Join us on a tour to the beautiful and historic city once known as Constantinople
One of the largest cities in Europe, the ancient city of Istanbul is Turkey’s economic, cultural, and historical heart. Located in northwest Turkey, Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus —one of the world's busiest waterways—between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. A transcontinental city, its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.
Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium and reestablished in 330 as Constantinople, it developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922).
Constantinople was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times. In 1453 the Ottomans conquered the city and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last caliphate. This ended in 1923 when the Republic of Turkey established itself, renamed the city to Istanbul and moved the capital seat to Ankara. Still, its palaces and imperial mosques line the hills as visible reminders of the city's previous central role.
Istanbul once held a strategic position along the historic Silk Road, and continues to be a connecting city with rail networks to Europe and the Middle East. Istanbul also holds the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Being along key routes has ultimately helped foster an eclectic populace and, especially in recent times, contributed to its growth. The population of the city has increased tenfold since the 1950s, as migrants from across ever-changing Anatolia have flocked to the metropolis and city limits have expanded to accommodate them.
Istanbul is the world's tenth-most-popular tourist destination. Seven million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2010, when it was named a European Capital of Culture. The city's biggest draw remains its historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Growing in popularity, Istanbul’s cultural and entertainment hub can be found across the city's natural harbor, the Golden Horn, in the Beyoğlu district.