Istanbul – Where to go? A Quickview and Tourism Guide
For more than 1500 years İstanbul was the capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
With one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe, İstanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn through the city’s heart.
İstanbul’s fate has been sealed by its vital strategic location and its enchanting natural beauty. For more than 1500 years it was the capital of three empires: Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. It was beautified accordingly with magnificent monuments and became a metropolis where diverse cultures, nations and religions mingled. Those cultures, nations and religions are the small pieces that form the mosaic of İstanbul.
İstanbul’s most important building works started in the Byzantine period and the city was then embellished further during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Modern and Traditional Together
It is İstanbul’s endless variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, grand mosques, bazaars and sites of natural beauty are countless. As relaxing on the western shores of the Bosphorus at sunset and watching the red evening light reflected on the other continent, you may suddenly and profoundly understand why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build a city on this remarkable site. At such times you can see why İstanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world.
İstanbul is Turkey’s most developed and largest city, with the latest discoveries indicating that the history of human habitation there goes back some 400,000 years. The purple years of İstanbul may have started in 330 when Emperor Constantine declared the city the capital of his empire – royal purple is the colour of the Byzantine imperial family. Until 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottomans, the city served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire. During the reign of the Byzantines, İstanbul was adorned with a number of great monuments, which made it the most magnificent city in the world, even during the declining years of the empire.
Striking Multireligious Identity
The identity of İstanbul that began with the Byzantines was further shaped during the period of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror declared İstanbul the capital of Ottoman Empire after he conquered the city in 1453. Over the next 450 years the city was adorned with superb Ottoman monuments. Building works after the conquest gathered apace during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, with the finest works built by Mimar Sinan, the Chief Royal Architect. This worldfamous architect put his signature on the silhouette of İstanbul with a number of masterpieces.
The Ottomans were tolerant towards all religions and dedicated many places of worship to the Christian and Jewish communities so that these peoples could practise their religion undisturbed. Thus, in İstanbul mosques, churches and synagogues stood and still stand side by side as the physical evidence of İstanbul and a symbol of tolerance and fraternity of religions.
The Other Shore
Another historical area of İstanbul, on the opposite shore of the Golden Horn, is the former district of Pera, meaning ’the other shore’. Settled by Genoese and Venetians in the 12th century, this quarter was inhabited mostly by Levantines and represented the western face of the city. The cosmopolitan character of ancient İstanbul is reflected in the following buildings there: the Galata Tower built by the Genoese, stately consulates which were embassies before the capital was moved to Ankara, and the art nouveau buildings of İstiklal Avenue. St Antoine Cathedral, a silent and tranquil spot on this avenue, is visited frequently by devout visitors from every religion. Palaces, summer palaces, castles and large mansions built by the Ottomans continue to adorn İstanbul. The Yıldız Palace and the Dolmabahçe on the shores of the Bosphorus were once the residences of the Ottoman Sultans, after Topkapı Palace. İstanbul is also famous for the elegant wooden houses, the yalı, built along the shores of the strait.
THE NEW İSTANBUL
Building on its assets inherited from a glorious past, İstanbul is an international city with a financial and economic centre offering services in banking, telecommunications, marketing, engineering and tourism.
International conferences and festivals, fairs, fashion shows, sports and art performances give a new dimension to the life and potential of the city.
İstanbul is one of the busiest centres of ‘congress travel’ in the world, offering every support and service to conferences of all sizes. Great service is available due to İstanbul’s excellent transportation and communication facilities and a wide choice of accommodation equipped with the latest technology.
To be continued…