There are many ways to describe Istanbul.
From historical point of view its real history started in the 7 c. BC. Originally founded as Byzantion the city became one of the most important settlements throughout the ages. The ancient Constantinople played the role of imperial city for the next 16 centuries for the Roman and Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. Its role in the development of Christianity was the beginning of the millennium was huge. Nowadays the Old City is partially listed as a part of the cultural and historical heritage of UNESCO.
From geographical point of view the city is unique by its location. This is the only city in the world spread on two continents – Europe and Asia. The city is separated by the Bosphorus – a natural strait and the only sea route connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. Thanks to its geographic location on the famous Silk Road, the railway connections between the Middle East and Europe, the seaways and the large natural harbors contributed to the city’s fast economic development. Today Istanbul is a major city in Turkey and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The city contributes for almost a quarter of Turkey’s gross domestic product.
Istanbul ranks the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world since it was declared the European Capital of Culture only a couple of years ago.
Istanbul is also referred as the bridge between the West and the East, the connections between the modern and traditions, between Europe and the Orient. Absurdly enough the European side hosts the Old Town with its numerous historical hubs, while the modern part of the city developed on the Asian side where most of the local population lives.
Well, you’ll need days and weeks on to discover all the sites of interest in Istanbul.
Most of the major historical sites are located around Sultan Ahmet Square – the former Byzantine Hippodrome and heart of the ancient Constantinople. The square is place of several historical monuments including the Byzantine and Roman period – the Serpentine Column, the Egyptian Obelisk, the German Fountain. Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the most sacred places for all Muslims in the world and probably the most photographed building in Istanbul. The building strikes with its composite architectural plan and elegant minarets. Although the mosque is popular as the Blue Mosque surprisingly for all visitors the mosque is not blue from outside. It is the interior – beautifully decorated with thousands of blue Iznik tiles – the reason to gain this name.
The Ottoman Top Kapi Palace is within a a walking distance from the Blue Mosque. The palace was built on a peninsula, with most impressive view to the new European and the Asian coast. This was the place from where the huge Ottoman Empire was ruled for almost five centuries. Today the palace is turned into a museum with intricate displays of sultans’ jewelry and treasures, imperial clothes and portraits, the amazing kitchen and porcelain collection, the library, the intriguing harem where the wives and the favourites of the sultans lived.
Bosphorus Strait and Golden Horn Bay are the emblems of Istanbul. Around them the city’s life went on vividly for centuries on. Nowadays their shores are the natural display of historic places – Dolmabahce, Cirigan and Beylerbeyi Palaces, the ruins of Rumeli Hisar, the Genoese Tower, Ortakoy Mosque, the Naval school, numerous small fishing harbors and old houses. Alongside the emblematic historical buildings rich mansions and luxury yacht harbours can be seen.
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