Istanbul, Turkish İstanbul, formerly Constantinople, ancient Byzantium, largest city and seaport of Turkey. It was the capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul is the major city in Turkey and it straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. Its Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
The old walled city of Istanbul stands on a triangular peninsula between Europe and Asia. Sometimes as a bridge, sometimes as a barrier, Istanbul for more than 2,500 years has stood between conflicting surges of religion, culture and imperial power. For most of those years it was one of the most coveted cities in the world.
The old city contains about 9 square miles (23 square km), but the present municipal boundaries stretch a great deal beyond. The original peninsular city has seven hills, requisite for Constantine’s “New Rome.” Six are crests of a long ridge above the Golden Horn; the other is a solitary eminence in the southwest corner. Around their slopes are ranged many of the mosques and other historic landmarks that were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
The Atatürk Cultural Center, situated in Taksim Square, is an important centre for the arts where opera, ballet and theatre performances are staged. The municipal theatre operates several playhouses and there are many theatre companies.
A large number of learned societies and research institutes are headquartered in the city, including the Turkish Law Association (Türk Hukuk Kurumu), Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu), German and French archaeological institutes and the Turkish Language Institute (Türk Dil Kurumu). There is a nuclear research centre at Küçükçekmece.
There are many public and private libraries. The small, specialized Köprülü Library (1677) has books from early Ottoman presses and handwritten works more than 1,000 years old. Many of the city’s mosques, palaces and monuments, as mentioned earlier, contain museums. Other museums include the Archaeological Museums of Istanbul (İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri), the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi) and the Military Museum and Cultural Center (Askeri Müze ve Kültür Sitesi Komutanlığı).
The Hippodrome is now a public garden; there are also numerous other public parks. A unique feature of the city is its market gardens, which are associated with the open cisterns that formed early Constantinople’s water-supply system. The cisterns have been partially built over and are called Çukur Bostan (Hollow Gardens).
Football (soccer) is a popular sport and Istanbul has a number of stadiums, including BJK İnönü, Vefa, Fenerbahçe Şükrü Saracoğlu, Atatürk Olympic stadium and Türk Telekom Arena. Florya and Ataköy are popular beaches on the Sea of Marmara.
Istanbul Atatürk Airport is the main international airport serving Istanbul and the biggest airport in Turkey by total number of passengers, destinations served and aircraft movements.
Address: Yeşilköy, 34149 Bakırköy/Istanbul, Turkey. Elevation: 164′.
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