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Image: Topkapi Palace, Istanbul:Residence of the Ottoman Sultans ©Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, and is Turkey’s economic, cultural, and historical heart (but not its capital).

It is a transcontinental city with its commercial and historical centre in Europe, and a third of its population living on the other side of the Bosphorus Strait in Asia.

Istanbul is the largest urban mass in Europe, the second largest in the Middle East and the fifth-most populous city in the world (14 million).

Originally founded around 660 BC as Byzantium. Its strategic position along the Silk Road and being at the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, meant that it became one of the most significant cities in history. From 330AD (when it became known as Constantinople) it was the capital of four different empires:

·  Roman Empire (330–395)

·  Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453)

·  Latin Empire (1204–1261)

·  Ottoman Empire (1453–1922)

In 2010 Istanbul was named a European Capital of Culture and in 2012 it was the fifth-most visited city in the world. Visitors were drawn to Istanbul’s historic centre (partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), as well as to its culture and entertainment.

During July and August the city gets a little quieter as the locals go off to less hot and humid locations, so it is easier to get around the city. However the departing locals also means that some entertainment venues cut back or close altogether until September. September and October are the best months to explore the city.

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