Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is Turkey's largest city, and its cultural and economic center. It is located on the Bosphorus strait, and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn (Turkish: Haliç), in the northwest of the country. Istanbul extends both on the European (Rumelia) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is on two continents.
Originally founded by Greek colonists as Byzantium taking its name from their leader Byzas from Megara, it was made into the eastern capital of the Roman Empire in AD 324, by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great; Byzantium was renamed Nova Roma ("New Rome"), but this name failed to impress; and the city soon became known as Constantinople, "the City of Constantine". The name Istanbul comes from the Greek words εις την Πόλη – eis tēn Pólē (pronounced [is tim boli]) or στην Πόλη, from ancient Greek eìs tēn Polin (εἰς τήν Πόλιν) and meaning "in the city" or "to the city", Constantinople being the largest city in the world. The intermediate form Stamboul was commonly used by the Turks in the 19th century. Because of the custom of affixing an i before certain words that start with two consonants (as in "İzmir" from Smyrna: in a coincidence of s + m, the s turns to z in pronunciation as has been attested since early Byzantine times and in modern Greek usage), it was pronounced in Turkish İstambul. (The '/m'/ in the middle is also the Turkish linguistic custom of changing the '/n/' before a '/p'/ or /'b'/, as in çenber → çember, anbar → ambar, although rules like this are not always observed in proper nouns like Istanbul). Also in Greek an /n/ before a /p/ becomes an [m], and the /p/ after /n/ becomes a [b] in pronunciation. Similar examples of modern Turkish town names derived from Greek are İzmit (from İznikmit which was Nicomedia and İznik (from Greek, Nicaea: "eis tin Nikaia" (pron. [is tin nikea]), becoming [znik]. Since before the conquest, Turks called the city Istanbul, but officially used the name Konstantiniye, which means "The City of Constantine" in Ottoman Turkish.
Istanbul is getting more colorful with its rich social, cultural and commercial activities. Alongside with Turkish restaurants, the Far eastern and other cuisines are getting large in number and with the newly opened restaurants. While the world famous pop stars are filling the stadiums, activities like opera, balet, theatre are continuing throughout the year. In the seasonal festivals world famous orchestras, choros, concerts, jazz legends are found. The musical, folk and theatral pieces are playing full house. Among with historical places like Hagia Irene, Rumeli Fortress, Yedikule, courtyard of Topkapı Palace, Gülhane park; The Ataturk Cultural center, Cemal Reşit Rey concert hall and other open air and modern theatre halls are hosting the shows. For the people that like night life, there are sufficient number of clubs, musical restaurants, discos, bars and pavillions. The clubs, restaurants and discoteques increase in number and move to open air spaces in summers.
"There, God and human, nature and art are together, they have created such a perfect place that it is valuable to see."
Alphonse de Lamartine
Lamartine's famous poetic line reveals his love for Istanbul, describing the embracing of two continents, with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe.
In the townscape, the typical Ottoman tradition built, timber buildings belong. In the last decades in and around the city, numerous and high settlements were built by the fast growth of the population. Sorrounding towns were absorbed into Istanbul as the city grew rapidly outwards. Successes happened since the mid 1990's when the garbage problem was solutioned, traffic conditions were improved and the air improvement was obtained by the employment of natural gas. Nevertheless air and water pollution by the numerous factories, motor vehicles and private households and the noise pollution by traffic further concerns the population of Istanbul. Diseases such as bronchitis and asthma are far more common among the inhabitants of the city's Gecekondu areas largely because of these poorer, densely populated areas' proximity to industry.
Because of the contamination of the sea, traditional beach resorts had disappeared gradually, for some years however old places opened again in the city. The most popular places within the city belong to Bakirkoy(Bakırköy), Kucukcekmece(Küçükçekmece), Sariyer(Sarıyer) and the Bosphorus, outside of the city are the Marmara sea the Prince's islands, Silivri and Tuzla as well as at the black sea Kilyos and Sile(Şile). The Prince's Islands (Prens Adaları) are a group of islands in the Marmara sea, south of the quarters Kartal and Pendik. With their Pine and Stone pines, wooden art nouveau style summer mansions from the turn of the twentieth century, horse-drawn carriages (motor vehicles are not permitted) and fish restaurants make them a popular trip goal. They can be attained with ferry boats and high-speed ferries (Deniz otobüsü) from Eminönü and Kartal. From the nine islands, four are settled. Sile(Şile) is distant and well-known Turkish seaside resort at the black sea, 50 kilometers from Istanbul. Outside of Sile unaffected white sand beaches are to be found. Kilyos is a small calm seaside resort not far from the northern European entrance of the Bosphorus at the black sea. The place has good swimming possibilities and became popular in the last years among the inhabitants of Istanbul as a place for excursions. Kilyos offers a beach park with (fish) Restaurants and discotheques.
Newsweek magazine recently named Istanbul the "hippest city of Europe", referring to it as the "Turkish delight":
After so many decades of trying to become Western, Istanbul glories in the rediscovery of a modern identity. European or not, it is one of the coolest cities in the world. There is such richness, the city is still thickly atmospheric, with bazaars, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mansions pretty much everywhere.