Editor’s note: On February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Türkiye and northwestern Syria, killing more than 50,000 people at time of writing. Many organizations are on the ground helping out in the aftermath and are accepting donations. Here’s some information on how you can help. Per our sources in Türkiye, most of the rest of the country was not affected by the earthquake, and tourism remains an important industry for the entire nation’s economy. AFAR has resumed publishing stories that celebrate Türkiye as a whole.
With its romantic waterways, historic buildings, and rich tradition of service, Istanbul has always been one of the world’s most exciting hotel cities. And as this crop of new and renovated addresses proves, Istanbul continues to attract global hospitality brands, while also expanding its home-grown boutique offerings. Whether you’re craving palatial shoreside digs on the Bosporus, an abode in the happening Beyoğlu district, or a revamped hideaway in the historic Ottoman quarter, here are the best hotels to check into right now.
The Peninsula Istanbul
After years of anticipation, the launch of the Peninsula Istanbul in the buzzy Karakoy district is finally here, with its first batch of rooms opened in February. The remaining guest quarters and full facilities, including outdoor swimming pool, gardens, and fine dining restaurant are expected by summer. Occupying four waterfront buildings—three of them graciously renovated fin de siècle landmarks—the hotel offers views of the domes and minarets of the Historic Peninsula across the expanse of the Bosporus and a soaring lobby serving the Pen’s signature afternoon tea, plus private boats and a magical garden devised by the Swiss landscaping maestro Enzo Enea.
As further collaborators, the hotel has enlisted some of the home country’s top talent. Interior guru and architect Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, best known for Istanbul’s striking Şakirin Mosque, designed the 177 rooms, blending dark wood and pastels with such Turkish elements as mother-of-pearl inlay. Turkish-born fashion icon Arzu Kaprol created the staff uniforms. Among the toiletries in the sultanic Marmara-marble clad bathrooms? A custom fragrance, “Citrus Fig & Bosphorus Breeze,” from cult artisanal perfumery brand Nishane. And the talent behind the Silk Route–inspired menu for Gallada, the rooftop restaurant coming in June? Istanbul’s chef du jour, Fatih Tutak, recipient of two Michelin stars. Good luck scoring a table.
Book now: Peninsula Istanbul
Note: Until the end of 2023, for every room night at the Peninsula properties worldwide, a donation equal to €10 per night will be made to its Hope for Türkiye fundraiser to aid the country’s earthquake survivors. In addition, each hotel will offer opportunities for guests to make contributions to charitable organizations whose funds go directly to the victims.
Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus
When it opened in summer 2021, the Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus brought the brand’s signature cosmopolitan chic to a romantic stretch of the Bosphorus about four miles north from Galatport. With its 100 serene rooms, sparkling swimming pools, a palatial spa, and a fluid indoor-outdoor design by Tihany Design, the hotel feels like an exclusive resort perched within one of the world’s busiest cities. Istanbul’s Ferrari set favors sushi at the hotel’s sceny restaurant, Novikov. Serious foodies come for the Italian pizzas and pastas at Olea. You eat your minimalist tangle of al dente fettucine while ferries and freighters glide along the Bosporus and the calls of muezzins echo across the water. Expected in summer: an outpost of Hakkasan (from the London-based restaurant group) serving neo-Cantonese fusion and creative dim sum.
Book now: Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus
Ecole St. Pierre Hotel
Back in the Beyoğlu district—the cosmopolitan Pera of Ottoman days—two new boutique properties entice with a central location while still managing to feel removed from the tourist frenzy. Almost in the shadow of iconic cone-peaked Galata Tower, Ecole St. Pierre Hotel occupies a former French elementary school built by a celebrated 19th-century architect. (The rumor that Sarah Jessica Parker stayed here recently? Apparently true.) The hotel’s 17 guest rooms—some with balconies and Tower views—are designed with midcentury swagger, lots of rattan, and striking blue-tiled bathrooms. Il Cortile, its restaurant, serves Ligurian-inspired fare—and, amazingly, incorporates a section of the neighborhood’s 14th-century Genoese walls.
Book now: Ecole St. Pierre Hotel
Adahan DeCamondo Pera
There is a similar preservationist ethos at Adahan DeCamondo Pera by the Autograph Collection. This thoughtful restoration project transformed an 1874 mansion of the city’s wealthy Sephardic Jewish Camondo family into a hideaway with spacious guest quarters featuring rich textiles, dark wood floors, and warm lighting. The rooms are surprisingly affordable, too, with doubles starting at $165. The downstairs salons with plush couches, distressed ceilings, and historic sepia photos create an illusion of staying at an aristocratic family residence. A demitasse of expertly prepared Turkish coffee is a sweet welcome amenity.
Book now: Adahan DeCamondo Pera
Four Seasons Sultanahmet
Those who’d like to be near the historic center’s mosques and bazaars should book at Four Seasons Sultanahmet housed in the saffron-yellow quarters of an Ottoman-built former jail. After a two-year closure, the 65-room hotel reopened in summer 2022: refreshed and more gracious than ever. The renovation (by the London-based firm of Goddard Littlefair) highlights the bright tiles, arches, and marble pillars of late-Ottoman neoclassicism—while also appealing to modern-day style sultans.
Have a sage martini at the rooftop Süreyya lounge, which seems suspended between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Follow with a dinner of inspired regional Anatolian cooking at Avlu restaurant in the jasmine-scented garden. Avlu’s passionate anthropologist-chef Özgür Üstün prepares a majestic wood-roasted duck with rolls of thin dough to soak up the rich juices. (It’s inspired by his mom’s traditional Black Sea goose preparation.) And he does wonders with meze and fish at Lingo Lingo, the hotel’s newest restaurant. Even if you don’t stay here, come for some of the best cooking in Istanbul.
Book now: Four Seasons Sultanahmet
Ciragan Palace Kempinski
Coming by summer of 2023: The beloved “grande dame of the Bosphorus”, Ciragan Palace Kempinski, will unveil the first phase of its own opulent renovation with the redesign of most of its rooms and suites in the hotel building—plus a lobby makeover and two new still-undisclosed restaurant concepts. Decorated by classically trained Ottoman art expert and celebrity interior designer Serdar Gulgun, the refreshed rooms and suites will take inspiration from the Ottoman Empire, with sumptuous bull’s-blood reds and rich blues, tulip-patterned fabrics, and extravagant hamam-style marble bathrooms.