Many travelers to Istanbul want to stay in a location that puts them near the city's main attractions, such as Topkapi Palace and Aya Sophia, and that means staying in the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. This is also the district with Istanbul's most diverse selection of hotels. However, that does not mean that choosing a hotel in Sultanahmet is simple, and great care should be taken when shopping for a hotel there.
Visitors to Istanbul should beware of Turkey's official star-rating system. That system is based strictly on the amenities provided, so a well-maintained two-star hotel might turn out to be an all-around better place to stay than a crumbling four-star in desperate need of a renovation. Because hotels always put their best face on for the photos on their website, seek independent confirmation of a given hotel's standing through travel guides and other review sources.
A six-room, family-run guesthouse, the Apricot Hotel offers clean accommodations at a reasonable price. The rooms are furnished in a simple, motel-style fashion with wood furnishings, and every room has an en-suite bathroom, Wi-Fi access and cable TV. Frommer's described the guesthouse as "the perfect example of why inexpensive doesn't have to mean cheap." Among the other amenities, the Apricot Hotel grants each guest one free airport transfer. On the downside, the hotel enforces a surcharge for guests who pay by credit card.
The Four Seasons at Sultanahmet is a much-lauded, elite hotel, with top marks from Frommer's, Fodor's, Conde Nast Traveller and The New York Times. Set in a yellow, neo-classical former prison building, this branch of the Four Seasons exudes timeless elegance with its original marble fittings and tilework, as well as its classical furnishings and original artwork. All rooms have a view, whether it be of old Istanbul, the Sea of Marmara or of the hotel's own garden courtyard. With only 65 rooms, the hotel retains a cozy feel that is often lost in other, much larger upscale hotels, yet it also enjoys all the modern amenities and fine service one would expect from a Four Seasons.
Hotel Empress Zoe
This Fodor's Choice hotel is one of the early examples of a boutique hotel in Istanbul. With a view of the oldest haman in the city, the 26-room hotel offers small rooms with traditional dark wood and Turkish-upholstered furnishings. The hotel consists of a network of conjoined houses, so the courtyards, balconies and terraces offer plenty of privacy. However, the hotel has no elevator, and access to the rooms is up a narrow, spiral iron staircase that might prove awkward for guests with big suitcases to navigate.
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