visiting Istanbul for a short amount of time or on a layover, as many of the airport buses drop off and depart from here.

Aside from that, it offers easy access to Istiklal Caddesi, the main pedestrian street and the true heart of Istanbul, as well as the metro to get basically anywhere you want to go in Istanbul. It’s as well-connected as it gets, but it can get a bit crowded at times, so it’s not the place to go if you want to escape from it all (we’d recommend Besiktas for that!).

Budget

The area around Taksim Square has a number of quality hostels for travelers on a budget, and the one I would recommend is Suite Dreams Hostel.

It ticks a lot of the boxes for what I consider an above-average hostel: privacy curtains, roomy layout so that you won’t feel suffocated by other people’s bags on the floor, lockers, A/C and heating, and a great location just 5 minutes’ walk from Taksim Square. Breakfast is not included, but costs another 5 euros, so keep that in mind when comparing rooms and prices. There are also some good budget hotels in the area, so if you are a party of two or more, it may actually work out the same (or cheaper) to get your own room somewhere.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

There are several great options when you raise your budget just a bit in Taksim Square and you can get a room for under $100 a night that will truly blow you away. One such place is Arart Hotel, which would easily go for 3 times the price in many other cities. Just 200 meters from Istiklal and Taksim, it’s right in the heart of everything yet tucked down a quiet side street so you can get a restful night’s sleep.

The rooms all have AC and flatscreen TVs, coffee and tea service, large rooms streaming in plenty of natural light (some even have balconies with stunning city views). The decor is lovely, colorful yet understated, to offer an oasis of relaxation. All rooms come with a lush private bathroom – some even have bathtubs, one of my favorite perks after a long day of travel. Breakfast comes free with all rooms and includes homemade jams and other natural treats.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Luxury

There are countless luxury hotels in the Taksim area, as this is one of the epicenters for 5* hotels in Istanbul. The Gezi Hotel Bosphorus is one such luxury hotel that’s worth splurging on in Istanbul. Right in Taksim Square, just off of Istiklal and the metro station which connects you to all of Istanbul, Gezi Hotel couldn’t be more centrally located. The rooms themselves are stunning, with wooden floors and marble bathrooms, mood lighting, and either Bosphorus or park views.

Gezi’s propriety Silver Spa offers incredible pampering treatments from Turkish hammam rituals to massages, as well as steam rooms, saunas, ice baths, and jacuzzis to relax in at your own leisure. There is a modern fitness center, full of state-of-the-art equipment so you can stay in shape during your trip. The rooftop Fiamma Restaurant offers incredible Bosphorus and skyline views, The Fiamma Restaurant holds a stunning view over the Bosphorus and Istanbul’s skyscrapers. Best of all, staying here is eco-friendly as the hotel’s energy and water conservation principles have earned it Turkey’s Green Hotel certification.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Karaköy

Istanbul - Turkey - Karakoy at night

Located on the bank of the Bosphorus, Karaköy is one of my most beloved Istanbul neighborhoods. It’s full of hip restaurants and bars, funky street art, and a youthful vibe everywhere. You can also stroll here all the way to the foot of the Galata Bridge, and it’s a prime location for exploring the Asian side of Istanbul via the Karaköy-Kadıköy ferry.

This is one of the fastest-changing Istanbul neighborhoods, so while it was amazing during my last visit to the city, I’d be willing to bet even more has popped up here during my last visit!

Budget

For a no frills stay in a cool neighborhood, we recommend Cheers Porthouse. Taking inspiration from the Bosphorus, which is just a few minutes away, this slightly nautically-themed guesthouse offers seriously affordable private rooms with shared bathrooms or ensuite bathroom options. The location is fantastic, close to all the best bars and nightlife of Karakoy.

Despite the low price, the rooms have the basic amenities you’d expect and want from a hotel, such as a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, modern bathrooms, and free toiletries. The décor of the rooms is modern and fun, so you don’t feel like you’re staying in a dated guesthouse, which is always nice when you’re looking for where to stay in Istanbul in this price range.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

For a comfortable option that won’t do much damage to your wallet, we recommend the Ada Karakoy Hotel. With stunning Bosphorus and minaret views (it’s literally right next to a beautiful mosque), the restaurant on the top floor is the perfect place to watch the Istanbul sunset come to life from the comfort of your own hotel. The location is perfect, a short walk from the Galata Bridge, the ferry to Kadikoy, and all the fun bars, restaurants, and nightlife of the hip Karakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.

It has a variety of well-configured room layouts so that you can pick the option that best fits your group of travelers. The rooms are large and comfortable but simply furnished, with nothing too fancy going on. The bathrooms have recently been renovated and offer a luxurious feel at a low price. It’s nothing extra, but it’s everything you need.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Luxury

For a one-of-a-kind luxury place to stay in Istanbul’s hip Karakoy district, we highly recommend The House Hotel Vault Karakoy. This 5* hotel was once a bank building, and it was lovingly restored into a luxe hotel by the award-winning Turkish architect Han Tümertekin. The interiors were designed by Sinan Kafadar, who was inspired by the hotel’s original bank architecture and gave the building a luxurious yet modern look with high ceilings and plenty of their original features to pay homage to the roots of the building. The hotel has an in-house art curator, who organizes exhibits and manages collections of precious books and art.

Beyond that, the hotel has stunning views and its own rooftop restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or a drink with gorgeous views over the entire city: Bosphorus, Sultanahmet, and all! There’s a state-of-the-art fitness center if you want to squeeze in a workout, as well as a Turkish bath inside the hotel if you just want to chill and enjoy some R&R without having to leave the hotel.

The rooms are enormous with ultra-high ceilings, modern furnishings, stunning bathrooms with rain showers (and some even come with an enormous tub with gorgeous window views over the Bosphorus). They come with all the amenities you’d expect of a 5* hotel, and are designed with restraint and elegance.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Balat

Turkey - Istanbul - Colorful Houses - Canva Purchase

The most Instagrammable neighborhood in Istanbul, Balat (often paired with Fener, a neighboring district that seems to bleed into it) is colorful and funky. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in all of Istanbul, dating back to when Greeks, Armenians, and Jews all thrived before the Ottoman era changed everything. From one spot in Balat, you can see a mosque, a church, and a synagogue simultaneously: a rarity in Istanbul.

The whole neighborhood is protected by UNESCO and is being revitalized in keeping with UNESCO principles. While historically, it was a Greek Orthodox and Armenian neighborhood; nowadays, it’s gotten a bit of a hipster facelift à la Karaköy. You’ll find small coffee roasters, bespoke art shops and galleries, and vintage stores catering to a hip subset of Istanbulites.

Budget

One of the most popular options in all of Istanbul, Akin House often sells out well in advance so I’d recommend booking early if you have your eye on it, as there are very limited options in Balat/Fener. Akin House is actually two homes which have been converted into a few rooms which you can rent individually or as a whole house.

The rooms are beautifully furnished with a unique style, and many have kitchenettes and are perfect for a longer stay in Istanbul. It’s a bit away from the main tourist crowds of Sultanahmet (though you will spot the occasional Instagrammer in its midst: it’s the occupational hazard of being a colorful, Instagrammable neighborhood), so it’s great if you want to feel like a local while you stay in Istanbul.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

There aren’t a ton of places to stay in Balat and Fener, the Orthodox/Armenian district turned hipster mecca. But one such option is Hotel Troya Balat. This lovely boutique hotel has the bones of a 19th-century building, with just 17 rooms: 3 suites, 12 doubles, and 2 singles.

The building has maintained its originality as much as possible, with hand-painted murals, old wooden doors, and its original floors and ceilings. It even uses its old water pumps and marble sinks, and there are original stained glass windows that were part of the original house.

Despite all these old-fashioned throwbacks, Hotel Troya Balat’s rooms have all the modern amenities you’d expect. Each room has AC, a kettle, a TV, a minibar, and a shower with hairdryer; however, each room has its own unique vibe just as if it were a room in a house.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Arnavutköy

Turkey - Istanbul - Wooden Houses of Arnavutkoy

A delightfully beautiful neighborhood to visit by day, with its traditional wooden architecture, Arnavutköy also pops off at night when it becomes one of the hotspots of Istanbul nightlife. While the neighborhood is beloved by people who know Istanbul well, many tourists have yet to hear much about Arnavutköy, so there’s a good chance you won’t be around many other fellow travelers and can fall into local life a little more.

There aren’t any hotels in Arnavutköy, so we recommend checking on Airbnb (here’s a discount off your first stay!) or staying in nearby Beşiktaş where there are a ton of hotel options.

Beşiktaş

Turkey - Istanbul - Ortakoy Mosque

The heart of the luxury hotel district in Istanbul, waterfront Beşiktaş is beloved for its epic Bosphorus views and proximity to Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortaköy Mosque. There are tons of rooftop bars in this area offering sweeping views and cocktails, though prices may be a bit steep in this neck of the woods.

Truly, if you’re looking for a luxury experience in Istanbul, this area around the Bosphorus is your best bet, as you’ll find big names like The W, Four Seasons, Shangri-La, and more all within a few block radius.

Budget

For an affordable stay in the heart of one of Istanbul’s most expensive districts, we recommend Golden Pen Hotel. The location is amazing – just 500 meters away from Dolmabahçe Palace, even closer to the banks of the Bosphorus, and nearby the stunning Ortaköy Mosque.

We have to admit that the hotel has seen better days and the furnishings are rather dated, but it’s clean, functional, friendly, and has free breakfast served on the rooftop terrace which is a huge plus!

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

For an affordable yet luxe place to stay in Besiktas, Turkuaz Suites is a great mid-range option if you can’t afford the 5* luxury hotels overlooking the Bosphorus (raises hand). You’ll still get those stunning river views from the terrace and excellent, dedicated service, but with slightly less frills and a lot lower price.

There are a variety of room types for all budgets, from junior suites to glorious penthouse apartments. Many of the suites have kitchenettes, seating areas, and balconies with beautiful views perfect for enjoying a drink or a cup of tea.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here ««

Luxury

There are too many luxury options in Besiktas, but I’d have to pick the Shangri-La right on the river. With restaurants, bars, and a spa on site, it’s basically a city unto itself. Its luxury spa, CHI, has a heated indoor pool, a wood sauna, a traditional Turkish hammam, hot tubs, and steam rooms – plus private spa suites should you need a little extra privacy! It’s the perfect place for getting away from the at-times hectic Istanbul atmosphere.

There are a variety of fantastic restaurants at the hotel as well. IST TOO is your passport to world cuisine, with Japanese, Thai, Mediterranean, and Turkish inspiration. Meanwhile, Shang Palace is the hotel’s crowning achievement, with refined Chinese cuisine fit for the finest. The Lobby Lounge offers over a hundred different teas and delicious pastries, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Of course, the rooms are ultra-modern and leave nothing to be desired. The decor is elegant yet modern, inspired by Istanbul’s Asian side. The rooms come complete with high-tech in-room amenities like heated marble floors in the bathroom, a flat-screen TV with entertainment offerings, and an iPod docking sound system. Rooms have a variety of perks and views depending on what you choose.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Istanbul Travel Resources

If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, we have a one-stop guide to planning your Istanbul city break here. If you want to know more general information for planning a trip to Turkey, this guide is a good start as it covers visas, vaccinations, currency, and more.

We’re working on our massive things to do post, but for now, you can check out our Instagram guide to Istanbul and tips for shopping in Istanbul.

If you want to get excited about your trip, check out these beautiful Istanbul quotes and these other beautiful places to visit in Turkey for a future trip (trust me, you’ll want to return – a mere city break in Istanbul is not enough!)

If you also think you’ll head to Cappadocia, here are our favorite Instagram spots and also the best cave hotels worth your money.

Don’t Leave Without Travel Insurance!

Finally, make sure you always travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

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