Gracious Hotels

We had the good fortune to stay at two lovely hotels with rather different characters during our stay, both in the Sultanahmet district and convenient to what we wanted to see. 

The first was the Hotel Armada, a little ways down the hill from Sultanahmet Square. The room was comfortable and well-appointed, with handmade lace on the curtains, painted wood paneling with floral designs lining the walls, nice linens, and wonderful olive oil soap in the shower. Above and beyond that, the rooftop restaurant had an amazing view of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque on one side and the Sea of Marmara on the other, as well as great food.  

We first sampled this on the night we arrived, when we got a meze sampler as a late-evening snack after checking in. The yaprak sarma (what we commonly call by the more generic term dolmas) were fantastic – stuffed with rice, raisins, cinnamon, pine nuts and lots of olive oil. The other offerings included hummus with a coarse but creamy texture; sharp, soft feta wedges; roasted red peppers; fava bean puree with dill; yogurt dip with purslane; and minced chicken with walnuts and olive oil – all delicious. 

As good as this snack was, the breakfast buffet was absolutely incredible, with a spread including yogurt with homemade orange and spicy pumpkin spoon sweets; dried figs and mulberries;  plum leather; fruit salad with raspberries, apples, oranges, kiwi; marinated cheeses; omelets; coiled borek with spinach and dill; sesame covered simit; great coffee. I still occasionally daydream about returning just to relax on that rooftop patio with a plate of deliciousness and a good book to while away a morning.  

We also spent a few nights at the Hotel Empress Zoe, a boutique hotel spanning several traditional-style townhouses surrounding a beautiful garden and the archaeological ruins of a 15th century bathhouse. This room was a bit quirkier, but very atmospheric, and the garden patio was a wonderful place to enjoy our morning coffee and breakfast.