Istanbul historically Byzantium and later Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey.
It was the capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
As of August 2019, the population of Istanbul is about 15 million people. It is one of the world’s most populous cities, ranking as the world’s fourth largest city proper and the largest European city.
Istanbul covers a total area of 1,539 square kilometers (594 square miles).
The city has average elevation of 39 meters (128 feet) above sea level.
Sometimes as a bridge, sometimes as a barrier, Istanbul for more than 2,500 years has stood between conflicting surges of religion, culture, and imperial power.
For most of those years it was one of the most coveted cities in the world.
The name Byzantium may derive from that of Byzas, who, according to legend, was leader of the Greeks from the city of Megara who captured the peninsula from pastoral Thracian tribes and built the city about 657 BC. It remained primarily Greek-speaking until its fall in 1453 AD.
In 330 AD, when Constantine the Great dedicated the city as his capital, he called it New Rome. Constantine the Great was the first Roman emperor to profess Christianity.
After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), Palaiologos Byzantine (1261–1453) and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires.
It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 AD and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Under the name Constantinople it was the Ottoman capital until 1923. The capital was then moved to Ankara and the city was now called Istanbul.
Fire, earthquake, riot, and invasion have ravaged Istanbul many times, more than 60 conflagrations and numerous earthquakes being important enough to have been recorded in history.
The traces of these disasters, though, have been swept away in waves of intensive urban development: today wide roadways run through the historic quarters of the old city, and unpaved alleys overhung with old wooden houses coexist with modern high-rise buildings, office parks, and shopping malls.
The city’s biggest attraction is its historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. This World Heritage Site includes buildings and structures such as the Sarayburnu, the Topkapı Palace, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Irene, Zeyrek Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Little Hagia Sophia and the Walls of Constantinople.
Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum. Built in CE 537 at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture.”
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque located in Istanbul. A popular tourist site, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque continues to function as a mosque today. The Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It sits next to the Hagia Sophia.
The Topkapı Palace is a large palace in Istanbul, Turkey, that was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Topkapı was transformed into a museum by a government decree dated April 3, 1924.
The Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in the Galata/Karaköy quarter of Istanbul. The nine-story tower is 66.90 m (219.5 ft) (62.59 m (205.3 ft) without the ornament on top, 51.65 m (169.5 ft) at the observation deck), and was the city’s tallest structure when it was built. The Romanesque style tower was built as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) in 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople.
The Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul’s most surprising tourist attractions. It is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia. It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Today it is kept with little water, for public access inside the space.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, or Kapalı Çarşı, dates to 1455 and was established shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Over the centuries it has grown into a warren of 61 streets lined by more than 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It currently occupies a nearly incomprehensible 333,000 square feet. It is one of the world’s oldest and biggest malls.
The Spice Bazaar is the most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar. Built in 1664, it is one of the most colorful bazaar of Istanbul. It is the place to get your foodie fix of lokum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, nuts, herbs, and, of course, spices.
The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı with a few fragments of the original structure surviving. The word hippodrome comes from the Greek hippos (ἵππος), horse, and dromos (δρόμος), path or way.
Istanbul was the most crowded city of the world from 1502, then London took this title in 1840.
The Tünel is a short underground railway line in Istanbul, Turkey. It is the world’s second oldest underground railway – it begun operation in 1875.
On 1910, the Mayor of Istanbul exiled 80,000 stray dogs to a small island for them to die. Soon later, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake occurred, which people perceived as a punishment from God for the dogs’ exile, and the surviving dogs were brought back.
British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.