Istanbul, Turkey – Lonely Planet Travel Video
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Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul), historically also known as Byzantium and Constantinople (see names of Istanbul) is the largest city in Turkey and fifth largest city proper in the world with a population of 12.6 million. Istanbul is also a megacity, as well as the cultural and financial centre of Turkey. The city covers 39 districts of the Istanbul province.
It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbour known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.
In its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
Istanbul is located in the north-west Marmara Region of Turkey. It encloses the southern Bosphorus which places the city on two continents—the western portion of Istanbul is in Europe, while the eastern portion is in Asia. The city boundaries cover a surface area of 1,830.92 square kilometres (707 sq mi), while the metropolitan region, or the Province of Istanbul, covers 6,220 square kilometres (2,402 sq mi).
Istanbul is situated near the North Anatolian fault line, which runs from northern Anatolia to the Marmara Sea. Two tectonic plates, the African and the Eurasian, push against each other here. This fault line has been responsible for several deadly earthquakes in the region throughout history. In 1509 a catastrophic earthquake caused a tsunami which broke over the sea-walls of the city, destroying over 100 mosques and killing 10,000 people.
In 1766 the Eyüp Sultan Mosque was largely destroyed. The 1894 earthquake caused the collapse of many parts of the Grand Bazaar. A devastating earthquake on August 17, 1999, with its epicenter in nearby İzmit, left 18,000 dead and many more homeless. In all of these earthquakes, the devastating effects are a result of the building density and poor construction of buildings. Seismologists predict another earthquake, possibly measuring magnitude 7.0, occurring before 2025.
The urban landscape of Istanbul is shaped by many communities. The religion with the largest community of followers is Islam. Religious minorities include Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Christians, Catholic Levantines and Sephardic Jews. According to the 2000 census, there were 2,691 active mosques, 123 active churches and 26 active synagogues in Istanbul; as well as 109 Muslim cemeteries and 57 non-Muslim cemeteries. Some districts have sizeable populations of these ethnic groups, such as the Kumkapı district which has a sizeable Armenian population, the Balat district which has a sizeable Jewish population, the Fener district which has a sizeable Greek population, and some neighbourhoods in the Nişantaşı and Beyoğlu districts which have sizeable Levantine populations. In some quarters, such as Kuzguncuk, an Armenian church sits next to a synagogue, and on the other side of the road a Greek Orthodox church is found beside a mosque.
The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church and first patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox communion, is located in the Fener (Phanar) district. Also based in Istanbul are the archbishop of the Turkish-Orthodox community, an Armenian archbishop, and the Turkish Grand-Rabbi. A number of places reflect past movements of different communities into Istanbul, most notably Arnavutköy (Albanian village), Polonezköy (Polish village) and Yenibosna (New Bosnia).
Istanbul has numerous historic shopping centers, such as the Grand Bazaar (1461), Mahmutpaşa Bazaar (1462) and the Egyptian Bazaar (1660). The first modern shopping mall was Galleria Ataköy (1987), which was followed by dozens of others in the later decades, such as Akmerkez (1993) which is the only mall to win both “Europe’s Best” and “World’s Best” awards by the ICSC; Metrocity (2003); Cevahir Mall (2005) which is the largest mall in Europe; and Kanyon Mall (2006) which won the 2006 Cityscape Architectural Review Award for its interesting design. İstinye Park (2007) and City’s Nişantaşı (2008) are two new malls which target high-end consumers and are almost exclusively dedicated to world-famous fashion brands.
Along with the traditional Turkish restaurants, many European and Far Eastern restaurants and numerous other cuisines are also thriving in the city. Most of the city’s historic winehouses (meyhane in Turkish) and pubs are located in the areas around İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu.
The 19th century Çiçek Pasajı (literally Flower Passage in Turkish, or Cité de Péra in French) on İstiklal Avenue, which has many historic meyhanes, pubs and restaurants, was built by Hristaki Zoğrafos Efendi at the former site of the Naum Theatre and was inaugurated in 1876. The famous Nevizâde Street, which has rows of historic meyhanes next to each other, is also in this area.
Other historic pubs are found in the areas around Tünel Pasajı and the nearby Asmalımescit Sokağı. Some historic neighbourhoods around İstiklal Avenue have recently been recreated, with differing levels of success; such as Cezayir Sokağı near Galatasaray Lisesi, which became unofficially known as La Rue Française and has rows of francophone pubs, cafés and restaurants playing live music.
Istanbul is also famous for its historic seafood restaurants. The most popular seafood restaurants are generally found along the shores of the Bosphorus and by the Marmara Sea shore towards the south of the city. The largest of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara (namely Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada) and Anadolu Kavağı near the northern entrance of the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea (close to Yoros Castle, which was also known as the Genoese Castle due to Genoa’s possession of it in the mid-15th century) also have many historic seafood restaurants.
There are many night clubs, pubs, restaurants and taverns with live music in the city. The night clubs, restaurants and bars increase in number and move to open air spaces in the summer. The areas around Istiklal Avenue and Nişantaşı offer all sorts of cafés, restaurants, pubs and clubs as well as art galleries, theaters and cinemas. Babylon and Nu Pera in Beyoğlu are popular night clubs both in the summer and in the winter.
The most popular open air summer time seaside night clubs are found on the Bosporus, such as Sortie, Reina and Anjelique in the Ortaköy district. Q Jazz Bar in Ortaköy offers live jazz music in a stylish environment.
Venues such as Istanbul Arena in Maslak and Kuruçeşme Arena on the Bosporus frequently host the live concerts of famous singers and bands from all corners of the world. Parkorman in Maslak hosted the Isle of MTV Party in 2002 and is a popular venue for live concerts and rave parties in the summer.
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