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About Istanbul

Touring Istanbul Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey has it all from history to historical sites you won't want to miss. This metropolitan city lies in the Marmara region. It is ranked as the first and largest municipality of Turkey and the second metropolitan municipality in the world. Population statistics from 2012 state about 13.8 million people live in the metro area which is roughly 5343 square kilometers. Istanbul is broken into 39 districts, some of which are more popular for tourists than others. This important trade city was first Byzantium during the 660s BC, until it became Constantinople in 330 AD. Officially the name Istanbul was not in place until 1930. As the economic, political, historical, and cultural heart of Turkey it has plenty to offer in the way of waterways, historical sites, and culture.

Historical Overview

Even during the Byzantium era, Istanbul was developed as a most significant city and for 16 centuries it managed to hold its importance. It is perhaps the reason why for the next several centuries it was desired by many. Under the name Constantinople, Istanbul was run by four different empires: Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman. Christianity, which is an important part of Istanbul's history, was advanced greatly during the Roman and Byzantine empires. It was the Ottoman Empire that turned Istanbul towards an Islamic religion making it the stronghold of the last caliphate.

Despite being just a city and not the capital, Istanbul still has a variety of mosques and palaces, which are reminders of the different empires. One of the more successful reasons behind Istanbul's establishment was the Silk Road. It went through what is now Istanbul helping to join Europe with the Middle East. It was the only city that provided the sea route on the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

General Information

This history of Istanbul has made it a desirable place to visit for approximately 11.6 million visitors a year. For two years running it has held the honor of being the European Capital of Culture. It is by any definition of the phrase a global city with some of the fastest growing economies of the world. Most of the Turkish companies have their headquarters in Istanbul along with several media outlets. From an economic perspective about a quarter of the GDP is produced in Istanbul. Trying to gain even more favor among the world and tourists, it hopes to win the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Istanbul is on the northwestern side of Turkey with the Bosphorus Strait connecting Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. The strait actually divides the city with the historic center on the European side and the economic center on the Asian side. The Golden Horn divides this geographic region again due to the natural harbor it forms with the peninsula most important to Byzantium and Constantinople. It is the Golden Horn that has been used to protect Istanbul from attacking forces and become a prominent site to visit for those interested in landscape.

Istanbul has a vast climate although it is characterized as a humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate. There are only two summer months, with very little rainfall, which is why it has two climate classifications. The size and topography of Istanbul provides it with several microclimates throughout the land and marine areas. Parts of Istanbul experience a more oceanic climate with humidity than others. The Black Sea is responsible for this warmer and more humid area versus the southern regions without the large land mass.

Historical Sites You Don't Want to Miss

Historical sites are broken down by location in which there are four districts. The Faith District offers early sites up to the Ottoman Empire. In the second district, near the first, there is the Galata, a Genoese Citadel. Only the Galata Tower remains. Galata is in Beyoglu, which also makes up the entertainment and commercial center of Istanbul. It is home to Taksim Square, a more modern site to visit while in the area.

Dolmabahce Palace was the Ottoman government seat towards the end. The palace architecture is Baroque with Rococo and Neoclassical styles thrown in. It is an eclectic design, with a great deal of European influence on its décor and layout. Much of the art is from the Tanzimat period. It is in the Besiktas district, which is north of the second district. Also in this area of this amazing city is BJK Inonu Stadium, the oldest sports club of Turkey. While enjoying Besiktas visitors can enjoy Ortakoy, a village, and Ortakoy Mosque. It is close to the First Bosphorus Bridge and on the Bosphorus Strait. Luxury mansions dating from the 19th century still sit in this area and are used by elite residents.

Inland one can find the district of Levent and Maslak which are actually two economic centers. The area was once outside of Istanbul's main city scope, although it was used by residents looking to summer in the country with seaside mansions and gardens. Due to urban growth these mansions have become a part of Istanbul. A main place to visit is Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century and still standing today. The Hagia Sophia has been an Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Imperial Mosque. It was turned into a museum in 1935 and remains so today. It is made of Ashlar and brick. The architecture offers a dome, minarets, lustration urns, a marble door, and wishing column. It is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world with its mosaics and marble pillars. It is considered Justinian basilica architecture.

The Topkapi Palace is a Unesco World Heritage site worth visiting because of its Ottoman baroque architecture. It was used as a palace for 400 years. It lost importance to the Sultans after a new palace was built. The palace is a varied structure due to the many buildings, courtyards, gardens, and pavilions. It is between 592,600 and 700,000 meters squared based on the land and buildings. Much of the palace can be seen by visitors today.

Istanbul's historical sites provide an architectural map of its long and ancient roots. The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque is known for its blue tiles on the interior walls. It was created in the early 1600s and used during Ahmed I’s rule. It is a tomb of the founder, hospice and madrasah. It is of the Islamic and Late Classical architecture.

Istanbul's historical sites provide an architectural map of its long and ancient roots. The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque is known for its blue tiles on the interior walls. It was created in the early 1600s and used during Ahmed The First's rule. It is a tomb of the founder, hospice and madrasah. It is of the Islamic and Late Classical architecture.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was built as a social and sporting center for Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire. It is considered a circus building, but only a few of the original pieces of the structure exist today. There are serpent columns, an obelisk of Thutmose III, statues of Porphyrios and a walled obelisk.

Grand Bazaar is also called the Covered Bazaar in Turkish. It is the largest and oldest market in the world and in Istanbul. Over 61 streets are covered to include 3,000 shops. About 250,000 to 400,000 visitors come to the Grand Bazaar daily. The beginning of the Bazaar is circa 1455, but most of the covered parts were not finished until after the 1730s.

Many of the attractions are spread throughout Istanbul like the next bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar. It is located in the Faith district. Besides the Grand Bazaar it is the largest. Historically, it was built in the 1660s. It has an L-shaped design with 88 vaulted stores. The gateways are large with chambers above each entrance.

Prince’s Islands or Red Islands are in the Sea of Marmara. There are four islands that make up the district of Istanbul. Each island has its own attractions for tourists such as the Museum of Prince’s Islands. The islands are mostly for summer and cultural tourism.

Jewish heritage is an elemental part of Istanbul culture. Many sites reflect Jewish heritage, whether they have been converted or began as cultural sites. Various tours and walking sites exist for those who wish to follow the path. Combined with the other amazing tour sites mentioned above including Galata Tower which is a Jewish Heritage site, visitors can enjoy numerous landmarks within the Jewish community and throughout Istanbul.