Welcome to Istanbul

Istanbul is the largest city, former capital, and the economic epicenter of Turkey. It straddles the Bosporus Straight, sitting on the border between Europe and Asia. The apex of many empires, Istanbul, previously known as Constantinople, is also Europe's largest city, and among its most ancient.

This travel guide will go through everything you need to know before traveling to Istanbul, Turkey. Sit back and enjoy.

Map of Istanbul

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Top attractions

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is a historic mosque and Islamic religious site in Istanbul, with six minarets.

Istanbul Blue Mosque by Ana Gómez on 500px.com

Hagia Sophia Cathedral and Museum

The Hagia Sophia Cathedral is a Byzantine-era Christian cathedral in Istanbul, which has been converted into a museum.

Hagia Sophia Interior by Artur Bogacki on 500px.com

Topkapi Palace

Topokapi Palace is a historic Ottoman-era palace complex in the heart of Istanbul.

Estambul by Rubén Ibáñez Ibáñez on 500px.com

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is a famous historic area in Istanbul with many markets.

Vintage colorful Turkish lamps on street. by Raul G. Herrera on 500px.com

Weather and Climate

Istanbul, although situated in Turkey, experiences all four seasons of the year with the warmest months being July and August, and the coldest, January and February.

Question: What is the ideal time to visit Istanbul?

Answer: The best time to visit Istanbul is from March to May.




Istanbul was originally settled by humans around nine thousand years ago, and artifacts have been found from the Neolithic and Copper Age periods. The city itself was founded by Thracian tribes, from the Balkan region of Eastern Europe, and developed mainly on the European side of the Bosporus. A Phoenician colony was soon established on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With the arrival of Greek settlers, the city was renamed Byzantium, after Byzas, the leader of the Megarian colonists. The city of Istanbul was raided and conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century, but was quickly rebuilt by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. In the year 330, Byzantium was selected as the new Roman capital by Constantine the Great, and the city’s name was changed to Constantinople. After the division of the Roman Empire, Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and with increasing trade between Europe and Asia, the largest city in Europe, and the epicenter of the Greek World. Constantinople, as it was ruled by the Byzantine Greeks, was also an important Christian religious center.

The Greeks built many Orthodox churches such as the world-famous Hagia Sophia Cathedral, the largest in the world at the time. As the Byzantine Empire expanded further into the Middle East, across the Sinai Peninsula, and into North Africa, eventually, reaching the south of Spain, the economy of Constantinople grew swiftly. In the 7th century, after disagreements between the Roman and Byzantine churches, trade with Europe started to decline. In the 8th century, the Byzantine emperor ordered the destruction of all Roman icons. Constantinople suffered tremendously during the Crusades of the 13th century when Western Europeans destroyed the city and appointed Baldwin of Flanders to be the new Byzantine emperor. The city was quickly recaptured and Baldwin was deposed. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the population of Constantinople declined and the city transformed into a patchwork of separate villages, with abandoned buildings and historic ruins in between.

Constantinople remained the capital after the founding of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The Ottoman Empire was mostly Islamic, controlled by the Turks and not the Greeks, and ruled by a Sultan not an emperor. As the Turks gained control of the city, many of the city’s Greek residents were assaulted, harassed, and forced to flee their homes. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, many artistic and architectural achievements changed life in the city for the better. Under the new leadership, the quality of life in the city dramatically improved and it once again became one of Europe’s largest most important economic hubs. The Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace were both constructed in Istanbul, during this time.

Many Tekkes, or Islamic monasteries, were constructed in the city and people from all over the Muslim World started traveling to Istanbul to visit the Tekkes. By the year 1800, the city’s population had surpassed 400,000 for the first time. Several foreign embassies were established in Istanbul in the 19th century and it became a global center for diplomacy and intergovernmental negotiations. Istanbul was modernized in the 1870s with the construction of new sanitation systems, bridges, an electric system, a proper water system, and the introduction of public transit.

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Republic of Turkey was founded, Istanbul suffered tremendously during the Greco-Turkish War of the 1920s. The city was also renamed from Constantinople to Istanbul. As Ataturk took power in Turkey, he moved the capital away from Istanbul and to the city of Ankara in Central Turkey. Many Greeks and Armenians were forced to move out of the city, during this time. Although initially Istanbul was overlooked with government funds being diverted to Ankara, proper funding was restored in the 1940s and during the post-war period, new squares, public facilities, and much-needed infrastructure was constructed in the city. It also became an important tourist hub.

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