İstanbul is the largest metropolitan city in Turkey, constituting the country's economic, cultural, and historical heart. With a population of 14 million, it is one of the three largest cities in Europe. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while one third of its population lives on the Asian continent.

Being a historical capital for centuries to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, İstanbul is a magnificent attraction area for tourists. The historic areas of the city were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. 11.6 million foreign visitors arrived in İstanbul in 2012, two years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fifth most popular tourist destination.

İstanbul is the financial center of Turkey with its diverse industrial economy producing commodities in diverse sectors and holding 60% of total export and import activities. It is responsible for 27% of Turkey's GDP and 20% of the country's industrial labor force residing in the city.

İstanbul is an education and research center with 8 public and 31 private universities. Thus İstanbul happens to be an appealing location that hosts plenty of academic conferences every year.


İstanbul has two airports, one in European side and the other in Asian side. It constitutes a major hub in European and Asian air traffic, thus it is easily reachable by airlines. The airport on the European side is the 17th largest airport in the world and 8th largest in Europe. Moreover Turkish Airlines has direct flights to 42 cities in Europe and it is voted as the best airline in Europe for the third year by Skytrax Passenger Choice Awards.

The city is reachable via ship from Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries, and is in addition a major port of call for cruise lines and chartered yachts. Via land, several rail lines connect Turkey to neighboring countries as well as many bus lines which easily and affordably connect Istanbul to other cities across Turkey, Europe and the Middle East.

Highways represent another increasingly viable alternative to getting in and out of Istanbul.


In its south stretches the Marmara Sea and in its north is the Black Sea. Its western part is in Europe and eastern in Asia. The strategic and aesthetic strait that separates the two coasts of Istanbul together with the two continents is the Bosporus which is the first gate from the Black Sea to the Aegean and then onto Mediterranean. Being a port city and having many major trade paths pass through itself is what has given ultimate significance to the city for thousands of years.