My husband and I (late 30's/early 40's - active, no kids, enjoy off the beaten path neighborhoods and culture) are traveling to Istanbul the first week of June. We would like to take in the city to the fullest and see sites, do walks, etc. yet were also wondering if 3 nights/4 days would be enough time to "see" Istanbul properly while hoping to take in another area/region in Turkey? We like the idea of then going to Cappadocia or the Turkish coast for 2 nights/3 days but may feel rushed? Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
You could hit all the major touristy spots - mosques, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Bosphorus cruise - in a rushed pace in 3-4 days but that's about it. Even the RS 7-day tour only manages to hit the top spots, while leaving a lot of areas uncovered (e.g. nice towns along the Bosphorus, neighborhoods on the Asia side, Istanbul Modern Museum, Beyoglu and Galata Tower, etc). For people who don't like a busy 13 million population "megacity", 3-4 days may be enough - but if you enjoy a busy city and want to really explore nooks and crannies and not feel rushed, then it's a bit difficult. There's a lot more to Istanbul than just the Old City (Sultanahmet), although tourists seem to only stick primarily to that area and confine their shopping to the Grand Bazaar. Two days on the coast and Cappadocia is also not enough, especially considering travel time there. I would not try to split the difference, but pick one area or the other to concentrate on and just use Istanbul as your base for flights, knowing it will get short shrift this time around. If you choose to spend all your time in Istanbul, you can take easy sidetrips for a more tranquil atmosphere - e.g. Princes Islands which are small, easy to get to, and pedestrian, bicycle, and horse-buggy only. I spent 12 days in Istanbul and environs (trip 1) and another 12 on the southwestern coast (trip 2), but again it's a matter of interests and personal preference.
Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I felt my 3.5 days in Istanbul were more than adequate to cover the city. Sure, it's a sprawling city with tons to do, and you could possibly spend a whole week there. (It's like that old addage of tasks taking as much time as you have. I feel that way about Istanbul. You can tour it in as little or as much time as you have.) To make the most of your time, you might want to consider some 1/2 day or evening tours. I can give more details about what we did if you're interested. There are many tour companies offering 3 day excursions to Cappadoccia from Istanbul, and I would expect that Istanbul + Cappadocia would make for a great week.
Lisa: A very good way to decide if you need a week or less is to take a look the Rick Steves week long Istanbul tour which details the activities and sights the tour covers and what the tour does not cover. This will give you a good idea as to what should be seen and also what interests you. I think you will need a week to see much of Istanbul, but you would have to decide what you think you want to see and how much time you like to visit places and include time to spend eating and sitting in a cafe having a drink and determine if you want to walk the streets, visit the musuems and take the boat ride. Not be rushed, but to cover the city as you may only visit it once. I enjoy seeing a city of a whole week and if I do go back ( like Rome, Paris and London which I enjoy seeing more than once) then I know the lay of the land and what I want to see again and what I did not get to see. But with Istanbul, do you really think you will see it again. I personally feel that 3 nites, four days and jet lag is not enough time. It is a longer flight than Rome, Paris, London so you may want to allow time to rest a bit before going out to see the sights. The only city I felt I really covered in 5 days is Dublin and liked it but if I never go back that is fine, but loved all the other cities enough to see them at least twice. But whatever you decide, see the sights and enjoy what you see and if you don't get to the others, then that is fine. Don't rush just to see everything, quality time, not quantity is much better. Have a great time.
Although you certainly could easily spend a week in Istanbul, 3-4 days is adequate to see the top sites. My vote would be to go somewhere else for a short visit. A segment of the western coast is very doable in 2-3 days. There are frequent flights to the various coastal cities (e.g. Izmir) depending on what interests you the most. My personal opinion is that Cappadocia is the better choice over the coast, but you would be a bit more cramped time-wise given the greater travel distance. I don't think you can make a bad decision regardless of what you decide to do. Have fun!
4 day trip to Turkey and for healthy young people with no kids and a well planned day you should be able to see the highlights and a little extra. You should absolutely try and include Capadoccia in your week long trip. Istanbul had its charms but Capadoccia was the highlight of our trip.