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5 Beautiful boutique hotels in Istanbul: From hip to historic

It’s not surprising that exotic Istanbul, Europe’s largest city, is home to many deluxe hotels.

We’ve stayed at some of them, including the storied Ciragan Palace as well as the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul. (See our hotel reviews of these two luxury Istanbul hotels at the end of our post on the best Istanbul hammams.)

But we’ve also bedded down at several beautiful boutique hotels in Istanbul.

Boutique Istanbul Hotels

Boutique hotels in Istanbul

Tucked away in character-filled residential or embassy neighborhoods, these boutique Istanbul hotels offer a more intimate stay in a city which – at 15+ million – can sometimes feel overwhelming.

And note, all the following boutique hotels have king-size beds, which we North Americans are used to, but which can be hard to find in a country where smaller European-size beds are more common.

1) Sumahan on the Water

Sumahan on the Water is one of our favorite boutique hotels in Istanbul.
One of the top hotels in Istanbul, Sumahan on the Water is found on the Asian side

Take the mahogany water taxi across the Bosphorus Canal to Sumahan on the Water, and you leave the cacaphony of Istanbul for another world.

The hotel’s complimentary boat service transports you in 30 minutes from Istanbul’s cosmopolitan European side, past ancient palaces and mosques, to the less-touristy Asian side.

Taxi boat for Sumahan on the Water
A free water taxi ride takes you across the Bosphorus Canal to Sumahan on the Water

The hotel:

After sightseeing all day, you feel the fatigue melt away as you step ashore into the calm oasis that is Sumahan on the Water.

The architect owners transformed what was once a 19th century Ottoman distillery into the present-day hotel in 2005.

They preserved details of the building’s historical past – like black painted metal girders and exposed brick walls – adding an industrial edge to the hotel’s design.

Sumahan on the Water enjoys a peaceful setting on the Bosphorus Canal.
Sumahan on the Water enjoys a peaceful setting on the Bosphorus Canal

Book lovers will appreciate the hotels’ cozy water-view library, well-stocked with 800+ books on Turkish subjects, most in English.

A Turkish hammam offers traditional bath-and-massage treatments too.

Another plus: The hotel is expertly run and service is warm.

Rooms:

We love the industrial chic look of the rooms at Sumahan on the Water, Istanbul.
We love the industrial chic look of Sumahan’s rooms!

The hotel has 13 rooms, all of which face the Bosphorus.

In summer, guests sit out under the trees on the lawn and read or watch the boat traffic along the Bosphorus.

In winter, a fireplace in your room makes it cozy for enjoying the ever-changing watery panorama.

We loved our two-storey loft suite.

Upstairs was a king-size bed and huge grey-and-white marble bathroom with walk-in shower.

Downstairs, French doors opened from the ground-floor living room onto the hotel’s lawn and garden.

Sumahan on the Water is one of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul.
Each room is different, but they all have Bosphorus Canal views and fireplaces

Dining:

For breakfast (included in the rate), the terrace is open in warm weather – you can linger over cappuccino while eyeing ferries and tankers glide by.

For dinner, Sumahan’s Waterfront restaurant features fresh fish, along with a Turkish and international à la carte menu.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more romantic restaurant in Istanbul if dining alfresco.

Location:

Located in the Cengelkoy village area, Sumahan is a short stroll away from excellent people-watching cafés and fish restaurants.

Kuleli Caddesi No:43, Cengelkoy
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Sumahan on the Water: Check rates and availability

2) Tomtom Suites

The stylish Tomtom Suites in Istanbul features very modern amenities like in-room espresso machines and free WiFi.
The stylish Tomtom features very modern amenities like in-room espresso machines and free WiFi

Fancy a stay in a former Franciscan nunnery?

The mod Tomtom Suites fits the bill.

What was an 1850s convent is now the very modern Tomtom Suites in Istanbul.
What was an 1850s convent is now the very modern Tomtom Suites

Don’t be misled by the odd name, which is based on the hotel’s street name.

Tomtom Suites is one of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul.

The hotel:

The Tom Tom Suites was one of our favorite places to stay in Istanbul.
The Tom Tom Suites was one of our favorite places to stay in Istanbul

Once home to French nuns, the restored hotel building is a mix of the historic (polished hardwood floors, high ceilings and thick stone walls) and contemporary (sound-proofing, high-tech lighting, Bose sound systems).

Service is exceptional.

Front desk staff went out of their way to help us discover Istanbul on our own. (We wanted help catching the tram, a block away, that runs to the old Sultanahmet district and tourist sites.)

Rooms:

At Tom Tom Suites, the decor is understated, but the suites are extremely comfortable.
The decor is understated, but the suites are extremely comfortable

There are 20 rooms and suites spread out in two buildings, connected by glass floor walkways and reached by a glass elevator.

Choose from garden or courtyard views; several room categories range from “standard” to “luxury suite.”

Light, bright and spacious, they feature marble bathrooms, handmade rugs, and colorful original ceramics and works of art.

Dining:

Dining is a culinary treat at Nicole, Tom Tom Suites.
Dining is a culinary treat at Nicole

Tomtom’s restaurant, Nicole, is one of the city’s finest (see TripAdvisor reviews).

It serves artistically prepared Mediterranean cuisine inspired by fresh local ingredients. You have a choice of four multi-course set menus, which change every few weeks.

The terrace has city views of the Bosphorus Canal and minaret-guarded mosques.

It’s a beautiful spot to sit on warm summer evenings!

On the rooftop, Nicole is one of the best restaurants in Istanbul.
On the rooftop, Nicole is one of the best restaurants in Istanbul

Location:

The hotel is wonderfully located in the heart of Istanbul’s lively Beyoglu district, chock-full of restaurants and galleries.

Yet it’s very quiet, on the same cobblestone alley as the Italian consulate.

Tomtom Kaptan Sokak No.18 Beyoglu, 34433
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Tom Tom Suites: Check rates and availability

3) Pera Palace Hotel

Pera Palace is one of the best boutique hotels in Istanbul.
The Pera Palace Hotel today after a two-year restoration

Quick! Where did Agatha Christie write “Murder on the Orient Express”?

Room 411 in the opulent Pera Palace Hotel, so it’s believed.

Room 411 of the Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie would stay
Room 411 (complete with the original antique furniture), where Agatha Christie would stay

Book this storied hotel and you follow in the footsteps of Christie and other celebrities and royalty, including King Edward VIII, Mata Hari, Emperor Franz Joseph, Alfred Hitchcock, Greta Garbo and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom have been welcomed here.

Several rooms are even named after some of them.

The Agatha Christie room at Pera Palace Hotel, a room with a view
The Agatha Christie room, a room with a view

Hotel:

Built in 1892 for passengers journeying on the Orient Express train from Venice to Istanbul, the Pera Palace was extensively restored and re-opened in 2010 after a two-year closure.

Riding in the old-fashioned wrought iron elevator is a delightful experience!

British writer Daniel Farson waxed lyrical about it, saying: “It is the most beautiful elevator in the world. It ascends like a lady who curtsies. Tourists cannot take their eyes off this utterly pretty and aristocrat elevator.”

When checking in at the Pera Palace Hotel, you're taken up to your room in an  historic elevator.
When checking in, you’re taken up to your room in this historic elevator

You can also see the velvet sedan chair once used to carry guests from the Orient Express train station to the hotel.

Indeed, Pera Palace is somewhat of a museum-hotel.

Room 101 – open to visitors – displays clothing, furniture, eye glasses, china tea cups, letter openers and other personal items belonging to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the beloved “Father of Turkey.”

Some of Ataturk's clothing on display in the Ataturk Museum Room, Pera Palace Hotel.
Some of Ataturk’s clothing on display in the Ataturk Museum Room

Rooms:

For purists, the hotel may not qualify as a “real” boutique hotel because of its size – it has 115 rooms, including 16 suites.

But the hotel feels smaller than other “grand” hotels, and because we liked it, we’ve included it here in our round-up of “Istanbul boutique hotels.”

A Pera Palace studio room
A Pera Palace studio room

All rooms feature historical furniture, Murano chandeliers and hand-woven Turkish carpets. White marble bathrooms have claw-foot tubs.

Tip:  Book the “Golden Horn” view rooms which come with a Juliette balcony.

Dining:

Check out the pretty pink French-style patisserie serving handmade chocolates and French cakes.

Guests also love the English afternoon tea served in the Kubbeli Lounge. Think nibbling on crustless tea sandwiches and scones while listening to soft live piano music.

With high-domed ceilings and beautiful corner windows, the Kubbeli Lounge at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul, is a lovely spot for afternoon tea.
With high-domed ceilings and beautiful corner windows, the Kubbeli Lounge is a lovely spot for afternoon tea

We were less impressed with the lower-level Agatha Restaurant, however.

It wasn’t very busy when we had dinner, and we would have preferred a more lively atmosphere.

This admittedly likely influenced our view of the dining experience.

Location:

In the heart of Istanbul in the Beyoglu district, Pera Palace is within walking distance of famous Istiklal Street and Taksim Square.

Mesrutiyet Caddesi No: 52, Tepebasi 34430, Beyoglu
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Pera Palace Hotel: Check rates and availability

More boutique Istanbul hotels

We haven’t stayed at the following boutique hotels in Istanbul, but from our extensive research, they look like two more of the best places to stay in Istanbul.

4) A’jia Hotel

Overlooking the Bosphorus, the A'jia Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Istanbul.
Overlooking the Bosphorus, A’jia Hotel mixes the modern with the historic

How would you like to lay your head down in what was once the grand mansion  of a Pasha?

A’jia Hotel has maintained its historic Ottoman-era outside.

But inside, it’s a different story. The 16 rooms and suites are spacious and modern, with dreamy bathrooms all done up in creamy marble and tile.

Snuggled up to the Bosphorus Canal on the Asian side of Istanbul, A’jia Hotel is about 30 minutes away from the bustle of the city center.

And when you want to relax and soak up the water views, a long bar on the waterfront terrace is the perfect place to do just that.

A’jia Hotel: Check rates and availability

5) Romance Istanbul Hotel

The Romance Istanbul Hotel is one of the most romantic hotels in Istanbul!
The Romance Istanbul Hotel is right in the heart of the action

Okay, so the above boutique luxury hotels in Istanbul all look wonderful.

But what you really want to know is where to stay in Istanbul that’s right in the thick of the historic quarter – just a short walk away from the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar.

Enter Romance Istanbul Hotel – it’s smack-dab in the historical center.

As its name suggests, it’s one of the most romantic hotels in Istanbul, according to guests.

Think 40 rooms with wooden floors, Turkish rugs, satin and velvet furnishings, chandeliers and French balconies.

Romance Istanbul Hotel: Check rates and availability

Experience more of Turkey!

Read our posts on:

Turkey in 2 weeks | From beaches to balloon rides to bazaars, Turkey dazzles with its array of beguiling experiences! Here’s the perfect 2-week Turkey itinerary for a luxury trip.

Cappadocia | It’s worth waking up early to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.

Bodrum | Which are the best luxury hotels in Bodrum? Check out the glam Macakizi and the art-filled Casa Dell’Arte.


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Photo credits: 4 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining images courtesy of the respective hotels


Sumahan on the Water, Tomtom Suites and Pera Palace provided us with complimentary media stays for review purposes. But as professional travel writers (who write for many magazines and newspapers as well as this blog), we always retain complete editorial control over our words.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Leigh McAdam

Sunday 28th of October 2012

When I visited Istanbul my husband and I were budget travelers and found a hotel where every time you showered the toilet paper got wet. These places look divine!

Janice and George

Sunday 28th of October 2012

No problems with the showers here! They're all divinely comfortable places to stay...