Historic Areas of Istanbul (UNESCO/NHK)

Historic Areas of Istanbul (UNESCO/NHK)

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With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization.

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
URL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/

UNESCO expresses deep regret over Turkey decision to change status of historic Hagia Sophia

As the Turkish President signed a decree on Friday converting the ancient Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, the UN cultural agency (UNESCO) said that it "deeply regrets the decision" made "without prior discussion", having earlier in the day called on the State to abide by its “legal commitments and obligations” in accordance with it’s status as a museum, on the World Heritage List.

The majestic building was founded around 1,500 years ago as a cathedral and is widely regarded as the foremost example of Byzantine Christian architecture in the world. Following the rise of the Ottoman Empire, it became a mosque, but in 1934, was designated a secular museum, shared by Christians, Muslims and those of all faiths or none, alike.

Hagia Sophia: UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, and calls for the universal value of #WorldHeritage to be preserved.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the decree following years of campaigning by a cultural association, and the decision earlier in the day by a Turkish court, handing control of the building over to the nation’s religious directorate, according to news reports, allowing it to reopen for worship as a mosque.

Reacting to the decision, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, described the building as "an architectural masterpiece, and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue."

Call for dialogue

UNESCO said in a statement issued before the decree, that it had written to the Government and called for “dialogue” with the authorities, “before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of the site.”

Hagia Sophia, is part of the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”, and officially inscribed on the World Heritage List as a museum.

“This inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations. Thus, a State must ensure that no modification is made to the outstanding universal value of the property inscribed on its territory”, said the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

No modification ‘without prior notification’

“Any modification requires prior notification by the State concerned to UNESCO and then, if necessary, examination by the World Heritage Committee.”

“Outstanding universal value” is the basis for the decision to inscribe any property on the World Heritage List, the statement continued.

“The texts adopted by the Committee specify that the ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul’ is inscribed notably for ‘its unique integration of architectural masterpieces reflecting the meeting of Europe and Asia over several centuries’ and because ‘Hagia Sophia became a model for an entire family of churches and later mosques, and the mosaics of the palaces and churches of Constantinople, influenced both Eastern and Western art’”.

'Universal value'

The agency noted that in line with its designation, the Hagia Sophia “has a strong symbolic, historical and universal value.”

UNESCO called upon the Turkish authorities "to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session."

“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the agency warned.

Best Historical Places to Visit in Turkey in 2021

There are 12 titles in the list of the best historical places to visit in Turkey in 2021. This article contains cities from every corner of Turkey, you can also find historical monuments in the UNESCO heritage category.

1. Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most visited cities in Europe and has been on the Unesco World Heritage list since 1985. As a small model of Anatolia (a melting pot of cultures), Istanbul connects the continents (Europe and Asia) and embraces both cultures.

A. Topkapi Palace

Topkapı Palace was the place where the Ottoman sultans lived for 400 years. Located in the heart of the Historic Peninsula, Topkapi Palace is situated on the first hill of Istanbul, a city with seven hills.

Topkapi Palace is very different than the palaces of Europe. It contains four large courtyards and a magnificent view of the Bosphorus. If you visit Istanbul in spring, you may feel like hiking in the nature while discovering the nice gardens of Topkapi Palace.

B. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia remained the world’s largest domed temple from 537 when it was built, until a thousand years later. The curiosity created by the splendor of Hagia Sophia continued until the 17th century when St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt.

Hagia Sophia remained a church for 900 years and was converted into a mosque in 1453. The building, which remained as a mosque for about 500 years, has been a museum since the Republic period.

It should also be noted that Hagia Sophia was turned back into a mosque in 2020. However, although it serves as a mosque, visitors can still see the Byzantine mosaics inside.

C. Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque is located in the heart of the Old City. Although tourists visiting Istanbul mostly prefer Blue Mosque due to its central location, Suleymaniye Mosque is the most impressive architectural work in Istanbul.

There are basically two reasons why the Suleymaniye Mosque is so important. The first is that it was built for Suleiman the Magnificent, the most famous Ottoman sultan. Secondly, the person who built the mosque was Mimar Sinan, the most important architect of the Ottoman Empire.

D. Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar was established in 1461 and has been the center of shopping in Istanbul for centuries. Located in the middle of the Old City, Grand Bazaar attracts people like a magnet.

People who get exhausted after a sightseeing in Istanbul can’t help but end their day at Grand Bazaar. Grand Bazaar challenges the modern shopping malls in Istanbul with its 67 streets and more than 3000 shops. The Grand Bazaar has been among the historical places to visit in Turkey for centuries.

E. Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Cruise is one of the most fun things to do in Istanbul. As you tour the Bosphorus, you will understand why the city has been so important in history.

Combining Asia and Europe, Istanbul has been one of the most important ports in the world throughout its history. In addition, the Bosphorus, which acts as a bridge between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, has increased the importance of Istanbul.

Emperor Constantine was the first to realize this strategic position of Istanbul. For this reason, he declared Istanbul the new capital of the Roman Empire in 330.

2. Cappadocia

Cappadocia is one of the best places to visit in Turkey with its unique geographical formations. There are so many things to do in Cappadocia that you will not be bored even if you stay for a week.

Since Cappadocia was one of the important centers of the early Christian period, there are many churches to visit here. Christians escaping from the persecution of Rome settled in Cappadocia in the early period. The foundations they laid made Cappadocia the most important monastic center in the Middle Ages.

Among the man-made places to visit in Cappadocia are rock churches, which contain the first examples of monastic life. In addition to this there are huge underground cities built to hide from the Roman authorities.

However, there are also natural formations among what Cappadocia promises to its visitors. Fairy chimneys and valleys formed in millions of years stand out among them.

One of the most fun activities in Cappadocia is to take a hot air balloon tour. You can photograph all the beauties of Cappadocia from the balloons that rise to hundreds of meters and have a great time.

3. Mount Nemrut

Mount Nemrut is flooded by people who want to climb to the summit and watch the sunrise in every tourism season. Mount Nemrut is also under UNESCO’s World Heritage List thanks to the colossal statues of Greek Gods.

The king of an ancient civilization (The Kingdom of Commagene) Antiochus I built these amazing statues and placed them on the top of the mountain. He proclaimed himself a god and added his own statue among the ones like Zeus and Apollo.

Climbing up to the Mount Nemrut in the early morning is not easy. It’s freezing cold up there. However, the atmosphere is truly amazing, so it’s definitely worth the effort. While the sun rises over the horizon and shines over the statues of Ancient Gods, you forget about everything else.

Strangely enough, the existence of this awesome statues was forgotten for long years. They were rediscovered and became one of the top tourist attractions in Turkey today.

Mount Nemrut has been the subject of the Netflix series The Gift. For this reason, it stands out among the historical places to visit in Turkey in 2021.

4. Ephesus

Ephesus is the best-preserved ancient city in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The city dates back to Ancient Greece and it became the capital of Roman provinces in Asia Minor later. You might feel like travelling in time while you are walking through the Curetes Street.

Among the things to do in Ephesus, the most famous temple of the ancient age, Temple of Artemis, comes first. In addition to this, there is the Library of Celsus, the best preserved Roman structure in Ephesus. You can also see temples, fountains and baths dedicated to Roman emperors in Ephesus.

Ephesus became a very important city during the early times of Christianity as Apostle John and Virgin Mary came to here. The House of Virgin Mary is definitely one of the top historical places to visit in Turkey for Christians. Moreover, it’s considered as one of the pilgrimage sites.

5. Sumela Monastery

Sumela Monastery was built on the rocks, which are at the skirts of Mount Karadag. Locals call this place as “St. Mary’s Monastery”. It had been an active monastery from 386 to 1923 and the Byzantine monks lived here.

Nowadays, Sumela is a popular museum which is a bit difficult to visit. You have to climb up the steep hills to get there. Yet, everybody thinks it’s well worth it when they see the ancient icons and experience the mystical atmosphere.

The monastery was built by two people, named as Barnabas ve Sophronios. According to the legend, they both saw the Virgin Mary in their dreams. They followed the trail of her and met each other at this spot. Two people who did not know each other before, came across in the same place after a dream. They considered it as a miracle of Mother Mary and dedicated the new monastery to her.

Sumela Monastery had one of the most important icon for the Christian belief, the icon of Panagia Soumela which was created by the Luke the Evangelist. Due to the spiritual importance of the Sumela Monastery, many miracles have been associated with this place in history.

Soumela Monastery reopened after many years of restoration. For this reason, Sumela Monastery is one of the most popular historical places to visit in Turkey in 2021.

6. Hattusa

Hattusa has a history of 2300 years and is located very close to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Located in the city called Corum, Hattusa was the capital of the Hittites in Antiquity.

As a contemporary of ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, Hittites had an important role in the ancient history. They became a superstate in the Middle East and challenged the Pharaohs of Egypt.

The two important states of the region fought for the superiority on Mesopotamia and signed the first peace treaty in the world history. The Treaty of Kadesh is displayed in Istanbul Archaeological Museum today.

Hattusa is a golden opportunity for those who want to get off the tourist route and do something different in Turkey. For this reason, it is among the best historical places to visit in Turkey in 2021.

7. Pamukkale

Pamukkale is famous for its snow white landscapes. If you come to Turkey for a holiday in Cesme, Bodrum or other popular holiday towns, it’s definitely recommended to make a day trip to Pamukkale.

Pamukkale is not only for seeing the white travertines but also enjoying the Hierapolis Ancient City. Just like Ephesus, Hierapolis is also a great Greco-Roman heritage site in Turkey. You may enjoy the walk through the ancient ruins and seeing the ancient theatre. If you feel exhausted walking through the ruins, you can swim in the historical pool which is filled with ancient columns and remnants.

Walking in the snow-white travertines in Pamukkale, swimming in the ancient Cleopatra pool, and visiting Hierapolis Ancient City are among the best things to do in Turkey in 2021.

8. Mardin

Mardin offers a great cultural experience to its visitors. Mardin was under the influence of Babylon, Assyria, Persia as well as Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Mardin’s colorful mosaic culture stems from its multicultural background.

The entire city is under the protection of the Turkish state and it will be in UNESCO World Heritage list in the near future. As the city is home to different ethnicities, religions and cultures, it’s one of the best historical places to visit in Turkey.

Strolling through the oldish streets of Mardin, you would feel yourself as if you were in Toledo or any other well-preserved Medieval cities. However, what Mardin has to offer is much more than that. Century-old monasteries, synagogues and mosques are next to each other in Mardin.

9. Antakya

Antakya is a very strategically located city. It’s in the center of Mesopotamia, Mediterranean trade routes and Anatolia (Asia Minor). This unique position of the city makes it a bridge between different cultures.

Antakya has the most diverse and delicious cuisines in Turkey. Besides one of the largest ancient mosaic museum, Hatay Archaeology Museum, is also located in this city.

Antakya (aka Antioch) is one of the five episcopal centers of Christianity, along with Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Moreover, Saint Peter, built the Cave Church of Saint Peter (locally known as St. Pierre) in this city. Therefore, it’s on the pilgrimage road for the Christians.

However, the historical treasures of Antakya are not limited to these. There is also the Vespasianus Titus Tunnel, a 2000-year-old Roman engineering wonder, and the Monastery of St Simeon, dedicated to a famous column saint.

Antakya stands out among the historical places to visit in Turkey in 2021 with its architecture and local flavors. Antakya, along with Gaziantep and Adana, are among the cities of Turkey that are famous for their cuisine.

10. Bursa

Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia. The most important feature of Bursa in history is that it witnessed the Ottoman’s transition from a chiefdom to a state.

Bursa is also the city where the Ottoman Empire created architecture in their own style rather than the Seljuk architecture from whom they inherited the Central Asian origins of Turks.

Ulu Cami (Holy Mosque) and Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) are the best examples of the early Ottoman architecture. Bursa was also the textile industry of the Ottoman Empire since it has high quality silk.

Bursa also stands out with its tourism industry. It’s one of the best places to go for a daily trip from Istanbul. People go there to see Bursa’s architecture, history as well as clothing shopping. Besides, Mount Uludag is one of the best areas to go skiing in Turkey.

Iznik (Nicaea) is a province in Bursa city. This small town is famous for Iznik Tiles. Ottomans decorated the most beautiful mosques, tombs and palaces of Istanbul with this high quality tiles. Surprisingly, Iznik housed the First Council of Nicaea, which was held by Emperor Contantine the Great. This first council laid the foundations of Christianity in the Roman Empire.

11. Edirne

Edirne was known as Adrianople during the Roman and Byzantine periods and was a very strategic city. After their first capital, Bursa, the Ottomans chose Edirne as their new capital. Because Edirne was in a perfect position to direct the Ottoman military expeditions to the Balkans. Nowadays Edirne is “The Gate of Turkey” that opens to Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, Blue Mosque is not the biggest mosque in Turkey. Selimiye Mosque, the largest historical mosque in Turkey, is located in Edirne. The second is the Suleymaniye Mosque, while the third is the Blue Mosque, which takes its name from the tiles inside.

Edirne is the perfect place for those who want to go on a day trip from Istanbul. For those who want to see the Selimiye Mosque, the masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, it is among the best historical places to visit in Turkey.

12. Safranbolu

Safranbolu is the best place to see the local life in Turkey. The well-preserved Ottoman wooden houses make the city a place worth visiting. It gives you a feeling that you are in open-air museum. Also it is one of the best places for photography in Turkey.

Safranbolu offers a warm local atmosphere and delicious local food. These features of Safranbolu, make it one of the best destination for a day trip from Istanbul.


The first known name of the city is Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον , Byzántion), the name given to it at its foundation by Megarian colonists around 657 BCE. [9] [18] Megaran colonists claimed a direct line back to the founders of the city, Byzas, the son of the god Poseidon and the nymph Ceroëssa. [18] Modern excavations has raised the possibility that the name Byzantium might reflect the sites of native Thracian settlements that preceded the fully fledged town. [19] Constantinople comes from the Latin name Constantinus, after Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who refounded the city in 324 CE. [18] Constantinople remained the most common name for the city in the West until the 1930s, when Turkish authorities began to press for the use of "Istanbul" in foreign languages. Kostantiniyye (Ottoman Turkish: قسطنطينيه ‎), Be Makam-e Qonstantiniyyah al-Mahmiyyah (meaning "the Protected Location of Constantinople") and İstanbul were the names used alternatively by the Ottomans during their rule. [20]

The name İstanbul (Turkish pronunciation: [isˈtanbuɫ] ( listen ) , colloquially [ɯsˈtambuɫ] ) is commonly held to derive from the Medieval Greek phrase "εἰς τὴν Πόλιν" (pronounced [is tim ˈbolin] ), which means "to the city" [21] and is how Constantinople was referred to by the local Greeks. This reflected its status as the only major city in the vicinity. The importance of Constantinople in the Ottoman world was also reflected by its Ottoman nickname Der Saadet meaning the "Gate to Prosperity" in Ottoman Turkish. [22] An alternative view is that the name evolved directly from the name Constantinople, with the first and third syllables dropped. [18] Some Ottoman sources of the 17th century, such as Evliya Çelebi, describe it as the common Turkish name of the time between the late 17th and late 18th centuries, it was also in official use. The first use of the word Islambol on coinage was in 1730 during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I. [23] In modern Turkish, the name is written as İstanbul, with a dotted İ, as the Turkish alphabet distinguishes between a dotted and dotless I. In English the stress is on the first or last syllable, but in Turkish it is on the second syllable (tan). [24] A person from the city is an İstanbullu (plural: İstanbullular) Istanbulite is used in English. [25]

Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul's historic peninsula was settled as far back as the 6th millennium BCE. [26] That early settlement, important in the spread of the Neolithic Revolution from the Near East to Europe, lasted for almost a millennium before being inundated by rising water levels. [27] [26] [28] [29] The first human settlement on the Asian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500 to 3500 BCE, [30] On the European side, near the point of the peninsula (Sarayburnu), there was a Thracian settlement during the early 1st millennium BCE. Modern authors have linked it to the Thracian toponym Lygos, [31] mentioned by Pliny the Elder as an earlier name for the site of Byzantium. [32]

The history of the city proper begins around 660 BCE, [9] [33] [c] when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. The settlers built an acropolis adjacent to the Golden Horn on the site of the early Thracian settlements, fueling the nascent city's economy. [39] The city experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BCE, but the Greeks recaptured it during the Greco-Persian Wars. [40] Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian League, before gaining independence in 355 BCE. [41] Long allied with the Romans, Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in 73 CE. [42] Byzantium's decision to side with the Roman usurper Pescennius Niger against Emperor Septimius Severus cost it dearly by the time it surrendered at the end of 195 CE, two years of siege had left the city devastated. [43] Five years later, Severus began to rebuild Byzantium, and the city regained—and, by some accounts, surpassed—its previous prosperity. [44]

Rise and fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire

Constantine the Great effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire in September 324. [46] Two months later, he laid out the plans for a new, Christian city to replace Byzantium. As the eastern capital of the empire, the city was named Nova Roma most called it Constantinople, a name that persisted into the 20th century. [47] On 11 May 330, Constantinople was proclaimed the capital of the Roman Empire, which was later permanently divided between the two sons of Theodosius I upon his death on 17 January 395, when the city became the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. [48]

The establishment of Constantinople was one of Constantine's most lasting accomplishments, shifting Roman power eastward as the city became a center of Greek culture and Christianity. [48] [49] Numerous churches were built across the city, including Hagia Sophia which was built during the reign of Justinian the Great and remained the world's largest cathedral for a thousand years. [50] Constantine also undertook a major renovation and expansion of the Hippodrome of Constantinople accommodating tens of thousands of spectators, the hippodrome became central to civic life and, in the 5th and 6th centuries, the center of episodes of unrest, including the Nika riots. [51] [52] Constantinople's location also ensured its existence would stand the test of time for many centuries, its walls and seafront protected Europe against invaders from the east and the advance of Islam. [49] During most of the Middle Ages, the latter part of the Byzantine era, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city on the European continent and at times the largest in the world. [53] [54]

Constantinople began to decline continuously after the end of the reign of Basil II in 1025. The Fourth Crusade was diverted from its purpose in 1204, and the city was sacked and pillaged by the crusaders. [55] They established the Latin Empire in place of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. [56] Hagia Sophia was converted to a Catholic church in 1204. The Byzantine Empire was restored, albeit weakened, in 1261. [57] Constantinople's churches, defenses, and basic services were in disrepair, [58] and its population had dwindled to a hundred thousand from half a million during the 8th century. [d] After the reconquest of 1261, however, some of the city's monuments were restored, and some, like the two Deesis mosaics in Hagia Sofia and Kariye, were created. [59]

Various economic and military policies instituted by Andronikos II, such as the reduction of military forces, weakened the empire and left it vulnerable to attack. [60] In the mid-14th-century, the Ottoman Turks began a strategy of gradually taking smaller towns and cities, cutting off Constantinople's supply routes and strangling it slowly. [61] On 29 May 1453, after an eight-week siege (during which the last Roman emperor, Constantine XI, was killed), Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople and declared it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hours later, the sultan rode to the Hagia Sophia and summoned an imam to proclaim the Islamic creed, converting the grand cathedral into an imperial mosque due to the city's refusal to surrender peacefully. [62] Mehmed declared himself as the new Kayser-i Rûm (the Ottoman Turkish equivalent of the Caesar of Rome) and the Ottoman state was reorganized into an empire. [63]

Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic eras

Following the conquest of Constantinople, [e] Mehmed II immediately set out to revitalize the city. Cognizant that revitalization would fail without the repopulation of the city, Mehmed II welcomed everyone–foreigners, criminals, and runaways– showing extraordinary openness and willingness to incorporate outsiders that came to define Ottoman political culture. [65] He also invited people from all over Europe to his capital, creating a cosmopolitan society that persisted through much of the Ottoman period. [66] Revitalizing Istanbul also required a massive program of restorations, of everything from roads to aqueducts. [67] Like many monarchs before and since, Mehmed II transformed Istanbul's urban landscape with wholesale redevelopment of the city center. [68] There was a huge new palace to rival, if not overshadow, the old one, a new covered market (still standing as the Grand Bazaar), porticoes, pavilions, walkways, as well as more than a dozen new mosques. [67] Mehmed II turned the ramshackle old town into something that looked like an imperial capital. [68]

Social hierarchy was ignored by the rampant plague, which killed the rich and the poor alike in the sixteenth century. [69] Money could not protect the rich from all the discomforts and harsher sides of Istanbul. [69] Although the Sultan lived at a safe remove from the masses, and the wealthy and poor tended to live side by side, for the most part Istanbul was not zoned as modern cities are. [69] Opulent houses shared the same streets and districts with tiny hovels. [69] Those rich enough to have secluded country properties had a chance of escaping the periodic epidemics of sickness that blighted Istanbul. [69]

The Ottoman Dynasty claimed the status of caliphate in 1517, with Constantinople remaining the capital of this last caliphate for four centuries. [12] Suleiman the Magnificent's reign from 1520 to 1566 was a period of especially great artistic and architectural achievement chief architect Mimar Sinan designed several iconic buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, stained glass, calligraphy, and miniature flourished. [70] The population of Constantinople was 570,000 by the end of the 18th century. [71]

A period of rebellion at the start of the 19th century led to the rise of the progressive Sultan Mahmud II and eventually to the Tanzimat period, which produced political reforms and allowed new technology to be introduced to the city. [72] Bridges across the Golden Horn were constructed during this period, [73] and Constantinople was connected to the rest of the European railway network in the 1880s. [74] Modern facilities, such as a water supply network, electricity, telephones, and trams, were gradually introduced to Constantinople over the following decades, although later than to other European cities. [75] The modernization efforts were not enough to forestall the decline of the Ottoman Empire. [76]

Sultan Abdul Hamid II was deposed with the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and the Ottoman Parliament, closed since 14 February 1878, was reopened 30 years later on 23 July 1908, which marked the beginning of the Second Constitutional Era. [77] A series of wars in the early 20th century, such as the Italo-Turkish War (1911–1912) and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), plagued the ailing empire's capital and resulted in the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état, which brought the regime of the Three Pashas. [78]

The Ottoman Empire joined World War I (1914–1918) on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated. The deportation of Armenian intellectuals on 24 April 1915 was among the major events which marked the start of the Armenian genocide during WWI. [79] Due to Ottoman and Turkish policies of Turkification and ethnic cleansing, the city's Christian population declined from 450,000 to 240,000 between 1914 and 1927. [80] The Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918 and the Allies occupied Constantinople on 13 November 1918. The Ottoman Parliament was dissolved by the Allies on 11 April 1920 and the Ottoman delegation led by Damat Ferid Pasha was forced to sign the Treaty of Sèvres on 10 August 1920. [ citation needed ]

Following the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1922), the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara abolished the Sultanate on 1 November 1922, and the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, was declared persona non grata. Leaving aboard the British warship HMS Malaya on 17 November 1922, he went into exile and died in Sanremo, Italy, on 16 May 1926. The Treaty of Lausanne was signed on 24 July 1923, and the occupation of Constantinople ended with the departure of the last forces of the Allies from the city on 4 October 1923. [82] Turkish forces of the Ankara government, commanded by Şükrü Naili Pasha (3rd Corps), entered the city with a ceremony on 6 October 1923, which has been marked as the Liberation Day of Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul'un Kurtuluşu) and is commemorated every year on its anniversary. [82] On 29 October 1923 the Grand National Assembly of Turkey declared the establishment of the Turkish Republic, with Ankara as its capital. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the Republic's first President. [83] [84] According to historian Philip Mansel:

after the departure of the dynasty in 1925, from being the most international city in Europe, Constantinople became one of the most nationalistic. Unlike Vienna, Constantinople turned its back on the past. Even its name was changed. Constantinople was dropped because of its Ottoman and international associations. From 1926 the post office only accepted Istanbul it appeared more Turkish and was used by most Turks. [85] [ page needed ]

A 1942 wealth tax assessed mainly on non-Muslims led to the transfer or liquidation of many businesses owned by religious minorities. [86] From the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares, boulevards, and avenues were constructed throughout the city, sometimes at the expense of historical buildings. [87] The population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase in the 1970s, as people from Anatolia migrated to the city to find employment in the many new factories that were built on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis. This sudden, sharp rise in the city's population caused a large demand for housing, and many previously outlying villages and forests became engulfed into the metropolitan area of Istanbul. [88]

Istanbul is located in north-western Turkey and straddles the strait Bosporus, which provides the only passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Sea of Marmara. [15] Historically, the city has been ideally situated for trade and defense: The confluence of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn provide both ideal defense against enemy attack and a natural toll-gate. [15] Several picturesque islands—Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kınalıada, and five smaller islands—are part of the city. [15] Istanbul's shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Large sections of Caddebostan sit on areas of landfill, increasing the total area of the city to 5,343 square kilometers (2,063 sq mi). [15]

Despite the myth that seven hills make up the city, there are in fact more than 50 hills within the city limits. Istanbul's tallest hill, Aydos, is 537 meters (1,762 ft) high. [15]

The nearby North Anatolian Fault is responsible for much earthquake activity, although it doesn't physically pass through the city itself. [89] North Anatolian Fault caused the earthquakes in 1766 and 1894. [89] The threat of major earthquakes plays a large role in the city's infrastructure development, with over 500,000 [89] vulnerable buildings demolished and replaced since 2012. [90] The city has repeatedly upgraded its building codes, most recently in 2018, [90] requiring retrofits for older buildings and higher engineering standards for new construction.


Istanbul has a borderline Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa, Trewartha Cs), humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa, Trewartha Cf) and oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb, Trewartha Do) under both classifications. It experiences cool winters with frequent precipitation, and warm to hot (mean temperature peaking at 20 °C (68 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F) in August, depending on location), moderately dry summers. [91] Spring and fall are usually mild, with varying conditions dependent on wind direction. [92] [93]

Istanbul's weather is strongly influenced by the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Black Sea to the north. This moderates temperature swings and produces a mild temperate climate with low diurnal temperature variation. Consequently, Istanbul's temperatures almost always oscillate between −5 °C (23 °F) and 32 °C (90 °F), [94] and most of the city does not experience temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) for more than 14 days a year. [95] Another effect of Istanbul's maritime position is its persistently high dew points, near-saturation morning humidity, [96] and frequent fog, [97] [94] which also limits Istanbul's sunshine hours to levels closer to Western Europe. [98]

As Istanbul is only slightly rain shadowed from Mediterranean storms and is otherwise surrounded by water, it usually receives some amount of precipitation from both Western European and Mediterranean systems. This results in frequent precipitation during the winter months January averages 20 days of precipitation when counting trace accumulations, [99] 17 when using a 0.1 mm threshold, and 12 when using a 1.0 mm threshold. [100]

Because of its hilly topography and maritime influences, Istanbul exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates. [101] Within the city, rainfall varies widely owing to the rain shadow of the hills in Istanbul, from around 600 millimeters (24 in) on the southern fringe at Florya to 1,200 millimeters (47 in) on the northern fringe at Bahçeköy. [102] Furthermore, while the city itself lies in USDA hardiness zones 9a to 9b, its inland suburbs lie in zone 8b with isolated pockets of zone 8a, restricting the cultivation of cold-hardy subtropical plants to the coasts. [95] [103]

Despite the fact that it does not have the cold winters typical of such cities, Istanbul averages more than 60 centimeters (24 in) of snow a year, making it the snowiest major city in the Mediterranean basin. [94] [104] This is largely caused by lake-effect snow, which forms when cold air, upon contact with the Black Sea, develops into moist and unstable air that ascends to form snow squalls along the lee shores of the Black Sea. [105] These snow squalls are heavy snow bands and occasionally thundersnows, with accumulation rates approaching 5–8 centimeters (2.0–3.1 in) per hour. [106]

The highest recorded temperature at the official downtown observation station in Sarıyer was 41.5 °C (107 °F) and on 13 July 2000. [105] The lowest recorded temperature was −16.1 °C (3 °F) on 9 February 1929. [105] The highest recorded snow cover in the city center was 80 centimeters (31 in) on 4 January 1942, and 104 centimeters (41 in) in the northern suburbs on 11 January 2017. [107] [105] [108]

Climate data for Kireçburnu, Istanbul (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1929–2018, snowy days 1996-2011)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.4
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.8
Average low °C (°F) 3.5
Record low °C (°F) −13.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 99.5
Average snowfall cm (inches) 18.4
trace 0
trace 14.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 16.9 15.2 13.2 10.0 7.4 7.0 4.7 5.1 8.1 12.3 13.9 17.5 131.3
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 cm) 4.5 4.7 2.9 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 2.7 15.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 68.2 89.6 142.6 180.0 248.0 297.6 319.3 288.3 234.0 158.1 93.0 62.0 2,180.7
Mean daily sunshine hours 2.2 3.2 4.6 6.0 8.0 9.6 10.3 9.3 7.8 5.1 3.1 2.0 5.9
Mean daily daylight hours 10 11 12 13 14 15 15 14 12 11 10 9 12
Percent possible sunshine 22 29 38 46 57 64 69 66 65 46 31 22 46
Average ultraviolet index 2 2 4 5 7 8 9 8 6 4 2 1 5
Source: [105] [109] [110]
Climate data for Florya, Istanbul (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1950–2021, snowy days 1990-2005)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 19.7
Average high °C (°F) 8.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.0
Average low °C (°F) 3.4
Record low °C (°F) −12.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 77.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 17.0 16.8 15.1 10.3 7.7 5.9 3.4 5.1 8.4 11.7 12.1 16.3 129.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 cm) 2.7 3.5 0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.0 8.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 78.9 79.1 117.0 149.2 196.3 214.9 247.3 224.3 167.0 121.8 90.0 70.3 1,756.1
Mean daily sunshine hours 2.5 2.8 3.8 5.0 6.3 7.2 7.9 7.2 5.5 3.9 3.0 2.3 4.8
Percent possible sunshine 25 26 32 42 45 48 52 51 46 35 30 25 38
Source: [111] [112]
Climate data for Bahçeköy, Istanbul (normals and extremes 1981–2010, snowy days 1990-1999)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.3
Average high °C (°F) 7.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.6
Average low °C (°F) 1.3
Record low °C (°F) −16.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 163.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 15.8 14.2 12.9 10.1 8.3 6.9 5.8 5.9 7.4 12.6 15.4 19.8 135.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 cm) 4.6 5.2 1.7 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 4.0 16.2
Source: [113] [114]
Climate data for Istanbul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average sea temperature °C (°F) 8.4
Source: Weather Atlas [115]

Climate change

As with virtually every part of the world, climate change is causing more heatwaves, [116] droughts, [117] storms, [118] and flooding [119] [120] in Istanbul. Furthermore, as Istanbul is a large and rapidly expanding city, its urban heat island has been intensifying the effects of climate change. [94] Considering past data, [121] it is very likely that these two factors are responsible for urban Istanbul's shift, from a warm-summer climate to a hot-summer one in the Köppen climate classification, and from the cool temperate zone to the warm temperate/subtropical zone in the Trewartha climate classification. [122] [123] [124] If trends continue, sea level rise is likely to affect city infrastructure, for example Kadıkoy metro station is threatened with flooding. [125] Xeriscaping of green spaces has been suggested, [126] and Istanbul has a climate-change action plan. [127]

The Fatih district, which was named after Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (Turkish: Fatih Sultan Mehmed), corresponds to what was, until the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the whole of the city of Constantinople (today is the capital district and called the historic peninsula of Istanbul) on the southern shore of the Golden Horn, across the medieval Genoese citadel of Galata on the northern shore. The Genoese fortifications in Galata were largely demolished in the 19th century, leaving only the Galata Tower, to make way for the northward expansion of the city. [128] Galata (Karaköy) is today a quarter within the Beyoğlu (Pera) district, which forms Istanbul's commercial and entertainment center and includes İstiklal Avenue and Taksim Square. [129]

Dolmabahçe Palace, the seat of government during the late Ottoman period, is in the Beşiktaş district on the European shore of the Bosphorus strait, to the north of Beyoğlu. The Sublime Porte (Bâb-ı Âli), which became a metonym for the Ottoman government, was originally used to describe the Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyun) at the outermost courtyard of the Topkapı Palace but after the 18th century, the Sublime Porte (or simply Porte) began to refer to the gate of the Sadrazamlık (Prime Ministry) compound in the Cağaloğlu quarter near Topkapı Palace, where the offices of the Sadrazam (Grand Vizier) and other Viziers were, and where foreign diplomats were received. The former village of Ortaköy is within Beşiktaş and gives its name to the Ortaköy Mosque on the Bosphorus, near the Bosphorus Bridge. Lining both the European and Asian shores of the Bosphorus are the historic yalıs, luxurious chalet mansions built by Ottoman aristocrats and elites as summer homes. [130] Farther inland, outside the city's inner ring road, are Levent and Maslak, Istanbul's main business districts. [131]

During the Ottoman period, Üsküdar (then Scutari) and Kadıköy were outside the scope of the urban area, serving as tranquil outposts with seaside yalıs and gardens. But in the second half of the 20th century, the Asian side experienced major urban growth the late development of this part of the city led to better infrastructure and tidier urban planning when compared with most other residential areas in the city. [132] Much of the Asian side of the Bosphorus functions as a suburb of the economic and commercial centers in European Istanbul, accounting for a third of the city's population but only a quarter of its employment. [132] As a result of Istanbul's exponential growth in the 20th century, a significant portion of the city is composed of gecekondus (literally "built overnight"), referring to illegally constructed squatter buildings. [133] At present, some gecekondu areas are being gradually demolished and replaced by modern mass-housing compounds. [134] Moreover, large scale gentrification and urban renewal projects have been taking place, [135] such as the one in Tarlabaşı [136] some of these projects, like the one in Sulukule, have faced criticism. [137] The Turkish government also has ambitious plans for an expansion of the city west and northwards on the European side in conjunction with plans for a third airport the new parts of the city will include four different settlements with specified urban functions, housing 1.5 million people. [138]

Istanbul does not have a primary urban park, but it has several green areas. Gülhane Park and Yıldız Park were originally included within the grounds of two of Istanbul's palaces—Topkapı Palace and Yıldız Palace—but they were repurposed as public parks in the early decades of the Turkish Republic. [139] Another park, Fethi Paşa Korusu, is on a hillside adjacent to the Bosphorus Bridge in Anatolia, opposite Yıldız Palace in Europe. Along the European side, and close to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, is Emirgan Park, which was known as the Kyparades (Cypress Forest) during the Byzantine period. In the Ottoman period, it was first granted to Nişancı Feridun Ahmed Bey in the 16th century, before being granted by Sultan Murad IV to the Safavid Emir Gûne Han in the 17th century, hence the name Emirgan. The 47-hectare (120-acre) park was later owned by Khedive Ismail Pasha of Ottoman Egypt and Sudan in the 19th century. Emirgan Park is known for its diversity of plants and an annual tulip festival is held there since 2005. [140] The AKP government's decision to replace Taksim Gezi Park with a replica of the Ottoman era Taksim Military Barracks (which was transformed into the Taksim Stadium in 1921, before being demolished in 1940 for building Gezi Park) sparked a series of nationwide protests in 2013 covering a wide range of issues. Popular during the summer among Istanbulites is Belgrad Forest, spreading across 5,500 hectares (14,000 acres) at the northern edge of the city. The forest originally supplied water to the city and remnants of reservoirs used during Byzantine and Ottoman times survive. [141] [142]


Istanbul is primarily known for its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, and despite its development as a Turkish city since 1453, contains a vast array of ancient, Roman, Byzantine, Christian, Muslim and Jewish monuments.

The Neolithic settlement in the Yenikapı quarter on the European side, which dates back to c. 6500 BCE and predates the formation of the Bosporus strait by approximately a millennium (when the Sea of Marmara was still a lake) [144] was discovered during the construction of the Marmaray railway tunnel. [26] It is the oldest known human settlement on the European side of the city. [26] The oldest known human settlement on the Asian side is the Fikirtepe Mound near Kadıköy, with relics dating to c. 5500-3500 BCE (Chalcolithic period).

There are numerous ancient monuments in the city. [147] The most ancient is the Obelisk of Thutmose III (Obelisk of Theodosius). [147] Built of red granite, 31 m (100 ft) high, it came from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, and was erected there by Pharaoh Thutmose III (r. 1479–1425 BCE) to the south of the seventh pylon. [147] The Roman emperor Constantius II (r. 337–361 CE) had it and another obelisk transported along the River Nile to Alexandria for commemorating his ventennalia or 20 years on the throne in 357. The other obelisk was erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus in Rome in the autumn of that year, and is now known as the Lateran Obelisk. The obelisk that would become the Obelisk of Theodosius remained in Alexandria until 390 CE, when Theodosius I (r. 379–395 CE) had it transported to Constantinople and put up on the spina of the Hippodrome there. [148] When re-erected at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the obelisk was mounted on a decorative base, with reliefs that depict Theodosius I and his courtiers. [147] The lower part of the obelisk was damaged in antiquity, probably during its transport to Alexandria in 357 CE or during its re-erection at the Hippodrome of Constantinople in 390 CE. As a result, the current height of the obelisk is only 18.54 meters, or 25.6 meters if the base is included. Between the four corners of the obelisk and the pedestal are four bronze cubes, used in its transportation and re-erection. [149]

Next in age is the Serpent Column, from 479 BCE. [147] It was brought from Delphi in 324 CE, during the reign of Constantine the Great, and also erected at the spina of the Hippodrome. [147] It was originally part of an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod in Delphi that was erected to commemorate the Greeks who fought and defeated the Persian Empire at the Battle of Plataea (479 BCE). The three serpent heads of the 8-meter (26 ft) high column remained intact until the end of the 17th century (one is on display at the nearby Istanbul Archaeology Museums). [150]

Built in porphyry and erected at the center of the Forum of Constantine in 330 CE to mark the founding of the new Roman capital, the Column of Constantine was originally adorned with a sculpture of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great depicted as the solar god Apollo on its top, which fell in 1106 and was later replaced by a cross during the reign of Byzantine emperor Manuel Komnenos (r. 1143–1180). [17] [147]

There are traces of the Byzantine era throughout the city, from ancient churches that were built over early Christian meeting places like the Hagia Irene, the Chora Church, the Monastery of Stoudios, the Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos, the Monastery of the Pantocrator, the Monastery of Christ Pantepoptes, the Hagia Theodosia, the Church of Theotokos Kyriotissa, the Monastery of Constantine Lips, the Church of Myrelaion, the Hagios Theodoros, etc. to public places like the Hippodrome, the Augustaion, or the Basilica Cistern. The 4th century Harbor of Theodosius in Yenikapı, once the busiest port in Constantinople, was among the numerous archeological discoveries that took place during the excavations of the Marmaray tunnel. [26]

It is the Hagia Sophia, however, that fully conveys the period of Constantinople as a city without parallel in Christendom. The Hagia Sophia, topped by a dome 31 meters (102 ft) in diameter over a square space defined by four arches, is the pinnacle of the Byzantine architecture. [152] The Hagia Sophia stood as the world's largest cathedral in the world until it was converted into a mosque in the 15th century. [152] The minarets date from that period. [152]

Over the next four centuries, the Ottomans transformed Istanbul's urban landscape with a vast building scheme that included the construction of towering mosques and ornate palaces. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), another landmark of the city, faces the Hagia Sophia at Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome of Constantinople). The Süleymaniye Mosque, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, was designed by his chief architect Mimar Sinan, the most illustrious of all Ottoman architects, who designed many of the city's renowned mosques and other types of public buildings and monuments. [153]

Among the oldest surviving examples of Ottoman architecture in Istanbul are the Anadoluhisarı and Rumelihisarı fortresses, which assisted the Ottomans during their siege of the city. [154] Over the next four centuries, the Ottomans made an indelible impression on the skyline of Istanbul, building towering mosques and ornate palaces.

Topkapı Palace, dating back to 1465, is the oldest seat of government surviving in Istanbul. Mehmed the Conqueror built the original palace as his main residence and the seat of government. [155] The present palace grew over the centuries as a series of additions enfolding four courtyards and blending neoclassical, rococo, and baroque architectural forms. [156] In 1639, Murad IV made some of the most lavish additions, including the Baghdad Kiosk, to commemorate his conquest of Baghdad the previous year. [157] Government meetings took place here until 1786, when the seat of government was moved to the Sublime Porte. [155] After several hundred years of royal residence, it was abandoned in 1853 in favor of the baroque Dolmabahçe Palace. [156] Topkapı Palace became public property following the abolition of monarchy in 1922. [156] After extensive renovation, it became one of Turkey's first national museums in 1924. [155]

The imperial mosques include Fatih Mosque, Bayezid Mosque, Yavuz Selim Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque), and Yeni Mosque, all of which were built at the peak of the Ottoman Empire, in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the following centuries, and especially after the Tanzimat reforms, Ottoman architecture was supplanted by European styles. [158] An example of which is the imperial Nuruosmaniye Mosque. Areas around İstiklal Avenue were filled with grand European embassies and rows of buildings in Neoclassical, Renaissance Revival and Art Nouveau styles, which went on to influence the architecture of a variety of structures in Beyoğlu—including churches, stores, and theaters—and official buildings such as Dolmabahçe Palace. [159]

Since 2004, the municipal boundaries of Istanbul have been coincident with the boundaries of its province. [160] The city, considered capital of the larger Istanbul Province, is administered by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (MMI), which oversees the 39 districts of the city-province.

The current city structure can be traced back to the Tanzimat period of reform in the 19th century, before which Islamic judges and imams led the city under the auspices of the Grand Vizier. Following the model of French cities, this religious system was replaced by a mayor and a citywide council composed of representatives of the confessional groups (millet) across the city. Pera (now Beyoğlu) was the first area of the city to have its own director and council, with members instead being longtime residents of the neighborhood. [161] Laws enacted after the Ottoman constitution of 1876 aimed to expand this structure across the city, imitating the twenty arrondissements of Paris, but they were not fully implemented until 1908, when the city was declared a province with nine constituent districts. [162] [163] This system continued beyond the founding of the Turkish Republic, with the province renamed a belediye (municipality), but the municipality was disbanded in 1957. [164]

Small settlements adjacent to major population centers in Turkey, including Istanbul, were merged into their respective primary cities during the early 1980s, resulting in metropolitan municipalities. [165] [166] The main decision-making body of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is the Municipal Council, with members drawn from district councils.

The Municipal Council is responsible for citywide issues, including managing the budget, maintaining civic infrastructure, and overseeing museums and major cultural centers. [167] Since the government operates under a "powerful mayor, weak council" approach, the council's leader—the metropolitan mayor—has the authority to make swift decisions, often at the expense of transparency. [168] The Municipal Council is advised by the Metropolitan Executive Committee, although the committee also has limited power to make decisions of its own. [169] All representatives on the committee are appointed by the metropolitan mayor and the council, with the mayor—or someone of his or her choosing—serving as head. [169] [170]

District councils are chiefly responsible for waste management and construction projects within their respective districts. They each maintain their own budgets, although the metropolitan mayor reserves the right to review district decisions. One-fifth of all district council members, including the district mayors, also represent their districts in the Municipal Council. [167] All members of the district councils and the Municipal Council, including the metropolitan mayor, are elected to five-year terms. [171] Representing the Republican People's Party, Ekrem İmamoğlu has been the Mayor of Istanbul since 27 June 2019. [172]

With the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Istanbul Province having equivalent jurisdictions, few responsibilities remain for the provincial government. Similar to the MMI, the Istanbul Special Provincial Administration has a governor, a democratically elected decision-making body—the Provincial Parliament—and an appointed Executive Committee. Mirroring the executive committee at the municipal level, the Provincial Executive Committee includes a secretary-general and leaders of departments that advise the Provincial Parliament. [170] [173] The Provincial Administration's duties are largely limited to the building and maintenance of schools, residences, government buildings, and roads, and the promotion of arts, culture, and nature conservation. [174] Ali Yerlikaya has been the Governor of Istanbul Province since 26 October 2018. [175]

Throughout most of its history, Istanbul has ranked among the largest cities in the world. By 500 CE, Constantinople had somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people, edging out its predecessor, Rome, for the world's largest city. [178] Constantinople jostled with other major historical cities, such as Baghdad, Chang'an, Kaifeng and Merv for the position of the world's largest city until the 12th century. It never returned to being the world's largest, but remained the largest city in Europe from 1500 to 1750, when it was surpassed by London. [179]

The Turkish Statistical Institute estimates that the population of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality was 15,519,267 at the end of 2019, hosting 19 percent of the country's population. [180] 64.4% of the residents live on the European side and 35.6% on the Asian side. [180]

Istanbul ranks as the seventh-largest city proper in the world, and the second-largest urban agglomeration in Europe, after Moscow. [181] [182] The city's annual population growth of 1.5 percent ranks as one of the highest among the seventy-eight largest metropolises in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The high population growth mirrors an urbanization trend across the country, as the second and third fastest-growing OECD metropolises are the Turkish cities of Izmir and Ankara. [16]

Istanbul experienced especially rapid growth during the second half of the 20th century, with its population increasing tenfold between 1950 and 2000. [183] This growth was fueled by internal and international migration. Istanbul's foreign population with a residence permit increased dramatically, from 43,000 in 2007 [184] to 856,377 in 2019. [185] [186]

Religious and ethnic groups

Istanbul has been a cosmopolitan city throughout much of its history, but it has become more homogenized since the end of the Ottoman era. Arabs form the city's on of the largest ethnic minorities, with an estimated population of more than 2 million. [187] Following Turkey's support for the Arab Spring, Istanbul emerged as a hub for dissidents from across the Arab world, including former presidential candidates from Egypt, Kuwaiti MPs, and former ministers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia (including Jamal Khashoggi), Syria, and Yemen. [188] [189] [190] The number of refugees of the Syrian Civil War in Turkey residing in Istanbul is estimated to be around 1 million. [191]

With estimates ranging from 2 to 4 million, Kurds form the other largest ethnic minority in Istanbul. [192] [193] According to a 2006 KONDA study, Kurds constituted 14.8% of Istanbul's total population. [194] Although the Kurdish presence in the city dates back to the early Ottoman period, [195] the majority of Kurds in the city originate from villages in eastern and southeastern Turkey. [196]

Into the 19th century, the Christians of Istanbul tended to be either Greek Orthodox, members of the Armenian Apostolic Church or Catholic Levantines. [197] Greeks and Armenians form the largest Christian population in the city. While Istanbul's Greek population was exempted from the 1923 population exchange with Greece, changes in tax status and the 1955 anti-Greek pogrom prompted thousands to leave. [198] Following Greek migration to the city for work in the 2010s, the Greek population rose to nearly 3,000 in 2019, still greatly diminished since 1919, when it stood at 350,000. [198] There are today 123,363 Armenians in Istanbul, down from a peak of 164,000 in 1913. [199] As of 2019, an estimated 18,000 of the country's 25,000 Christian Assyrians live in Istanbul. [200]

The majority of the Catholic Levantines (Turkish: Levanten) in Istanbul and Izmir are the descendants of traders/colonists from the Italian maritime republics of the Mediterranean (especially Genoa and Venice) and France, who obtained special rights and privileges called the Capitulations from the Ottoman sultans in the 16th century. [202] The community had more than 15,000 members during Atatürk's presidency in the 1920s and 1930s, but today is reduced to only a few hundreds, according to Italo-Levantine writer Giovanni Scognamillo. [203] They continue to live in Istanbul (mostly in Karaköy, Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı), and Izmir (mostly in Karşıyaka, Bornova and Buca).

Istanbul became one of the world's most important Jewish centers in the 16th and 17th century. [204] Romaniote and Ashkenazi communities existed in Istanbul before the conquest of Istanbul, but it was the arrival of Sephardic Jews that ushered a period of cultural flourishing. Sephardic Jews settled in the city after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497. [204] Sympathetic to the plight of Sephardic Jews, Bayezid II sent out the Ottoman Navy under the command of admiral Kemal Reis to Spain in 1492 in order to evacuate them safely to Ottoman lands. [204] In marked contrast to Jews in Europe, Ottoman Jews were allowed to work in any profession. [205] Ottoman Jews in Istanbul excelled in commerce, and came to particularly dominate the medical profession. [205] By 1711, using the printing press, books came to be published in Spanish and Ladino, Yiddish, and Hebrew. [206] In large part due to emigration to Israel, the Jewish population in the city dropped from 100,000 in 1950 [207] to 25,000 in 2020.

Politically, Istanbul is seen as the most important administrative region in Turkey. Many politicians, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, are of the view that a political party's performance in Istanbul is more significant than its general performance overall. This is due to the city's role as Turkey's financial center, its large electorate and the fact that Erdoğan himself was elected Mayor of Istanbul in 1994. [ citation needed ] In the run-up to local elections in 2019, Erdoğan claimed 'if we fail in Istanbul, we will fail in Turkey'. [208]

The contest in Istanbul carried deep political, economic and symbolic significance for Erdoğan, whose election of mayor of Istanbul in 1994 had served as his launchpad. [209] For Ekrem İmamoğlu, winning the mayorship of Istanbul was a huge moral victory, but for Erdoğan it had practical ramifications: His party, AKP, lost control of the $4.8 billion municipal budget, which had sustained patronage at the point of delivery of many public services for 25 years. [210]

More recently, Istanbul and many of Turkey's metropolitan cities are following a trend away from the government and their right-wing ideology. In 2013 and 2014, large-scale anti-AKP government protests began in İstanbul and spread throughout the nation. This trend first became evident electorally in the 2014 mayoral election where the center-left opposition candidate won an impressive 40% of the vote, despite not winning. The first government defeat in Istanbul occurred in the 2017 constitutional referendum, where Istanbul voted 'No' by 51.4% to 48.6%. The AKP government had supported a 'Yes' vote and won the vote nationally due to high support in rural parts of the country. The biggest defeat for the government came in the 2019 local elections, where their candidate for Mayor, former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, was defeated by a very narrow margin by the opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu. İmamoğlu won the vote with 48.77% of the vote, against Yıldırım's 48.61%. Similar trends and electoral successes for the opposition were also replicated in Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Mersin, Adana and other metropolitan areas of Turkey. [ citation needed ]

Administratively, Istanbul is divided into 39 districts, more than any other province in Turkey. As a province, Istanbul sends 98 Members of Parliament to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which has a total of 600 seats. For the purpose of parliamentary elections, Istanbul is divided into three electoral districts two on the European side and one on the Asian side, electing 28, 35 and 35 MPs respectively. [ citation needed ]

Istanbul had the eleventh-largest economy among the world's urban areas in 2018, and is responsible for 30 percent of Turkey's industrial output, [213] 31 percent of GDP, [213] and 47 percent of tax revenues. [213] The city's gross domestic product adjusted by PPP stood at US$537.507 billion in 2018, [214] with manufacturing and services accounting for 36 percent and 60 percent of the economic output respectively. [213] Istanbul's productivity is 110 percent higher than the national average. [213] Trade is economically important, accounting for 30 percent of the economic output in the city. [15] In 2019, companies based in Istanbul produced exports worth $83.66 billion and received imports totaling $128.34 billion these figures were equivalent to 47 percent and 61 percent , respectively, of the national totals. [215]

Istanbul, which straddles the Bosporus strait, houses international ports that link Europe and Asia. The Bosporus, providing the only passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, is the world's busiest and narrowest strait used for international navigation, with more than 200 million tons of oil passing through it each year. [216] International conventions guarantee passage between the Black and the Mediterranean seas, [217] even when tankers carry oil, LNG/LPG, chemicals, and other flammable or explosive materials as cargo. In 2011, as a workaround solution, the then Prime Minister Erdoğan presented Canal Istanbul, a project to open a new strait between the Black and Marmara seas. [217] While the project was still on Turkey's agenda in 2020, there has not been a clear date set for it. [15]

Shipping is a significant part of the city's economy, with 73.9 percent of exports and 92.7 percent of imports in 2018 executed by sea. [15] Istanbul has three major shipping ports – the Port of Haydarpaşa, the Port of Ambarlı, and the Port of Zeytinburnu – as well as several smaller ports and oil terminals along the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara. [15] Haydarpaşa, at the southeastern end of the Bosporus, was Istanbul's largest port until the early 2000s. [218] Since then operations were shifted to Ambarlı, with plans to convert Haydarpaşa into a tourism complex. [15] In 2019, Ambarlı, on the western edge of the urban center, had an annual capacity of 3,104,882 TEUs, making it the third-largest cargo terminal in the Mediterranean basin. [218]

Istanbul has been an international banking hub since the 1980s, [15] and is home to the only stock exchange in Turkey. Borsa Istanbul was originally established as the Ottoman Stock Exchange in 1866. [219] In 1995, keeping up with the financial trends, Borsa Istanbul has moved its headquarters from Bankalar Caddesi – traditionally the financial center of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, [219] – to the district of Maslak, which hosts the headquarters of the majority of Turkish banks. [220] By 2022, [221] Borsa Istanbul is scheduled to move to a new planned district in Ataşehir, which will host the headquarters of Turkish banks, including the Central Bank that is currently headquartered in Ankara. [222] Whereas 2.4 million foreigners visited the city in 2000, [ citation needed ] there were 13.4 million foreign tourists in 2018, making Istanbul the world's fifth most-visited city. [14] Istanbul is, after Antalya, Turkey's second-largest international gateway, receiving a quarter of the nation's foreign tourists. Istanbul has more than fifty museums, with Topkapı Palace, the most visited museum in the city, bringing in more than $30 million in revenue each year. [15]

Istanbul was historically known as a cultural hub, but its cultural scene stagnated after the Turkish Republic shifted its focus toward Ankara. [223] The new national government established programs that served to orient Turks toward musical traditions, especially those originating in Europe, but musical institutions and visits by foreign classical artists were primarily centered in the new capital. [224]

Much of Turkey's cultural scene had its roots in Istanbul, and by the 1980s and 1990s Istanbul reemerged globally as a city whose cultural significance is not solely based on its past glory. [225]

By the end of the 19th century, Istanbul had established itself as a regional artistic center, with Turkish, European, and Middle Eastern artists flocking to the city. Despite efforts to make Ankara Turkey's cultural heart, Istanbul had the country's primary institution of art until the 1970s. [226] When additional universities and art journals were founded in Istanbul during the 1980s, artists formerly based in Ankara moved in. [227]

Beyoğlu has been transformed into the artistic center of the city, with young artists and older Turkish artists formerly residing abroad finding footing there. Modern art museums, including İstanbul Modern, the Pera Museum, Sakıp Sabancı Museum and SantralIstanbul, opened in the 2000s to complement the exhibition spaces and auction houses that have already contributed to the cosmopolitan nature of the city. [229] These museums have yet to attain the popularity of older museums on the historic peninsula, including the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, which ushered in the era of modern museums in Turkey, and the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. [228]

The first film screening in Turkey was at Yıldız Palace in 1896, a year after the technology publicly debuted in Paris. [230] Movie theaters rapidly cropped up in Beyoğlu, with the greatest concentration of theaters being along the street now known as İstiklal Avenue. [231] Istanbul also became the heart of Turkey's nascent film industry, although Turkish films were not consistently developed until the 1950s. [232] Since then, Istanbul has been the most popular location to film Turkish dramas and comedies. [233] The Turkish film industry ramped up in the second half of the century, and with Uzak (2002) and My Father and My Son (2005), both filmed in Istanbul, the nation's movies began to see substantial international success. [234] Istanbul and its picturesque skyline have also served as a backdrop for several foreign films, including From Russia with Love (1963), Topkapi (1964), The World Is Not Enough (1999), and Mission Istaanbul (2008). [235]

Coinciding with this cultural reemergence was the establishment of the Istanbul Festival, which began showcasing a variety of art from Turkey and around the world in 1973. From this flagship festival came the International Istanbul Film Festival and the Istanbul International Jazz Festival in the early 1980s. With its focus now solely on music and dance, the Istanbul Festival has been known as the Istanbul International Music Festival since 1994. [236] The most prominent of the festivals that evolved from the original Istanbul Festival is the Istanbul Biennial, held every two years since 1987. Its early incarnations were aimed at showcasing Turkish visual art, and it has since opened to international artists and risen in prestige to join the elite biennales, alongside the Venice Biennale and the São Paulo Art Biennial. [237]

Leisure and entertainment

Istanbul has numerous shopping centers, from the historic to the modern. The Grand Bazaar, in operation since 1461, is among the world's oldest and largest covered markets. [238] [239] Mahmutpasha Bazaar is an open-air market extending between the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar, which has been Istanbul's major spice market since 1660. Galleria Ataköy ushered in the age of modern shopping malls in Turkey when it opened in 1987. [240] Since then, malls have become major shopping centers outside the historic peninsula. Akmerkez was awarded the titles of "Europe's best" and "World's best" shopping mall by the International Council of Shopping Centers in 1995 and 1996 Istanbul Cevahir has been one of the continent's largest since opening in 2005 Kanyon won the Cityscape Architectural Review Award in the Commercial Built category in 2006. [239] İstinye Park in İstinye and Zorlu Center near Levent are among the newest malls which include the stores of the world's top fashion brands. Abdi İpekçi Street in Nişantaşı and Bağdat Avenue on the Anatolian side of the city have evolved into high-end shopping districts. [241] [242]

Istanbul is known for its historic seafood restaurants. Many of the city's most popular and upscale seafood restaurants line the shores of the Bosphorus (particularly in neighborhoods like Ortaköy, Bebek, Arnavutköy, Yeniköy, Beylerbeyi and Çengelköy). Kumkapı along the Sea of Marmara has a pedestrian zone that hosts around fifty fish restaurants. [243] The Princes' Islands, 15 kilometers (9 mi) from the city center, are also popular for their seafood restaurants. Because of their restaurants, historic summer mansions, and tranquil, car-free streets, the Prince Islands are a popular vacation destination among Istanbulites and foreign tourists. [244] Istanbul is also famous for its sophisticated and elaborately-cooked dishes of the Ottoman cuisine. Following the influx of immigrants from southeastern and eastern Turkey, which began in the 1960s, the foodscape of the city has drastically changed by the end of the century with influences of Middle Eastern cuisine such as kebab taking an important place in the food scene. Restaurants featuring foreign cuisines are mainly concentrated in the Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Şişli, and Kadıköy districts.

Istanbul has active nightlife and historic taverns, a signature characteristic of the city for centuries if not millennia. Along İstiklal Avenue is the Çiçek Pasajı, now home to winehouses (known as meyhanes), pubs, and restaurants. [245] İstiklal Avenue, originally known for its taverns, has shifted toward shopping, but the nearby Nevizade Street is still lined with winehouses and pubs. [246] [247] Some other neighborhoods around İstiklal Avenue have been revamped to cater to Beyoğlu's nightlife, with formerly commercial streets now lined with pubs, cafes, and restaurants playing live music. [248] Other focal points for Istanbul's nightlife include Nişantaşı, Ortaköy, Bebek, and Kadıköy. [249]

Istanbul is home to some of Turkey's oldest sports clubs. Beşiktaş JK, established in 1903, is considered the oldest of these sports clubs. Due to its initial status as Turkey's only club, Beşiktaş occasionally represented the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic in international sports competitions, earning the right to place the Turkish flag inside its team logo. [250] Galatasaray SK and Fenerbahçe SK have fared better in international competitions and have won more Süper Lig titles, at 22 and 19 times, respectively. [251] [252] [253] Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe have a long-standing rivalry, with Galatasaray based in the European part and Fenerbahçe based in the Anatolian part of the city. [252] Istanbul has seven basketball teams—Anadolu Efes, Beşiktaş, Darüşşafaka, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor and Büyükçekmece—that play in the premier-level Turkish Basketball Super League. [254]

Many of Istanbul's sports facilities have been built or upgraded since 2000 to bolster the city's bids for the Summer Olympic Games. Atatürk Olympic Stadium, the largest multi-purpose stadium in Turkey, was completed in 2002 as an IAAF first-class venue for track and field. [255] The stadium hosted the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final, and was selected by the UEFA to host the CL Final games of 2020 and 2021, which were relocated to Lisbon (2020) and Porto (2021) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [256] Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, Fenerbahçe's home field, hosted the 2009 UEFA Cup Final three years after its completion. Türk Telekom Arena opened in 2011 to replace Ali Sami Yen Stadium as Galatasaray's home turf, [257] [258] while Vodafone Park, opened in 2016 to replace BJK İnönü Stadium as the home turf of Beşiktaş, hosted the 2019 UEFA Super Cup game. All four stadiums are elite Category 4 (formerly five-star) UEFA stadiums. [f]

The Sinan Erdem Dome, among the largest indoor arenas in Europe, hosted the final of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships, as well as the 2011–12 Euroleague and 2016–17 EuroLeague Final Fours. [262] Prior to the completion of the Sinan Erdem Dome in 2010, Abdi İpekçi Arena was Istanbul's primary indoor arena, having hosted the finals of EuroBasket 2001. [263] Several other indoor arenas, including the Beşiktaş Akatlar Arena, have also been inaugurated since 2000, serving as the home courts of Istanbul's sports clubs. The most recent of these is the 13,800-seat Ülker Sports Arena, which opened in 2012 as the home court of Fenerbahçe's basketball teams. [264] Despite the construction boom, five bids for the Summer Olympics—in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2020—and national bids for UEFA Euro 2012 and UEFA Euro 2016 have ended unsuccessfully. [265]

The TVF Burhan Felek Sport Hall is one of the major volleyball arenas in the city and hosts clubs such as Eczacıbaşı VitrA, Vakıfbank SK, and Fenerbahçe who have won numerous European and World Championship titles. [ citation needed ]

Between the 2005–2011 seasons, [266] and in the 2020 season, [267] Istanbul Park racing circuit hosted the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix. The 2021 F1 Turkish Grand Prix has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [268] Istanbul Park was also a venue of the World Touring Car Championship and the European Le Mans Series in 2005 and 2006, but the track has not seen either of these competitions since then. [269] [270] It also hosted the Turkish Motorcycle Grand Prix between 2005 and 2007. Istanbul was occasionally a venue of the F1 Powerboat World Championship, with the last race on the Bosphorus strait on 12–13 August 2000. [271] [ unreliable source? ] The last race of the Powerboat P1 World Championship on the Bosphorus took place on 19–21 June 2009. [272] Istanbul Sailing Club, established in 1952, hosts races and other sailing events on the waterways in and around Istanbul each year. [273] [274]

Most state-run radio and television stations are based in Ankara, but Istanbul is the primary hub of Turkish media. The industry has its roots in the former Ottoman capital, where the first Turkish newspaper, Takvim-i Vekayi (Calendar of Affairs), was published in 1831. The Cağaloğlu street on which the newspaper was printed, Bâb-ı Âli Street, rapidly became the center of Turkish print media, alongside Beyoğlu across the Golden Horn. [275]

Istanbul now has a wide variety of periodicals. Most nationwide newspapers are based in Istanbul, with simultaneous Ankara and İzmir editions. [276] Hürriyet, Sabah, Posta and Sözcü, the country's top four papers, are all headquartered in Istanbul, boasting more than 275,000 weekly sales each. [277] Hürriyet's English-language edition, Hürriyet Daily News, has been printed since 1961, but the English-language Daily Sabah, first published by Sabah in 2014, has overtaken it in circulation. Several smaller newspapers, including popular publications like Cumhuriyet, Milliyet and Habertürk are also based in Istanbul. [276] Istanbul also has long-running Armenian language newspapers, notably the dailies Marmara and Jamanak and the bilingual weekly Agos in Armenian and Turkish. [ citation needed ]

Radio broadcasts in Istanbul date back to 1927, when Turkey's first radio transmission came from atop the Central Post Office in Eminönü. Control of this transmission, and other radio stations established in the following decades, ultimately came under the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), which held a monopoly on radio and television broadcasts between its founding in 1964 and 1990. [278] Today, TRT runs four national radio stations these stations have transmitters across the country so each can reach over 90 percent of the country's population, but only Radio 2 is based in Istanbul. Offering a range of content from educational programming to coverage of sporting events, Radio 2 is the most popular radio station in Turkey. [278] Istanbul's airwaves are the busiest in Turkey, primarily featuring either Turkish-language or English-language content. One of the exceptions, offering both, is Açık Radyo (94.9 FM). Among Turkey's first private stations, and the first featuring foreign popular music, was Istanbul's Metro FM (97.2 FM). The state-run Radio 3 , although based in Ankara, also features English-language popular music, and English-language news programming is provided on NTV Radyo (102.8 FM). [279]

TRT-Children is the only TRT television station based in Istanbul. [280] Istanbul is home to the headquarters of several Turkish stations and regional headquarters of international media outlets. Istanbul-based Star TV was the first private television network to be established following the end of the TRT monopoly Star TV and Show TV (also based in Istanbul) remain highly popular throughout the country, airing Turkish and American series. [281] Kanal D and ATV are other stations in Istanbul that offer a mix of news and series NTV (partnered with U.S. media outlet MSNBC) and Sky Turk—both based in the city—are mainly just known for their news coverage in Turkish. The BBC has a regional office in Istanbul, assisting its Turkish-language news operations, and the American news channel CNN established the Turkish-language CNN Türk there in 1999. [282]

In 2015, more than 57,000 students attended 7,934 schools, [283] including the renowned Galatasaray High School, Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, and Istanbul Lisesi. Galatasaray High School was established in 1481 and is the oldest public high school in Turkey. [283]

Some of the most renowned and highly ranked universities in Turkey are in Istanbul. Istanbul University, the nation's oldest institute of higher education, dates back to 1453 and its dental, law, medical schools were founded in the nineteenth century.

Istanbul has more than 93 colleges and universities, [283] with 400,000 students [284] enrolled in 2016. The city's largest private universities include Sabancı University, with its main campus in Tuzla, Koç University in Sarıyer, Özyeğin Üniversitesi near Altunizade. Istanbul's first private university, Koç University, was founded as late as 1992, because private universities were officially outlawed in Turkey before the 1982 amendment to the constitution. [283]

Four public universities with a major presence in the city, Boğaziçi University, Galatasaray University, Istanbul Technical University (the world's third-oldest university dedicated entirely to engineering), Istanbul University provide education in English (all but Galatasaray University) and French. [283] [ clarification needed ]

Istanbul is also home to several conservatories and art schools, including Mimar Sinan Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1882. [285]

Istanbul's first water supply systems date back to the city's early history, when aqueducts (such as the Valens Aqueduct) deposited the water in the city's numerous cisterns. [286] At the behest of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Kırkçeşme water supply network was constructed by 1563, the network provided 4,200 cubic meters (150,000 cu ft) of water to 158 sites each day. [286] In later years, in response to increasing public demand, water from various springs was channeled to public fountains, like the Fountain of Ahmed III, by means of supply lines. [287] Today, Istanbul has a chlorinated and filtered water supply and a sewage treatment system managed by the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (İstanbul Su ve Kanalizasyon İdaresi, İSKİ). [288]

The Silahtarağa Power Station, a coal-fired power plant along the Golden Horn, was the sole source of Istanbul's electricity between 1914, when its first engine room was completed, and 1952. [289] Following the founding of the Turkish Republic, the plant underwent renovations to accommodate the city's increasing demand its capacity grew from 23 megawatts in 1923 to a peak of 120 megawatts in 1956. [289] [290] Capacity declined until the power station reached the end of its economic life and shut down in 1983. [289] The state-run Turkish Electrical Authority (TEK) briefly—between its founding in 1970 and 1984—held a monopoly on the generation and distribution of electricity, but now the authority—since split between the Turkish Electricity Generation Transmission Company (TEAŞ) and the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company (TEDAŞ)—competes with private electric utilities. [290]

The Ottoman Ministry of Post and Telegraph was established in 1840 and the first post office, the Imperial Post Office, opened near the courtyard of Yeni Mosque. By 1876, the first international mailing network between Istanbul and the lands beyond the Ottoman Empire had been established. [291] Sultan Abdülmecid I issued Samuel Morse his first official honor for the telegraph in 1847, and construction of the first telegraph line—between Istanbul and Edirne—finished in time to announce the end of the Crimean War in 1856. [292]

A nascent telephone system began to emerge in Istanbul in 1881 and after the first manual telephone exchange became operational in Istanbul in 1909, the Ministry of Post and Telegraph became the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone. [291] [294] GSM cellular networks arrived in Turkey in 1994, with Istanbul among the first cities to receive the service. [295] Today, mobile and landline service is provided by private companies, after Türk Telekom, which split from the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone in 1995, was privatized in 2005. [291] [295] Postal services remain under the purview of what is now the Post and Telegraph Organization (retaining the acronym PTT). [291]

In 2000, Istanbul had 137 hospitals , of which 100 were private. [296] [ needs update ] Turkish citizens are entitled to subsidized healthcare in the nation's state-run hospitals. [276] As public hospitals tend to be overcrowded or otherwise slow, private hospitals are preferable for those who can afford them. Their prevalence has increased significantly over the last decade, as the percentage of outpatients using private hospitals increased from 6 percent to 23 percent between 2005 and 2009. [276] [297] Many of these private hospitals, as well as some of the public hospitals, are equipped with high-tech equipment, including MRI machines, or associated with medical research centers. [298] Turkey has more hospitals accredited by the U.S.-based Joint Commission than any other country in the world, with most concentrated in its big cities. The high quality of healthcare, especially in private hospitals, has contributed to a recent upsurge in medical tourism to Turkey (with a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2008). [299] Laser eye surgery is particularly common among medical tourists, as Turkey is known for specializing in the procedure. [300]

Istanbul's motorways network are the O-1, O-2, O-3, O-4 and O-7. The total length of Istanbul Province's toll motorways network (otoyollar) is 543 km (2021) and the state highways network (devlet yollari) is 353 km (2021), totaling 896 km of expressway roads (minimum 2x2 lanes), excluding secondary roads and urban streets. [301] [302] [303] The density of expressway network is 16.8 km/100 km 2 . The O-1 forms the city's inner ring road, traversing the 15 July Martyrs (First Bosphorus) Bridge, and the O-2 is the city's outer ring road, crossing the Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Second Bosphorus) Bridge. The O-2 continues west to Edirne and the O-4 continues east to Ankara. The O-2, O-3, and O-4 are part of European route E80 (the Trans-European Motorway) between Portugal and the Iran–Turkey border. [304] In 2011, the first and second bridges on the Bosphorus carried 400,000 vehicles each day. [305] The O-7 [306] or Kuzey Marmara Otoyolu, is a motorway that bypass Istanbul to the north. The O-7 motorway from Kinali Gişeleri to Istanbul Park Service has 139.2 km, with 8 lanes (4x4), and from Odayeri-K10 to Istanbul Atatürk Airport has 30.4 km. [303] The completed section of highway crosses the Bosphorus Strait via the Yavuz Sultan Selim (Third Bosphorus) Bridge, entered service on 26 August 2016. [307] The O-7 motorway connects Istanbul Atatürk Airport with Istanbul Airport. Environmentalist groups worry that the third bridge will endanger the remaining green areas to the north of Istanbul. [308] [309] Apart from the three Bosphorus Bridges, the dual-deck, 14.6-kilometer (9.1 mi) Eurasia Tunnel (which entered service on 20 December 2016) under the Bosphorus strait also provides road crossings for motor vehicles between the Asian and European sides of Turkey. [310]

Istanbul's local public transportation system is a network of commuter trains, trams, funiculars, metro lines, buses, bus rapid transit, and ferries. Fares across modes are integrated, using the contactless Istanbulkart, introduced in 2009, or the older Akbil electronic ticket device. [311] Trams in Istanbul date back to 1872, when they were horse-drawn, but even the first electrified trams were decommissioned in the 1960s. [312] Operated by Istanbul Electricity, Tramway, and Tunnel General Management (İETT), trams slowly returned to the city in the 1990s with the introduction of a nostalgic route and a faster modern tram line, which now carries 265,000 passengers each day. [312] [313] The Tünel opened in 1875 as the world's second-oldest subterranean rail line (after London's Metropolitan Railway). [312] It still carries passengers between Karaköy and İstiklal Avenue along a steep 573-meter (1,880 ft) track a more modern funicular between Taksim Square and Kabataş began running in 2006. [314] [315]

The Istanbul Metro comprises five lines (the M1, M2, M3, M6, M7 and M9 on the European side, and the M4 and M5 on the Asian side) with several other lines M8, M12 and M11) and extensions under construction. [316] [317] The two sides of Istanbul's metro are connected under the Bosphorus by the Marmaray Tunnel, inaugurated in 2013 as the first rail connection between Thrace and Anatolia, having 13.5 km length. [318] The Marmaray tunnel together with the suburban railways lines along the Sea of Marmara, is part of intercontinental commuter rail line in Istanbul, from Halkalı on the European side to Gebze on the Asian side. Marmaray rail line has 76.6 km, and the full line opened on 12 March 2019. [319] Until then, buses provide transportation within and between the two-halves of the city, accommodating 2.2 million passenger trips each day. [320] The Metrobus, a form of bus rapid transit, crosses the Bosphorus Bridge, with dedicated lanes leading to its termini. [321]

İDO (Istanbul Seabuses) runs a combination of all-passenger ferries and car-and-passenger ferries to ports on both sides of the Bosphorus, as far north as the Black Sea. [322] [323] With additional destinations around the Sea of Marmara, İDO runs the largest municipal ferry operation in the world. [324] The city's main cruise ship terminal is the Port of Istanbul in Karaköy, with a capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour. [325] Most visitors enter Istanbul by air, but about half a million foreign tourists enter the city by sea each year. [326] [ non-primary source needed ]

International rail service from Istanbul launched in 1889, with a line between Bucharest and Istanbul's Sirkeci Terminal, which ultimately became famous as the eastern terminus of the Orient Express from Paris. [74] Regular service to Bucharest and Thessaloniki continued until the early 2010s, when the former was interrupted for Marmaray construction but started running again in 2019 and the latter was halted due to economic problems in Greece. [328] [329] After Istanbul's Haydarpaşa Terminal opened in 1908, it served as the western terminus of the Baghdad Railway and an extension of the Hejaz Railway today, neither service is offered directly from Istanbul. [330] [331] [332] Service to Ankara and other points across Turkey is normally offered by Turkish State Railways, but the construction of Marmaray and the Ankara-Istanbul high-speed line forced the station to close in 2012. [333] New stations to replace both the Haydarpaşa and Sirkeci terminals, and connect the city's disjointed railway networks, are expected to open upon completion of the Marmaray project until then, Istanbul is without intercity rail service. [333] Private bus companies operate instead. Istanbul's main bus station is the largest in Europe, with a daily capacity of 15,000 buses and 600,000 passengers , serving destinations as distant as Frankfurt. [334] [335]

Istanbul had three large international airports, two of which are currently in active service for commercial passenger flights. The largest is the new Istanbul Airport, opened in 2018 in the Arnavutköy district to the northwest of the city center, on the European side, near the Black Sea coast.

All scheduled commercial passenger flights were transferred from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport on 6 April 2019, following the closure of Istanbul Atatürk Airport for scheduled passenger flights. [336] The IATA airport code IST was also transferred to the new airport. [337] Once all phases are completed in 2025, the airport will have six sets of runways (eight in total), 16 taxiways, and will be able to accommodate 200 million passengers a year. [338] [339] The transfer from the airport to the city is via the O-7, and it will eventually be linked by two lines of the Istanbul Metro.

Sabiha Gökçen International, 45 kilometers (28 mi) southeast of the city center, on the Asian side, was opened in 2001 to relieve Atatürk. Dominated by low-cost carriers, Istanbul's second airport has rapidly become popular, especially since the opening of a new international terminal in 2009 [340] the airport handled 14.7 million passengers in 2012, a year after Airports Council International named it the world's fastest-growing airport. [341] [342] Atatürk had also experienced rapid growth, as its 20.6 percent rise in passenger traffic between 2011 and 2012 was the highest among the world's top 30 airports. [343]

Istanbul Atatürk Airport, located 24 kilometers (15 mi) west of the city center, on the European side, near the Marmara Sea coast, was formerly the city's largest airport. After its closure to commercial flights in 2019, it was briefly used by cargo aircraft and the official state aircraft owned by the Turkish government, until the demolition of its runway began in 2020. It handled 61.3 million passengers in 2015, which made it the third-busiest airport in Europe and the eighteenth-busiest in the world in that year. [343]

Air pollution from traffic

Air pollution in Turkey is acute in İstanbul with cars, buses and taxis causing frequent urban smog, [344] as it is one of the few European cities without a low-emission zone. As of 2019 [update] the city's mean air quality remains of a level so as to affect the heart and lungs of healthy street bystanders during peak traffic hours, [345] and almost 200 days of pollution were measured by the air pollution sensors at Sultangazi, Mecidiyeköy, Alibeyköy and Kağıthane. [346]

UNESCO statement on Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Paris, Friday 10 July – The Director-General of UNESCO deeply regrets the decision of the Turkish authorities, made without prior discussion, to change the status of Hagia Sophia. This evening, she shared her serious concerns with the Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO.

Hagia Sophia is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a property inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

This decision announced today raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories. UNESCO must be given prior notice of any such modifications, which, if necessary, are then examined by the World Heritage Committee.

UNESCO also recalls that the effective, inclusive and equitable participation of communities and other stakeholders concerned by the property is necessary to preserve this heritage and highlight its uniqueness and significance. The purpose of this requirement is to protect and transmit the Outstanding Universal Value of heritage, and it is inherent to the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

These concerns were shared with the Republic of Turkey in several letters, and again yesterday evening with the representative of the Turkish Delegation to UNESCO. It is regrettable that the Turkish decision was made without any form of dialogue or prior notice. UNESCO calls upon the Turkish authorities to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session.

“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

In the present day, Istanbul is considered one of the most important cities in the world. It is linked with the religious, political and artistic industry for over 2,000 years. There are several architectural and cultural masterpieces located within the city of Istanbul, particularly its historic center. These sites include Hagia Sophia (built in the 6th century), Suleymaniye Mosque and the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine. Due to the rise in population and industrial population, the preservation of these sites is now under serious threat. Hence, listing the historic center as a World Heritage Site is one step towards helping in its preservation.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites were created in 1978 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They began designating important sites around the globe as part of an effort to preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The current list of World Heritage Sites includes 1,092 properties as of 2019.

Since 2007 I have visited 350 World Heritage Sites and have documented each and every visit. For each world heritage site I visit, I try to make a purposeful and meaningful visit. I attempt to take at least one representative photo of every site.

The sites listed here are in the order that I visited them. In the case where a site I visited becomes a world heritage site after the fact, its place on the list is determined by when it was made a world heritage site, not when I visited. This is so I don’t have to constantly renumber everything, every year.

Every year the world heritage convention meets to vote on new sites. There are approximately 20 new World Heritage Sites created every year, which means I have to visit that many just to keep pace with the creation of new sites.

Contrary to some internet rumors, sites are not owned or controlled by the United Nations or UNESCO. National Parks and other historic sites are not owned by UNESCO or the UN. They are usually owned by the local government and a few are in private hands. Member states have to apply to have a site listed and no site can be listed without the approval of the host country. The only power which UNESCO has is to have a site delisted as a World Heritage Site, which has happened so far twice in its history.

Istanbul Area Guide

The Istanbul area of Turkey is one of the world&rsquos greatest destinations. The combination of its old area with its ancient history is in striking contrast to new vibrant business districts. The wonderful climate has made Istanbul a year-round destination and visitors can enjoy historic sites as well as the vibrant nightlife and designer shopping of Turkey&rsquos largest city.

Autumn and winter months are perfect seasons to enjoy many historic buildings and stunning architecture. Some iconic landmarks include the Hagia Sophia, a former church, and later a mosque. This is now a museum and a great architectural beauty.

The Blue Mosque is one of only a few in the world with six minarets and is still a place of prayer. A short ferry ride away is where you can explore peaceful Uskudar district and the legend-laden Maiden Tower set on an islet. No matter where you go, there is always something to see and do.

Guide to the Istanbul Area of Turkey

How Many Districts Are There in Istanbul?

39 official districts spread across the European and Asian sides break down into over 900 neighbourhoods. Around 10 years ago, the population of just over 15 million people, started expanding into outskirt districts, and the city is also promoting itself as a major hub of finance, business, education, tourism and economy, so this figure looks set to grow over the next ten years.

Getting There

Istanbul has two airports. The new airport that when complete in 2023, will be the world&rsquos biggest air travel hub and serve over 150 million people every year, replaced European Ataturk Airport that closed in 2019. The second, Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side about 30 kilometres south east of Kadikoy&rsquos ferry dock is also a major travel hub.

Otherwise, if arriving by sea, do so at an official entry port, while for car drivers, massive infrastructure work by the Turkish government has improved road access in and out of the city including a new highway running to Izmir, that cuts journey times down by half.

Shopping in Istanbul

From designer stores to bustling markets, Istanbul is a shopping paradise. Must visit markets include the Spice Bazaar, a bustling gastronomic utopia where you can pick up dried fruits, nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, and oils. With over 3,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world&rsquos largest covered markets and a place where you can have fun grabbing a bargain.

Each district still holds traditional weekly markets, which are a great place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, but the city is a shopping mall Mecca. Famous outlets include Mall of Istanbul, Forum and Istinye Shopping Park Centre that are shopping, dining and entertainment centres under one roof.

Otherwise, wander down Istiklal Avenue, Turkey&rsquos busiest street hosting Turkish and international brand names. Back streets also hold many delights including Cukurcuma neighbourhood with its many antique shops bursting with little surprises.

Eating out and Nightlife

Istanbul has everything you want in terms of food. From sophisticated fusion restaurants to traditional food stalls serving street foods, there&rsquos something for every taste and budget. Notable restaurants include Leb-i derya in Tunel or a more traditional option at Ciya in Kadikoy.

For parties, there&rsquos no better way to enjoy night-time than at one of many rooftop bars. The 5 Kat restaurant offers Bosphorus views or take the elevator up to 360 Istanbul for cocktails to marvel at the city&rsquos skyline.

Transport and Getting Around Different Areas

Istanbul is a busy city but initiatives to help ease congestion are making a big impact. This includes the Marmaray Tunnel Link, which is part of a billion-dollar infrastructure programme. It opened in 2014 and links Asia to Europe under the Bosphorus waters.

With a new railway, underground and metro linking the centre and Asia to new regeneration areas such as Bahcesehir, Beylikduzu and Halkali in less than 30 minutes, there are lots of demand for property. Add to these three Bosporus bridges linking both continents and the city is enjoying plenty of investment.

Exploring European Istanbul

Out of both continents, the European area garners more fame and attraction than the Asian side. This is because it's home to the Sultanahmet and Beyoglu districts named new and old parts.The Golden horn separates both, while the Bosphorus straits separates them from the Asian Side.

Sultanahmet, Turkey&rsquos top touristic destination welcomes millions of visitors every year, who are eager to see landmark buildings built by the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Beyoglu, home to Taksim Independence square and Istiklal avenue also offers a few tourist attractions alongside its vibrant shopping and nightlife scenes.

Other prominent districts for tourism include Besiktas and Ortakoy. Meanwhile up and coming districts for real estate include Bakirkoy, Beylikduzu, Bahcesehir, Esenyurt, Kucukcekmece, Buyukcekmece, and Sariyer, an upmarket destination with many millionaire homes.

The Asian Area of Istanbul

Both Turks and international tourists have ignored Asian Istanbul for many decades, yet as the internet advanced and travellers got more curious, its profile rose. Thanks to excellent transport links, it&rsquos also a good place to live and commute to the European area.

Also called the Anatolian area, some neighbourhoods like Kandilli, Beylerbi, Bostanci, Pendik, and Beykoz are rising in popularity but, it is Uskudar and Kadikoy that capture the most attention. Uskudar&rsquos excellent ferry network links with the other side make it the main travel hub, while Kadikoy, is where leisure, nightlife, and shopping shine through.

The 14-kilometre Bagdat Avenue is the Asian area&rsquos main street and some travel writers have even compared it to Rodeo Drive in the USA. Home to millionaire homes and upmarket brand boutiques, this is an area with self-indulgence at the forefront of society.

Things to Do in Istanbul

Tourists in Istanbul have many things to do. As well as exploring the popular Sultanahmet and Beyoglu district, going further afield throws out many opportunities for fun. Balat and Fener are two neighbourhoods for local, cultural exploration. Steeped in Armenian, Jewish and Greek history, it gives you a chance to see how the locals live.

Favourite places to shop for souvenirs and get an introduction into time-honoured shopping practises include the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian spice market.

To marvel at historical mosques, after being amazed at Sultanahmet, find the UNESCO Suleymaniye Mosque. The Eyup district that was the first Ottoman settlement outside Constantinople&rsquos old city walls is also home to a stunning 15 th -century mosque of the same name. While you there, take the cable car up to Pierre Loti Hill, for a marvellous view over the golden horn. It is one of the best landscape views of the city.

For a themed visit in search of Istanbul&rsquos most prominent mosques, follow the seven hills. The city was built on them to replicate Rome and prove its growing power. On each hill, churches were built but when the Ottomans invaded, they converted them into mosques.

Locals adore green parks during April when the annual tulip festival brings a splash of colour to an urban lifestyle. Yildiz park in Besiktas, Gulhane Park in Eminonu, and Demokrasi park in Nisanti are three popular choices but there are hundreds and you will find one near you, no matter where you stay.

A day set aside to explore the Princes Islands, in particular, Buyukada is to sense nostalgia for the Ottoman days. Get there by ferry for a chance to travel as locals do. You can also use ferry services to explore several charming Bosphorus villages including Arnavutkoy, Bebek, Kilyos, and Cengelkoy. Places like the first are renowned for their old Ottoman architecture.

Top family theme parks include Miniaturk, that is home to miniature, famous landmarks from around Turkey and for kids is a great introduction into the country. Otherwise, head to Istanbul Aquarium to see its many marine life themes.

Bosphorus Cruising and Yali Mansions

A popular activity is cruising the Bosphorus and there are two ways to do this. The first is via a themed night with dinner and live entertainment. The second, which is budget travellers&rsquo favour is to book a ferry ticket and the bonus of doing it that way is spotting the magnificent yali mansions and Ottoman palaces on the Bosphorus shorelines.

Yali mansions are Turkey&rsquos most expensive real estate market with some selling for as much as 90 million USD. Built by Ottoman royalty and elite members of society, and made from wood, they display a distinct architectural style no longer used, hence their protected status.

Notable mansions to keep an eye out for include Zeki Pasha, Hekimbasi, and Erbilgen. While Ottoman palaces to spot include Beylerbeyi, Kucuksu, and the Ciragan that is now the five-star Kempinski Hotel.

Buying Real Estate in Istanbul

For both Turks and foreign buyers, Istanbul is Turkey&rsquos top destination with thousands of apartments and villas sold every month. Real estate investors, keen to follow the progress of mega projects like the planned route canal and the new airport&rsquos final completion also look to the city for long term capital appreciation. Whether you want an off-plan, key ready, resale, apartment, villa or business premises, the market delivers plenty of choices.

As a Turkey wide estate agent, we&rsquove walked thousands of customers through the Turkish property buying process and can answer questions you may have. In the meantime, see our portfolio of apartments and villas for sale. Each listing includes photos, property description, area information, and an enquiry form to find out more or book a time and date for viewing.

More About the Istanbul Area

Our Istanbul area guide continues with a wealth of articles talking about what to see, where to go, and highlights. We also highlight prominent districts and local news that will interest anyone visiting the city for the first time. Read them all in our Istanbul blog archives here.

An exceptional example of preservation of Eastern Polynesian culture, the island is home to nearly 1000 enormous sculpted heads and torsos called Moai carved from volcanic ash. The perpetuation of this cultural activity for 500 years is a result of a lack of external influence, as it is the most remote inhabited island in the world.

Khiva is the unexplored pearl of central Asia and one part of the famous silk route. This fairly unknown UNESCO site is named Itchan Kala. This is the old inner-city of Khiva, surrounded by defensive walls that almost appear to be made of sand. The contrast of the desert landscape against the vibrant turquoise of the minarets inside the wall is incomparable.

Art of miniature

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Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The miniature is a type of two-dimensional artwork that involves the design and creation of small paintings on books, papier-mâché, rugs, textiles, walls, ceramics and other items using raw materials such as gold, silver and various organic substances. Historically, the miniature was exemplified by book painting in which the text was supported visually, but the element has evolved and can also be observed in architecture and as an adornment in public spaces. The patterns of the miniature represent beliefs, worldviews and lifestyles in a pictorial fashion and also gained a new character through the Islamic influence. While there are stylistic differences between them, the art of miniature as practised by the submitting States Parties shares crucial features. In all cases, it is a traditional craft typically transmitted through mentor-apprentice relationships (non-formal education) and considered as an integral part of each society’s social and cultural identity. The miniature displays a specific type of perspective in which the size of the figures changes according to their importance - a key difference from realistic and naturalistic styles. Though it has existed for centuries, it continues to develop and thus strengthens the bonds between past and present. Traditional painting principles and techniques are preserved, but artists also bring individual creativity into the process.

© J.Imamverdiyev/Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, 2018 © J.Imamverdiyev/Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, 2018 © J.Imamverdiyev/Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, 2018 © ICHHTO, 2019 © ICHHTO, 2019 © ICHHTO, 2019 © National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO, 2019 © National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO, 2019 © National Commission of Uzbekistan for UNESCO, 2019 © MoCT, 2018 © MoCT, 2018 © MoCT, 2018

Watch the video: Historic Areas of Istanbul UNESCONHK