Most people associate Istanbul with its fabulous Byzantine and Ottoman heritage, but a stay in the neighborhood of this fine hotel is all about its über-cosmopolitan 18th-and 19th-century past. Looking out from your elegant, high-ceilinged room onto the narrow street below, it's not hard to imagine it as it was just a few decades ago, with Armenian architects rubbing shoulders with Greek shopkeepers and Levantine businessmen with minor Russian nobility. So it's no surprise to learn that your hotel of choice, built in 1870, was originally the home of a prominent Serbian Jewish pianist—his surname, Zenovitch, still adorns the superbly preserved (rather than, as with so many period buildings in the city, shockingly over-restored) façade.
There are a few downsides to a stay in this sympathetically renovated historic building, with the flight of steep marble steps up to the gracious front door and lack of an elevator amongst them, but it's a price well worth paying for the period charm. All rooms are suites, with high, corniced ceilings; pale walls saved from plainness by elaborate plaster relief moulding; and gleaming parquet or tastefully patterned tiled floors. It's not all nostalgia, though, with thoroughly contemporary glass tables, hip wrap-around glass-and-chrome shower stalls in the bedrooms, and LCD televisions. Other nice touches include an espresso machine in every room and wonderfully practical lighting that means you can actually read your guidebook in bed. Breakfast, taken on the top floor, is a fulsome Turkish/international spread, and there are panoramic views west over higgledy-piggledy 19th-century rooftops to the medieval Genoese Galata Tower.