The city of Istanbul, 5712 square kilometers, is the largest city in Turkey and one of the largest in Europe. Capital of two empires, is also one of the four cities in the world and certainly the most spectacular, that stands over two continents: Europe and Asia, limited by the Bosphorus Strait, the only maritime route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black sea, across the Sea of Marmara.
Istanbul has an enviable and strategic geographical location, inserted in the famous Silk Road and the main railway networks in Europe and the Middle East, besides having Bosphorus and the Golden Horn (estuary that penetrates the city and has become an important way of transportation, commerce, navigation and tourism). Although no longer the capital of the country (moved to Ankara with the establishment of the Republic in 1923), Istanbul is the main protagonist of the life and spirit of Turkey.
With a population of over 17 million people, according to official figures -popularly believed as much lower than the actual population-, Istanbul is one of the largest conurbations in Europe and the world in general. Its population is mostly Muslim, although there are Christian and Jewish minorities and functions as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church.
For its amazing contrasts and intercontinental character, Istanbul is one of the world’s most fascinating cities: ancient and modern, European and Asian, demure and liberal, a city of mystery and magic, incredible history and rich culture, a city that that have inspired countless works of art and one of the world’s top tourist destinations, recommended between the top ten places to visit in 2013, according to the New York Times.
Istanbul is itself the administrative capital of the Istanbul province. In 1985 its historic center was selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is considered a “Global City” and in 2010 was declared European Capital of Culture. It was the second candidate to host the 2020 Olympics Games.