Located in the center of the Old World, Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities famous for its historical monuments and magnificent scenic beauties. It is the only city in the world which spreads over two continents: it lies at a point where Asia and Europe are separated by a narrow strait – the Bosphorus. Istanbul has a history of over 6,500 years, and ever since its establishment on this strategic junction of lands and seas, the city has been a crucial trade center.
The historic city of Istanbul is situated on a peninsula flanked on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Istanbul embraces Asia on the one hand and Europe on the other. It has been the capital of three great empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and for more than 1,600 years over 120 emperors and sultans ruled the world from here. No other city in the world can claim such a distinction.
Fortune provided such advantages to Istanbul as a location at a junction where the main overland routes reach the sea, an easily defensible peninsula, an ideal climate, a rich and generous nature, control of the strategic Bosphorus, and a central geographical position in the ancient world.
As a capital of empires, the city was not only an administrative, but also a religious center. The Patriarchate of Eastern Christians has been headquartered here since its establishment, and the largest early churches and monasteries of the Christian world rose. Between the 16th century when the Ottoman sultans acquired themselves the title of the “Caliph of Islam” and 1924, the first year of the Republic, Istanbul was also the headquarters of the Caliphate. More Jews settled in Istanbul than any other port, and here they built themselves a new and happy life after they were rescued from Spain by the Turks in the 15th century. Istanbul has always been a city of tolerance where mosques, churches and synagogues existed side by side. The city was adorned with a large number of dazzling and impressive works even during the period of decline of the Ottomans.
Bridging two continents, this unique city, where one can encounter people from different countries and witness diverse cultures merging in harmony, will awaken completely different feelings in you. There is a lot to experience and share in Istanbul.
As capital of three of the world’s great empires, Istanbul is home to rich layers of ancient civilizations, masterful craftsmanship, artistic greatness and culinary inventiveness. Indeed Istanbul is a city of extremes: it preserves the most important art relics from the Byzantine era, hosts the largest collection of Islamic relics in the world, offers some of the best shopping experiences anywhere and even houses the largest aquarium in Europe.
The setting sun illuminates the city like a painting every evening. The candle- like silhouettes of the mosques rise above the historical peninsula to greet the city while the sun and the moon salute each other as the day turns into night. Right at that moment you will feel like a sultan in the cradle of civilizations.
When the sun begins to warm the ancient marble and modern cobblestones, lively groups of city dwellers head to the Princes Islands, an archipelago of seven islands within the greater city limits of Istanbul. Once a place of exile for Byzantine and Ottoman princes, today, the islands preserve the more recent past of horse-drawn phaetons, clapboard mansions and stunning beaches to create a living snapshot of Istanbul’s 19th century elite lifestyle.
The city is growing dynamically and developing at full speed on an east-west axis along the shores of the Marmara. While Istanbul beats at the heart of the Marmara Region, the surrounding provinces contain a life force that for centuries has fed this great city. Bursa was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire and birthplace of modern Turkish culture. Architecturally inspired mosques, like Yesil Cami and Ulu Cami, are some of the most inspired in the country. The nearby, lake front town of Iznik, built atop the ancient city of Nicaea, was home to the Byzantine Empire’s home-in-exile and site of two of Christianity’s earliest Ecumenical Councils.
Bursa and its surroundings are also famous for its healing thermal springs, bubbling up into soothing hotel pools or magnificent, 700-year old hamams. The country’s first ski resort was built on the mountain of Uludag, lying to the south of the city. Bursa is also an important textile center, producer of some of the world’s finest silks and of the country’s celebrated Turkish towels.
As the Ottoman Empire’s second capital, Edirne, which lies close to the borders of Greece and Bulgaria, also has some wonderful Ottoman masterpieces. The best known is the Süleymaniye Mosque, built by the great Ottoman master architect, Mimar Sinan. Edirne is also famous for its lush rolling fields of sunflowers, grown for their seeds and oil, and sprawling vineyards. The most celebrated of Turkey’s traditional oil wrestling festivals is held in the village of Kirkpinar every year in June.
To be sure, with such geographical, geological and, natural value, it’s no wonder that the wealthiest citizens of former empires and modern enterprise have built their stately seaside retreats here. And all along the shores of Istanbul, the Princes Islands, the Marmara shores and offshore islands are a collection of beautiful beaches and holiday resorts, of 19th century Ottoman architecture and traditional seaside mansions called yalis.