FOLLOW US

World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Turkey > Istanbul

Istanbul Weather

25°C

Local time Istanbul

Currency

YTL

Istanbul History

The Istanbul area has been inhabited since at least 6700 BC, but the city really began with the establishment of a Greek settlement in 7th century BC. Legend has it that King Byzas led the colonists here due to the strategic location along the Bosporus Strait, a fact that was to determine the city’s importance throughout the ages.

During a power struggle in the Roman Empire in the late 2nd century, Byzantium was besieged by Septimius Severus, and rebuilt after he became Emperor. By the 4th century, the Empire had expanded to the point that Rome was no longer deemed suitable as capital and Emperor Constantine moved it to Byzantium, which was eventually renamed Constantinople.

When the Empire split in two, Constantinople became the centre of the Eastern Roman Empire, which endured for another thousand years, while the Western Empire crumbled. It became the leading power in Europe and boasted remarkable landmarks such as Hagia Sophia, which symbolised its leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Despite Byzantium's might, the Arab Conquest posed a constant threat, and invasions, including that of 1204 by the Fourth Crusade, weakened the city. Finally, after a 53-day siege, the Ottomans conquered it in 1453, and Istanbul was born.

Under the reign of the Ottoman, stunning monuments including the Blue Mosque sprang up, while schools, hospitals and publics baths were built alongside the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire, became a major cultural, political and commercial powerhouse and soon the centre of the Islamic world.

The Ottoman Empire remained powerful and sprawling until WWI, when it was defeated by the Allies. Occupation and ruin followed, until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led a war of independence and established the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Ataturk modernised the new state along Western lines and moved the capital to Ankara, but Istanbul continued to grow with new public squares and boulevards constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1970s, Istanbul's population rapidly increased, eventually creating a major world metropolis.

Did you know?
• The longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, was admired as he protected his Jewish subjects by issuing a firman denouncing blood libels against the Jews.
• The mighty Topkapi Palace of Istanbul was built on the site of the city’s old Acropolis.
• Although the Fourth Crusade of 1204 was intended for Jerusalem, it culminated in the sacking of Constantinople (now Istanbul), which was Europe’s greatest city at the time.

Browse our Video Guides

Featured Hotels

SEE MORE

Grand Hotel de Londres (Buyuk Londra Hotel)

With a history dating back to the heydays of the Orient Express, this establishment has seen many writers (Hemingway being one of them), artists and actors step through its doors. Though the hotel has had many rounds of renovations over the years, the 1900s atmosphere is still very much palpable and underlined by the dark wooden interior and velvet drapes. It's also within walking distance to Taksim square, and near to many theatres and restaurants.

Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul

Right on the Bosphorus Strait's shoreline and partly housed in a former Ottoman palace, the Kempinski boasts some of the most opulent rooms in Istanbul. The waterfront pool terrace offers unparalleled Bosphorus views while the bar, restaurants and spa offer plenty of opportunity to swaddle yourself in luxury.

Side Hotel and Pension

In prime position, slap in the middle of Sultanahmet's historical quarter, this family-run hotel has long been a budget traveller institution. The simple rooms are spick-and-span and decently sized and the roof top terrace (where breakfast is served) has excellent views over the old city’s domes and minaret punctured skyline.

Sarı Konak

This family-run boutique hotel offers an old-world atmosphere trussed up with modern conveniences in an Ottoman-era mansion. The smallish rooms have polished wood floors and are classically styled while the rooftop cafe has views of both the Blue Mosque and the Sea of Marmara.

Ibrahim Pasha Hotel

Sleek design and ultra-friendly service make the Ibrahim Pasha stand out in the crowded Istanbul accommodation market. Little extras such as complimentary fruit in rooms and Molton Brown toiletries in bathrooms add a luxurious feel while staff go out of their way to help guests, creating a home-from-home vibe.

Hotel Empress Zoe

Quirky folk art touches, Central Asian textiles as bedspreads and the odd antique give the Empress Zoe’s rooms plenty of quirky appeal. Set within a row of Ottoman era mansions, with a lush garden and a rooftop terrace with views over Sultanahmet’s Byzantine period walls, this hotel brims with character.