Istanbul City Guide

Old Istanbul is the crowded streets of the Grand Bazaar, magnificent mosques, hamams (bathouses), and grand palaces of the Ottoman Empire. Headscarved women walk down the cobbled lanes and men smoke apple tobacco from a nargileh (water pipe) to a soundtrack of the Muezzin’s call to prayer. New Istanbul was voted 2007 design capital by Wallpaper magazine. It’s boutiques selling one-offs by globally recognised Turkish designers and the Cihangir districts’ clubs, bars and restaurants rival Soho. The “Istanbul Modern” – howcases Turkey’s contemporary art. In Istanbul both these worlds co-exist. It’s a vital, ever changing city, charged with energy, creativity and commerce.

Other cities claim to be at the crossroads of Europe and Asia – but only Istanbul can legitimately claim to straddle both continents. Split by the Bosphorus the western bank of the city is in Europe whilst the eastern side is in Asia. Istanbul is surrounded on 3 sides by water – as well as the Bosphorus there is the Sea of Marmara to the south of the city, and a narrow inlet known as the Golden Horn splits the European side. Istanbul is one of the biggest cities in Europe – home to a population of approximately 12 million. Its numbers are swelled daily by newcomers from the provinces, travelling to the city for work. Turkey has a very young population – the average age is 29. The average age in Istanbul is even younger at 23 and some unofficial sources put it at 16. It’s also a university city, with over 150,000 students attending the 3 big universities and dozens of colleges. Since 1923 Ankara has been the capital of Turkey, but Istanbul has always been and continues to be the inancial and commercial capital. The country’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and the city has quadrupled in size over the last few decades.