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Where to Stay in Istanbul?
Istanbul’s Sultanhmet area, with its Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and bustling Grand Bazaar, is the first destination in the city that tourists head for. In and around the maze of streets and squares you’ll find plenty of hotels, both humble and lavish, some just a few steps from the city's world-famous attractions but you'll pay a premium for this location.
The commercial heart of Istanbul lies around Taksim Square and it is packed with restaurants, shops and hotels. This area is considered the embodiment of modern Istanbul and it’s easy to spot from the Republic Monument that stands in its centre, there to commemorate the moment when Turkey became a republic in 1928. Taksim is also the epicentre of the city’s transport system and you can ride the world’s oldest subway line, after the London Underground, into Istiklal Caddesi, a snaking pedestrian shopping street. Look out for Ataturk Cultural Centre in the square, which puts on all manner of artistic endeavours including drama, dance and opera. Taksim Square is home to some of the city’s finest five star hotels.
Istanbul Accommodation Options
Istanbul’s explosion in tourism, attracting every level of visitor from backpacker to big spender, means there are lots of types of accommodation, and cheap guesthouses and hostels are in just as plentiful a supply as luxury suites.
Historically, five-star hotels made their mark on the city by establishing themselves in the very heart of its commercial centre, and many of these lavish hotels command top dollar. As can the swanky hotels lining the Bhosphorus.
Given the number of hotels in Istanbul, you would expect all the major international chains to be present. Not so. There are just a handful of these mostly clustered in the Taksim/Beyoglu area. The balance is made up of guest houses, local independent properties and 'S' class hotels (special hotels that are generally refurbished or converted historic properties).
Istanbul Hotel Recommendations?
Nowhere in the city will you feel more like visiting royalty than at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a former Ottoman imperial palace with a pool on the banks of the Bosphoros which hosts buffet barbeques suitable for a sultan. Spend a night in the bright yellow former city jail The Four Seasons Istanbul to be a stone’s throw from Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia or gaze out at the awesome Bosphoros suspension bridge at the Sumahan On The Water hotel on the Asian side of the city in the sedate suburb Cengelkoy.
Transport in Istanbul
There are two airports serving Istanbul, Ataturk International on the European side of the Bosporus and Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side. From the former, you can travel by metro, tram, airport bus, city bus, taxi, shuttle van or private transfer. If you’re using the roads, the journey can take anything between 40 minutes and 75 minutes depending on traffic.
If you’re flying into Sabiha Gokcen, take a private transfer van, city bus, Havas Airport Bus, taxi or shuttle van. The airport is 19 miles from the Kadikoy ferry dock and travel should take around 45 minutes.
One of the most popular ways of navigating the Bophoros once you are in the city is by ferry. Ferries depart from the Bogaz Hatti dock at Eminou daily and stop regularly.