We list the best hotels, hostels, B&Bs and guesthouses in Istanbul as recommended by travel experts from CNN, Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Fodor’s, New York Times and more. All hotel recommendations have been referenced with customer reviews and we only listed places that have at least a 4 out of 5-star customer review rating.
“Sumahan on the Water, a 24-room low-rise hotel in a former Ottoman raki distillery, now with its own marble hammam. A boat fetches guests on the European side and speeds them across the Bosporus. A buffet breakfast is served along the shore.”
Featured in New York Times’ 36 Hours in Istanbul.
“What a rehabilitation success story: a former prison just steps from Topkapı Palace and Aya Sofya is now one of Istanbul’s premier accommodations, where rooms and suites are luxuriously outfitted and overlook the Sea of Marmara, the Old City, or a manicured interior courtyard.”
Featured as Fodor’s Choice in Istanbul.
“The Pera Palace speaks of the fin de siècle era when well-to-do Europeans “took the air” on the leafy Grand Rue de Pera (now the heaving Istiklal Caddesi). Stepping through the doors feels like stepping straight back in time to an altogether more glamorous era.”
Featured as Frommer’s Exceptional Choice in Istanbul.
“This gem of a hostel, situated in the very heart of the old city, blends faux-Ottoman style with plenty of bright, neo-bohemian touches like pastel-hued planters to create a friendly and communal vibe. It’s a good base – but also offers guests a range of activities like pub crawls, darts competitions and walking tours.”
New York Times, Fodors, Frommers, Telegraph
Fodors, Frommers, CNN, Telegraph
Lonely Planet, Fodors, Frommers, Telegraph
New York Times, Frommers, Telegraph
Frommers, Fodors, Telegraph
Lonely Planet, Telegraph
New York Times
Istanbul is one of the largest cities in Turkey that lies within Asia and Europe across the Bosphorus Strait.
Some of the major neighborhoods in Istanbul are:
Arnavutköy is an upmarket neighborhood situated by the Bosphorus renowned for its fish restaurants and Ottoman waterfront mansions. It also has a wide range of cocktail and gastro bars, beautiful houses, and many other interesting places.
Balat is previously Armenian and Greek Orthodox neighborhood of the city with full of colorful churches and old houses. The neighborhood is replete with vintage shops, art galleries, ceramic ateliers, micro coffee shops, and historic streets. It has also several landmarks such as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of St. George.
Çukurcuma is an neighborhood in the city that is famed for some of the best antique dealers in Istanbul. Some best antique dealers include Aslı Günşiray, Modern Tarih, and A La Turca. The neighborhood is also renowned for the Museum of Innocence that is a literary museum established by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, inspired by his novel of the same name.
Galata is a neighborhood that is a part of Beyoğlu district. It is the home to the famous Galata Tower that overlooks the neoclassical buildings and old cobblestoned streets. The neighborhood has a popular café Mavra that is the favorite haunt of locals and visitors.
Karaköy is a neighborhood that is situated right by the waterside and previously was a major port in the city. It is now filled with trendy boutiques, restaurants and cafes that draw many wandering tourists and locals to these places.
See also our article about the best areas to stay in Istanbul.
If you're looking for a cheap hotel in Istanbul, then book Hotel Orkide. It's an excellent budget hotel offering great value for money. It's in a good location, it's been recommended by travel experts and the hotel has excellent customer reviews. Also check out our list of the best cheap hotels in Istanbul.
You like some luxury but don't like the famous chain hotels. If you're looking for the best boutique hotel in Istanbul, you should check out Ibrahim Pasha Hotel. It's a very cool hotel that has been highly recommended by travelers and experts.
Also check out our list of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul, it's a manually curated list of the most unique and romantic hotels in the city.
If money isn't a problem and you're looking for a luxury hotel in Istanbul, then go for Raffles Istanbul. The hotel offers excellent service, it's in a top location, it has been rated very highly by previous guests and renowned travel critics have recommended it. Also check out our list of the best luxury hotels in Istanbul, it's a manually curated list of the most exclusive 5-star hotels in the city.
If you're looking for a great hostel in Istanbul, then you should check out Hostel Cheers. The hostel has magnificent reviews by backpackers, it has been recommended by well-known travel experts and it's in a good location. Also check out our list of the best hostels in Istanbul.
If you're looking for a room with a view, then try the Sumahan on the Water Hotel. It offers amazing views of Istanbul according to recent customer reviews.
For a 3-star hotel you have to pay around $60 per night and for a 4-star hotel you would be looking at $100 per night. If you're after a luxury 5-star Istanbul hotel then you can expect to pay around $170 per night.
Try Hotel Empress Zoe if you're looking for a delicious breakfast at a hotel in Istanbul. The hotel has excellent customer review ratings for breakfast.
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht. Witness the enchantment of Istanbul with a 2.5-hour sunset cruise along the beautiful Bosphorus. Aboard the glass-encased luxury yacht, enjoy the city’s main attractions at dusk including the Dolmabahce Palace, Ortakoy Mosque, and Rumeli Fortress. Price: $60.
Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Experience Istanbul’s timeless sights on a full-day tour of the city’s stunning historic places. Listen for the ancient echoes of pounding hooves and charioteers at Hippodrome Square and spot the distinctive tiles of the Blue Mosque. Price: $65.
Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour. Skip the line and enter the magnificent Hagia Sophia, which is the world’s largest place of worship, built by Emperor Justinian in 532 AD. Enjoy a guided tour inside and see the tallest dome of the largest Christian church in the world. Price: $16.
More things to do in Istanbul
Turkey has it all: history, nature, buzzing cities and hospitable people. And Istanbul is its crown jewel, an amalgamation of the old and the new. Whether you are traveling there for work or pleasure, chances are you will find this city irresistible. With numerous places to see, things to do and sights to see, planning a trip to Istanbul can be daunting. To help you get started on your journey of exploring this beautiful city, we have compiled a list of the top things to do in Istanbul that will make your visit worthwhile.
The metropolitan municipality of Istanbul is historically known as Constantinople and Byzantium. As Turkey’s economic, cultural and historic center, Istanbul is regarded as the most important Turkish city. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia; part of it lies on the continent of Europe and part of it lies in Asia.
The commercial and historical center lies on the European side of Istanbul while a third of the population lives on the Asian side. Viewed by many as the bridge between the East and the West, this holds both literally and figuratively.
Istanbul is located strategically as the link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea which helps it to create a cosmopolitan populace. The city has seen a lot of growth in several sectors such as arts, music, film, and cultural festivals which further boosts its attractiveness to tourists and visitors.
Istanbul is dubbed the European Capital of Culture, and it ranks as the world’s fifth most popular tourist destination. The biggest attraction in Istanbul is its historic center, which is partially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Handemir-Istanbul Archaeology Museum
A museum that is well worth visiting is the Handemir-Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Housed in the former Ottoman Imperial mint, the museum houses more than 8,000 exhibits that date back to prehistoric times. If you are a history buff, this museum will captivate you with its rich collection of artifacts that have been excavated from different sites all over Turkey. The exhibits range from ancient coins to clay pots and jewelry, giving visitors an idea of what life was like for past residents of Istanbul. Another highlight is the collection of mosaics and sarcophagi found in burial tombs in Anatolia and Mesopotamia (modern day Syria). These include some of the most important pieces in the museum: a black basalt funerary relief dating back to 1800 BC depicting a man carrying a coffin on his shoulder; and a Hellenistic grave monument from 300-200 BC that depicts a stoic goddess flanked by two lionesses.
St. Saviour’s Island
If you are looking for a serene and tranquil experience in Istanbul, then we recommend you spend time on St. Savior’s Island. It is a small island that lies at the entrance to the Bosphorus Straits. Spend some time here and enjoy the stillness of its clear waters, while listening to the songs of birds and breathing in the fresh sea air. You will also find this island to be an excellent place for a picnic or a sunrise walk.
Bosphorus Bridge Tour
No trip to Istanbul is ever complete without a visit to the Bosphorus Bridge. This majestic bridge connects Europe and Asia, making Istanbul a unique destination. The best way to take in this magnificent sight is by taking the Bosphorus Bridge Tour. The tour starts at Eminönü Square on the European side of the city and ends at Kadıköy on Asian side. Along with seeing the bridge, you will be able to see as many as 14 different sights including Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque and more. You will also have the chance to hop on a ferryboat for an up-close views of some of Istanbul’s most famous monuments such as Beşiktaş Jami Mosque and Anadoluhisarı Army Barracks. The Bosphorus Bridge Tour is priced at 69TL per person and can be booked online or offline through your hotel concierge or any major Tokyo travel agencies.
Sultanahmet Mosque Tour
One of the most iconic landmarks of Istanbul, Sultanahmet Mosque is not to be missed. The building is a magnificent example of Ottoman architecture, and its imposing size will immediately win your admiration. Spend a few hours exploring this place with an expert guide and get to know the main areas. To offer a little more insight into this visit, Sultanahmet Mosque Tour by taksimtravels will talk you through the history, architectural style, and spiritual significance of this site.
Basilica Catherina and St. Stephen’s Church
Top of the list for any visitor to St. Sophia is the Basilica Catherina and St. Stephen’s Church. Dating back to the fourth century AD, this Byzantine church is a sight to behold- and if you are lucky enough to visit on a Sunday, you can attend a service with one of Istanbul’s many religious groups. You will also encounter one of the most interesting mosaics in all of Istanbul when you peek inside. Other highlights near this location include Kariye Museum and Tophane tram stop, which will take you right into old Istanbul.
Grand Bazaar Tour
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Turkish culture is through the Grand Bazaar. This labyrinth of shops and winding passageways is a shopper’s paradise, with textiles, handicrafts, spices, rugs and household goods. The best way to experience the bazaar is on a guided tour led by a local shopkeeper. This will give you an opportunity to better understand the market’s relevance in Turkish society and learn about its history. The Grand Bazaar has been around since 1455 and was one of Istanbul’s first structures dedicated to trade. It was originally made for silk traders from Central Asia, but eventually became home to merchants from across Europe competing for lucrative deals – notably slaves, who were sold upstairs in secret rooms. Today the bazaar trades mostly in carpets and souvenirs for tourists but still exudes a sense of mystery and wonder.
Blue Mosque Tour
One of the top things to do in Istanbul is taking a tour of the Blue Mosque. One of the largest mosques in Istanbul, and one of the most stunning sights in Turkey, this site offers visitors a glimpse into religious life in Turkey. The mosque welcomes tourists for tours every day that start at 10:00 am. Tours last about 45 minutes but you will want to be there at least 30 minutes early as security may ask you to remove your shoes before entering the mosque. Hagia Sophia Another place worth visiting is Hagia Sophia, located just a few blocks from the Blue Mosque. This former church has been transformed into a museum and offers an intriguing look into Istanbul’s history. Touring this site gives visitors an understanding of how religion has shaped architecture in Istanbul through time and gives them greater insight into Turkish culture overall. A Bosphorus Cruise For those who’ve never seen Istanbul by water, one of the top things to do here is take a Bosphorus cruise with some friends or family members. These cruises are not only enjoyable but provide breathtaking views of both sides of Istanbul while also giving visitors a chance to experience local culture firsthand as they sample traditional Turkish food like kebabs and baklava during their journey on board these boats. Taksim Square The Taksim Square is often referred to as the heart of modern day Istanbul (and has been compared with Times Square). Located on İstiklal
Hagia Sophia Tour: One of the Top Things to Do in Istanbul
One of the top things to do in Istanbul is a visit to the Hagia Sophia, which was once the largest cathedral in the world. The building’s golden dome and stunning architecture makes it a must-see attraction. There are also a number of other museums and sites that you’ll want to take advantage of when visiting this city. The Turkish and Islamic Art Museum (also known as the Istanbul Archaeology Museums) is another top thing to do in Istanbul. This museum features an extensive collection of Turkish art, including paintings by famous Turkish artists like Mahmud Konevi, Osman Hamdi Bey, and Nikos Kefalos. The Topkapi Palace is another place you’ll want to add to your list when visiting Istanbul. The Topkapi Palace was once home to the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years and offers visitors a stunning glimpse into their former opulent lifestyles with its richly decorated interiors and grand courtyards.
There are many more top things to do in Istanbul that will leave you feeling like you have seen all there is to see in this beautiful city!
We recommend that you read our guide about where to stay in Istanbul. It gives you an excellent overview of the most popular areas, highlighting each area’s main attractions and hotel recommendations.