Tailor Turkey’s most exciting city to suit any budget, says Katie McGonagle
Stroll through the souks of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and you’re as likely to bump into bargain-hunters haggling over souvenirs as big-spenders splashing out on handwoven carpets or priceless antiques.
Just as its most famous market can cater for both ends of the budget scale, so can the city itself. Whether clients want to be lavished with luxury or sightsee on a shoestring, this thriving metropolis has something to suit.
SAVE: TIME AND PLACE
No-frills carriers and budget accommodation make the city as affordable as it is accessible.
Visitors who aren’t afraid to wrap up will find cheaper prices between November and March, and can cut down on costs and queues with pre-bookable tickets such as the Museum Pass, costing about £20 and covering key attractions including the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
The city boasts a range of reasonably priced hotels. For proximity to the ancient mosques and palaces of the Old City, Sultanahmet, it’s hard to beat value options such as Art City Hotel and nearby Grand Yavuz Hotel.
The former is a small 16-room boutique, while the latter boasts 111 rooms plus a Turkish bath, Jacuzzi and sauna. Direct Traveller offers three-night packages over Valentine’s Day from £249 for each hotel, including flights, transfers, and B&B accommodation.
Shopaholics will have easy access to the Grand Bazaar from the Best Western Plus The President Hotel, with packages from £319 in March, also with Direct Traveller. Sister property the Best Western Empire Palace Hotel combines character with location: set in a 17th-century Ottoman house in Sultanahmet, the 35-room property overlooks the Bosphorus from its top-floor terrace restaurant.
SPEND: STAY IN CHARACTER
Mid-range hotels with history are plentiful too. The restored 30-room Uyan Hotel, in an enviable spot behind the Hagia Sophia, was built in 1928 and boasts period fittings.
Across the Golden Horn in Galata, Adahan Hotel is a listed apartment building dating from 1874, now restored into a 40-room property with original frescoes, marble fittings and vaulted ceilings. It’s also just a 10-minute walk to the bars, restaurants and boutique shops along lively Istiklal Avenue. The former starts at £140 per night in May and the latter from £175, both self-catering, with Ilios Travel.
Moving up the price scale and back to the Old City, the four-star Sultanhan is a 40-room boutique with 19th-century Ottoman furnishings, a Turkish hammam and unbeatable terrace views. The Bosphorus and Sultanahmet views from the Legacy Ottoman Hotel are impressive too, though its colourful past as an army barracks and home to the Istanbul Stock Exchange are equally interesting, making it a top pick for Anatolian Sky Holidays.
SPLURGE: ROOMS WITH A VIEW
The chance to stay in a former jail doesn’t come along often, but then most prison buildings aren’t as pretty as this one.
The Four Seasons at Sultanahmet is at the heart of the Old City, now transformed into a peaceful five-star property with 65 rooms set around a courtyard. Kirker Holidays has an offer on stays until March 31, with three nights including flights from £1,141, a saving of £200.
Also boasting intrigue at every turn, the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah is famed for its literary heritage – Agatha Christie is said to have written Murder on the Orient-Express here, plus Ernest Hemingway and French novelist Pierre Loti were frequent guests – but its turn-of-the-century elegance and Golden Horn views are equally enticing. Those vistas can also be enjoyed from the rooftop of the luxurious Tomtom Suites, one of Ilios Travel’s most popular options, from £260 a night in May.
The top floor of Marti Istanbul, designed by the first woman to design a mosque, is devoted to its large spa. It features two traditional hammams and a vast Roman bath; rooms range from €140 a night for a classic king, up to €4,124 for the ultra-luxurious Regal Suite.
Also excelling in the spa stakes is the Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas, one of Classic Collection Holidays’ favourites. Its spa suites feature a steam room and heated floors and designer divas can indulge at the hotel’s Gucci and Porsche Design shops.
Perhaps one of the most unusual properties, and one of Exclusive Escapes’ best-sellers, is distillery-turned-luxury hotel Sumahan on the Water. Set on the Asian side of Istanbul, this 24-room Bosphorus-front hotel enjoys some of the best views in the city.
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