With the number of visitors to Turkey increasing every year, Istanbul's hoteliers are busy keeping up with the growing demand. New lodgings, from five-star hotels to smaller boutique inns, are opening all the time, while older establishments are busy renovating and expanding. This means there are plenty more options than there were in the past, but because Istanbul is such a popular destination, it's not the travel bargain it used to be. It's also worth noting that hotels in Turkey tend to quote their rates in euros, which makes what might look like a good deal something less than that when paying in U.S. dollars. Most lodgings, save four- and five-star hotels, include a full Turkish breakfast with the room rate.
The majority of visitors to Istanbul stay in the Sultanahmet area, where they are conveniently in walking distance to most of the city’s major sights, including Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, and the bazaars. Sultanahmet has a good selection of hotels, smaller family-run guesthouses, and some charmingly stylish inns, many of which are decorated in typical Turkish style, with traditional touches like kilim carpets or old-fashioned furnishings. The rooms here generally tend to be on the small side, and bathrooms often only have showers, but what's lacking in space tends to be more than made up for in character and atmosphere. The downside of staying in Sultanahmet is that at the height of the season, the area is overrun not only with tourists but touts who will approach you at every turn. On the upside, stiff competition in the area means that Sultanahmet usually has the best deals in town; some hotels even offer a 5% to 10% discount for payment in cash, or a complimentary airport transfer if you stay three or more nights.
For a wider range of hotel options in somewhat less tourist-oriented neighborhoods, head to the Golden Horn. The Beyoğlu district, only a 15- or 20-minute tram ride or cab ride from the sights of Sultanahmet, has recently emerged as an attractive alternative to the Old City. Entrepreneurs have caught on to the tourism potential of the historic area and are restoring elegant, century-old buildings and giving them new life as hotels. Staying near Taksim Square or in one of Beyoğlu’s trendy sub-neighborhoods—such as Şişhane/Tünel, Cihangir, or Galata—puts you closer to Istanbul's best restaurants and nightlife spots and also gives you a chance to stroll through the area’s lively backstreets.
For the most luxurious, indulgent accommodations, stay in one of the large, modern, high-end hotels that are mostly clustered in the upscale neighborhood of Nişantaşı and along the coveted strip of the Bosphorus between Beşiktaş and Ortaköy. You’ll pay considerably more to stay in these digs but the perks can include incredible waterfront views, swimming pools and top-notch fitness facilities, and sophisticated dining options. Wherever you stay, you may notice that hoteliers are starting to embrace traditional Turkish styles and motifs; one new trend is to design hotel bathrooms like hammams. Though the setup may be less familiar than a traditional shower or bath, these bathrooms can be quite luxurious, with marble-lined tubs and heated floors.