While there are several countries that can claim the title of "transcontinental" (Turkey included), Istanbul has the distinction of being the only transcontinental city in the world,note though it originally wasn't built to be that way; the Ancient Greeks built the old city of Byzantium only on the European side of the strait. Only when it was reconstituted as Constantinople during the Roman period did it eventually expand into Anatolia (which in antiquity was the original, letter for letter, "Asia". What people now have in mind when they think of Asia received individual names per regions, e.g. Persia, Hindus, Palaestina...). This city is also proverbial for its Gambit Pileups and is the only city in the world to actually be an adjective for such things, as it is after all, very "byzantine". This tradition continued into modern times and as late as World War II (and no doubt later) it was an important espionage battleground. It is nevertheless the home of some 14 million people, being the largest European city (yes, European; most of Istanbul is located in Eastern Thrace) and the fifth largest Muslim-majority metropolitan area in the world (after Jakarta, Karachi, Cairo, and Dhaka).
Today, its name is Istanbul (Not Constantinople).
After some years in obscurity Byzantium became the secondary capital of The Roman Empire because of the growing importance of the eastern parts. Constantine the Great made it his main capital and named it Nova Roma (New Rome), but it later came to be known as Constantinople (Literally "Constantine's City"), in his honor. When Rome fell, Constantinople survived as a sort of Government in Exile of The Roman Empire, known today as the Byzantine Empire. By virtue of the professionalism of its soldiers and the cunning of its rulers it was able to survive in this capacity for about 800 years after the fall of Rome. It was finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, ironically under the reign of Constantine XI, who was killed in the Last Stand of the Byzantines note . This remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in World War I, when the City was temporarily occupied by Allied forces. It was reclaimed by Turkey afterwards, which holds it to this day. Another interesting issue is that Istanbul acts as the cork in the bottle of the Black Sea; no shipping can get in or out without Turkey's permission. This automatically prevents Russia from becoming a threat to major sea powers and in doing so has historically ensured the protection of same. This was part of the reason for British and French intervention in The Crimean War.
Istanbul is a multi-ethnic city with groups from all over the area having residence there. It is one of the few places in Turkey that still have an Armenian population, and Kurds and Greeks also maintain a presence as well. It is a noted tourist attraction, with such architectural wonders as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and so on. "Stamboli" cooking is well noted and was once considered on a par with French cuisine. Much of the more high-end dishes in Istanbul descended from the traditions of palace chefs of the days of the Sultans. This cooking spread across the Empire and strongly influenced the national cuisines of Greece, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Arab World, and (of course) Turkey. Today, the Imperial cuisine continues strong in Istanbul, although Beirut and Athensnote give Istanbul a run for its money. Stamboli cuisine left another legacy —the Great Eastern Mediterranean Food Fight, also known as the greatest display of culinary Misplaced Nationalism and Cultural Posturing ever, as different cultures lay claim to either being the origin of various Stamboli dishes or being the best at preparing them.
Also, there are cats. Many, many, many cats. There's also a sizable stray dog population, but cats — unlike dogs — are considered ritually clean in Islam, meaning they are allowed to go anywhere they like, including into mosques. Due to this favoured status, the cat population is left to its own devices, and as a result, they are everywhere. One of the cats living around the Hagia Sophia even has her own Instagram.note
In media portrayals, expect to see the very large and imposing Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya in Turkish - the similar appearance of the latter two as well as other large Ottoman mosques is due to direct emulation of Hagia Sofia's design), Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii in Turkish) and the Süleymaniye Mosque from all places in the city. This is partially Truth in Television as at least one of the three can be seen from rooftops of some of the area surrounded by the still-standing Walls of Constantinople. However, the Byzantine/Ottoman look gives way to the 19th Century relatively nearby at Galata and the Dolmabahçe Palace; and also with very modern infrastructure such as the Levent business district (not actually close to the historic landmarks, but the skyscrapers there are tall enough to be seen from rooftops near Hagia Sofia), 2 (soon to be 3) very large ( and very crowded ) suspension bridges across the Bosphorus (they have to be very large because the Bosphorus is 700 metres wide at its narrowest and because very large container ships need to pass through the Bosphorus - although the 1st Bosphorus Bridge opened only in 1973, a large permanent crossing was originally envisaged by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th Century, and Darius the Great of Persia bridged the Bosphorus with pontoons in order to conquer the Balkans sometime between 522 and 485 BC) and the Marmaray subway (a rail tunnel under the Bosphorus to provide a cheap and fast crossing between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul - as The Government of Turkey likes to point out, it is the efforts of not only the modern Turkish state, but starting from an idea of Ottoman Sultan Abdulmajid in 1860).
- Yashim Series by Jason Goodwin
- The Emperor's Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh
- Belisarius Series
- Blood Of Victory by Alan Furst
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations: The bulk of the game is set in Constantinople a few decades after the Ottoman conquest, with some locals starting to call it "Istanbul". The protagonist, Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore, comes there in 1511 in his search for the keys to Altaïr's secret library in Masyaf, Syria, and gets involved in the conflict between the Sultan's Janissaries, Byzantine remnants who have embraced the Templar cause and the local Brotherhood of Assassins led by Yusuf Tazim. He gets to meet some historical figures like a future Suleiman the Magnificent, the latter's father sultan Selim I and the heir to the Byzantine throne Manuel Palaiologos.
- Bolis, directed by Eric Nazarian
- James Bond has visited the city three times moviewise:
- From Russia with Love, where Bond goes to escort a potential Soviet defector to the West.
- The World Is Not Enough, where Bond has to stop a plot to set off a stolen nuclear warhead in the harbor. The villains' hideout is the Maiden's Tower.
- Skyfall, where Bond is trying to recover a stolen NATO NOC list. He gets to drive a bike on the roofs around Hagia Sophia.
- The Love Boat has a two-parter episode with the cruise ship stopping in Istanbul. The plot involves the theft of a world famous diamond, the Spoonmaker, at the Topkapi Palace's museum.
- The climax of Dan Brown's Inferno takes place here. Langdon and the WHO attempt to sabotage the Big Bad's attempt to release The Plague actually Sterility Plague beneath the Hagia Sophia. Too bad she already released it a week earlier.
- The Promise (2016)
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist has it's second Kobin mission set here, involving taking down a black market smuggling operation in a fish market.
- Istanbul Intrigues
- Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon by Claudia Roden