For a first-time visitor to Istanbul, determining where to rest your weary head in the sprawling metropolis of nearly 15 million can be a daunting task. Neighborhoods once considered too gritty and underdeveloped for tourists are now saturated with coffee shops, boutique hotels and art galleries—waterfront Karaköy near the Galata Tower and Kadıköy located on the Asia side of Istanbul being two of them. But if your visit is going to be UNESCO World Heritage site-centric as mine was, then there’s no better choice than the Hotel Ibrahim Pasha located a stone’s throw away from the Blue Mosque in the heart of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historic old city.
Entering the Ibrahim Pasha feels a bit like coming home, or more precisely, coming home to the home you wish you had. There’s a fire burning in the fireplace on your left, cashmere throws are casually tossed across the backs of large leather chairs whose comfort is practically palpable, books on Turkish architecture and Iznik tiles sit atop glass-top coffee tables. The place oozes warmth, which is why I always found myself running back after a morning spent tracing the footsteps of Ottoman sultans at the Topkapı Palace or marveling at the coexistence of Christianity and Islam under the ornate silver dome of the Hagia Sophia. Ibrahim Pasha offers the perfect antidote to the ceaseless movement of Istanbul’s streets: silence.
I spent a morning drinking coffee and devouring breathtakingly good baklava, which I had purchased from a bakery a few blocks away on Divan Yolu street, while sitting alone on the rooftop terrace with its incomparable panoramic view of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome and ships plying the waters of the Golden Horn. Hours later, after wandering the aisles of the Grand Bazaar—no more than a 20 minute walk from the hotel—I returned to find the ever-attentive staff inquiring about my day, asking if I’d like some tea and a snack of apricots, cheese and honey. And so into the leather chair I went, collapsing in front of the fireplace in a heap of shopping bags filled with ikat pillow cases, tribal hats from the ‘Stans, silk kilims and tiles from Iznik.
Ibrahim Pasha’s location—around the corner from the Museum of Islamic and Turkish Art, half a block from the Hippodrome, a couple of minutes’ walk from the Blue Mosque, five minutes from the Hagia Sophia, 15-20 minutes from the Grand Bazaar—makes it an eminently likable hotel because it makes exploring every site of historical significance in the Old City easy. But it is Ibrahim Pasha’s ambiance—an elegant interior design that prizes repose over action, intimacy over pretension, and reading over talking—which made me fall in love with the place.
(www.ibrahimpasha.com; seasonal prices range from $105 in low season (winter) to $210 in high season (spring-summer)).