Istanbul (or Constantinople) was the capital of the Roman Empire until the latter half of the 6th century AD, when it was sacked by Arab invaders. Today, this magnificent city boasts a rich history that includes numerous civilizations and empires coming into contact with one another – from Ancient Greece to Ottoman rule!
Explore the bustling metropolis today and revel in its many world-class attractions; be captivated by stunning mosques or panned for gold at one of Istanbul’s famous historic sites. Or simply relax amidst its lush parks where you can forget all your cares away!
1. Istanbul (Turkey) is a city of contrasts
At just over 14 million inhabitants, Istanbul has a population density that is seven times lower than the United States and four times lower than New York City.
This abundance of land has resulted in a multitude of neighbourhoods; Elliott explains that, for instance:
“The scale of this city is such that you can travel around its districts on foot, taking in all the sights along the way.
On my own walking tour I visited these districts: Sultanahmet, Beyoglu – known as the ‘capital’ of modern Turkey – Galata and Taksim, which boasts an array of modern buildings with Ottoman traditions intertwined within its urban landscape.”
2. Istanbul (Turkey) is one of the oldest cities in Europe and possibly in the world
In the late 7th century AD, this region was populated by a people known as the Byzantines, who named their settlement Constantinople (consequently also referred to as Byzantium).
Over time, the city expanded greatly and eventually came to be regarded as one of the largest cities in the world during its imperial glory. Today, it is still an immensely popular destination for tourists from across the globe!
The origins of Istanbul’s current name are uncertain; according to some sources it may have derived from an eponymous founder named Byzas or Yudea; modern scholars consider that it could be derived from the ancient Greek word Ιερουσαλήμ
3. Istanbul (Turkey) was founded as a Greek colony by Alexander the Great in 334 BC
Istanbul has a rich history that goes back more than 2,000 years. Nestled between Europe and Asia, the metropolis is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world!
By 301 BC, Alexander the Great had established an outpost here called Byzantium (after which the city we know today came to be known). After his untimely death at Sidon in 323 BC, it passed on to his general, Ptolemy I Soter – a Greek Macedonian who would later become one of Alexander’s successors as ruler of Egypt.
At first, Byzantium was under direct rule from Athens; however, with the rise of Macedonia as a regional power during this period, official control was transferred to Alexander’s kingdom in 334 BC. This event marked the establishment of Constantinople, or ‘New Rome’ – historically renowned for being the capital city of several successive empires over the last 2,000+ years!
4. Although it’s now known as “the City of Peace
The Greeks called it Byzantium; and, after 1453, the Ottomans renamed it Istanbul – a moniker that became synonymous with “City of Peace” during the era of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Turkey’s capital city has undergone numerous incarnations over the centuries, but has retained its essence as an ardent spiritual center for all Muslims. Today, you can find not only mosques dotting every part of this bustling metropolis; but also shrines like Pakistan Kılıçlar Camii (The Sword Bearer Mosque), the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmet Vefa Vezir Hamid II and even a minaret!
A visit to historic İstiklâl Caddesi is an essential component in any itinerary in Istanbul. This street is lined with majestic Ottoman-era buildings that radiate tranquility and serenity as they soar into the skies above. It’s here where you can stroll along among lavishly adorned windows while admiring those grand edifices which are amongst the finest examples of classical architecture left standing in its original state today!
Constantinople (today’s Istanbul)
Istanbul may be Turkey’s most well-known city, but Constantinople was the country’s capital from 330 AD until 1453. It subsequently fell into disuse and neglect before being transformed into Istanbul in the early 20th century.
Today, Constantinople is a bustling metropolis of some 15 million inhabitants. Nestled within sight of its illustrious past, this modern cosmopolitan city retains much of its ancient splendour – with majestic Byzantine churches, ornate mosques and palatial museums still on display today.
Unsurprisingly, it is a popular destination for travelers looking for an encounter with history – though many of these places have been remodeled to varying degrees since their initial construction in the early centuries of the Common Era!
Turkey was sacked by the Ottoman Turks on April 13
On April 13, the great Yerebatan Sultann Mosque was constructed in 1465 by order of Sultan Mehmed II to serve as his imperial mosque.
Armed with bayonets, Ottoman soldiers stormed the Hagia Sofia cathedral on May 29, 1919 – an event that precipitated a chain reaction that led Turkey’s independence movement along with its subsequent declaration of sovereignty in 1923.
The Turkish army left its mark on Istanbul by occupying the city between 1922 and 1938. During this period, several landmarks such as the Hagia Sofia and Topkapı Palace were altered or destroyed altogether.
The Hagia Sophia is an awe-inspiring monument to the classical era of architecture situated in the heart of Old City. Originally constructed between 537 and 565 AD by Justinian I, the structure has remained a focal point for pilgrims visiting this holy city for more than 800 years – it’s widely regarded as one inviolate symbol of its religious significance.
The tremendous magnitude of this architectural marvel is undeniable! It boasts an impressive basilica layout with two semi-domes at either end, each containing a central apse; while also boasting a majestic semicircular arched ceiling as well as several porches offering magnificent panoramic views of the surroundings. The interior mosaic flooring was originally adorned with over 10,000 tiles depicting figures from the Bible; though these have since been removed to permit visitors access onto its marble paving.
A walk through Hagia Sophia brings forth a feeling of antiquity and majesty unmatched in any other historical site in Turkey. Don’t miss its latest revamp, which offers up exceptional photographs of this renowned place juxtaposed against its glorious past!
5. The original “Blue Mosque” doesn’t exist anymore
At the heart of Beyazit district stands a towering edifice that boasts an unparalleled architectural achievement. Described by many tour guides as the most beautiful mosque in all of Turkey, this 15th-century masterpiece was constructed in pure blue stone – an idealized combination of marble and azurite; no two colors alike!
The structure’s designer, Ahmed Effendi Uzunçarsili, employed sophisticated geometric patterns (such as crosses and arabesques) to create an intoxicatingly ornate space that remains remarkably alluring even today. The interior is adorned with exquisite tiles depicting richly colored hues, while intricate moldings adorn its walls. At the apex of its minarets stands an ample golden dome that adds a regal touch to its impressive exterior design!
Five Things to Know About Istanbul (Turkey) Tourist Attraction
Need to know more about the bustling metropolis? Discover the most essential facts about Istanbul!
Osman Hamdi Bey, commonly known as the ‘Grand Vizier’, built this palace in the 18th century for his own use. Today, it is a museum that showcases exquisite carvings from its vast collection of works by French and Italian masters.
If you’re interested in exploring its extensive galleries, there are over 5,000 pieces on display; among them are statues from ancient Greece and Rome classics such as Venus de Milo, Elgin Marbles, Winged Victory of Samothrace…and don’t forget to stop by the captivating gallery of Turkish masterpieces!
In its heyday, this majestic structure served as an imperial residence between 1856 and 1922 when Mustafa IV occupied it. It subsequently became a military hospital until 1950 when it was taken over by Turkey’s Ministry of Defence – right up until 2008. Today it belongs to the Turkish Republic Institute; however some rooms remain in private ownership while others are accessible to tourists!
The city of Istanbul was once known for its bustling trade markets and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Today, visitors to this ancient destination will be captivated by its timeless charm and awe-inspiring architecture – from the Blue Mosque to Hagia Sofia or Topkapı Palace; there’s something here for everyone!