The former capital of three empires – Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman – today Istanbul combines the preservation of its past with looking forward to its modern future. Standing on the shores of the Bosphorous where the Black Sea meets the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul has endless variety for the visitor in it extensive array of museums, churches, palaces, mosques and markets. But now it's time for a little history lesson.
Istanbul's beginnings were around 700BC when Greek settlers established Chalcedon on the European side of the river. In 657BC other Greek settlers, under the command of their leader Byzas settled at Seraglio Point where there was a small fishing village. As a result of the areas unique location between Europe and Asia, the settlement prospered and was called after its commander, Byzantium.
Between then and the 2nd century BC, it was ruled by Persians until the Romans conquered and it and it became part of the Roman Empire. They retained leadership until the third century AD when it was conquered by the European leader Constantine and renamed Constantinople.
In 1261 the Byzantine Emperors returned but they were only to last until 1345 when they asked the Ottomans for assistance against the Europeans. The Ottomans succeeded in taking over the city in 1543 when they renamed the city once again to Istanbul. And there you have it, the quickest lesson ever in the history of Istanbul.
Today two bridges connect the continents, The Bosphorous Bridge built in 1973 and the Fatih Sultan Mehment Bridge built in 1988. The European party of the city is divided into two parts by the Golden Horn, Istanbul's historical port. South of the Golden Horn is where you will find the old city where most of the Ottoman and Byzantine buildings are located. This area is enclosed by the city walls which were built in the fifth century. North of the Golden Horn is where you will find the modern part of the city where foreigners have been settling since the 19th century.
Rather than bombard you with any more information for the moment, I think it is already pretty clear that this is one city you can't afford to leave off you travel list. Whether you are staying for three days or three weeks, your visit to Istanbul will certainly be one to tell your friends about.