Top 5 Reasons to Visit Istanbul
1. Immerse Yourself in Turkish Culture
Stroll the sights in Turkey’s largest city, pamper yourself at a Turkish bath, and haggle for carpets or jewelry at the Grand Bazaar.
2. World-Class Nightlife
Istanbul’s nightlife pulsates like no other. Sip beers and cocktails in Galata bars Maxigala or clubs like Reina, or catch music performances at legendary spots like Dogstarz in Beyoğlu.
3. Witness Incredible Works of Architecture and Art
Sacred sites like the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia dot throughout the city as do stunning palaces like the Topkapi and the Dolmabahçe, while the views across the Golden Horn are breathtaking.
4. Divide Your Time Between the City and the Beach
In Istanbul, you’re never far away from the coast. Beaches like Burc and Babylon Beach are easily accessible by public transportation and allow you to swim and see the sights on the same day.
5. Dine on Delicious Turkish Food
The aroma of food is irresistible on the streets of Istanbul. Try the most delicious kebabs you’ve ever tasted from restaurants like Antiochia and Çiya Kebap, simit donuts at Galata Simitçisi or gözleme (savory pancakes) at Feriköy Organik Pazarı.
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Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, is the largest city in Turkey, serving as the country’s economic, cultural and historic hub. The city straddles the Bosporus strait, lying in both Europe and Asia, and has a population of over 15 million residents, comprising 19% of the population of Turkey. Istanbul is the most populous European city, and the world’s 15th-largest city.
The city was founded as Byzantium (Byzantion) in the 7th century BCE by Greek settlers from Megara. In 330 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made it his imperial capital, renaming it first as New Rome (Nova Roma) and then as Constantinople (Constantinopolis) after himself. The city grew in size and influence, eventually becoming a beacon of the Silk Road and one of the most important cities in history.
The city served as an imperial capital for almost 1600 years: during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), late Byzantine (1261–1453), and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. The city played a key role in the advancement of Christianity during Roman/Byzantine times, hosting four (including Chalcedon (Kadıköy) on the Asian side) of the first seven ecumenical councils (all of which were in present-day Turkey) before its transformation to an Islamic stronghold following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE—especially after becoming the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1517.
In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara replaced the city as the capital of the newly formed Republic of Turkey. In 1930, the city’s name was officially changed to Istanbul, the Turkish rendering of the appellation Greek speakers used since the eleventh century to colloquially refer to the city.
Over 13.4 million foreign visitors came to Istanbul in 2018, eight years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making it the world’s eighth most visited city. Istanbul is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and hosts the headquarters of numerous Turkish companies, accounting for more than thirty percent of the country’s economy.