Canopy bed decorated with Turkish textiles. Traditional breakfast in a private garden overlooking 14th-century ruins. Panoramic views of the Hagia Sophia and Sea from the rooftop terrace. Walking out the door and having the heart of Istanbul at your fingertips.
These were a few of the things that made me fall in love with my stay at Hotel Empress Zoe in Istanbul, Turkey. This boutique hotel enhanced my experience of Istanbul and gave me one more reason to come back.
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I was invited as a guest of Hotel Empress Zoe during my stay in Istanbul, Turkey. I don’t recommend accommodation on my site that I don’t personally love and think you will love too! As always, thoughts and opinions on my site are entirely my own.
About Hotel Empress Zoe
Hotel Empress Zoe is a boutique hotel consisting of Turkish style townhouses and a private archeological garden, all located in the heart of Istanbul’s Old Town. The 25 rooms and suites are decorated in traditional Turkish woods, textiles, and paintings.
Hotel Empress Zoe is quite possibly one of the most authentic places to stay in Istanbul. It combines traditional Turkish elements with a modern, boho-chic twist. The property is made from restored Turkish townhouses made of mainly stone. The lobby and restaurant areas are filmed with Islamic folk art paintings and unique décor.
Each of the 25 rooms and suites are decorated with traditional wood and Turkish textiles. What I loved most about this property was the private gardens and terrace, both of which are a hidden oasis in a large city.
The rooms: bright and airy
There is no greater feeling than waking up on your own, without an alarm clock, completely rejuvenated. It is the gentle glow of natural light slowly filling the room, inviting you on a new day’s adventure.
This is how I felt every day waking up at Hotel Empress Zoe. The rooms are spacious with wooden floors, bedframes, and furniture. Turkish textiles give the space a traditional feel. Most of all, the canopy bed made me feel like I was Turkish royalty!
If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I’m more of a slow traveler. However, I have never traveled so fast than when I visited Istanbul. I honestly think I have the extremely comfortable beds at Empress Zoe to thank for a great sleep every night.
I’m a little bit of a “princess and the pea”, because I have chronic back pain that often flairs up during traveling. In the past I’ve stayed at luxury hotels only to find the beds feel like a hospital cot. Or the walls are paper-thin.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that at Hotel Empress Zoe, the bed was truly SO comfortable and the rooms were extremely quiet. I was anticipating that I would possibly wake up for the Call to Prayer from the nearby Mosque in the mornings, but I never did.
The gardens: lush and secluded
Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of Hotel Empress Zoe is the lush garden. This green space is actually an archeological site owned by the hotel. It also includes the ruins of a Turkish Bath House dating back to 1483.
Eating breakfast in the garden (more on food later) was really one of the highlights of my stay. It was like having our own botanical garden all to ourselves. There were so many hidden nooks and crannies that we were able to explore around every corner.
Of course I had to get a few shots for the ‘gram, especially when I was blending with my surroundings. I felt like a green goddess! But more importantly, supporting local small businesses that actually do part in preserving the nature and architecture of the community is really important to me. We were quite IMPRESSED with Empress Zoe!
Seaview terrace: scenic and tranquil
Aside from the enchanting gardens, Empress Zoe also has an amazing terrace with a scenic view of many of the major Istanbul sites. I was surprised to see that many guests seemed to not know about the terrace, as we had it all to ourselves a few times!
The terrace provides a panoramic view of the Marmara Sea, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and surrounding ruins. I also loved all of the budding flowers in springtime that made the space so tranquil while looking over the bustling Istanbul.
The food: authentic and energizing
I have to say, without a doubt that the traditional Turkish breakfast buffet was truly the biggest factor that got me out of bed in the morning. In fact, I think the delicious cuisine was enough to convince me that I am capable of becoming a morning person.
The buffet consisted of a variety of Meze, essentially the Turkish version of tapas, with both sweet and savory flavors. There was about 10 different types of honey and jam, several different types of cheeses, dried fruit, beans, and toast toppings. I really loved that the menu changed daily so that I could try a little bit of everything.
Of course they do have every type of coffee you can imagine, from cappuccino to Turkish coffee (though this is extra). Also, one of the very friendly cats of Hotel Empress Zoe always seems to make an appearance around breakfast time. If you let her, she is friendly enough she’ll jump up right on your lap!
I have to say, both the food and the experience of eating in the tranquil garden is one of my favorite memories of my visit to Istanbul.
The staff: helpful and polite
The staff of Hotel Empress Zoe truly embodies the meaning of Turkish hospitality. From the moment I arrived at the airport, to the time we left, the staff did everything they did to accommodate us. They didn’t just treat us like guests; they treated us like family.
Hotel Empress Zoe offers a pick up and drop-off airport shuttle starting at 35 euros. I decided to schedule an airport pickup at the Istanbul airport, and in retrospect I’m so glad I did.
If you haven’t heard by now, Istanbul airport is usually quite chaotic at best. Once I got through the lengthy immigration line, it was reassuring to have someone waiting for me with a sign. Especially since I arrived by myself at first, it was comforting to know I was in good hands in an unfamiliar place. And having a stretch black car all to myself, with leather seats and a mini bar, wasn’t so bad either.
At the hotel the staff was always extremely helpful with directions and suggestions, and even helped us book a traditional hammam experience at the nearby Cagaloglu Hamam. Apparently many celebrities frequent this particular spa, and I found out why after my detoxifying scrub-down!
We wouldn’t have found this place if it wasn’t for the help of the Hotel Empress Zoe staff.
The area: accessible and central
Perhaps you want to stay in the heart of Istanbul’s Old Town, about 5-10 minutes walking from Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace. Or, maybe you’re looking for an authentic accommodation experience in Istanbul. Or both.
Either way, I couldn’t recommend Hotel Empress Zoe enough. The stay definitely exceeded my expectations, and I can honestly say it helped shape my positive experience of Istanbul.
I noticed that there were a few other solo female travelers here, so I would also specifically recommend it to female travelers as well. The area is safe for walking around by yourself or with others in the day or at night. Of course, keeping your wits about you as usual.
Since the area is very central, some parts of the area are naturally touristy. You should expect that many restaurant and shop vendors will relentlessly try to sell something to you around this area. At first it made me a bit un-easy, but I soon found that these people are harmless. I recommend to just keep walking and ignore them.
If you do look to buy something from many of the great markets and shops nearby, definitely don’t feel pressured to buy something on the spot. Take your time, and remember you can often negotiate price. You’ll also find similar items in the Grand Bazaar or other parts of Istanbul for cheaper.
I definitely am itching to get back to Istanbul sometime soon, and I can’t thank Hotel Empress Zoe for making it such a pleasant experience!
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