W Istanbul Rating: 4.5 PearlsIstanbul, Turkey
The 134-room W Istanbul delivers on all the hallmarks of the W brand: Trendy decor, excellent dining, and happening nightlife. The standard Wonderful Rooms are large and hip, with an open bathroom concept, modern technology, excellent beds, and neon pink lighting accents. The only downsides? Some rooms get noise from the upstairs lounge on party nights, and the Besiktas location -- though charming and upscale -- is far from the tourist attractions in Sultanahmet.
Pera Palace Hotel, Jumeirah Rating: 4.5 PearlsIstanbul, Turkey
This opulent 115-room luxury hotel in Beyoglu is a historic icon dating back to 1895. From the ornate lobby with marble tile floors, to the elegant afternoon tea, to the live piano music, to the (working!) original wrought-iron elevator, everything about Pera Palace evokes the bygone days when posh Europeans traveled to Istanbul on the Orient Express. Rooms are classic and sophisticated, and some have Bosphorus views. Features include a spa with lovely hammam and indoor pool, several upscale dining venues, and an extensive breakfast buffet. To top it off, rates are often cheaper than at some of the city's other luxury hotels, making this a great value.
Ciragan Palace Kempinski Rating: 4.5 PearlsIstanbul, Turkey
Formerly the palace of an Ottoman Sultan, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski is the grand dame of Istanbul. It wows guests at every turn, from the sprawling, manicured grounds, to the heated infinity pool right on the Bosphorus, to the refined suites. The dining options are extensive and exceptional; the spa is lovely; and the meeting space housed in the original palace building makes an ornate setting for a business function or wedding. It's arguably the city's top luxury option, but it's far from the popular tourist sights in Sultanahmet.
Hotel Sultania Rating: 4.0 PearlsIstanbul, Turkey
This upscale 42-room hotel in the Sirkeci neighborhood of Sultanahmet is the nicest of the Yasmak Hotels mini-chain. Each of the rooms is named after a different sultan's wife and has tasteful Ottoman-inspired decor. Features are more extensive than at many Sultanahmet boutique hotels: They include an indoor pool, hammam, spa treatment rooms, rooftop restaurant with views of the Hagia Sophia, and fitness center. The numerous freebies -- an impressive breakfast buffet, (limited) DVD library, afternoon tea with pastries and finger sandwiches, airport transfers, and Wi-Fi -- add value, and all of the Old City's top attractions are within walking distance. But the elevator is tiny and the location on a pedestrian-only street means taxis can't come right to the front door.
Hotel Ibrahim Pasha Rating: 3.5 PearlsIstanbul, Turkey
Hotel Ibrahim Pasha is one of the most charming boutique hotels in Sultanahmet, with an unbeatable location just off the Hippodrome. The cozy lobby and library both have wood-burning fireplaces -- a real treat in the cooler months -- and the roof terrace has a jaw-dropping view of the Blue Mosque and the Bosphorus. The free breakfast is perfectly adequate if not as extensive as the offerings elsewhere, and free and coffee are served all day upon request. Standard Rooms are diminutive but adorable, with flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, robes, Molton Brown toiletries, and rainfall showerheads. For what you get, it's a great value, though prices do spike up in peak season.