One of the places at the top of my wanderlust list at the moment (and it’s a rather long list, as you can imagine!) is Istanbul. Straddling Europe and Asia, the city has an undeniably exotic appeal, dotted with mosque spires, grand old buildings, impressive museums and, of course, some truly fantastic food. The city makes a great destination in its own right, or would be the perfect starting point for a honeymoon in Turkey, or, for a truly classic experience, you could make your way here by train, as travellers on the Orient Express did in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here’s my pick of the hotels on offer in Istanbul – all of which I think offer that perfect blend of romance and luxury for honeymooners.
This gorgeous hotel had me at its rooftop terrace, which overlooks the stunning Blue Mosque, and beyond to the Sea of Marmara – where better to rest your feet over a drink at the end of the day? I love the blend of old and new here; the hotel is set in a couple of twentieth-century townhouses, and beautifully combines traditional features with a modern sensability. Rooms are elegant and stylish, while maintaing a gorgeous Turkish ambience; there’s just 24 of them, creating a lovely, intimate feel to the hotel.
Situated in the heart of old Istanbul. Sultanahmet, Ibrahim Pasha is ideally placed for exploring some of Istanbul’s best sights, including Aya Sofya and the Topkapi Palace. From £84 a night.
Don’t be fooled by the gracious late-19th-century mansion that’s home to The House, Galatasaray – this is one of the most fashionable places to stay in town. Inside, the interiors blend an effortlessly chic mix of 19th-century and contemporary styles, creating a sense of luxurious apartment-style living. With just twenty suites, it’s small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to benefit from facilities like a wonderful rooftop bar, from which you can enjoy great views of downtown and the Galata Tower.
White is the predominant colour here – which might be a bit minimalistic for some – which will make a cool reprieve from the bustle of the city. The hotel is set in the heart of Cukurcuma, one of the city’s historic old districts, just a short walk from the Bosphorus. From £96 a night.
This is a great little find – the epitome of unpretentious accommodation, oozing a real local ambience. Each of the rooms here is utterly individual and unique, ranging from regular doubles that have beds with beautiful antique Turkish canopies and the Special Double with Terrace pictured above, to a Special Honeymoon Double that comes complete with a hamam-style bathroom. There’s also a lovely, lush garden that would make the perfect place for relaxing – in summer, an informal bar sets up here in the evening, while in winter, drinks are served by the fireplace inside.
Situated in the heart of Sultanahmet, the hotel is just five minutes’ walk from the Blue Mosque, and so perfectly placed for sightseeing. Empress Zoe looks like just the kind of quirky, local place that I love – and it’s definitely top of my list for when we visit Istanbul. From £97 a night.