Istanbul in 2-3 days
Start off with a visit to Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque. Visitors are welcome to enter but you will need to go outside prayer times. Females will need to have a scarf to cover their shoulders and heads. It is well worth going inside the mosque but its appearance is certainly more grand from the outside. Don’t rush around the perimetre because it is a wonderful building which deserves your time.
Head virtually across the road to Aya Sofya which was originally built as a Roman church and then converted into a Mosque about 1200 years later. It now serves as a museum and provides a good insight into this secular state.
Start the day with a visit to the Grand Bazaar. Much of it is more like a modern shopping centre but the haggling required will be enough to remind you where you are. On the whole the shop attendants are very friendly, but don’t forget to haggle.
After lunch, stop off at the Basilica Cistern. It is an atmospheric underground haven, which was originally constructed in 532AD.
Spend the afternoon at Topkapi Sarayi where you can explore the magnificent palace and its grounds.
Head down towards the water where you can check out the dozens of fish stalls on the north side of the Galata Bridge. Make your way to the south side and visit the Egyptian Spice Market. It’s a wonderful place for wannabe chefs with a wide variety of herbs and spices which get the imagination running.
In the afternoon wash away your troubles with a traditional Turkish Bath. Cagaloglu on Yerebetan Caddesi is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. You don’t have to, but expect to be encouraged to do this completely naked. For many visitors it’s a little uncomfortable at first, but if you can put up with the initial embarrassment it’s well worth it.
In one week
Istanbul is a city that can be pretty well covered in a few days but if you don’t have time to hang around for a week don’t pass it up. You can easily spend a day shopping around Beyoglu and Taksim Square. You could also jump on a ferry and explore the Bosphorus. There are a number of visitor ferries which have tours.