This sprawling metropolis holds many treasures, both old and new. It is known by many names – Byzantium (during the Eastern Roman Empire), Augusta Antonina (dubbed by the emperor Septimius Severus), New Rome and Constantinople (named after Constantine the Great), until it finally settled on Istanbul.
It is the Queen of Cities, being the largest in Turkey (and the world’s third largest). It stands majestically a peninsula covered by water – the Bosphorus Strait, the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea. Its coverage spans both the Bosphorus Asian and European sides – Anatolia in the Asian part and Thrace at its European side. 27 districts of the Istanbul province fall under this city.
Istanbul is also named as the Door to Happiness (Dersaadet). Indeed, it is a city replete with history and culture – a treasure house of gems that is recognized as part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has seen the rise and fall of many an empire, as it served as a capital for the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. (On a side note, just so you know, Istanbul is no longer the capital of Turkey – Ankara is.)
Similar to Rome, this city was also built on seven hills. Today, you will find a mosque in each of the seven hills. There are also buildings that are recognized the world over – the fabulous Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Topkapi Palace and a whole lot more. Most of this is marked by opulence and splendor – awesome mosaics, grand buildings, and underground cisterns. Most of these can be found at the Old City (Old Stamboul as some call it). The place is very much like an open-air museum!
Now, you shouldn’t have the notion that Istanbul is just about historic remains. But even as it retains traces of its past glory, you can see that it has moved forward. Progress and modernity comes in the form of technology, transportation and a joie de vivre that is unique to the city. It is home not just to numerous historic and cultural jewels, but to the hot and happening clubs, bars and restaurants. So, you can have your fill of all the majesty that Istanbul has to offer during the day and when the sun starts to set, you can get out and get to know how Istanbul celebrates its nightlife. There is a one-of-a-kind energy that the city exudes, and you can see how it breathes life into the hippest art galleries, clubs and bars. Be sure to dance and party like there is no tomorrow!
Other districts of the city include modern shopping malls, luxurious residential neighborhoods, and educational centers. Of course, you should also have a look at tea gardens (cay bahcesi) and taverns (meyhane), where you can get to know more about the culture of the city as you raise your glasses along with the locals.
Istanbul is an unforgettable city, in more ways than one. It beckons to the traveler, inviting him to come and visit. There is so much to know, see and do! Come and see it for yourself!