Things to do - general

What is now called Asian Istanbul was probably inhabited by people as early as 3000 BC. Eventually, in the 7th century, Greek colonists led by King Byzas established the colony of Byzantium, the Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus. Byzas chose the spot after consulting an oracle of Delphi who told him to settle across from the “land of the blind ones.” Indeed, Byzas concluded, earlier settlers must have been deprived of their sight to have overlooked this superb location at the mouth of the Bosphorus strait. This proved an auspicious decision by Byzas, as history has shown Istanbul’s location important far beyond what these early Greek settlers might possibly have conceived. Byzas gave his name to the city: Byzantium.

In the early 100’s BC, it became part of the Roman Empire and in 306 AD, Emperor Constantine the Great made Byzantium capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. From that point on, the city was known as Constantinople.

Hagia Sophia church built in 6th centuryThe mid 400’s AD was a time of enormous upheaval in the empire. Barbarians conquered the western Roman Empire while the Eastern, also called the Byzantine Empire, kept Constantinople as its capital. In 532 during the reign of Justinian I, antigovernment riots destroyed the city. It was rebuilt, and outstanding structures such as Hagia Sophia stand as monuments to the heights Byzantine culture reached.

The attribute that made the city so desirable, its incomparable location for trade and transport between three continents, was also its nemesis. For the next several hundred years Persians, Arabs, nomadic peoples, and members of the Fourth Crusade (who for a time governed the city) attacked Constantinople.

Finally, in 1453, when Constantinople was so weakened by almost constant invasions and battles, the Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Mehmet II were able to conquer the city. Renamed Istanbul, it became the third and last capital of the Ottoman Empire. It was the nerve center for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500’s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial center. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in WWI and Istanbul was occupied by the allies.

When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Ataturk moved the capital to the city of Ankara. The city of Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically and today its population is over 13,6 million and increases at an estimated 700,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown. It continues to be a city that creates its own history at the meeting point of the two continents; Europe and Asia.

Some of the interesting districts of the city are: Sultanahmet, Haydarpasa, Uskudar, Eyup, Galata, Pera, Ortaköy, Taksim, Eminönü, Fatih, Balat, and The Bosphorus. Princess Islands are a popular summer resort for local people.

Country Turkey
Area (km2)5461

Nightlife info

Beyoğlu is Istanbul's nightlife hub, with an ever-growing portfolio of clubs, café-bars and live music venues which open, close and change name with bewildering speed. Pricey rooftop bars are the latest trend here, in Galatasaray, and in the equally hip Ortaköy area. Across the water on the Asian side of Bosphorus, Kadikoy has also become a happening after-dark district. At the glitzy end of the scale, ostentation, posturing and an exclusive door policy are what it's all about - so, unless you can afford to spend (and tip) like a superstar, avoid.Nightlife image

Culture and history info

Istanbul is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. While the majority of the population are Muslims, it's a mix of cultures and backgrounds fused together in one city. It has a mix of Jewish, Greek and Armenian populations. It is a city where one can truly experience Middle Eastern and Western cultures all at once. From fashionable boutiqes of Nisantasi to the merchants of the Covered Bazaar, this busy city is home to many people from very diverse backgrounds, with the commonality of it's rich history. Turkey's geography makes it a wonderful blend of peoples and places. Magnificent scenery along the Bosphorus has drawn people from the ancient world to the contemporary. Istanbul, comprising both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus is a stunning amalgam of sights and sounds. Thousands of years of history is combined with a vibrant, modern and exciting city unlike any other in the world. To fully experience Istanbul takes a lifetime, as there are so many corners, nooks and crannies that demand to be experienced. To visit only the mosques and Bazaar is to miss the essence of Istanbul. While an acient country and culture, the Turkish Republic is remarkable youthful, having been declared by Ataturk in 1923. Ataturk's drive for secular, modern country continues today in Turkey's aspiration to join the EU.Culture and history image

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