Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both literally and figuratively.
Istanbul's population is variously estimated between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe. Minarets and domes dot the skyline of Istanbul, where modern life and the remnants of ancient civilisation exist side by side. With a long history stretching back to 650 BC, this city has been named as European Capital of Culture for 2010.
Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are Galata, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Üsküdar is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.
For those interested in the historical side of things, there are many places of interest to visit. These include the Blue Mosque, Museum of Archaeology, Hippodrome and the Topkapi Palace, home to the Imperial Treasury. The city’s lively nightlife is centred around the Beyoglu area. Here there’s a huge range of restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs catering to all price ranges and tastes. Visitors can sample local specialities like Turkish delight, Turkish tea or even the Turkish water pipe or narghile. Practice your haggling skills at the Grand Bazaar, a warren of around 4,400 shops.
And after all that why not try a soothing Turkish bath to relax and recharge.