Photo courtesy of Annminina / Dreamstime.com. Article by Caroline Patience, contributor to Budget Travel.
Istanbul -- the only city in the world that straddles two continents -- just took the No. 1 spot in TripAdvisor's Traveler's Choice awards. If you're thinking of going, we've got some stylish steals for you.
Gumusyan Hotel & Restaurant, Beyoglu
The folks behind this city-center newcomer, opened in October 2010, stripped the century-old residence to its elements. The original brick walls, wood-plank floors, and 130-year-old-walnut slab headboards now lend an authentic patina that newer hotels can only approximate. There's more to this property than just great bones, though. The owners also filled the 14 rooms with a stylish mix of modern furniture (lime-green sofas, Bertoia-style wire-mesh chairs) and classic Ottoman details such as suzani fabrics and Iznik tiles. The hotel has even begun luring locals to its ground-floor restaurant, an upscale take on a meyhane, a traditional Turkish tavern. 9 Asmali Mescit Cad., gumusyan.com, from $119.
House Hotel Galatasaray, Beyoglu
A recent makeover at the hands of urban-cool Turkish design firm Autoban wed the best features of this 19th century building (a sweeping marble staircase, ornate plasterwork) with crisp, contemporary, Scandinavian furnishings. The hotel's 20 guest rooms don't skimp on the creature comforts: king-size, pillow-top beds with goose-down duvets; marble baths stocked with L'Occitane products. But guests may still find themselves haunting the top-floor atrium, where they can lounge on Chesterfield sofas in front of the fireplace or take in the views of Suleymaniye Mosque and the medieval stone Galata Tower. 19 Bostanbasi Cad., thehousehotel.com, from $142.
Villa Denise, Arnavutköy
The ancient fishing village of Arnavutköy, 30 minutes from the old city by bus, has served as a waterfront retreat for centuries. The last sultans of the Ottoman Empire chose this spot along the Bosphorus for their grandiose hillside homes, and today Istanbul residents make day trips to explore the district's winding cobblestoned streets and celebrated seafood joints. Villa Denise, with its narrow, wallpapered hallways, canopy-draped beds, and tufted fainting couches, evokes the area's haute history -- just overlook the odd veneer side table or shabby fixture that tempers the elegance. Two of the five guest rooms have balconies, and all have at least partial views of the Bosphorus. 50 Birinci Cad., villadenise.com.tr, from $144.
Ascot Hotel, Büyükada
At a glance, this 22-room hotel could be just another spruced-up Victorian mansion. Then you notice the neon lights that wash its Doric columns in blue and purple and the Hollywood Regency décor (damask wallpaper, lots of lacquer) in the lobby, and you realize: This hotel is no mere relic. Rooms aim for opulence -- most have crystal chandeliers and private balconies -- while the large pool, sundeck, and Finnish sauna underscore the resort-escape feel. It's a bit out of the way, on car-free Büyükada island; ferry rides from town take 35 minutes to an hour, depending on the boat. But that's the whole point: You won't find this kind of lost-in-time peace and quiet anywhere on the mainland. 6 Cinar Cad., ascot.com.tr, from $118.
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