Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the largest urban agglomeration in Europe, with a population of 14,377,018 making it the 6th highest in the world. Originally founded around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed huge historical significance. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, and over a period spanning nearly 16 centuries, it served as an imperial capital for the Roman (330–395), the Byzantine (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It played a crucial role in the furthering of Christianity during the Roman and Byzantine periods, up until the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and it was transformed into the seat of the Islamic Ottoman Caliphate.
Istanbul is one of the great world cities and the only metropolis that stretches across two different continents. The city is separated by the Bosphorus Strait, which means that it is on the border of two seas: the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Located along the historical Silk Road, Istanbul represents the point at which Asia meets Europe and vice-versa and as such looks set to remain a place of fascination for visitors for a long time into the future.
Istanbul showers its visitors with an infectious love of life, along with colourful treasures and dazzling architecture around every corner. Visitors can explore its history from Byzantine mosaics to imposing Ottoman buildings and wander through world-class museums. Diverse culinary traditions are to be savored in a cafe culture that welcomes visitors with Istanbul's legendary hospitality. One of Europe's largest cities, Istanbul lies on both sides of the Bosphorus and provides an intriguing cultural bridge between Asia and Europe.
When travelling to Istanbul visitors will arrive at one of two international airports, Atatürk or Sabiha Gökçen. Both have regular links provided by taxi, express buses or Metro with some bus services running throughout the night. International trains arrive at Sirkeci or Haydarpasa stations, both with convenient city locations and public transport links. International buses terminate at Esenler Otogar, which is 10 km out of the city and served by shuttle buses and Metro.
The huge city of Istanbul has an extensive bus system as well as four Metro lines, trams and ferries. A travel card is available for use on all systems and some services operate throughout the night. Taxis also provide a cheap city alternative while car rentals are available at both airports and train stations. Traffic in the city is usually busy.