Walking around the Galata neighborhood recently, you may have noticed that boutique hotels have been popping up like mushrooms. This area is popular not only with the city’s artists, but also with many visitors who want to be right in the center of the city’s buzz and energy. The Galata area is steeped in history, founded as a Genoese colony in the 13th century. Once a center for banking and commerce, Galata was home to many Italians, Greeks, and Jews, and had one of the busiest harbors in all of Europe. However, during the 20th century, the area suffered a major social setback as most of the minorities left and the whole area began to decline. The greater Beyoğlu area started to experience a revival in the 1990s, helped in large part by the main street, Istiklal Caddesi, becoming a pedestrian-only zone. However, it took considerably longer for the Galata area to experience its own revival, which has only really taken off over the past few years.
Today, Galata is arguably Istanbul’s coolest neighborhood. This funky area is now home to many small shops and boutiques by Turkish designers, not to mention an increasing number of restaurants, bars and boutique hotels. Unlike many of Istanbul’s older boutique hotels, which focus on historical quaintness, these hotels are heavy on style and design, seamlessly blending historic buildings with modern elegance.
Boutique Hotels in Historical Settings
Many visitors to Istanbul want to stay in Galata
because of the area’s rich history.And what better way to experience thisthan by staying in a boutique hotel housed in a historical building? For visitors looking for such an experience, Rooms Galata
is an ideal option. You’re sure to get a warm reception at this beautiful hotel, with 16 rooms spread over two connected historical buildings. The buildings themselves and the rooms are very charming, with much attention given to small details, such as the tasteful glassware and original works of art. All of the rooms have high ceilings and wooden floors, with a unique décor that perfectly blends modern and antique details. Some also have private terraces, while the rooftop terrace has a sea view.
When the architects discovered original frescos on the walls, they painstakingly restored them so that the historical details of the building would be preserved, adding to the individual beauty of the rooms. In fact, all of the artwork on the walls is original, and even the furniture has been specifically designed by the hotel’s architect, Bülent Güngör. The rooms have kitchenettes, but there is also a cozy café downstairs where you can enjoy light snacks, as well as a small courtyard where you can sit outside.
Another similar option is Stories Apart Kumbaracı
. Located just off Istiklal Street on the rapidly developing Kumbaracı Yokuşu, this hotel just opened in late 2011, and is housed in a historical building that dates back to the 1890s. The building still has its original marble staircases as well as plenty of lovely wrought iron on the staircases and balconies. The décor is very tasteful, in shades of cream and grey, and the walls are decorated with black and white photographs of architectural details of the Galata area taken by a local artist.
The rooms all feature fireplaces and low lighting, which adds to the romantic feel, while the building itself has kept historical features that add to the charm. The hotel has 24 rooms, the most impressive of which is the suite on the top floor, which has a large terrace with a Bosphorus view, as well as a fireplace and flat-screen TV. The rooms all feature kitchenettes, and many have seating areas. But if you want to enjoy a more formal breakfast, you can head to Morro
, the popular Italian restaurant located downstairs.
Tiny Hotels That Are Big on Charm
Located in an old house down a winding side street by an old Crimean church
is Serdar-ı Ekrem 59
. Thanks to its off-the-beaten-path location, you feel like you have happened upon a hidden gem when approaching this hotel. Although the metro and the bustle of Beyoğlu are close by, it really feels like you have entered another world, or at least another city. The mediumsized apartments are all individually and beautifully decorated in a style that oozes Old World charm combined with modern conveniences.
The rooms feature details such as cumbas (protrusions from a room characteristic of Ottoman architecture) with seating areas built in, and have hardwood or marble floors, and walls that are exposed brick or decorated with frescoes. Many of the rooms also have cute details, such as window shutters that open not to a view, but to a wall painted with birds. All rooms have separate bedrooms and living areas (they can accommodate up to four people with a sofa bed) and small kitchenettes that are ideal for coffee, tea, and breakfast. Serdar-ı Ekrem 59 makes for a perfect escape without actually leaving the city.
The name says it all at 4 Floors
, whose four apartments cover all four floors of this building, which is located on a cul-de-sac in one of the area’s lesser-known areas. Situated away from the bustle of Istiklal Caddesi, this hotel can be reached by walking down a side street reminiscent of something you might find in an Italian town – no doubt a reflection of the area’s Genoese history. Renovated by owner and designer Sema Topaloğlu, there is great attention to craftsmanship and originality in the décor. Each unit has a unique look, and many of the furnishings are from leading contemporary furniture designers.
These apartments are spacious, with high ceilings and large kitchens. They feature wooden floors, ceilings, and doors, some with fireplaces. There is a real cool vibe, with lots of heavy, chunky wood and exposed brick, while some of the walls have been painted with original works of art, lending the apartments an artist’s touch. With panoramic views of the back streets of Beyoğlu and a view of the Bosphorus from the penthouse — which also has a rooftop terrace — these apartments will show you a whole new side of Istanbul.
With Istanbul increasingly becoming a center for business and commerce, the city is attracting more and more business and long-term visitors. Many of these visitors are looking for something different than your standard business hotel, and the Galata area offers a number of long-term options. Located on a side street a few steps away from the crowds is Balkon Residence
. Housed in a tall and narrow building that dates back to the late 1800s, it has received a complete facelift and has been welcoming guests since 2011. It offers five very spacious units that are more like apartments than hotel rooms, with generously sized separate living rooms, very large kitchens, and even proper laundry facilities. The bigger units even have a dishwasher, making them ideal for long-term stays.
The rooms are decorated in a classic and elegant style befitting the historicalbuilding, with modern touches for convenience. All are spacious, yet also warm and inviting. But the real showstopper is Flat 5 on the top floor, which has an incredible view of Beyoğlu and the Bosphorus and a massive terrace a perfect place to invite all of your friends for a party. Decorated in shades of aqua blue and white, with an openplan kitchen and a bathtub in the middle of the bedroom, this suite could make anyone consider relocating to Istanbul.
For those looking for comfort and convenience, Galateia Residence
is another good option, particularly for business travelers. The units here are very spacious, with separate bedrooms, full kitchens, study areas, sofas that pull out as extra beds, and large terraces. Some of the rooms also offer amazing views across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of the city. Add to this the fact that it is literally just a stone’s throw away from the metro, and this could be a good option for long-term businesspeople working in Istanbul, with the large rooms and level of practicality likely to appeal to American business travelers in particular.
While most visitors staying in Galata are attracted to the area’s rich history, this does not mean that none want to stay somewhere with a modern flair. Located on a rapidly developing side street is Nur-u Ziya Suites
, where the décor is modern and minimal in tones of white and grey. Artistic black and white photographs decorate the walls, and the rooms have chromatic themes, such as pink or turquoise, to add a splash of color.
The focus here is on technology, comfort, and convenience. All of the rooms are decked out with iPads that have special applications to help guests get the most out of being a tourist in Istanbul and find exactly what they want in the city. The room card keys also double as metro passes to help you get around the city with ease. There is also a small business center and fitness center that that features a Kinetics machine, internet access while you work out, and an X-Box. This hotel also has a gallery space downstairs and a cool café upstairs, lending the hotel a young and trendy feel.
Another similarly modern option is 5Oda
. Walking out of the metro down the hill towards Galata and Serder-i Ekrem Street, you may have noticed the small sign for 5Oda, meaning “five rooms” in Turkish, and that is exactly what this little hotel has to offer. You enter the hotel through the small and cozy reception area, which doubles as a small cafe for guests. The rooms are very modern, bare, and minimal, with small kitchenettes decorated with stainless steel and brightly colored furniture.
While the convenience of apartment hotels is very appealing to some, for others a vacation means not having to lift a finger. For these visitors, Galata also offers a number of hotels. Located on the trendiest street just steps away from the historic Galata Tower is the Georges Hotel
. With no sign out front and shaded windows, this hotel is certainly aimed at a stylish and in-theknow clientele. There is no reception as such; instead you enter past the hotel’s Le Fumoir
restaurant and proceed to the historical building that contains the hotel.
There are a total of 20 rooms, including a number of adjacent family rooms. All of the rooms in this boutique hotel feature wooden parquet floors, high ceilings, sleek furniture, and a spacious and airy feel. Despite the historical building and architectural details, the rooms nevertheless feel very modern thanks to the range of amenities. Many of the rooms also feature balconies and stunning views of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn. The hotel also offers a number of personalized services, such as private yoga sessions and breakfast served in guests’ rooms.
Another similar option is the recently opened Gümüşyan Hotel
. Located right in the heart of the Asmalımescit area, with many of the city’s top clubs and restaurants nearby, the hotel is housed in a historical building that was built in the 19th century by Ohannes Gümüşhian and served as a family residence for more than 100 years. Following major renovations, it has now reopened as an upscale boutique hotel with 14 rooms, each with stylish, minimal interiors and all modern amenities. The décor is somewhat bare, with lots of exposed brick, while the headboards and bathroom countertops use heavy blocks of antique wood to nice effect. There is also the Gümüşyan Restaurant
at the entrance of the hotel, which specializes in seafood and is decorated in a similar style, blending a modern feel with historical touches.
Staying in many of these hotels could feel like you are visiting a tasteful and well-off friend who has thoughtfully considered every detail of your stay. Because these are all small hotels, some with just a handful of rooms, you are likely to get attentive one-on-one service from the staff, who can give you tips on how to best enjoy the city. For visitors who want to stay in a central and historic part of the city, but would rather avoid the tourist crowds of Sultanahmet
, the boutique hotels in Galata offer a great alternative.