Experiencing the Hamam (Turkish Bath): Go for broke and sign up for the skin sloughing and massage.
Hearing a Performance of the Ottoman Mehter Band: The underappreciated Military Museum in Harbiye puts on two half-hour daily performances of what was once the avant-garde of the fearless and brutal Ottoman army.
Having a Drink in the Courtyard of the Old Prison Walls: The former house of nightmares is now the gardens of the Four Seasons Hotel, where you can relax over a raki (aniseed-flavored spirit) and admire the lookout towers.
Eating Your Way Through Ortaköy: The neighborhood is particularly vibrant on a summer evening, with the lights twinkling beneath the Bosphorus Bridge. The streets behind the mosque are a food fair of Turkish fast food, or choose a spot at one of the many popular cafes.
Soaking Up the Atmosphere at the Pierre Loti Café: The views of the Golden Horn from this hilltop make the trip to Pierre Loti worth the detour. Take a walk through the picturesque cemetery adjacent to the cafe.
Immersing Yourself in the History of the Pera Palas Hotel: A drink in the legendary Orient Bar, a ride in one of the very first elevators, a visit to room no. 411, and a walk through the venerated Atatürk Room will transport you to another century. The patisserie is worth a stop, too, and for 8YTL ($6), you can have your very own key to Agatha Christie's former room.
Taking a Tour Through Dolmabahçe Sarayi: The members of the tour group are almost as entertaining as the tour itself. The great equalizer has to be the plastic blue booties mandatory for admittance into the palace, but a look at the palace's crystal staircase and superb hamam will remind you of the delineation between the haves and the have-nots.
Wandering the Streets Behind the Egyptian Spice Market: It's just as much fun outside as it is inside the market, where purveyors of produce set their prepared foods out on the streets for the local lunch crowd. Bring wet wipes.
Hunting the Labyrinthine Corridors of the Grand Bazaar: When the salesman turns away from you in disgust, you've learned the bottom price for that item. Find another stall selling the same thing and conclude the transaction in the old-fashioned Turkish way: with a handshake and a "güle güle" (goodbye).
Crossing the Galata Bridge on Foot from Karaköy to Eminönü: Fishermen line the railings above, while dinner (or tea, or backgammon) is served below as the majestic and inspiring silhouettes of the Süleymaniye, Rüstem Pasa, and Yeni Camii loom in the distance. If you wait till after sunset, you get to see the seagulls circling the minarets.
Taking a Cruise Up the Bosphorus: This time-honored boat trip crosses from Europe to Asia and back again every 15 minutes. Float in the wake of Jason and the Argonauts, Constantine the Great, and others, and imagine the battles that took place between these shores.
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Dining at Asitane: Overload on kebaps (kabobs) and köfte (meatballs). All the restaurants bill themselves as "Ottoman," but few of them can actually boast of having translated the recipes from the kitchens of Topkapi.
Noshing Waterside at Eminönü: For 12 to 14 hours a day, fresh fish is grilled quayside and presented for a spectacular 1.15YTL (85¢) by a gracious man in traditional costume. Grab your sandwich and step aside; the condiments are to the right on the railing.
For a complete listing of what to see and do in Istanbul, visit the online attractions index at Frommers.com.
Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.