Known earlier as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul is one heady collision point of cultures and continents. It’s where the East meets the West, literally, at the cerulean waters of the Bosphorus Strait. In one frenetic fusion of mysticism and modernity, Istanbul combines diverse philosophies and people. Apart from Ottoman-era mosques and Byzantine churches, it’s also famous for Turkish taverns, spices, and delicious cuisine. Can you believe that the last stop on the legendary Silk Road also has a burgeoning gay scene? As LGBTQ travelers throng to this medieval city, there’s been a profusion of gay accommodations and gay hotels Istanbul as well, which are very friendly towards travelers. Whether you want to stay close to its main attractions or to the gay scene, you’ll have no dearth of options for gay-friendly accommodations and hotels in Istanbul.
That said, Turkey is a Muslim country, and open displays of affection here are a strict no-no. However, Istanbul’s vibrant neighborhoods like Besiktas, Kadikoy, and Beyoglu defy stereotypes and are very welcoming towards LGBTQ travelers. The crown jewel in the rainbow is the fabulous Taksim, Istanbul’s main gay area. But Istanbul is also famous for its jaw-dropping architecture, such as Sultanahmet Mosque, one of the world’s most beautiful mosques. Sitting right across it is mesmerizing Hagia Sophia, one of the world’s most famous domes, and the Hippodrome, one of the world’s most amazing obelisks. Plus, there’re so many underground taverns, bazaars, and palaces that you cannot explore this city in one visit.
So, take a trip back in time and head to Istanbul, which was once called ‘The Second Rome.’ To that end, here are the top 11 gay friendly hotels and accommodation in Istanbul.
Table of contents
- Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel
- Hotel Babel Park
- Witt Istanbul
- TomTom Suites
- Ibrahim Pasha Hotel
- George’s Hotel Galata
- Cheers Lighthouse
- Sumahan On The Water
- Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus
- Hotel Sultania
- Bankerhan Hotel
- Our Verdict!
- Just So You Know:
- Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Istanbul:
- Best Gay Saunas in Istanbul:
Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel
The Vault Karakoy, the House Hotel, is one of the best gay hotels in Istanbul’s oldest European area of Eminonu. The historic Sultanahmet Square is a mere 10-minute walk, while the iconic Grand Bazaar is a mere 4-minute walk. With the Cemberlitas tram stop 2 minutes away, Kabatas and Taksim’s gay area is merely a 15-minute ride. Finally, the Vault itself is a wonderful period hotel with iconic views of Bosphorus and even a hammam on-site.
The Beaux-Arts style hotel was formerly the headquarters of the 1863-built Credit General Ottoman Bank. So, you’ll see a lot of atmospheric original features like the German-made cellar vaults, which now store fine wines served at the hotel bar. That, combined with the beautiful arched windows and Neoclassical columns, make this hotel one for Instagram. Here, service is as personable as it gets, and the staff helps you out with everything from tickets to travel tips. A small, modern fitness center is perfect if you want to keep up your exercise regimen. Two gender-separate saunas in the basement, plus treatment rooms and a hammam, are a great place to unwind after walking Istanbul’s cobblestoned streets. The highlight is the roof terrace restaurant and bar, where sunsets accompanied by a Karakoy Sour are the perfect way to wind up a day.
You have something or the other for budget, what with seven different room categories here. Slim windows, high ceilings, and Carrara-marble bathrooms lend a period-era feel, while modern comforts spruce up staying here. The best rooms are, obviously, the ones with views of Bosphorus and the old city.
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Hotel Babel Park
Best location. Hotel Babel Park is perhaps Istanbul’s most bear-ish and outwardly gay accommodation. The three-star hotel lies in the neighborhood of Aksaray in the old European area of Eminonu. What’s more, it’s a short 10-minute tram ride to Sultanahmet Square, Grand Bazaar, and the Eminonu waterfront. Moreover, the gay area of Taksim is just an easy 10-minute subway ride away.
This Istanbul hotel is extremely gay-friendly and is even managed by a pair of bears. Aksaray, where the hotel is located, is very popular among Turkish bears and mature gay men. In fact, the Durak pub, which lies on the next street, is an extremely popular gathering place for local bears. In fact, even Muratpasa Park nearby is a popular cruising spot. What’s more, the hotel’s in-house pub and the restaurant itself is a popular meeting spot for local gays. Since this is a budget offering, the hotel offers just a few amenities. These include free Wi-Fi and free parking on-site, which is helpful if you have your own transport.
The rooms here are very comfortable, and all come with their own tea/coffee-making facilities. Rooms feature plush beds, flatscreen TVs, private bathrooms with shower space for two, and even a fridge and a desk.
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Best for couples. The Witt Istanbul ticks all boxes for a great gay friendly stay in the city. Firstly, It’s high on style, substance, and comfort. Additionally, it lies in the hip Cihangir, a mere 10-minute stroll from the gay scene at Taksim. In fact, Istanbul’s biggest gay club Tek Yon is right down the street. With the Tophane tram stop at the end of the street, excursions into the old city are a breeze. Finally, Bosphorus’s atmospheric and romantic waterfront is one block down.
The gay Istanbul hotel emanates a sense of intimacy, beginning right from the cozy lobby area, the breakfast room. Breakfast is one excellent affair with cheeses, olives, jams, freshly brewed coffee/tea, and eggs made to order. The vibe continues through the quaint but well-stocked library with tons of books about Istanbul. On quiet afternoons, sip on refreshing Turkish cay (tea, pronounced ‘chai’). With that in hand, curl up on the comfy sofas with a well-chosen book. The standout feature is the elegant roof terrace peppered with sweet-smelling herbs and flowers. It’s the perfect place to sip a sundowner while watching a Turkish sunset before heading off to the revelries of gay Istanbul. Besides room service, the staff speaks fluent English and is unfailingly helpful with anything and everything.
All rooms here are apartment-style and spacious to boot, with their own bar-cum-kitchen areas. They’re all chicly decked out with wooden floors, plush beds, hi-tech mod-cons, and Italian-marble en-suite bathrooms. The three top-floor lofts, with huge balconies, are the best of the lot. Of them, room 61, with corner terraces and 270-degree views of Bosphorus and the old city, is the best.
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TomTom Suites is one of the most eclectic gay hotels Istanbul has and is much like the city where it lies – full of surprises. The chic Istanbul gay-friendly hotel sits in what was formerly a nunnery. The hotel sits in the heart of Beyoglu and is superbly located for the gay nightlife of Taksim. The Bosphorus waterfront is also close by, as is the tram stop going straight to Sultanahmet.
The hotel is completely different than what it looked like when it was a nunnery, and for good measure. The rooftop terrace, for instance, with a restaurant bar, is perfect for enjoying a sundowner with panoramic views of Istanbul. This is also where you can dig into a delicious breakfast with a hearty buffet, fresh coffee, and cooked-to-order eggs. Moreover, the hotel even offers room service. The highlight is the huge library full of books about Istanbul’s culture, history, and art. Overall, the hotel manages to do what a boutique hotel should – make you feel at home in a bespoke environment.
With just 20 rooms, staying here is also an intimate experience. All of them feature large windows, comfy sitting areas, plush beds, a slew of mod-cons, and gleaming marble bathrooms.
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Ibrahim Pasha Hotel
Best for sightseeing. If you’re an LGBTQ traveler and want to stay near most of the top things to do in Istanbul, then you can’t do better than the Ibrahim Pasha Hotel. This excellent gay accommodation in Istanbul lies on a quiet street right next to the entrance to Sultanahmet Square! Besides that, the main street in the old city, Divan You, as well as the Sultanahmet tram stop, are a 3-minute walk. So, Taksim’s gay and entertainment district is a mere 15-minute ride away.
The modern four-storied hotel sits in a pair of early 20th-century townhouses. The views from its roof terrace are undoubtedly the best part of the hotel. You can spot everything from the Hippodrome to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus, as well as the southern blue waters of the Sea of Marmara. Evenings are best spent in the comfort of a rattan chair and a drink in hand. When it gets colder, head down to the sitting room/library, which holds a wealth of books on Istanbul’s culture and history. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes you feel local, which you’ll love if you’re a culture buff. Moreover, there’s even a reading room where you can read about the sites you’re visiting. Even though there are no meals, breakfast is a superb affair with made-to-order eggs, pancakes, coffee, croissants, fresh fruit, Turkish cheese, and olives!
You can choose from standard or spacious deluxe rooms, with the latter even having living areas. Nevertheless, all of them have a slew of mod-cons plus a touch of home with Turkish rugs.
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George’s Hotel Galata
George’s Hotel Galata is one of the best hip gay hotels in Istanbul’s old European quarter in Beyoglu. Housed in an old 19th-century apartment structure, this Istanbul gay-friendly boutique hotel couldn’t be better located for exploring the city. With a tram stop close by, both Sultanahmet Square attractions and the gay area of Taksim are a 10-minute ride. Plus, attractions like the Galata Tower and Museum and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art are within a stone’s throw.
You know you’re headed to a special, design-centric place without a sign announcing its presence. The dimly-lit ground floor lobby also doubled as a hip bar with comfy sofas and brick walls. The star attraction is the top floor roof terrace with incredible views of the Bosphorus, the minaret-adorned old city. The rooftop restaurant serves delicious French fare as well as a superb à la carte breakfast. Think traditional Turkish breakfast foods and Western staples like muesli, baguettes, and more. Moreover, this hip hotel has an unusual bunch of services, beginning with complimentary newspapers delivered daily to your room. There are also private guided city tours and in-room massage and yoga sessions.
Most of the 20 rooms here feature patios with striking old-city and Bosphorus views. Floor-to-ceiling French windows ensure both views of lashings of sunlight, making for a warm and inviting space. Aside from spacious bathrooms, rooms also have all modern creature comforts and mod-cons. If you want to upgrade, then the suites have bathtubs.
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Best value for money. Budget gay accommodation in Istanbul cannot get any better than the Cheers Lighthouse hostel. This gem of a place lies in the very heart of the old city, a mere five-minute walk from Sultanahmet Square. The best part? It lies close to the coast and offers superb views of the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus Strait. Despite its location, the area around the hostel is much more tranquil, complete with Ottoman-era wooden houses that take you back in time.
The lovely hostel melds neo-bohemian touches like pasted-hued planters with a faux-Ottoman style to create a distinctive vibe. The hostel essentially lies in a landward and three adjoining seaward terraced properties, all with a common lobby, breakfast room, and restaurant bar. Natural wood floors, oriental carpets, and stained-glass light shades lend the common areas a palpably ‘Constantinople’ vibe, which culture buffs will dig. The hostel has lots of communal activities like walking tours, pub crawls, dart contests, and barbeque nights, which are perfect avenues to meet new people. Apart from meals from the adjacent restaurant, dig into a hearty Turkish-cum-continental breakfast in the dining area with sea-facing views. Sip on drinks at the exposed-brick bar before heading out to Taksim’s dazzling gay nightlife.
32 rooms here include a mix of female-only/mixed dorms and private rooms. Dorms have immaculate shared bathrooms, sockets for each bed, and even sea views in some. Of the private rooms, the Penthouse Suite with a whirlpool bath and sea panoramas is what you spend on if you want to splurge.
If your pick is too far from the airport, consider spending a night before you depart or the day you arrive at one of the best hotels in Istanbul airport.
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Sumahan On The Water
There are few finer stays in Istanbul than Sumahan On The Water, one of the finest gay hotels Istanbul has. The award-winning hotel was an Ottoman-era distillery in an earlier life. Also, this Istanbul gay-friendly hotel sits right on the Bosphorus Strait on the Asian side of the city. The pretty village of Cengelkoy, where the hotel lies, is a cultural melting pot of Jews, Armenians, Greeks, and more. What’s more, the hotel’s launch even takes you across the Bosphorus to Kabatas, wherefrom it’s a minute’s funicular ride to Taksim.
A foliage-fringed dining deck and symmetrical arched windows make up the exterior facade of this hotel. The interiors are contemporary, with lots of stonework, exposed brick, and split levels. Sumahan’s atmospheric spirit is furthered by the fact that this is where a spirit derived from fig syrup was made. Why it’s important is that this spirit is used for making raki! 21st-century additions include a gym and a waterfront restaurant, which serves both local and international fare. Breakfast is a cozy affair downstairs and is a wonderful blend of Turkish and international fare. There’s also a wellness center, where a massage is the best way to relax in the afternoon. The highlight is the library which has more than 800 books related to Turkey.
The best part of the 15 rooms here is that all enjoy spectacular Bosphorus views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Most rooms even have fireplaces, while all of them feature personal touches like quaint flower vases. The split-level loft suites are the best, as they open onto the manicured lawns.
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Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus
Luxury in Istanbul doesn’t get any better than at Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus, the zenith of luxurious gay accommodation in Istanbul. Given that it sits in a 19th-century Ottoman Palace, it’s hardly a surprise that the main building is dubbed ‘The Palace.’ It sits right on the Bosphorus waterfront in the atmospheric Besiktas. If you and your partner are looking to spend your honeymoon in Istanbul, then this place is perfect.
A stunning broad terrace, complete with a grandiose fountain, welcomes you to the gay Istanbul accommodation, which has eye-popping views across the Bosphorus Strait to the hills of Asia. European Rococo and Baroque styles meld with late Ottoman-era architecture, right from the lobby to the rooms. The outdoor pool is one of the best in the city and is perfect for dips and laps. Post-swim, enjoy a soak in the adjacent whirlpool tub, or lounge on a plush daybed on the deck with fabulous views. There’s even an indoor pool for colder weather, complete with subtle lighting and a geometric mosaic design that takes you back in time. Apart from the 24-hour business and fitness suites, there’s also a wellness center with a lovely Turkish sauna and bath. Needless to say, every meal, from breakfast to dinner, is a grand affair.
Standard rooms meld Ottoman opulence with contemporary touches, while the Palace building has real Ottoman-era rooms. Nevertheless, all rooms have swish flourishes and mod-cons to make your stay comfy, including plush beds and gleaming marble bathrooms. With one-third of the rooms enjoying once-in-a-lifetime views of the Bosphorus, this gay hotel redefines luxury in Istanbul. That’s why it’s one of Istanbul’s best hotels.
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If you’re an ardent culture buff of Istanbul of the old, then Hotel Sultania is where you should stay. One of the best gay hotels in Istanbul’s Sirkeci neighborhood, this Istanbul gay-friendly hotel is a mere four-minute from Sirkeci train station, the last stop of the legendary Orient Express. The historic Sultanahmet Square is not more than a five-minute stroll, as is the Grand Bazaar and the waterfront at Eminonu. The Sirkeci tram stop is also a four-minute walk, from where the ride to the gay area in Taksim is a 10-minute ride.
The exterior facade with jutting-out balconies and wood-trimmed windows is as impressive as the Ottoman-themed interiors. Think traditional Turkish motifs, handmade Oriental carpets, and more. The heart of the hotel is undoubtedly its basement pool, spa, and fitness complex. The Turkish bath is as beautiful as it gets and will certainly soothe your sore muscles after all that walking on Istanbul’s cobblestoned streets. Since this is more of a B&B operation, the breakfast is one fulsome Turkish and continental spread. The spread has everything from fresh coffee and made-to-order eggs to olives, bread, salad, cheese, and more.
Rooms at this wonderful gay Istanbul accommodation are named after the consort/wife of Ottoman sultans, complete with their gilt-framed portraits hung above the beds. Antique Turkish carpets, gilt-framed mirrors, and neutral walls blend nicely with modern creature comforts. Additionally, bathrooms are spotless, gleaming spaces. If you’re a couple looking for something special, the hammam room has its own en-suite Turkish bath.
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Budget and arty at the same time, the Bankerhan Hotel is an excellent choice for gay accommodation in Istanbul. The hotel sits in a 19th-century, Parisenne-style apartment building in Karakoy, complete with contemporary artwork by Turkish artists adorning the walls. The location of the hotel is equally great; Galata Tower and Museum are within walking distance, as is the Karakoy waterfront. Plus, if you want to delve into the gay nightlife of Taksim, is a 2-minute subway ride from the Sishane station, which itself is a mere 10-minute walk!
Artwork from Turkey’s original leading artists adorns every available space of this Istanbul gay-friendly hotel, complete with a spacious lobby and original exposed ceilings and brick walls. Despite its designer credentials, Bankerhan has an utterly family-run feel, right from the lovely ground-floor lobby to the breakfast bar area. The extensive buffet breakfast is a great way to start off a day in the city, complete with a range of coffees, organic jams, bread, olives, and cheeses. The lobby bar is the ideal atmospheric place for a cold one or an evening cocktail before delving into Istanbul’s buzzing nightlife.
The real treasure here is the 36 rooms, ranging from single rooms to suites. Even entry-level ones feature the comfiest of beds, mod-cons, and ultra-modern and chic bathrooms. For true indulgence, book the Executive room, which has a terrace with sensational views of the Bosphorus, the old city, and the Golden Horn. And, of course, every room features original artwork.
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While this list of the best hotels in Istanbul is fabulous, each person might have their own favorite. That’s why we’ve broken the list down into the best hotels with their best features:
- Best value for money: Cheers Lighthouse
- Best for sightseeing: Ibrahim Pasha Hotel
- Best for couples: Witt Istanbul
- Best location: Hotel Babel Park
Just So You Know:
- Istanbul Pride: Istanbul’s Pride celebrations, which ran from 2003 until their suspension in 2015, are the first and biggest LGBTQ event in Muslim-majority countries. The 2014 edition saw more than 100,000 people, the largest in Turkish history. Since 2015, the event has been canceled every year, citing security concerns, with people defying and even facing police wrath in 2019.
- Gay sexual conduct between consenting adults in privacy isn’t a crime in Turkey. In fact, it’s been legal since 1858 (Ottoman Empire), even through modern Turkey’s 1923 foundations. However, it doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships, civil unions, or same-sex marriages.
- Istanbul doesn’t really have outwardly gay cultural activities, especially since even the Pride march was banned in 2013. However, that has only emboldened the gay community to focus on Pride Week events like drag shows and themed parties.
- For all its past liberal thought, the country inches closer and closer to Middle Eastern values every day under the Erdogan government. While Istanbul is one of the most liberal Turkish cities, any outward displays of affection will attract unwanted attention and perhaps even trouble.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Istanbul:
- Haspa Bar – This amazing gay bar has karaoke, drag shows, live music, and go-go dancers.
- Club Tek Yön – This is Istanbul’s busiest, best, and largest gay club. It’s popular with everyone from twinks to queens to muscle bears.
- Chaplin Cafe: If you want to enjoy and pre-booze before heading to Tek Yon, then Chaplin Cafe is where you should be. This small but amazing gay bar sits a mere 10-minute walk from Taksim’s metro station and has a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Besides the budget-conscious prices, you’ll absolutely love the young, local pre-party crowd.
- Rocinante Cafe Bar: This Beyoglu staple has operated as a gay bar since 2017. In fact, it’s been a lesbian hangout for the longest time, even when it wasn’t a gay bar! Today, it sees a wonderfully gay and lesbian crowd gyrating to Turkish pop and arabesque dancing.
- Cafe Mor Kedi: This cozy, hidden gay bar on the fourth floor of a building in snazzy Beyoglu has long attracted a young, local crowd. This warm and friendly place is great for meeting locals or even having a date.
Best Gay Saunas in Istanbul:
Due to the strict local laws, Istanbul doesn’t have a sauna or hammam scene yet, even though it has many gay-friendly hotels and accommodations. However, the small and discreet Nur Hammam in Beyoglu is known to be popular with young gay locals.