The City where east meets west, that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of the most atmospheric cities in the world. The population of the larger metropolitan area approaches 20 million and its skyline is one of the most famous anywhere. Its history is colourful to say the least. It was a prize that the Ottomans finally took in 1453 when they bypassed the chain across the Bosphorus by hauling their boats out of the water and took then over land until they could be launched again.
It was founded many years before, 660BC approximately, as Byzantium and subsequently Constantinople. It was effectively the capital of the Byzantine Empire until its fall and then the Ottoman Empire until its own fall after the First World War. The European side of the city contains most of the important history and visitors come from far and wide to see it.
Sultanahmet alone has the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Justinian cistern. It is easy to forget that cities were not on any great scale centuries ago and even if you only had a weekend in this fabulous city you would be able to see many of its real gems by simply walking around. In the later decades of the Ottoman Empire the Sultan moved to the Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus in Besiktas just east of Sultanahmet.
Istanbul gets tourists all around the year but in Northern Turkey the weathee forecast in Istanbul is a sharp contrast to the Southern coast. Winters can be severe at times with temperatures falling and plenty of rain and snow. That does not appear to be a huge deterrent to tourists though numbers do increase with spring’s arrival, flying into one of two large airports, Ataturk on the European side and Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian; a third airport is planned.
In common with many large cities there is a huge amount of traffic so sometimes it takes a while to get around but even traffic jams can be enjoyable as you watch the locals going about their everyday business.