IF YOU GO
WHAT TO DO
Topkapi Palace: Nothing brings Istanbul history to life better than the walled complex from which sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire in the company of their harems. About $9.50. 011-0212-512-0480; topkapisarayi.gov.tr/en.
Hagia Sophia: This domed architectural masterpiece was once the Great Church of Constantinople. The Ottomans converted it into a mosque; it's now a museum. About $9.50; ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en.
WHERE TO EAT
Shadow Restaurant & Cafe: Budget prices for savory meat and lamb Turkish dishes, a friendly staff and a party atmosphere.
Seasons Restaurant: Stylized but traditional Turkish cuisine served in an elegant atmosphere in the Four Seasons.
Albura Kathisma: Find it through a "secret" back-door entrance through ancient underground ruins. The food is traditional Ottoman and Byzantine with a modern twist. Elegant but budget. alburakathisma.com/en/.
WHERE TO STAY
Azade Hotel: Converted from an Ottoman house into a charming white hotel, with views of the Bosporus, the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque. I booked my seaview room offseason for $84 on Expedia. 011-0212-517-7173, azadehotel.com.
Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah: Its strategic location overlooking the Golden Horn is the draw. Pricey but an experience. 011-90-212-377-4000; jumeirah.com.