Budget guesthouse in central Istanbul, close to tourist sites
Private and shared rooms, some with city views
Rooftop terrace with views of Bosphorus and Asiatic side of Istanbul
Buffet breakfast includes pickled vegetables, pastries, and fruit
Free use of laptop computers; access to fax and printer
Free coffee, tea, Wi-Fi, and hand-drawn maps
24-hour reception desk and free luggage storage
Airport transfers for a fee
Basement rooms have little to no natural light
No bedside reading lamps or electrical outlets for bunk beds
Agora Guesthouse is a budget-friendly hostel/hotel hybrid with sweeping rooftop terrace views of the Bosphorus and the Asiatic side of Istanbul. The property has 19 simple and practical rooms -- both private and dormitory-style -- that have either private en-suite bathrooms or shared ones. Decor is a bit dated, however, and basement rooms have little natural light. A free breakfast includes pastries, six varieties of olives, and pickled vegetables, and is served on the rooftop. Free coffee and tea, Wi-Fi, and use of a laptop computer are also offered here. Guests routinely report that the Agora is a tidy property with a warm atmosphere. Another budget option with a more up-to-date, boutique look is the Yazar Hotel.
Small, simple guesthouse with stunning views from terrace, but dowdy decor
In addition to its budget price, the calling cards for the Agora Guesthouse are its rooftop views of the Bosphorus and its proximity to top tourist sites. The decor -- lace sheers covering the street view in the lobby, dour avocado and harvest gold accent colors, and beige paint throughout -- will strike some as dowdy. This is a property that attracts solo travelers and couples, but it's most popular with students who are frugal, practical travelers, interested in meeting other guests.
Housed in a pale pink stucco building with long windows, the hotel has a lobby with a tile floor, red and silver banquette seating, and a curved wood reception desk. There is a desk with a computer, fax, and printer, as well as a rack of brochures. The rooftop has indoor and outdoor seating on black plastic chairs with sliding doors to the terrace, which offers lovely panoramic views of the unique East meets West aura of Istanbul.
The Agora Guesthouse is on a commercial street with other hotels, restaurants, and shops. The nearby Sultanahmet Park, where local families stroll on the weekends, is a three-minute walk away. The central location is close to many tourist sites, including the Topkapi Palace, the majestic Hagia Sophia, and the serene Blue Mosque, all of which can be reached in under a 10-minute walk. It's about a 20-minute walk to Sirkeci, Istanbul's main train station. The labyrinthine Grand Bazaar can also be reached in about 20 minutes on foot. Several other attractions are a short drive away, such as the Spice Market (10 minutes), Istanbul Modern (15 minutes), a contemporary museum with a chic restaurant and terrace on the Bosphorus, and Beyoglu (20 minutes), a neighborhood with some hipster credibility and a hive of activity in its Taksim Square. It's a 30- to 40-minute drive to Ataturk International Airport, though it can take longer depending on traffic.
Spacious and clean private rooms and shared dorms, but decor is dated
Rooms at the Agora Guesthouse are spacious and tidy, but decor here is dated. There are sheers on the windows, harvest gold and avocado duvet covers with matching pillows and curtains, and inexpensive dark wood furniture. The walls are painted a dull pinkish beige. Views are either to the street or a courtyard. Scattered on the tile floors are pretty Oriental carpets intrinsic to the region.
There are private rooms with queen or twin beds with white linens, safes, flat-screen TVs with DVD players, electric kettles for coffee and tea, and irons and ironing boards. The private bathrooms, tiled in large beige squares, have showers with sliding glass doors -- some with rainfall showerheads -- and magnifying mirrors. The shared rooms are either 10-bed, female-only dorms or four- and 10-bed mixed dorms. In these, the bunk beds are powder blue metal with foot lockers (guests must bring their own locks), but they lack reading lights and electrical outlets at each bunk. Bed linens are included in the room rate, but towels must be rented. Some of the shared rooms are quite spacious, but basement rooms have bright fluorescent overhead lights and little natural light. The shared bathrooms have long granite counters with three sinks, door-stall toilets, and shower stalls with curtains. All of the bathrooms have hairdryers and toiletries from dispensers.
Lovely terrace with views, free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and luggage storage
A free, hearty breakfast that includes meats, cheeses, pastries, and pickled vegetables is served every morning on the terrace at the Agora Guesthouse. The guesthouse also offers free Wi-Fi, use of a laptop computer, luggage storage, and free coffee and tea throughout the day. The reception desk is staffed 24-hours and can arrange airport transfers for a fee. There is a wide shelf of books available to borrow in the breakfast room. Be aware that there's no elevator at this property, and pets are not allowed. Guests often remark on the thoroughness of the property's hand-drawn maps that include useful travel tips.