Gay Istanbul Istanbul City Guide

Curation by Yasmina Rodríguez, words by Laura Tucker

The heady collision point of continents and cultures, Istanbul is where Europe meets the Middle East, bringing diverse people, religions and philosophies together in a frenetic fusion of mysticism and modernity. Istanbul’s skyline melds minarets with sleek high-rises, Byzantine mosaic-laden churches with imposing Ottoman-era mosques, all sewn together with raucous, rakı-toasting Turkish taverns. The last stop on the legendary Silk Road and a key player on the global spice trade for millennia, Turkey’s capital has long been mesmerizing merchants with its bustling saffron-stained markets and lively ramshackle districts presenting a globally inspired food scene of flavoursome mezes, succulent kebabs and seafood that can’t wait to win your heart and feed your soul. By the last call to prayer, this Orphic city begins to glow with the light of a thousand domed mosques twinkling against an inky blue sky, the perfect set up for a night to remember. Wondering where to stay and what to do in Istanbul? For your definitive Istanbul gay scene guide, you’ve come to the right place.

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The best hotels in Istanbul

Staying in Istanbul can be a real treat, elegant in all the right ways with unmatched hospitality. Let’s start our Istanbul gay city guide with the best accommodation the city has to offer, beginning with The House Hotel Karakoy, a five-star lodging in the up-and-coming district of Karaköy on Bankalar Caddesi, the city’s sleek financial district, in close proximity to bohemian Beyoğlu and historic Sultanahmet. As well as all the luxury amenities, this hotel serves up daily buffet breakfast and global cuisine at the grand on-site restaurant, with relaxation areas in the library, garden and terrace, in addition to a full spa and fitness centre.

A little away from the centre over in the wealthy neighbourhood of Çengelköy is the quiet retreat, Sumahan on the Water. Housed in a former Ottoman-era distillery, Sumahan has since been renovated into a modern boutique right on the edge of the Bosphorus Strait. All the sumptuous rooms here face the water with many boasting a Turkish-style marble bath and fireplace. In addition to the on-site wellness centre with its own Turkish hammam, Sumahan offers a waterfront bistro-cum-café, terrace and garden. Next up is Witt Istanbul Suites over in a quiet residential street in the Cihangir district beside an eclectic mix of antique shops, cafés and designer boutiques. Fitting right in, this award-winning design hotel brims with chic-bohemian vibes, kitted out with retro furnishings, monochromatic styles and architectural grandeur. With its own serene terrace garden, cosy lobby bar and a shared kitchen, Witt Istanbul is a great place to unwind in homely luxury.

Another hip boutique known as Georges Hotel Galata also piques our interest, located in the city’s old European quarter in a 19th-century Parisian-style apartment building. Sat within a relatively down-at-heel neighbourhood, this place oozes urban chic, within walking distance of the fashionable Beyoğlu district. Discreet and understated, with exposed walls and salvaged wood doors, Georges Hotel Galata will woo you with its butterfly-inducing glass elevator and unmatched skyline views from the rooftop terrace. Those looking to be more independent can consider X Flats Tophane, a range of contemporary self-catering apartments in the historical locale of Tophane, just one kilometre from happening Istiklal Street. Enjoy the city views from your apartment window, while making use of the full kitchen and concierge services.

Witt Istanbul Suites

Witt Istanbul Suites

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