We arrived in Istanbul not knowing what to expect. Once we had run the gauntlet of taxi drivers, tour operators and map sellers we walked across the Galata Bridge to the Grand Bazaar, a journey we were aprehensive about but which we found quite easy and stimulating.
The Grand Bazaar is reputedly the oldest covered mall in the world (built in 1400s) and it is huge, quite beautiful and full of shops selling everything Turkish e.g. rugs/carpets, lamps, porcelain, jewelry; and a lot of everything else. It was relatively quiet and the shopkeepers, keen for a sale, were very friendly and informative without being pushy. I thought the Bazaar would be a tourist attraction and it was. But apparently, it is mainly for locals who fill the place on weekends when it gets pretty hectic.
The girls both bought some porcelain items, I bought some Turkish Delight and we had a nice coffee and baclava at a traditional cafe including a friendly conversation with the owner. He was very nice, everyone we met was really friendly and polite.
There are many very old and beautiful buildings in Istanbul but the most outstanding and most photographed are the Sophia Museum (formerly a mosque and at times a christian church) and the Sultanahmed Camii (the Blue Mosque).
We finished our visit with lunch at the Seven Hills, a restaurant on the roof of a five story building with great views of Istanbul including the aforementioned buildings. The restuarant had great food, good beer and wine and great service. The staff were very friendly, helpful and determined to give us a great experience, which they did.
A longish walk through a city park followed by a short and exciting taxi ride back to the ship (drivers are crazy here) ended a wonderful day in Istanbul.