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Absolute best neighborhood to stay in for first time in Istanbul?

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I have a 3-day stopover in Istanbul, first time ever. Given the short time frame I really want to stay in the best spot for seeing historical sites. I would also like to be in a place where there is a lot of streetlife/nightlife, as I am on a tight budget and can't afford taxis (and am a single female so I would like to be able to walk around safely at night).

Any suggestions for where that might be? I am guessing somewhere near Hagia Sophia but is that dead at night? Even specific intersections to be near would be helpful--I am using a website that pinpoints youth hostels on a map.

Thanks!

mp413

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