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Ayasofya Hotel 3.0

Istanbul, Turkey

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Cozy hotel with traditional Turkish furnishings in a prime location
  • Housed in an appealing Ottoman building with historical details
  • Within walking distance of major Istanbul sights and public transit 
  • Sunny guest rooms have AC, flat-screen TVs, and mini-fridges 
  • Terrace rooftop bar with sea views
  • Free continental breakfast 
  • Laundry, dry cleaning, and babysitting services (fees) 
  • Round-trip airport shuttle and on-site parking (fees) 
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout 

Cons

  • Located in a heavily touristed neighborhood (a pro for some) 
  • Traditional decor may not suit all tastes 
  • Some guest rooms are small and bathrooms have open showers
  • Electric kettles don't come standard
  • Free breakfast is nothing fabulous 

Bottom Line

This historic 19th-century Ottoman house has a prime location in the center of Istanbul’s main tourist district, with 29 homey guest rooms and suites. Ayasofya Hotel's refined, traditional Turkish furnishings charm its international clientele, as does its rooftop bar that overlooks the Sea of Marmara. Guest room sizes at the three-pearl property vary according to the building's historical contours, and space can be tight in some. Standard amenities include AC, flat-screen TVs, and mini-fridges, but electric kettles aren't standard and bathrooms in the smallest rooms are a major drawback, as showers are open, with no panel or curtain to separate them from toilets and sinks. Also, the location brings a certain amount of chaos and crowding in peak tourist season. Travelers looking for something modern can check out Hotel Beyaz Saray. 

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Scene

Ottoman house with historical flavor for a mix of leisure travelers 

Built in the 19th century, the beige wooden Ottoman building that houses Ayasofya Hotel earns admiration for merely surviving, as so many of its cousins were demolished, collapsed, or burned away over the last century. Behind the bulging windows and overhanging roofs, rooms are filled with antique-style sofas and armchairs, ornately framed mirrors, and lace doilies. The traditional decor may feel fussy to some, though it's done with an undeniable hint of spice and flavor. There’s also a lot more space than you might expect from the outside, particularly in the restaurant, which looks a bit like a throwback to the 1970s, with paneled wood walls, interspersed painted tiles, and hanging carpets. But it's the rooftop terrace bar with views to the sea that's the highlight for the couples, friends, and solo travelers who check in here. 

Location

 In the heart of Istanbul and near its top attractions

Map of Ayasofya Hotel

At the easternmost tip of Europe, Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood holds thousands of years of Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history compacted in less than two square miles, including the global icons of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (pronounced Ayasofya in Turkish). Just under the curving end of the ancient Hippodrome is the Ayasofya Hotel. While public transit is not immediately at hand and generally impossible in the complex web of streets, there's a major tram line within a nine-minute walk of the hotel. It links to the network of ferries running up and down the Bosphorus and to the limited but efficient and modern subway system. Public transportation connects to the airport as well, but it can take an hour or more, while a taxi takes about half the time, unless traveling at peak hours. 

  • Nine-minute walk to Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Basilica Cistern
  • 14-minute walk to Grand Bazaar
  • 15-minute walk to Topkapı Palace
  • 25-minute walk to Spice Bazaar
  • 20 minutes to Süleymaniye Mosque via public transit
  • 23 minutes to Istanbul Museum of Modern Art via public transit
  • 24 minutes to Galata Tower via public transit
  • 31 minutes to Dolmabahçe Palace and Taksim Square via public transit
  • 44 minutes to Chora Church via public transit

Rooms

Historical charm with modest amenities, but some are small with awkward bathrooms  

The charm of these Ottoman-esque guest rooms owes more to their historical shape and form than to ostentatious displays of "Turkish" decor. Instead of cheesy carpets, magic lamps, and fezzes are simple beige walls and curtains, grandmotherly armchairs, and historical prints. Rooms have twin and/or double beds, wood floors, and loads of sunshine through windows (up to five) built to harness it in the days before electricity. Modern amenities include air-conditioning, 21-inch LCD TVs, mini-fridges, safes, and free Wi-Fi, but kettles don't come standard. While bathrooms are up to date and stocked with toiletries and hairdryers, many lack space and have showers without dividing panels or curtains to separate them from sinks and toilets. The suite on the top floor adds a king-size bed, bathtub, and covered outdoor terrace with views to the sea.

Features

A modest lineup of modern amenities, including an impressive rooftop bar

Along with the super prime location, the Ayasofya Hotel comes with a modest list of features, at the top of which (literally) is the terrace bar with panoramic, even hypnotic, views of the Sea of Marmara. Downstairs in the dining area each morning is a free continental-esque breakfast, but it pales in comparison to the splendor of the full, traditional Turkish breakfast. Amenities available for a fee include dry cleaning and laundry service, babysitting and childcare, on-site parking, and shuttle service to the airport, which in Istanbul can make a huge difference in time. There's no fitness room on-site, but Wi-Fi is free throughout. 

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Address

Kucuk Ayasofya Mah. Demirci Resit Sok. No:28 Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul 34400, Turkey

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