Although not the capital of Turkey, Istanbul is the largest city and the financial, industrial and cultural centre of the country. With a continuously growing population of over 12.5 million, Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world. Surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn, the Bosporus Strait and the Black Sea, Istanbul is connected extensively with sea ports.
Famous for being the only city in the world situated on two continents, Istanbul truly does bring together the East and the West. Around 70% of the population live of the European side, yet the city is well connected by highways and ferry routes to the Asian side. In fact, the commuter ferrying between both sides of Istanbul fortify the city in both business and tourism. The extensive land and sea routes connected through Istanbul create an economic centre for the country, along with international connections for foreign trade routes.
Istanbul has a long history dating back to the Copper Age where human settlements have dated back to around 6500BC. During its extensive history, Istanbul has been a capital city and centre of several empires including the Roman Empire, the East Roman Empire, the Latin Empire and most recently the Ottoman Empire. Only in 1923 with the forming of the Republic of Turkey was the capital city moved from Istanbul to Ankara.
The city was founded in 667BC as Byzantine, changing its name in 330AD to Constantinople, how it remained until becoming Istanbul with the forming of the Republic. Istanbul began to take on its modern form in the 1940s when many historical buildings were destroyed to create avenues, boulevards and public squares.
Re-creation of the city in the middle of the 20th century was insufficient to cope with the massive population growth experienced during the 70s and 80s. The construction of new factories presented strong employment opportunities leading to years of expansion, causing the city to more than triple in population.
The excessive population growth lead to fast and illegal construction to cope with the demand, with over 60% of the newly built housing being below standards. This high density of poor construction caused devastating consequences during the 1999 earthquake that affected the city. Construction following 1999 has been to high standards with precautions against future possible earthquakes, continuously striving to cater to the population growth of around 3.5% per annum.
Featuring a seemingly never ending list of attractions, Istanbul continues to draw visitors and migrants for holidays and relocation purposes. The extensive history and culture of the region blends effortlessly with the modern social and ethnic diversity of the city’s inhabitants. Millions of visitors are attracted to the city on an annual basis from all corners of the globe, whether for its cultural, commercial or historical features.
The city is serviced by two international airports, the main one being on the European side and the smaller airport on the Asian side. Istanbul is also easily reached through its international highway, train and coach links, while its port is considered to be the most important in the country. Convenient travelling options are abundant in the city, with a subway, light rail, buses, trams and motorways.
Recreational sailing from the many marinas of the city has long been an enjoyable sport for locals and visitors alike. While the city is surrounded by seas, beach style resorts are not a part of the Istanbul lifestyle, with resort towns predominantly along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastline.
Attractions of visiting Istanbul’s city lifestyle include cultural features such as historical mosques, palaces and castles, along with varied festivals, concerts, galleries, museums and shopping. Sporting events are catered for with golf, sailing, and football amongst many others.
Istanbul features the largest concentration of golf courses currently in Turkey. New golf courses are currently being constructed along the touristic areas of the Aegean coastal resort towns, yet Istanbul continues to lead the golfing sector with three of the country’s most important clubs. Opened in 1895, the Istanbul Golf Club is the oldest in the country and one of the oldest in all of Europe. The Klassis Golf and Country Club is a renowned exclusive club holding several international tournaments. The Kemer Golf and Country Club is built to USGC standards and considered to be the most impressive club in the whole country.
As Istanbul’s climate can vary remarkably, visiting the city in either summer or winter can provide dramatically different attractions. Affected by both the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean in the south, summers are humid with temperatures averaging around 28ºC, while the winters average around 5ºC with snowfall not uncommon.