A Brief History of Turkey and Istanbul

Istanbul Arel University - International Office

Turkey, situated on the lands known as “Anatolia,” has a rich history shaped by diverse civilizations, including the Aeolians, Dorians, Ionians, Thracians, and Persians, during the Palaeolithic age. The Hellenistic period began under the rule of Alexander the Great, followed by the dominance of the Romans and Byzantines. In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks triumphed over the Byzantine Empire, leading to the Turkification of Anatolia.


After the fall of the Seljuk Empire, various Turkish principalities emerged, with the Ottomans eventually uniting them into the Ottoman Empire by the 13th century. The Ottoman Empire flourished, spanning from Southeast Europe to West Asia and North Africa, before its decline in the 17th century. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 after the War of Independence against occupying forces in World War I.


Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, has been a melting pot of civilizations throughout history. Each civilization that settled in Istanbul left its mark, creating a city steeped in universal history.


Located between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, Istanbul boasts the picturesque Bosphorus strait, connecting Europe and Asia. Its strategic position as a port city and trade hub has made it a center of global importance.


Istanbul experiences a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers along the Marmara coast and milder winters, while the Black Sea coast sees warmer, rainy summers and cooler winters.

How to Spend Your Free Time in Istanbul


Discover the vibrant city of Istanbul with its myriad of historical and cultural attractions. Here are some must-visit places to make the most of your leisure time:

  1. Taksim Square: Explore the historic Taksim Square, once a hub for Ottoman water sellers. Take a ride on the nostalgic tram and soak in the bustling atmosphere.
  2. Sultanahmet Square: Immerse yourself in history at Sultanahmet Square, home to iconic landmarks such as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern.
  3. Dolmabahçe Palace: Marvel at the grandeur of Dolmabahçe Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus. Built in the 19th century, this architectural gem is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  4. Basilica Cistern: Descend into the underground world of the Basilica Cistern, an ancient water reservoir with impressive columns and mystical atmosphere.
  5. Maiden’s Tower: Enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul from the Maiden’s Tower, situated at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. Legend has it that a lovelorn maiden was imprisoned here, giving the tower its name.
  6. Galata Tower: Climb to the top of Galata Tower for breathtaking views of the city skyline. Dating back to the Byzantine era, this iconic landmark offers a glimpse into Istanbul’s rich history.


Experience the rich tapestry of Istanbul’s past and present as you explore its diverse attractions and landmarks.