Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country's economic, cultural, and historical heart. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, with its commercial and historical centre lying on the European side and about a third of its population living on the Asian side of Eurasia. With a population of 14.4 million, the city forms the largest urban agglomeration in Europe[d] as well as the largest in the Middle East, and the sixth-largest city proper in the world. Istanbul's vast area of 5,343 square kilometers (2,063 sq mi) is coterminous with Istanbul Province, of which the city is the administrative capital.[c] Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus strait in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoúpolis; Latin: Constantinopolis) or New Rome (Greek: Νέα Ῥώμη, Nea Romē; Latin: Nova Roma) in 330 AD, it served as an imperial capital for the Roman and Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Journey to Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood to experience the astounding Ayasofya (also know as the Church of Holy Wisdom or the Hagia Sophia), an incredible example of Byzantine architecture. The original cathedral was completed in A.D. 537, using columns and marble from other temples around the empire. Earthquakes, crusaders and successive rulers have all left their mark on the Ayasofya. The original mosaics, which were once plastered over, have been gloriously restored. Simply put, this is a sight you will always remember.
For an appetizer, don't miss out on barbunya pilaki, roasted baby eggplant topped with garlic, tomatoes and olive oil-fried onions. There are many types of kebabs (meaning roasted) to sample. The well-known shish kebab simply consists of chunks of roasted lamb. Fresh fish is typically served grilled and topped with olive oil and lemon. Popular desserts include baklava and puddings made from yogurt and eggs. And don't forget to try Turkish Delight, or lokum, a candy that's been around for about five hundred years, made from starch and sugar, often flavored with lemon or rosewater.