In its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
Istanbul is located in the north-west Marmara Region of Turkey. It encloses the southern Bosporus which places the city on two continents—the western portion of Istanbul is in Europe, while the eastern portion is in Asia.
The urban landscape of Istanbul is constantly changing. In the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, the city was largely made up of the historic peninsula of Constantinople; with the citadel of Galata (also called Sykae or Pera, present-day BeyoÄŸlu) at north; Until the early 19th century, the city walls of Galata, the medieval Genoese citadel, used to stand. These Genoese fortifications, of which only the Galata Tower and a small portion of the citadel walls around it stand today, were largely demolished in the early 1800s to give way for a northwards expansion of the city, towards the adjacent neighborhoods.
Throughout its long history, Istanbul has acquired a reputation for being a cultural and ethnic melting pot. As a result, there are many historical mosques, churches, synagogues, palaces, castles and towers to visit in the city. Some of these historical structures, which draw millions to the city every year, reflect the heart and soul of Istanbul. Ancient Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Genoese, Ottoman architectures can be easily seen in districts such as Beyoglu.
The urban landscape of Istanbul is shaped by many communities. The religion with the largest community of followers is Islam. Religious minorities include Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Christians, Catholic Levantines and Sephardic Jews. According to the 2000 census, there were 2,691 active mosques, 123 active churches and 26 active synagogues in Istanbul; as well as 109 Muslim cemeteries and 57 non-Muslim cemeteries. Some districts have sizeable populations of these ethnic groups, such as BeyoÄŸlu district which have sizeable Levantine populations. The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church and first patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox communion (The city has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since the 4th century AD), is located in the Fener (Phanar) district. Also based in Istanbul are the archbishop of the Turkish-Orthodox community, an Armenian archbishop, and the Turkish Grand-Rabbi.
Apart from being the largest city and former political capital of the country, Istanbul has always been the center of Turkey's economic life because of its location as a junction of international land and sea trade routes. Istanbul is also Turkey's largest industrial center. It employs approximately 20% of Turkey's industrial labor and contributes 38% of Turkey's industrial workspace.
Most of the city's historic winehouses (meyhane in Turkish) and pubs are located in the areas around Ä°stiklal Avenue in BeyoÄŸlu. The 19th century Çiçek PasajÄ± (literally Flower Passage in Turkish, or Cité de Péra in French) on Ä°stiklal Avenue, which has many historic meyhanes, pubs and restaurants, was built by Hristaki ZoÄŸrafos Efendi at the former site of the Naum Theatre and was inaugurated in 1876. The famous Nevizâde Street, which has rows of historic meyhanes next to each other, is also in this area. Other historic pubs are found in the areas around Tünel PasajÄ± and the nearby AsmalÄ±mescit SokaÄŸÄ±. Some historic neighbourhoods around Ä°stiklal Avenue have recently been recreated, with differing levels of success; such as Cezayir SokaÄŸÄ± near Galatasaray Lisesi, which became unofficially known as La Rue Française and has rows of francophone pubs, cafés and restaurants playing live music. Babylon and Nu Pera in BeyoÄŸlu are popular night clubs both in the summer and in the winter.