My wonderful trip to Istanbul has ended, but I have no doubt that I will return. The title of my report refers to an earlier forum post that I hope other women will check, since the writer sums up my impressions: this is an incredibly easy city to visit alone. In part, the hustle of the merchants is based on engaging you to buy: where are you from? Please, just a cup of tea? But it is also hospitable, and the reality is that anywhere you go in the world there is an advertising style. In the u.s. we put up with commercials at the movies and blaring announcements in the grocery stores!
Because I went on the friendly Istanbul Eats tour I made a friend and joined her and her friends for a meal. I would recommend talking to other women, since they are almost always welcoming
Beyond the tourist area I also found everyone warm, generous, and helpful. I learned to take the tram by looking around and asking for assistance. People showed me how to buy tokens, transfer. In the grand bazaar, I approached a covered woman to ask if she knew where I could find a toilet. She and three of her friends escorted me down an alley to tiny hammam and a pay to enter restroom!
A few recommendations
Cemberilitas Hamam was delightful. The scrub was more like an English governess than a spa!
Rustem Pasha mosque, exquisite, empty when I visited, a little hard to find
Istanbul Modern Art museum. Excellent Collection and a beautiful cafe with windows on the Bosphorus.
Ciya Cafe for the best, most unusual salads and mezze you will ever try.
Wandering neighborhood near Ciya for markets. Gorgeous. Go to the candy and pastry shops where the displays rival Paris.
Huge newly remodeled mosque near Istanbul Modern. Again, I was alone! This is February, but it was still amazing to be in a huge mosque, I think as big as the blue mosque, completely alone.
Of course you must see all the other main sights, but these were among my favorites.
As cold as it was (and it was snowing as I left) I would not hesitate to recommend a winter trip. Prices are lower, and no waiting or crowding anywhere.
Thanks to all the forum participants for loads of helpful advice. I think this is the best forum I have ever used!