A Quick Guide to Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most well known cities in the world. This guide gives some of the history of the city and also outlines some of its most exciting features.


The earliest known name of Istanbul is Byzantium as it was founded in 660 BC by King Byzas and his colony. In 330 AD it was made the capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great and he gave it the name Constantinople. Since this time the city had been given many different names and some believe that the name Istanbul came from the word ‘Islambol’ which means ‘city of Islam’, however the name Istanbul comes from a Medieval Greek phrase which translates to ‘in the city’ and this reflects the fact that Istanbul was the only major city within a large area of Turkey. This name became the official name of the city in 1930.


Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey with a total area of 5,343 square kilometers, and with a population of just under 14 million it is regarded as one of the largest cities in the world in terms of population to area.

The city lies over either side of the Bosphorus which is a river connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, and it is this river which divides the European side and the Asian side of Istanbul.


As a generalisation, Istanbul has cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers and often has fog because of the high humidity. However due to the vast size of the city the climate varies between the different areas.

Things to do

This is by far the largest part of this article. There are so many things to see and do in Istanbul that it would probably take a whole book to mention everything in detail, and it would take a good few weeks holiday to be able to cover everything in the city. However we will briefly outline the most popular tourist spots so you won’t miss out on anything that is a must-see or a must-do.

The blue mosque is one of the most memorable pieces of architecture in Istanbul and is seen on most books, leaflets, brochures, advertisements and images of Istanbul. Although it still runs as a mosque it is open for the public to view it’s amazing interior.

Following this in stunning architecture is the Hagia Sophia (in Turkish Ayasofya) is a former church, and later mosque, which now runs as a museum.

Topkapi Palace is another major tourist feature and is a museum of what once was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Out of their 624 reigning years, they lived there for 400 years.

Moving on from the amazing historical attractions of Istanbul, there is of course an array of shopping experiences. From the famous Grand Bazaar, where shopping meets real Turkish style and culture, to the ultra modern malls such as the Istanbul Cevahır Mall which is one of the largest malls in Europe.

These two extremes of shopping sites reflect the overall attraction of Istanbul, which is the combination of old and new, traditional Turkish past times as well as experiences of nationalities all around the world such as the little Parisian town. Wherever you go in Istanbul you are guaranteed to find a large variety of restaurants and cafes offering delicious cuisine, all in different styles and again where the traditional meets the modern.

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