In 2006, retired chemistry professor Dr. Dogan Sumengen and his wife opened up Hotel Ada in the heart of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s old city. My fiancé Josh and I stayed there on our most recent trip. Even in June, the peak of the high season, room rates were very affordable (starting at $83 a night), and the hotel couldn’t have had a better location—a five minute walk to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, and a ten minute walk to Topkapi Palace.
Room interiors were sparse—the highlight being a large Jacuzzi, curiously placed alongside a desk in the bedroom—but any lack of décor was made up by the incredible view. Colorful row houses and cobblestone streets zigzagged down a slope to the Sea of Marmara, where ships spread out over the endless blue. We were right next to a Mosque, so the call to prayer was a part of our daily experience, as it is all over Istanbul.
Best of all, the inn owners were incredibly gracious. Not only did they get out maps and help us plan our daily city schedule, but they also served a scrumptious complimentary breakfast—fresh fruit and dried apricots and figs, yogurt, granola, and honey, cheeses and meats, simit, or sesame bread rings, and French press coffee, Turkish tea, and more.
There was complimentary Wi-Fi, and Dr. Sumengen was very enthusiastic about a Skype line he had recently set up, and encouraged us to use it free of charge whenever we needed to. When we left Hotel Ada for another, high-end hotel, Dr. Sumengen and his wife gave us parting gifts and invited us back for breakfast the next day. We would have taken them up on their offer, if our travel schedule had allowed it. It’s one of those lovely places where you get so much more out of the experience than you expected to, you feel like you’re leaving a family you’ll see again in the near future.
Stirling Kelso is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.