Due to her geographic location, Istanbul has always been a settlement area from early ages onwards. And besides connecting the two continents, Europe and Asia, Istanbul has become a center where various cultures and religions are combined, surrived and succeeded each other.

Istanbul of the day conforms the definition of a great city, not only with her population and the area she covers but also with the variety of cultures and ways of living. This cultural structure which enables a good number of elements that contradict with each other and yet exist together even one in another, is the produce of an accumulation of about one thousand years. Although first settlements in Istanbul were observed in prehistoric periods, continual settlements, however, have started in the colonial period. Foundations of Istanbul of our days were laid during recent periods of the Roman Empire. Byzantium and Ottoman periods are the most significant stages in the history of Istanbul. In both of these periods, Istanbul has preserved her features of being a political and religious center and has become the religious center of both, the Christianity and the Islam. Therefore, she was ornamented with many great monuments with different functions belonging to these
two religions. Although Ankara was elected to be the capital during the Republic period, Istanbul conserved her characteristic of being the cultural capital.

First settlements forming the nucleus of today's city were realized by Megarians in the 7th century BC. They run away from Greece invaded by Dors, crossed the Sea of Marmara in BC 680 and settled in the city they established with the name Chalcedon on the Cape of Moda in Kadiköy and engaged in agriculture. Another branch of Megarians settled down in the vicinity of Sarayburnu under the     leadership of Byzas (Point of Seraglio) in 660 BC. They named this place Byzantion. They engaged in Commerce. This area was seized by Persians in 513 BC, then by Spartians in 405 BC and by Antigers, one of the commanders of Alexander the Great, in 318 BC. And completely attached to Rome in 74 BC. It was within the boundries of BithyniaPontus State of Rome in 73 AD. In 330, Constantine I, Emperor of Rome, proclaimed the city as the capital. And the name Byzantion was converted to Constantinopolis. Then, with adoption of christianity, she became the most important culture and art center of christianity throughout the medieval age. Later on she became the political and economic center (395). After partition of Roman Empire in two parts, she became the capital of the East Roman Empire (Byzantium Empire). New sections formed as a result of growth in the population of the town. Subjected to the aggression of the Huns in 440. During the periods of Anastasios I (491-518) and Justinianos I (527-565), she became the scene of civil wars and uprisals. Sycae which gained importance in the period of Justinianos I, was connected to the city with a bridge over the Golden Horn. The town was attacked by Sassanians and Avars in 7th century, by Bulgarians and Ârabs in 8th century and by Russians and Bulgarians in 9th century, but they could not capture the town. Crusaders attacked and captured the town in 1204. Damaged it immensly. Town was the capital of the Latin Empire till 1261. New trade relations emerged due to crusades. Town started collapsing more and more. Ottomans sieged the town first in the periods of Beyazid I (13891402) and Murat II (1422). Mehmet II added the town to the lands of Ottoman Empire in 1453. Capital of the Ottoman Empire, was moved from Adrianople to Constantinopolis. The city became the Capital of Caliphate in Selim I's period (1517). Name of the town after some changes became Istanbul. Fires and earthquakes damaged the town to a great extent, during Balkan war which started in 1912 with dethronment of Abdülhamit II and World War I, the town was occupied and damaged immensely. After establishment of TBMM (Great National Assembly of Turkey) in Ankara on 23 April 1920, Mehmet VI the last Ottoman Sultan left the town. The town then was placed under the control of the TBMM Government and liberated from occupation (6 October 1923). Then it became the culture and art center of the republican period, which has been maintained upto date.

Historical Buildings

Due to her geographical location, Istanbul has always been a settlement area from prehistorical times to present days. The city bears the characteristic of being capital city of two Great Empires like Byzantium and Ottoman. Therefore, she is one of the few cities which hold diverse cultures rich from the standpoint of historical values. Prehistorical settlements in Istanbul start with the Chalcolithic period. However,the Paleolithic culture has been rendered in the Yarimburgaz Cave of Kucukcekmece. In Kadikoy (Chalcedon) there are remains of buildings from Phoenicians. Also, remains of the walls of the town called Lygos (5500-3500 BC) were found. Stratification in the caves were found in excavations made in the name of Turkish History Association. On the top, Byzantium settlement and on the main rock layer Paleolithic settlement in between chalcolithic settlement phases were determined. Also during Fikirtepe excavations, findings from chalcolithic period were rendered. Architecture of pendik mound is not known sufficiently.

Place of Istanbul in tourism

Istanbul, with her natural beauties and rich history, is a town with high local and international tourism potential, and from this view point one of the most attractive towns of the world. Besides her natural beauties, Istanbul has a lot of historical works remaining from the Byzantium and Ottoman periods.Especially the trio of Topkapi Palace, St Sophia Museum located in Sultanahmet Section and the Kariye Museum are the places which attract the utmost interest of foreign tourists. 870,000 persons have visited the Topkapi Palace in 1997. Number of persons visited the St Sophia Museum during the same period is 650,000. Touristic significance of mosques such as Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), Süleymaniye and magnificient palaces, fountains, tombs, founded charities (such as roads, public water distribution points), Turkish baths; historical structures like churches, cisterns, walls etc. remaining from Byzantium period is great.

Istanbul is also important as a shopping center for foreign tourists. In this relation, historical and economic values of the Covered Bazaar is significant. On daily basis, approximately 7,000 tourists visit this market which has a surface area of 47,600 sq., 61 streets and about 3,600 shops and also a touristic coffee-house. Istanbul is highly suitable for the development of "Cultural Tourism". In recent years, many cultural conferences of international character, were arranged in the town. Additional facilities are made for the development of "Congress Tourism".
Istanbul Museums of Our Time

In the city, there are museums that take place among the marked museums of the world. Products of civilization founded in Anatolia and Mesopotamia over a period of thousands of years, starting in prehistorical ages, can be seen in these museums.

Archeological Museum: Archeological museum is formed of 3 sections:

Classical Archaeological Museum: It is located between the Gulhane Park and the Topkapi Palace.It was built by Architect Vallery (1891-1908). Its architecture resembles of the Greek Temples. In this museum, works of various cultures from Anatolia and outside up to Byzantium times are being exhibited.

Ancient Oriental Works Museum: It is next to the archaeological museum.Works here are being exhibited in four main parts, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia and Arabia. The museum was rearranged between 1963-1973 according to contemporary museological understanding.

Mosaics Museum: It is formed of the buildings of Sultan Ahmet Complex. Here the 4th and 5th century mosaics obtained in excavations made in 1935 are being exhibited.
Military Museum: The museum initially opened in Hagia Irene Church, later (1950) was moved to the 1 St Army Headquarters building in Harbiye. Historical guns, clothing and tools of various periods of the army are being exhibited and the old military band team gives concerts in the museum.

Asiyan Museum: It is located on the ridges of Rumelia Fort. It is the house where Poet Tevfik Fikret lived. It was converted to a museum in 1995. Literary works and personal belongings of the Poet are being exhibited here.

Ataturk Museum: It is located in Sisli. It is the house where Ataturk lived with his mother and sister before he went to Anatolia. It was converted to museum in 1942. Personal belongings of Atatürk are being exhibited here.

Hagia Irene and Hagia Sophia: These buildings are the museums which exhibit their own characteristics. Exhibitions and concerts are being arranged here.

Municipality Museum: It is in the Gazenfer Aga Madrassah, underneath the Bozdogan aqueduct on the Ataturk Boulevard. Pictures and plans of Istanbul and goods used in various periods are being exhibited in the museum.

Tiled Kiosk: In 1472, it was ordered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet to be built connected to the Topkapi Palace. Turkish tiles and ceramics are being exhibited in this museum.

Naval Museum: The museum initially opened in Dolmabahce Mosque, was then moved to Besiktas. Goods and documents of Turkish navigation history are being exhibited in the museum.

Classical Turkish Literature Museum: It is located in Yuksekkaldirim. Manuscripts related to Muslim religion and literature are being exhibited here. Fire-Brigade Museum: It is situated on the Itfaiye Street in Fatih.

Fire tools and vehicles used by old local fire-brigade teams in various periods are being exhibited.

Paintings and Sculpture Museum (1937): It is located in Besiktas. Works of the famous Turkish Sculptors and painters are being exhibited here.

Rumeli Hisarı Museum (1950): The building exhibits its own characteristics. Concerts are given in Rumeli Hisari from time to time.

Health Museum: It is situated on Divanyolu Street. Graphics, writings and statistics are being exhibited here.

Tanzimat (Reforms) Museum: It is situated in the Ihlamur Summerhouse in Besiktas. A good number of goods, paintings and monuments related to Reformation period are exhibited here.

Turkish and Islamic Works Museum: It is in the hospice building of the Suleymaniye Complex (1913) where Turkish and Islamic works are being exhibited.

Yedikule Museum: It is called Yedikule dungeons. It has been the scene of important events of Byzantium and Ottoman histories. It was used as a prison

Topkapı Palace Museum (1924): Various rich collections are being exhibited in separate sections in the Topkapi Palace Museum. Chinese and Japanese Porcelains are exhibited in the kitchen of the Palace. Personal clothings and belongings of sultans are exhibited in the second courtyard. Treasury objects and priceless jewelry are exhibited in treasury section. Portraits of sultans and famous paintings given as gift are exhibited on the left of the Directorate building. In the Prophet's Mantle department, holy objects of Prophet Muhammed and of four khalifes are exhibited under the name of relics. Valuable manuscripts are being exhibited in Agalar Mosque, a variety of arms are on show in the internal Treasury.

Yerebatan Palace: Justinianus I, Byzantium Emperor, had the cistern be constructed in the 6th century (565). The old name was Basilica cistern. The palace takes its name due to its ornamented column heads. Today, it is used as a museum.

Dolmabahçe Palace: Initially Dolmabahce Summer Palace and the Timber kiosk were built by Ahmed I, in the beginning of the l7th century. The present palace was built in 1853 in the time of Sultan Abdulmecit. It is located in Besiktas. Today it is being used as a museum.

Beylerbeyi Palace: Sultan Abdulaziz had Balyan Usta construct the palace in 1865. It is on the shore in Beylerbeyi. Today it is being used as a museum.

Bazaars & Caravansarays

Auction rooms and antiquity markets (bedesten) built out of stone against fire constitute the master buildings of business life of the Ottoman Period in Istanbul, the busiest commercial center. Earliest example of these is the Inner Auction Room (Old Bazaar) made in the period of Mehmet II. Building is covered by fifteen domes seated on brick arches. The largest auction building of the Ottoman Architecture from the standpoint of number of domes is the Sandal Bedesteni (New Bazaar) annexed to inner auction room (it is covered by twenty domes seated on twelve feet)

The roads amongst the shops made of timber which take place around these auction rooms and antiquity markets are covered with vaults and thus today's market was formed. Later the inns in the vicinity were added to the covered bazaar (such as Sarnicli, Alipasa, Pagavraci, etc.). Generally, around large complexes, streets of one particular trade (arasta) were formed. Most famous example of these formations are the streets behind the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque. Now this place is called Sipahiler (Cavalrymen) Market. Arasta of the Yenivalide Complex is the Spice Market (Misir Carsisi).

The Covered Bazaar

Covered bazaar which attracts the attention of everybody, domestic and foreign, is a building which has an important place in the economic and social life of the Ottoman Empire. The market has been formed of a combination of a few historical bedestens (auction rooms and antiquity markets). Old (inner) Bedesten and New Bedesten built in the period of Fatih (Mehmet II) are the most important parts. Inner Bedesten is 45.50x30 m and is covered by 15 domes. New Bedesten is 90x32 m and is covered by 20 domes. Damages caused by fires and earthquakes in the Covered Bazaar which became larger with additions made at later times were repaired. Handicrafts developed in Istanbul were densified here. Although it lost this characteristic, it still
keeps its attractiveness.

Julie Pardue who came to this city in the l9th century states; "The market of Istanbul is one thousand and one night tale for Europeans. Neither the historical value of the hippodrome nor the earnest magnificence of Hagia Sophia is as interesting as the shopping area of this city situated among three seas. Istanbul Market shines like the magic lamp of Alaaddin."


A great number of inns were built in the city starting with the period of Mehmet II. They are generally located between Eminonu- Unkapani, Beyazit-Sultanhamam and Beyazit-Aksaray.

The largest one of the inns is the Buyukvalide Hani. Other important inns are Rustem Pasha Hani, Zindan Hani, Leblebici Hani, Alipasa Hani, Cukur Cesme Hani, Cuhaci Hani and simkeshane Hani all built by Architect Sinan.

Among the Caravansaries which take place within large complexes, buildings annexed to the Beyazit Complex and Süleymaniye Complex are identified. Stable of the Caravanserai within the Beyazit Complex, today is being used as Beyazit State Library.