Çiragan Palace (tel. 0212/258-3377; www.kempinski-istanbul.com)
More than just Istanbul's original posh hotel, the Çiragan Palace is a destination in its own right. The grandeur of the lobby -- tinted by light coming through the stained glass and imbued with the fragrance of fresh roses -- hardly prepares you for what's to come. Expect regal gardens, a delicious Bosphorus-side pool, big fluffy beds, and flawless service. Make sure you splurge for that sea view, or all bets are off.
Four Seasons Hotel (tel. 0212/381-3000; www.fourseasons.com)
Nothing drives home the magnitude of this hotel's history more than watching a former political prisoner once incarcerated here break down and cry in the hallway. Some original tile and marble details were preserved and reused in the renovation, and you might encounter the rough etchings of an inmate's name in one of the columns. But these days the unqualified opulence and comfort of this grand hotel couldn't be further from its bread-and-water past. The new Four Seasons the Bosphorus (tel. 0212/638-8200) promises the royal treatment -- but without the historic background.
Les Ottomans (tel. 0212/359-1500; www.lesottomans.com)
You'll find rooms truly fit for royalty here, if you can get a reservation. Every detail, from the chandeliers, to the salon chairs, to the bedding, is a unique creation that screams "one of a kind." The very personalized nature of the hotel foreshadows the high standard of hospitality.
Sumahan (tel. 0216/422-8000; www.sumahan.com)
A traditional hamam is the bonus feature in four of the hotel's rooms, while the rest of them make do with luxurious slate marble bathroom suites. Enough with the bathrooms; the hotel itself is a restored grain alcohol factory.
Best Place to Pretend You're a Sultan
No expense was spared in restoring the rooms in the Palace Section of the Çiragan Palace, Çiragan Cad. 84 (tel. 0212/258-3377; www.kempinski-istanbul.com), from the finest upholstery, to gold bathroom fittings, to the sumptuously detailed Sultan's Hamam (open for private events only). Rebuilt from the ground up is the lavish retreat that is Les Ottomans, Muallim Naci Cad. 68, Kuruçesme (tel. 0212/359-1500; www.lesottomans.com). If Muhzinzade Mehmet Pasa himself were to step into his former residence today, he would feel like he had gotten a promotion.
Best Views from in Bed
Honeymooners can make the most of the ample Bosphorus views at A'jia, Ahmet Rasim Pasa Yalisi, Çubuklu Cad. 27, Kanlica (tel. 0216/413-9300; www.ajiahotel.com), where plush beds face picture windows. The Mezzanine Suite throws in a panoramic view from the bathtub as well. From both the bed and bathtub in the suites of the Ottoman Imperial, Caferiye Sok. 6/1, Sultanahmet (tel. 0212/513-6150; www.ottomanhotelimperial.com), you can practically touch the windows in the dome of the Ayasofya.
Best Nostalgic Hotel
After a 4-year project of restoration, rehab, and upgrades by expert architects, preservationists, and academics, Istanbul's iconic Pera Palace Hotel, Mesrutiyet Cad. 98-100, Tepebasi (tel. 0212/251-4560; www.perapalace.com), has been restored to its throne as the jewel in the crown of this former capital of three empires.
Best Trendy Hotel
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you get into Istanbul's trendiest hotel? Book a room at the W Istanbul, Süleyman Seba Cad. 27, 34357 Besiktas (tel. 0212/381-2121; www.wistanbul.com.tr), with its nightclub-esque ambience and seductive lighting. An oasis of style and guiltless indulgence is the Misafir Suites, Gazeteci Erol Dernek Sok. 1, Beyoglu (tel. 0212/249-8930; www.misafirsuites.com), with rooms decked out like the luxury downtown studio you wish you had.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Both the Cihangir Hotel, Aslan Yatagi Sok. 17, Cihangir (tel. 0212/251-5317; www.cihangirhotel.com), and the Apricot Hotel, Amiral Tafdil Sok. 18/2, Sultanahmet (tel. 0212/638-1658; www.apricothotel.com), tie for the best value. The former offers affordable Bosphorus views, while the latter provides the warmth and scale of a bed-and-breakfast in a quiet, historic corner of the Old City.
Best Hotel Restoration
The architects and owners of the Sumahan, Kuleli Cad. 51, Çengelköy (tel. 0216/422-8000; www.sumahan.com), whose name recalls the property's original use (a grain alcohol distillery), swathed the former factory in marble and updated it without sacrificing arched windows, the distinctive chimney, its industrial feel, or a sense of indulgence. Similarly, the Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Tevkifhane Sok. 1 (tel. 0212/381-3000; www.fourseasons.com) transformed a forgotten 19th-century political prison into some of the most evocative and coveted rooms in the city.
Best Unique Hotel
With the density of fabulous hotels setting the bar in Istanbul ever higher, it's more difficult than ever to find something, well, different. The stylish Five Boutique Hotel, Cumhuriyet Cad. Prof. Celal Öker Sok. 5, Harbiye (tel. 0212/296-5553; www.fiveboutiquehotel.com), has the appealing trait of being entirely, from the bedclothes to the breakfast table, 100% organic. Two hotels in Sultanahmet earn honorable mention for having a portion of the hotel built into the city's ancient, Byzantine walls. They are the meandering Empress Zoe, Akbiyik Cad., Adliye Sok. 10, Sultanahmet (tel. 0212/518-2504; www.emzoe.com), and Naz Wooden House, Akbiyik Cad., Degirmeni Sok. 7, Sultanahmet (tel. 0212/516-7130; www.nazwoodenhouseinn.com).
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.