Istanbul is located in the west of Turkey bordering both the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. What makes Istanbul unique is that it’s the only city in the world located both in Asia and in Europe.
Istanbul is located in the west of Turkey bordering both the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. What makes Istanbul unique is that it’s the only city in the world located both in Asia and in Europe. The city is surrounded by Tekirdag, Kocaeli, the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Covering an area of 5461 km2 in total, Istanbul has a population of more than 15 million.
The historical artifacts revealed during the excavations of the Marmaray Project, which links the European and Anatolian sides with a tube tunnel in 2013, have proved that the history of the city went back to 8500 years ago. Before the excavations, the oldest settlement of the city was thought to be the Yarimburgaz Cave near Lake Kücükcekmece, which dates back nearly 3000 years before.
Istanbul was once an ancient Greek city-state, then occupied by the Roman Empire, and the city's name became Byzantium. The city, which was declared as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in 330 AD, took the name Constantinople with reference to the name of Constantine the Great. Constantinople stood out as the most colourful, mysterious and great city in the world in the early Middle Ages.
In 1453, the city was conquered by the Ottoman Emperor Mehmed the Conqueror, and this time it became the largest and most vibrant city of the Ottoman period. The city, which was recognized with various names under the Ottoman rule, took the name Istanbul. Istanbul served as the capital of Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years then became the unique most important city of Turkey.
The Bosphorus is perhaps the first thing comes to mind when you think of the natural beauties of Istanbul. The Bosphorus, which beautifully connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, is about 30 km long and offers a unique landscape and a unique lifestyle both on the Asian and European sides. The Bosphorus offers a long coastline where Istanbulites can take a walk to enjoy the clean air, as well as a great view with a variety of cafes, restaurants, and clubs. With its historical texture, the Bosphorus has a charming effect on the tourists visiting the city. The beautiful houses, as well as the historic seaside residences, stand out as the most aesthetic view of the Bosphorus.
Istanbul offers natural life areas to its residents with its parks and preserved areas located in the different parts of the city. The city's most famous parks are Emirgan Grove, Yildiz Park, Gulhane Park, Macka Park, Camlica Grove and Ataturk Arboretum. Emirgan Groove in Sariyer district is an ideal spot for those who want to take a break from the city's crowd and dynamism. With the Tulip Festival held every year in April, the park is considered one of the most beautiful parks in which the residents can enjoy great moments with picnic areas, cafes, and restaurants. Yildiz Park is located between Besiktas and Ortakoy and covers an area of 50 hectares. The park, which is often mentioned in historical documents, has more than 120 exotic trees and living species, as well as some rare species. The park, which was in the heart of the city during the Ottoman period, is still a popular sightseeing area for the residents and the foreign tourists in the Sultanahmet district. Atatürk Arboretum, which is right on the Kemerburgaz-Bahcekoy road, is also an ideal park for those who want to spend time alone in nature. Located right next to the Belgrade Forest, the park is home to more than 2000 species of plants.
The Belgrade Forest, considered the lungs of the city, serves as a unique natural beauty preferred for doing sports, relaxing in nature, listening to the bird songs, having a picnic and many other activities. Spreading through the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, the forest is home the historic water weirs which met the water requirement of the residents for centuries.
Resembling a real horn shape, the Golden Horn (Halic) has been a natural Port to Istanbul for centuries, shaping the historical peninsula. Located in Eyup District, The Golden Horn (Halic) offers visitors the opportunity to visit both the places where they can get sea air and the interesting museums and historical monuments.
The Prince islands, which are in the Marmara Sea and offer the Istanbulites an alternative place for swimming, are also considered the ideal region for those who want to spend a peaceful weekend in a tranquil environment. During the Eastern Roman Empire, the islands were used as a place of exile, but then got crowded with beautiful mansions and became a summer resort. The most visited ones are Buyukada, Heybeliada and Kinali islands.
Istanbul combines many climate types because of its one of a kind location. The effects of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Balkan and Anatolian climate can be clearly seen in different parts of the city. During the winter season, you can experience the warm wind of the Mediterranean, the cold air coming through the Balkans, and the abundant rainy air coming from the Black Sea. The average annual temperature of the city is 13.5°c. The amount of rainfall per year is between 700-800 mm. It is rainier during the winter season, and it is seen that it takes plenty of rain during the spring months. The summer season is generally hot and dry. The number of snowy days does not exceed 10 days.
Although things to do in Istanbul can easily be an issue of a large book, there are must-visit places and must-try activities. Whether you are visiting the city as a tourist or living in Istanbul, there are some things you should do for a real Istanbul experience:
Hagia Sophia: With its architecture, size, and magnificence, Hagia Sophia is the largest church built by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul. The church, which was first built in 360 AD, was rebuilt in the following years and was strengthened structurally during the Ottoman period. Today, it remains one of the top cultural building of the city for all the tourists visiting Istanbul.
Topkapi Palace: The Palace served as the administration, education and Art Centre of Ottoman Empire as well as the home of the dynasty from the 15th to 19th century. You can visit the harem, which is the private home of the Sultan and his family, the treasures of the Palace and many other parts reflecting the details of Ottoman life.
Maiden's Tower: The Maiden's Tower, which encolours the Bosphorus view, has been referred in legends, used as a fortress, a place of exile, a prison and a lighthouse throughout its long history. The tower has been serving as a café and restaurant since 2000.
Galata Tower and Galata Bridge: The tower, which was first built in 528, is considered one of the symbolic structures of Istanbul today. Galata Tower offers a great view of the surrounding cafes and restaurants. Combining the two sides of the Golden Horn, Galata Bridge attracts huge attention as an entertaining environment with its restaurants extending along the bridge with an unforgettable view of Istanbul.
Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, where the residents have been visiting for shopping for centuries, are full of the products traded from various countries. Since the scent, colours, and mobility of the Bazaars seem to have exploded from historical novels, they are must-visit areas.
The Basilica Cistern: located near Hagia Sofia, The Basilica Cistern was built in the time of Byzantine Emperor I. Justinianus, it provided clean water to the people of the region for many years and today serves as a museum to its visitors.
The Blue Mosque: A symbolic building of the century regarding its blue decoration on its walls, The Blue Mosque considered as the most important example of typical Turkish architecture.