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First time travel to Istanbul - Sept 2018

My wife and I are traveling to meet up with friends in Europe this fall. Our flights to Prague took us through Istanbul so we decided to extend our layover so that we had a few days to explore. I have so many questions but first I’m trying to sort out places to stay.

We will be in Istanbul for 3 nights. I’m looking to stay in the Sultanahmet district since we typically love to be in the middle of the historic sites. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. We typically love moderately priced pensions or hotels with some local charm. If it feels like an American Hotel we are disappointed. We are ok splurging a bit for Istanbul but our typical hotel budget is 75-125 euro/night.

For the 3rd night I’m considering moving to a hotel by the airport. We have an early flight to Prague and although I’d rather not change hotels, I really don’t want to push our luck with security and check in. Are there any suggestions for airport hotels? I see the TAV hotel and I’m really tempted to go that route but I’m curious if there are any suggestions from the Rick-Steve-ers out there. Y’all haven’t let me down yet!!

Posted by
128 posts

We enjoyed our stay at the Basileus Hotel (
The rooms were good sized with nice bathrooms. There was a free breakfast buffet with omelets made to order, excellent.
We could walk everywhere from the hotel and there was a very good restaurant just down the block.
I don't recall the name, but it had outside seating with pretty colored light strings at night.

The hotel is run by two brothers and they were very helpful with directions, etc.
Every afternoon there are cookies, Turkish delight or some snack set out in the lobby.
They give a discount for paying in cash.

Posted by
2312 posts

Chris, I have stayed in and very much enjoyed the Regie Ottoman Hotel, and will stay there again this May. It is in Sirkeci, near the Egyptian Spice Market, about mid-way between Sultanahmet and the Galata Bridge, easily walkable to all that. The building is an old Ottoman building, very lovely I think. The rooms are beautiful, comfortable and generally spacious. The rates certainly fall in your range, even for larger superior or deluxe rooms. The breakfast buffet is wonderful, abundant and diverse. I found the staff in the small lobby to be extremely friendly and helpful. Check this one out on or, where its reviews are very positive. If you really want to stay in a Sultanahmet, the RS Tours stay at the Hotel Azade.

Posted by
11280 posts

If you are flying out of Ataturk airport, it's not too far from Sultanahmet (20-30 minutes in a taxi). So you don't necessarily need to change hotels. If you're flying out of Sabiha Gokcen, that is indeed quite far from Sultanahmet, and changing hotels makes more sense.

Many Istanbul hotels have free one way airport transit (or at least, they did in 2011 when I visited). We chose to use our hotel's free airport pick up, then to pay to use their driver to return us to the airport. The cost was €20, and it was very easy. So, check if your hotel has this service.

Posted by
69 posts

Very good suggestions! We are flying through Attaturk so it’s good to hear we may not need to change hotels. I’ll have to look into the transfer service because that may help a lot!

Posted by
69 posts

Has anyone used the TAV airside Hotel? I’m really leaning towards trying this out for the last night.

Posted by
6858 posts

With the exception of the TAV hotel (which I believe is a bit more pricey due to the airport location), the hotel prices in Istanbul are really inexpensive. Your budget is very generous for Istanbul (you could get a luxury hotel for that provided you book far enough in advance). I have stayed at both Empress Theodora Hotel and Raymond Blue Hotel very close to the tram and all the action in the Old City. I enjoyed them both.

I had a very early flight one time and it still worked out for me to stay in the center. The streets were empty at about 5 am when I was heading toward the airport (during peak hour I would not have risked it). I could recommend you a hotel very close to the airport but it's a very funky Euro style hotel, no Turkish feel to it at all.

Empress Theodora Hotel

Raymond Blue Hotel

Posted by
58 posts

I was in Istanbul 3/9-3/14 and absolutely loved it. We stayed in the Sultanahmet district and had an early flight back to London at 8:00am. I booked a shuttle for a 5:00am pick up, it arrived a couple of minutes early and we were at the airport (IST) by 5:15. There is no traffic at that time. We were really happy staying in the Sultanahmet district and I would rather be there the night before to enjoy a last dinner and walk/sightsee than be at the airport. We stayed at Hotel Nena. I used Efendi Travel for our transportation to and from IST, a private transfer was 20 euros each way and I would highly recommend them, their customer service was great.

Posted by
277 posts

I stayed at the Amira Hotel, behind and down the hill from the Blue Mosque. It was excellent, deserving of its #2 rating on TripAdvisor. It had plenty of charm, not “American” at all. Especially great were the friendly and helpful staff. When I arrived, the concierge gave me a free drink and sat down with me for about half an hour, helping me plan my time and giving me suggestions for restaurants, etc. They sell tram tokens at the desk which made taking the tram a breeze. I arranged a driver with them to/from the airport, well worth the cost.

On a different trip, I stayed at the TAV hotel (land side) on the last night due to a very early flight (I needed to check-in at 4:00 am). It was quite nice and I actually had an excellent dinner there. Their hallways are LONG, so ask for a room near the elevator or prepare for a hike! Note that you would probably be staying on the LAND side. To stay on the air side, you would need to check-in, go through security, and so on. You probably could not do that so far in advance of your flight. Technically you can walk between the hotel and the airport, but they run a 24-hour shuttle that I used. I was glad I went to the airport the night before, if only to get a bit more sleep. I stayed in the old city until the evening (my hotel watched my luggage) and then headed to the airport in the early evening.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for posting about this, I can also get information in the comments. Have fun and I hope you will have a memorable trip!