Because of my work as a travel writer, people always ask me what my favorite trip has been. It’s almost impossible to answer the question, but I try to name a few choices by category: best beach retreat, most life-altering culinary experience, most thrilling adventure, prime surfing spot, etc. For best recent discovery, Istanbul has catapulted to the top of my list.

When I visited Istanbul last year I expected to like it, but instead I fell absolutely head-over-heels. The mix of old and new felt just right, with days starting at beautiful historical sites like the Hagia Sophia and ending at fashionable restaurants like 360 with incredible views of the city. The lights of skyscrapers twinkled across from the floodlit monuments of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historic center. And the crowd was strikingly cosmopolitan; the nightlife there made New York look almost staid. The choice of hotels was also incredibly diverse–ranging from luxe palace properties along the Bosporus to small, cozy guesthouses tucked away in less well-known neighborhoods.

Just last week the Park Hyatt opened in the Macka Palas, a 1922 landmark inspired by Milan’s palazzos, right in the heart of Nisantasi, a buzzing area for shopping and close to the city’s museums and best restaurants. If you check it out, try to snag one of the 25 rooms with their own Turkish baths or a top-floor suite with a private terrace. It seems fitting that most of the heavyweight hotel brands now have a presence in Istanbul; it is most definitely worth the spotlight.

Recession special: The Borrego Ranch Resort & Spa, debuting this month in Borrego Springs, California, has special introductory rates running until January. Prices start at $295 midweek and $335 on the weekend, a savings of 20 percent.