The Ayasofya hotel is a beautiful 19th Century Ottoman home that has since been restored and operated as a hotel offering Turkish hospitality and a chance for travellers to experience the local community. Rumour has it that the mehmet from Sultanahmet Mosque used to live here. Naturally, the Ayasofya Hotel seemed like a great place for us to stay in Istanbul.
There’s a reason I love Europe. Stories. Europe, not a young civilisation by any measure, was ravaged by centuries of war, enriched by royal treasures, ancient wisdom and self preservation. So when I visited Istanbul, a city that straddles Europe and Asia, I couldn’t not stay in the old city. I wanted to take in all of it, the stories held within the crumbling stone of the old city walls, the secret passages that lay underground, the old wooden houses perched on the edges of steep slopes, I wanted to experience it all. Naturally this beautiful old hotel in Sultanahmet was my first choice.
Whenever we’ve travelled to Europe, apartments have always been our first choice, but that’s always been for longer stays. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to find one for an odd 8 days. But the Ayasofya hotel recommended we stay in one of their several apartments, since it would be more comfortable for such a long stay, and we’d get the privacy we’d need, with all the comforts of a hotel.
And comfortable, it most certainly was. We arrived late at night, tired and freezing, cold and confused. But checking in at the hotel took only a moment, with Gaye the owner dropping in to personally welcome us. The staff carried our (rather heavy) suitcases round the corner to the apartment building. The apartment was large, with a kitchenette, a sofa cum bed as well as a double bed, a dining table, television, wardrobe, couch, heating and air-conditioning and a bathroom with a bathtub and amenities. The interiors were a wonderful blend of clean European aesthetics and intricate Turkish designs, with a beautiful rug, latticed wood room divider that gave the bed a wonderful sense of privacy.
Life at the Ayasofya hotel was wonderfully colourful. Beginning with a lovely stroll down to the hotel building, and a scrumptious turkish breakfast featuring an assortment of locally sourced olives, dry fruits, cereals, cakes, freshly baked breads, home-made honeys and jams, cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, pastries, egg, juices, turkish tea and coffee. Gaye would personally come and greet everyone at breakfast time, ask us what our plan for the day was, and include any additional information or tips that would help. In fact, she even gave us a preloaded IstanbulKart that was very useful in helping us navigate the trams and buses easily while saving money.
The staff were always wonderful, entertaining us with their hilarious stories, never letting language get in the way of a few laughs. Evenings at the terrace of the hotel were a wonderful place for a drink, we even tried our first raki here. In the summers of course, the terrace gets a lot livelier with barbeques and travellers swapping stories and tables. The rooms at the main hotel building are cosy, but breathy. A beautiful aesthetic brought to life by fluid curtains, gorgeous rugs, lots of light streaming in and an incredibly neat and organised space. My favourite is the terrace suite, which has a nice sitout with furniture and a dreamy jacuzzi to boot.
The Ayasofya Hotel sits at the bottom of the slope that leads up to the Hippodrome, the Sultanahmet and Ayasofya Mosques, as well as the Sultanahmet tram stop. On the next parallel lane sits the apartment building we stayed in, and the following parallel lane has another apartment building that the Ayasofya Hotel runs. Wondering what the other apartments look like? Beautiful curtains frame windows that let in a magical light, iznik tiles, spotless bathrooms, quaint furniture and touches of handpicked art.
Staying in an apartment that was operated by the Ayasofya Hotel came with plenty of perks like fresh linen and housekeeping every day, and help with navigating your way around anything you want to do including shopping for jewellery, arranging airport transfers, tour guides, day tours, trips to other places in Turkey like Pammukale and Cappadocia, the rest of your trip, including ticketing itineraries and everything. Gaye was also telling me about how she organises farmstays which give travellers a chance to really get under the skin of local communities in villages.
We’re really glad we got a chance to experience the Ayasofya Hotel, and at the end of our 8 days there, we left with a heavy heart, not wanting to leave this beautifully warm and hospitable place with all the new friends we made here. We know we’ll be returning to the Ayaosfya Hotel someday. Will you?Hotel Ayasofya Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi Demirci Reşit Sokak No: 28 Sultanahmet, İstanbul, TURKEY +90 212 516 9446 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ayasofyahotel.com/ Doubles from € 39 This post was made possible by the wonderful people at the Ayasofya Hotel, but the opinions as always, are our own.