Visit Istanbul, Turkey, one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: When dialing direct, use the prefix 011 followed by 90 (country code) + 212 (city code) + phone number shown below. For practical visitor information, visit http://english.istanbul.gov.tr.
Getting there: Rates from $915 round-trip on departures through March 10; from $935 April 1-May 16; valid on Delta (one Europe connection required; stopovers not permitted).
Stay: Hotel Lausos is located close to St. Sophia, Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. Ottoman-style guest rooms at this pretty boutique hotel are from $108, including a buffet breakfast. Klodfarer Caddesi 33, Sultanahmet (Old City), 638-0707, www.hotellausos.com.
Eat: Tiny Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu is in the Grand Bazaar (opened in 1461) inside a courtyard on a caravanserai (shelters for travelers, goods and animals along ancient caravan routes). This quiet, out-of-the-way spot gives a different prospective to this remarkable market of more than 50 streets and 3,000 shops (city and Bazaar maps at www.istanbultrails.com). After a kabob (under $5), try a dessert of kenafeh (shredded phyllo dough and cheese pastry soaked in sugar). Ic Cebeci Han 92, 527-0533.
Experience: Orientate on arrival with an open double-decker bus city tour. Get off at any of 40 stops to look around and then board another bus to continue the tour (buses operate every 60 minutes); about $27; www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com. Check out the treasury of jewels and the elaborate harem chambers at Topkapı Palace, the palace of sultans from 15th to 19th century; about $14 ($8.50 more with harem entry). Sarayici, 522-4422, www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr. Istanbul’s official sea bus and fast ferry company offers Bosphorus cruise from Eminonu to the Black Sea, and back. The ferry makes five stops on the six-hour cruise. Get off at the final stop, Anadolu Kavagi, for a fresh fish lunch or a visit to the hilltop Yoros Castle. Audio guides explain more than 70 points of interest along the way; twice daily service (Bogaz Hatti dock No. 3 near Galata Bridge); about $14. www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en.
Stay: Located in the heart of the Old City, Hotel Amira offers spacious accommodations with signature bedding and hand-painted ceilings. On-site are a rooftop lounge, a library and a wellness area with a gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and massage service (fees apply). Room rates, including buffet breakfast and afternoon tea buffet, start from $130. Kucuk Ayasofya Mah. Mustafapasa Sok 79, 516-1640, www.hotelamira.com.
Eat: Take a sea bus (fast ferry) to Princes’ Islands, a lovely traffic-free archipelago of nine small islands just off Istanbul’s Asian shore. Horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the means of transportation. Ferries depart from Kabatas (easy to get to from Old City via tram) and take about 35 minutes to Heybeliada (about $10 round-trip); www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en. Head to Heyamola Ada Lokantasi (just opposite the ferry) for a cold meze lunch (small dishes about $6) or hot meze from a vast tray selection such as grilled octopus ($10-$12) — or ask for a tasting selection. Heybeliada, (0216) 351-1111.
Experience: Visit Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, built in 1663 to accommodate camel caravans on the Silk Road. Best buys are loose cumin, curry, saffron, dried fruits and nuts and specialties such as caviar, Turkish Delight and coffee. Closed Sundays; Marpuccular Caddesi 7. Enjoy the authentic atmosphere and the famous whirling dervishes (the dance is a form of prayer) at the Galata Dervish House, the oldest city lodge established in 1491. Witness ceremonies (semas) daily at 7:30 p.m.; about $25; closed Mondays. Galip Dede Caddesi 15, 245-4141, www.rumimevlevi.com.
Stay: Hotel Sultania is located on a quiet street, close to many local museums, restaurants and shops. It’s just a one-minute walk to the Gulhane Tram, which gives easy access to many corners of the city. On-site are two restaurants and an indoor swimming pool. Deluxe double room rates from $222 with buffet breakfast. Ebusuud Cad. Mehmet Murat Sokak 4, 528-0806, www.hotelsultania.com.
Eat: Akdeniz Hatay Sofrasi prepares a number of traditional Syrian and Turkish dishes in a wood-fired oven and offers a range of kabobs, stews, soups, salads and tarts. House specialties, chicken or lamb stuffed with rice and slow roasted in a salt crust needs to be ordered at least 2.5 hours in advance. During presentation, the succulent dish is set on fire before the crust is broken; $12-$40. Ahmediye Caddesi 44, 444-7247, www.akdenizhataysofrasi.com.tr.
Experience: Immerse yourself in an authentic city experience with “The Other Tour” — a 14-hour journey that includes a private Bosphorus cruise, walks through varied neighborhoods (some with the highest populations of billionaires in the world), a visit to young students at a local school, a home-cooked lunch at a Turkish household, a trip to local markets and a Turkish Bath experience with massage and scrub. Offered Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 200 euros cash per person (U.S. dollars accepted, about $270). Contact Fethi Karatas, (505) 884-0495, www.theothertour.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.