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Istanbul ( , historically also known as Byzantium and Κωνσταντινούπολη or Constantinoplemarker; see names of Istanbul) is the largest city in Turkeymarker and fifth largest city proper in the world with a population of 12.6 million. Istanbul is also a megacity, as well as the cultural and financial centre of Turkeymarker. The city covers 39 districts of the Istanbul provincemarker. It is located on the Bosphorusmarker Strait and encompasses the natural harbour known as the Golden Hornmarker, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatoliamarker) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.

In its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCOmarker World Heritage List in 1985.


The modern Turkish name İstanbul ( , colloquially ) has been used to describe this city, in a range of different variants, from as far back as the 10th century; it has been the common name for the city in normal Turkish speech since before the conquest of 1453 . Etymologically, it derives from the Greek phrase or in the Aegean dialect (modern Greek "στην Πόλη" ), which means "in the city", "to the city" or "downtown". To this day, Greeks often refer to Istanbul as 'tin Poli' (the City). A version found in Western languages, Stamboul, was used in lieu of Istanbul until the creation of the modern Turkish language by Atatürk after 1932. Before that time, English-speaking sources used Stamboul to describe the central parts on the historic peninsula between the Golden Hornmarker and the Sea of Marmaramarker.

In modern Turkish the name is written "İstanbul" with a dotted İ; in the Turkish alphabet dotted i (with capital İ) is a different letter from dotless ı (with capital I). Also, while in English the stress is on the first syllable ("Is"), in Turkish it is on the second syllable ("tan").

Byzantium is the first known name of the city. In 667 B.C., this Doric colony was founded by settlers from the city-state of Megaramarker, and they named the colony after their king Byzas. After Roman emperor Constantine I (Constantine the Great) made the city the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire on May 11, 330, the city became widely known as Constantinoplemarker ("City of Constantine"); his successor Constantius II attempted to promote the name Nova Roma ("New Rome"), but this never caught on. The name Constantinople is found on commemorative coins as early as the 330s, and is first attested in official documents under emperor Theodosius II (408–450). It remained the principal official name of the city throughout the Byzantine period, and the most common name used for it in the West until the early 20th century.

The city has also been nicknamed "The City on Seven Hills" because the historic peninsula, the oldest part of the city, was built on seven hills (just like Rome), each of which bears a historic mosque. The hills are represented in the city's emblem with seven triangles, above which rise four minarets. Two of many other old nicknames of İstanbul are Vasilevousa Polis (the Queen of Cities), which rose from the city's importance and wealth throughout the Middle Ages; and Dersaadet, originally Der-i Saadet (the Door to Happiness) which was first used towards the end of 19th century and is still remembered today.

With the Turkish Postal Service Law of 28 March 1930, the Turkish authorities officially requested foreigners to adopt Istanbul as the sole name also in their own languages.


In 2008, during the construction works of the Yenikapı subway station and the Marmaray tunnelmarker at the historic peninsulamarker on the European side, a previously unknown Neolithic settlement dating from circa 6500 BC was discovered. The first human settlement on the Anatolian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500–3500 BC. In nearby Kadıköymarker (Chalcedonmarker) a port settlement dating back to the Phoeniciansmarker has been discovered. Cape Moda in Chalcedon was the first location which the Greek settlers from Megaramarker chose to colonize in 685 BC, prior to colonizing Byzantion on the European side of the Bosphorus under the command of King Byzas in 667 BC. Byzantion was established on the site of an ancient port settlement named Lygos, founded by Thracian tribes between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, along with the neighbouring Semistra, of which Pliny had mentioned in his historical accounts. Only a few walls and substructures belonging to Lygos have survived to date, near the Seraglio Point ( ), where the famous Topkapı Palacemarker now stands. During the period of Byzantion, the Acropolis used to stand where the Topkapı Palace stands today.

After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Roman emperor Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by the Romans and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD. Byzantium was rebuilt by Severus and quickly regained its previous prosperity, being temporarily renamed as Augusta Antonina by the emperor, in honour of his son.

The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine I in 324 after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city; but the true reason behind this prophecy was probably Constantine's final victory over Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdarmarker) on the Bosphorus, on 18 September, 324, which ended the civil war between the Roman Co-Emperors, and brought an end to the final vestiges of the Tetrarchy system, during which Nicomediamarker (present-day İzmitmarker, east of Istanbul) was the most senior Roman capital city. Byzantium (now renamed as Nova Roma which eventually became Constantinopolis, i.e. "The City of Constantine") was officially proclaimed the new capital of the Roman Empire six years later, in 330. Following the death of Theodosius I in 395 and the permanent partition of the Roman Empire between his two sons, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. As well as being the centre of an imperial dynasty, the unique position of Constantinople at the centre of two continents made the city a magnet for international commerce, culture and diplomacy. The Byzantine Empire was distinctly Greek in culture and became the centre of Greek Orthodox Christianity, while its capital was adorned with many magnificent churches, including the Hagia Sophiamarker, once the world's largest cathedral. The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, still remains in the Fenermarker (Phanar) district of Istanbul.

In 1204, the Fourth Crusade was launched to capture Jerusalemmarker, but had instead turned on Constantinople, which was sacked and desecrate. The city subsequently became the centre of the Catholic Latin Empire, created by the crusaders to replace the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which was divided into a number of splinter states, of which the Empire of Nicaea was to recapture Constantinople in 1261 under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus.

In the last decades of the Byzantine Empire, the city had decayed as the Byzantine state became increasingly isolated and financially bankrupt, its population had dwindled to some thirty or forty thousand people whilst large sections remained uninhabited. Due to the ever increasing inward turn the Byzantines took, many facets of their surrounding empire were now falling apart, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Ottoman Turks began a strategy by which they took selected towns and smaller cities over time, enveloping Bursamarker in 1326, İzmitmarker (Nicomedia) in 1337, Gelibolu (Gallipoli) in 1354, and finally Edirnemarker (Adrianople) in 1362. This essentially cut off Constantinople from its main supply routes, strangling it slowly.

On 29 May 1453, Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople after a 53-day siege (during which the last Roman/Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, died near the Porta Aurea while defending the city) and proclaimed that Constantinople was now the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmed's first duty was to rejuvenate the city economically, creating the Grand Bazaarmarker and inviting the fleeing Orthodox and Catholic inhabitants to return. Captured prisoners were freed to settle in the city whilst provincial governors in Rumelia and Anatoliamarker were ordered to send four thousand families to settle in the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, to form a unique cosmopolitan society. The Sultan also endowed the city with various architectural monuments, including the Topkapı Palacemarker and the Eyüp Sultan Mosquemarker. Religious foundations were established to fund the construction of grand imperial mosques (such as the Fatih Mosque which was built on the spot where the Church of the Holy Apostlesmarker once stood), adjoined by their associated schools, hospitals and public baths. Suleiman the Magnificent's reign of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 was a period of great artistic and architectural achievements. The famous architect Sinan designed many mosques and other grand buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, calligraphy and miniature also flourished.

When the Republic of Turkeymarker was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankaramarker. In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favour of the new capital. However, starting from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares (such as Taksim Squaremarker), boulevards and avenues were constructed throughout the city; sometimes at the expense of the demolition of many historical buildings. Starting from the 1970s, the population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase, as people from Anatoliamarker migrated to the city in order to find employment in the many new factories that were constructed at the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis. This sudden sharp rise in the city's population caused a large demand for housing development, and many previously outlying villages and forests became engulfed into the greater metropolitan area of Istanbul. Illegal construction, combined with corner-cutting methods, have accounted for the reason why 65% of the buildings in Istanbul are built without proper planning. The concerns have increased due to the serious nature of the Izmit earthquakemarker of August 17, 1999. On September 9, 2009, the city experienced extensive flooding.



Istanbul is located in the north-west Marmara Region of Turkey. It encloses the southern Bosporus which places the city on two continents—the western portion of Istanbul is in Europe, while the eastern portion is in Asia. The city boundaries cover a surface area of , while the metropolitan region, or the Province of Istanbulmarker, covers .


Istanbul is situated near the North Anatolian fault line, which runs from northern Anatoliamarker to the Marmara Seamarker. Two tectonic plates, the African and the Eurasian, push against each other here. This fault line has been responsible for several deadly earthquakes in the region throughout history. In 1509 a catastrophic earthquake caused a tsunami which broke over the sea-walls of the city, destroying over 100 mosques and killing 10,000 people. In 1766 the Eyüp Sultan Mosque was largely destroyed. The 1894 earthquake caused the collapse of many parts of the Grand Bazaarmarker. A devastating earthquake on August 17, 1999marker, with its epicenter in nearby İzmitmarker, left 18,000 dead and many more homeless. In all of these earthquakes, the devastating effects are a result of the building density and poor construction of buildings. Seismologists predict another earthquake, possibly measuring magnitude 7.0, occurring before 2025.


Istanbul like the Marmara regionmarker it is situated in has a temperate climate. But due to Istanbul's geographical location and longitude, it has a "transitional climate", midway between that of the oceanic climate of the Black Sea, the humid continental climate of the Balkan peninsula and the dry suptropical climate of the southwest. This is also reflected in its plant geography since flora of these three climate types flourish here. Istanbul is one of the provinces that best illustrates this aspect of the Marmara region. Thanks to the constantly very humid climate of Istanbul, plants of the European-Siberian ecoregion are concentrated here, especially in the northern areas near the Black Seamarker coast. An increase in mediterranean flora is observed in the warmer areas to the south of the city especially on the Princes' Islandsmarker, the only place in Istanbul with a predominantly mediterranean vegetation.

Istanbul’s true and dominant biome is the humid temperate broadleaf and mixed forest and constitute the Balkan mixed forests which belongs to the European-Siberian ecoregion of the Palearctic ecozone. According to the Turkish General Directorate of Forestry, 44% of the Province of Istanbul is covered with forests.

The Alemdağ forest on the Anatolian side and the Belgrade forest on the European side, which are regarded as the city's lungs, are large virgin, humid mixed-leaf forests. It is also possible to see examples of virgin forest in the heart of Istanbul, on both shores of the Bosphorus today. The dominant tree species is the oak, three species of which are the English Oak, Sessile Oak or Durmast Oak, and Hungarian Oak are spread over a broad area. Oriental Beech is observed in the northern areas near the Black Sea coast. Other common tree species living in these humid mixed-leaf forests include Oriental Hornbeam, Horse Chestnut, Sweet Chestnut, White Poplar, Oriental Plane, Black Alder, Grey Alder, Common Hazel, Sycamore Maple, Norway Maple, Field Maple, English Elm, European White Elm, Smooth-leaved Elm, Field Elm, Silver Linden, Goat Willow and Grey Willow.

With around 2500 different natural plant species, Istanbul alone puts entire European countries, such as the United Kingdom in the shade. Even more importantly, this means that Istanbul is home to approximately one-fourth of the more than ten thousand documented species of plants that grow naturally in Turkey. Some of these plants are endemic; in other words, they live only in Istanbul and nowhere else in the whole world.


Istanbul has a relatively rich fauna. The forests harbor 18 mammal species and over 71 bird species, and since a ban on hunting exists, the fauna is out of danger. In the forests the most common mammals are wild boar, gray wolf, golden jackal, red fox, red deer, fallow deer, and roe deer. The red squirrel only inhabits the European part of Istanbul and Turkey, and the Bosphorus marks the border of their habitat range.

The dominant bird species in the city are the common gull and the hooded crow, and both practically form a part of the cityscape. Other common bird species are the city pigeon, eurasian collared dove and sparrow.

Istanbul has a particularly large population of stray cats and stray dogs.


Snow is common in winter.
Istanbul has a temperate climate but is located within a climatic transition zone between oceanic and dry subtropicalmarker climates. In summer the weather in Istanbul is hot and humid, the temperature between June and September averaging . During winter it is cold, wet and often snowy, averaging . The humidity of the city is constantly high which makes the air feel much harsher than the actual temperatures. The city being located in the second most humid region of the country, has an average annual humidity of 79%.Average annual precipitation is . Summer is the driest season, although there is no real summer drought as rain does occur all year round, and so the climate is not mediterranean. Snowfall is quite common between the months of December and March, snowing for a week or two, but it can be heavy once it snows. The city is also quite windy, having an average wind speed of .


City limits in 1922.

Istanbul Provincemarker has 39 district (2009), of which 27 form the city proper of Istanbul, also called Greater Istanbul, administered by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (or Municipality of Metropolitan Istanbul) ( ). Istanbul's districts are divided into three main areas:

  • The historic peninsula of old Istanbul corresponds approximately to the extent of Constantinople in the 15th century; it comprises the districts of Eminönümarker and Fatihmarker. This area lies on the southern shores of the Golden Hornmarker, which separates the old city center from the northern and younger parts of the European side. The historic peninsula ends with the Theodosian Land Wallsmarker in the west. The peninsula is surrounded by the Sea of Marmaramarker on the south and the entrance of the Bosphorusmarker on the east.
  • North of the Golden Horn are the historical Beyoğlumarker and Beşiktaşmarker districts, where the last Sultan's palacemarker is located, followed by a chain of former villages such as Ortaköy and Bebekmarker along the shores of the Bosphorus. On both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus, wealthy Istanbulites built luxurious chalet mansions, called yalı, which were used as summer residences.
  • The districts of Üsküdarmarker (ancient Chrysopolismarker) and Kadıköymarker (ancient Chalcedonmarker) which are located on the Asian side were originally separate cities (like the district of Beyoğlumarker (medieval Peramarker) on the European side also used to be.) These cities have eventually been absorbed by Istanbul and have become its districts. Today, the Asian side of the city has numerous modern residential areas and business districts, and is home to around one-third of Istanbul's population.

To the west, to the east and to the north, Istanbul extends far beyond its historical quarters. The tallest office and residential towers rise particularly in the quarters of Leventmarker, Etilermarker and Maslak on the European side, and in the quarter of Kozyatağı on the Asian side.


The urban landscape of Istanbul is constantly changing. In the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, the city was largely made up of the historic peninsula of Constantinoplemarker; with the citadel of Galatamarker (also called Sykae or Peramarker, present-day Beyoğlumarker) at north; and Chrysopolismarker (Üsküdarmarker) and Chalcedonmarker (Kadıköymarker) at east, across the Bosphorusmarker. These were all independent cities in antiquity. The present-day City of Istanbul can be considered the metropolitan area of old Constantinople, encompassing every single settlement around the original city, and expanding even further with the establishment of new neighbourhoods and districts since the 19th century.

Until the early 19th century, the city walls of Galatamarker, the medieval Genoesemarker citadel, used to stand. These Genoese fortifications, of which only the Galata Towermarker and a small portion of the citadel walls around it stand today, were largely demolished in the early 1800s to give way for a northwards expansion of the city, towards the neighbourhoods of Beşiktaşmarker, Şişlimarker, Nişantaşımarker, and beyond.

In the recent decades, numerous tall structures were built around the city to accommodate a rapid growth in population. Surrounding towns were absorbed into Istanbul as the city rapidly expanded outwards. The tallest highrise office and residential buildings are mostly located in the northern areas of the European side, especially in the business and shopping districts of Leventmarker, Maslak, and Mecidiyeköymarker which are situated between the Bosphorus Bridgemarker and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridgemarker. Levent and Etiler also have numerous upmarket shopping malls, like Kanyonmarker, Metrocitymarker, Akmerkezmarker, Mayadrom and Mayadrom Uptown. The headquarters of Turkey's largest companies and banks are also located in this area.

Starting from the second half of the 20th century, the Anatolian (Asian) side of Istanbul, which was originally a tranquil place full of seaside summer residences and elegant chalet mansions surrounded by lush and vast umbrella pine gardens, experienced a massive urban growth. The construction of the long, wide and elegant Bağdat Avenue, with its rows of upscale shops and restaurants, contributed much to the initial urban expansion in the area. The fact that these areas were largely empty until the 1960s also provided the chance for developing better infrastructure and a tidier urban planning when compared with most other residential areas in the city. But the real expansion of the Asian side came with the opening of the Ankara Asfaltı, the Asian extension of the E5 highway, which is located to the north of Bağdat Avenue, parallel to the railway line. Another important factor in the recent growth of the Asian side of the city was migration from Anatoliamarker. Today, more than 1/3 of the city's residents live in the Asian side of Istanbul.

As a result of Istanbul's exponential growth during the second half of the 20th century, a significant portion of the city's outskirts consist of gecekondus, a Turkish word created in the 1940s meaning ‘built overnight’ and referring to the illegally constructed squatter buildings that comprise entire neighbourhoods and run rampant outside the historic centers of Turkey's largest cities, especially Istanbul, Ankara, İzmirmarker, and Bursamarker. At present, some gecekondu areas are being gradually demolished and replaced by modern mass-housing compounds.


Throughout its long history, Istanbul has acquired a reputation for being a cultural and ethnic melting pot. As a result, there are many historical mosques, churches, synagogues, palaces, castles and towers to visit in the city. Some of these historical structures, which draw millions to the city every year, reflect the heart and soul of Istanbul.

Ancient Greek and Roman

The famous Maiden's Towermarker, one of the symbols of Istanbul, was originally built by the ancient Athenianmarker general Alcibiades in 408 BC to control the movements of the Persian ships in the Bosphorusmarker strait.

One of the most important monuments of Roman architecture in the city is the Column of Constantinemarker ( ), which was erected in 330 by Constantine the Great for marking the declaration of the new capital city of the Roman Empire.

The other Roman era structures in the city include the Mazulkemer Aqueduct, the Valens Aqueductmarker, the Column of the Goths at the Seraglio Point, the Milionmarker which served for calculating the distances between Constantinople and the other cities of the Roman Empire, the Great Palace of Constantinoplemarker originally built by Constantine as the primary residence of the Roman emperors, and the Hippodrome of Constantinoplemarker that was built following the model of the Circus Maximusmarker in Romemarker.

Construction of the Walls of Constantinoplemarker began under Constantine the Great, who enlarged the previously existing walls of Byzantium in order to defend the new Roman capital city which quickly grew following its proclamation as Nova Roma. A new set of walls was built further west during the reign of Theodosius II, and rebuilt after an earthquake in 447 in their current shape. The Column of Marcianmarker ( ) erected by Marcianus (reigned 450–457) dates from the same period as the triple land walls of Theodosius II.


The early Byzantine architecture followed the classical Roman model of domes and arches, but further improved these architectural concepts, as evidenced with the 4th century Hagia Irenemarker built by Constantine as the first church in the new Roman capital city; and the 6th century churches of Saints Sergius and Bacchusmarker and Hagia Sophiamarker built by Justinian, the latter being the largest structure on Sultanahmet Square in the Eminönümarker district, and the most important surviving example of Byzantine architecture in the world.

Excavations at the substructures of the Great Palace of Constantinoplemarker, which is located right next to the Hagia Sophia, are still continuing; while its floor mosaics and wall decorations are displayed at the Great Palace Mosaic Museum. In a nearby location, the Magnaura Tower of the Great Palace still stands and is another site of continuing archaeological excavations. The Great Palace was originally built by Constantine, but it was continuously enlarged by the following Byzantine emperors, in particular by Justinian. The Boukoleon Palacemarker, alternatively known as the Palace of Hormisdas, was built by Theodosius II in the 5th century, enlarged by Theophilos in the 9th century, and incorporated into the new walls of the Great Palace by Nikephoros II Phokas in the 10th century. The eastern tribune of the Hippodrome of Constantinoplemarker, where the Kathisma (emperor's loge) was located, could also be directly accessed by the Byzantine emperors and members of the imperial family through a passage which connected it with the Great Palace.

The Hagia Sophiamarker was designed by Isidorus and Anthemius as the third church to rise on this location, between 532 and 537, following the Nika riots (532) during which the second church was destroyed (the first church, known as the Megala Ekklessia ("Great Church") was inaugurated by Constantius II in 360; the second church was inaugurated by Theodosius II in 405, while the third and current one was inaugurated Justinian in 537). The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchusmarker (commonly known as the Little Hagia Sophia), which was the first church built by Justinian in Constantinople and edificed between 527 and 536, had earlier signaled such an improvement in the design of domed buildings, which require complex solutions for carrying the structure. The present-day Hagia Irenemarker (which was originally built by Constantine in the 4th century, but was later enlarged by Justinian in the 6th century) and the Basilica Cisternmarker are also from this period. The oldest surviving Byzantine church in Istanbul that has preserved its original form through the centuries, though partially in ruins, is the Stoudios Monastery, which was built in 462.

The most extant Byzantine structures that have survived from the reign of Heraclius (610–641) are the Prisons of Anemas, which were incorporated into the city walls at the western suburb of Blachernaemarker. They form a huge castle-like structure with several towers and a network of underground Byzantine dungeons. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitusmarker ( ), which is the only surviving part of the Blachernae Palacemarker, dates from the period of the Fourth Crusade. The Boukoleon Palacemarker facing the Sea of Marmaramarker was the primary residence of the Latin emperors of Constantinople between 1204 and 1261. In these years, on the northern side of the Golden Hornmarker, the Dominican priests of the Catholic Church built the Church of Saint Paulmarker in 1233.


Following the reconquest of Constantinople from the Latin Crusaders in 1261, the Byzantine emperors almost completely abandoned the Great Palace and Boukoleon Palace, and moved to the Blachernae Palace in the west of the city, near the triple land walls. The most important churches that were built after the Byzantines recovered Constantinople in 1261 include the Pammakaristos Churchmarker and Chora Churchmarker. Also in this period, the Genoese Podestà of Galatamarker, Montano de Marinis, built the Palazzo del Comune (1316), an identical copy of the San Giorgio Palace in Genoamarker, which still stands in ruins on Banker Sokağı (the historic Rue Camondo), a parallel side street to the north of Bankalar Caddesimarker in Galata, together with its adjacent buildings and numerous Genoese houses from the early 1300s. The Genoese also built the Galata Towermarker, which they named as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ), at the highest point of the citadel of Galata, in 1348. The Genoese Castlemarker at the Black Seamarker entrance of the Bosporusmarker was originally built by the Byzantines.


The Ottoman Turks built the Anadoluhisarımarker on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in 1394, and the Rumelihisarımarker at the opposite (European) shore, in 1452, a year before the conquest of Constantinoplemarker. The main purpose of these castles, armed with the long range Balyemez (Faule Metze) cannons, was to block the sea traffic of the Bosphorus and prevent the support ships from the Genoese colonies on the Black Seamarker ports, such as Caffamarker, Sinopmarker, and Amasramarker, from reaching Constantinople and helping the Byzantines during the Turkish siege of the city. The first mosque on the European side of Istanbul was built inside the Rumeli Castlemarker in 1452.

Following the Ottoman conquest of the city, Sultan Mehmed II initiated a wide scale reconstruction plan, which included the construction of grand buildings such as the Topkapı Palacemarker, Grand Bazaarmarker and the Yedikule Castle which guarded the main entrance gate of the city, the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate).

The first grand mosque which was built in the city proper was the Eyüp Sultan Mosquemarker in around 1459. The mosque was built on the site of the grave of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad who had died outside the land walls of Constantinople (walls of Theodosius II) in 669, during the early skirmishes which preluded the Arab siege to take the city. The first imperial mosque inside the city wallsmarker was the Fatih Mosque (1470) which was built on the site of the Church of the Holy Apostlesmarker, an important Byzantine church originally edificed in the time of Constantine the Great. Many other imperial mosques were built in the following centuries, such as the famous Süleymaniye Mosquemarker (1557) which was ordered by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan, and the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosquemarker (1616) which is also known as the Blue Mosquemarker for the blue tiles that adorn its interior. In the centuries following Mehmed II, many new important buildings, such as the Süleymaniye Mosquemarker, Sultanahmet Mosquemarker, Yeni Mosquemarker and numerous others were constructed.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, traditional Ottoman architectural styles were gradually replaced by European styles, such as the Baroque style interiors of the Aynalıkavak Palace (1677–1679) and Nuruosmaniye Mosquemarker (1748–1755, the first Baroque style mosque in the city, also famous for its Baroque fountain), and the 18th century Baroque additions to the Harem section of the Topkapı Palace. Following the Tanzimat reforms which effectively started Turkey's Europeanization process in 1839, new palaces and mosques were built in Neoclassical, Baroque and Rococo styles, or an eclectic mix of all three, such as the Dolmabahçe Palacemarker, Beylerbeyi Palacemarker and Ortaköy Mosquemarker.

Starting from the early 19th century, the areas around İstiklal Avenue were filled with grandiose embassy buildings belonging to prominent European states, and rows of European (mostly Neoclassical and later Art Nouveau) style buildings started to appear on both flanks of the avenue. Istanbul was one of the major centers of the Art Nouveau (Liberty) movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with famous architects of this style such as Alexander Vallaury and Raimondo D'Aronco building many palaces and mansions in the city proper and on the Princes' Islandsmarker. D'Aronco's most important works in the city include several buildings of the Yıldız Palace complex, and the Botter House on İstiklal Avenue. The famous Camondo Stairs on Bankalar Caddesimarker (Banks Street) in Karaköymarker (Galatamarker) is also a beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture. Other important examples are the Khedive Palacemarker (Hıdiv Kasrı) on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, Flora Han in Sirkecimarker, and Frej Apartmanı in the Şişhane quarter of Beyoğlumarker.


The mayor of Istanbul, currently Kadir Topbaş, serves as the prefect of the city. The governor of Istanbul province is Muammer Güler.

Istanbul is a home rule city and municipal elections are mainly partisan. The metropolitan model of governance has been used with the establishment of metropolitan administration in 1930. The metropolitan council is responsible for all authority when it comes to making city decisions.

The metropolitan government structure consists of three main organs: (1) The Metropolitan Mayor (elected every five years), (2) The Metropolitan Council (decision making body with the mayor, district Mayors, and one fifth of the district municipal councillors), (3) The metropolitan executive committee. There are three types of local authorities: (1) municipalities, (2) special provincial administrations, (3) village administrations. Among the local authorities, municipalities are gaining greater importance with the rise in urbanization.

The current Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Hall building in the Saraçhane quarter of the Fatihmarker district, the construction of which began on December 17, 1953 and was completed and inaugurated on May 26, 1960, will soon be demolished and replaced by a new building, designed by Istanbul-based Arolat Architects.


The population of the metropolis more than tripled during the 25 years between 1980 and 2005. Roughly 70% of all Istanbulites live in the European section and around 30% in the Asian section. Due to high unemployment in the southeast of Turkey, many people from that region migrated to Istanbul, where they established themselves in the outskirts of the city. Migrants, predominantly from eastern Anatolia arrive in Istanbul expecting improved living conditions and employment, which usually end with little success. This results each year with new gecekondus at the outskirts of the city, which are later developed into neighbourhoods and integrated into the greater metropolis.

The city has a population of 11,372,613 residents according to the latest count as of 2007, and is one of the largest cities in the world today. The rate of population growth in the city is currently at 3.45% a year on average, mainly due to the influx of people from the surrounding rural areas. Istanbul's population density of 2,742 people per square mile (1,700 per square km) far exceeds Turkey's 130 people per square mile (81 people per square km). Most of the city’s population are ethnic Turks. Kurds now constitute the largest ethnic minority in the city. There are several million Kurdish migrants from the countryside in Istanbul.

Historically the city was, during the early Middle Ages, the largest city in the world, and has been one of the world's largest and most important cities during much of its history (excepting the period of collapse of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire before the Ottomans). Its geopolitical significance since ancient times brought representatives of ethnic groups from all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. Throughout its history the ethnic Greek and then Turkish populations have assimilated these groups throughout the city's history.

The following overview shows the numbers of inhabitants by year. Population tallies up to 1914 are estimated with variations of up to 50% depending upon researcher. The numbers from 1927 to 2000 are results of censuses. The numbers of 2005 and 2006 are based on computer simulation forecasts. The doubling of the population of Istanbul between 1980 and 1985 is due to a natural increase in population as well as the expansion of municipal limits.

Historic population
Year Population
330 40,000
400 400,000
530 550,000
545 350,000
715 300,000
950 400,000
1200 150,000
1453 36,000
Year Population
1477 70,000
1566 600,000
1817 500,000
1860 715,000
1885 873,570
1890 874,000
1897 1,059,000
1901 942,900
Year Population
1914 909,978
1927 680,857
1935 741,148
1940 793,949
1945 860,558
1950 983,041
1955 1,268,771
1960 1,466,535
Year Population
1965 1,742,978
1970 2,132,407
1975 2,547,364
1980 2,772,708
1985 5,475,982
1990 6,629,431
2000 8,803,468
2007 11,372,613


The urban landscape of Istanbul is shaped by many communities. The religion with the largest community of followers is Islam. Religious minorities include Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Christians, Catholic Levantines and Sephardic Jews. According to the 2000 census, there were 2,691 active mosques, 123 active churches and 26 active synagogues in Istanbul; as well as 109 Muslim cemeteries and 57 non-Muslim cemeteries. Some districts used to have sizeable populations of these ethnic groups, such as the Kumkapımarker district which had a sizeable Armenian population, the Balatmarker district which had a sizeable Jewish population, the Fenermarker district which had a sizeable Greek population, and some neighbourhoods in the Nişantaşımarker and Beyoğlumarker districts which had sizeable Levantine populations. Very few remain in these aforementioned districts as they either emigrated or moved to other districts. In some quarters, such as Kuzguncukmarker, an Armenian church sits next to a synagogue, and on the other side of the road a Greek Orthodox church is found beside a mosque.

The seatmarker of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church and first patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox communion, is located in the Fenermarker (Phanarmarker) district. Also based in Istanbul are the archbishop of the Turkish-Orthodox community, an Armenian archbishop, and the Turkish Grand-Rabbi. A number of places reflect past movements of different communities into Istanbul, most notably Arnavutköymarker (Albanian village), Polonezköymarker (Polish village) and Yenibosna (New Bosnia).

The Muslims are by far the largest religious group in Istanbul. Among them, the Sunnis form the most populous sect, while a number of the local Muslims are Alevis. In 2007 there were 2,944 active mosques in Istanbul.

Istanbul was the final seat of the Islamic Caliphate, between 1517 and 1924, when the Caliphate was dissolved and its powers were handed over to the Turkish Parliamentmarker. On September 2, 1925, the tekkes and tarikats were banned, as their activities were deemed incompatible with the characteristics of the secular democratic Republic of Turkey; particularly with the secular education system and the laicist state's control over religious affairs through the Religious Affairs Directorate. Most followers of Sufism and other forms of Islamic mysticism practiced clandestinely afterwards, and some of these sects still boast numerous followers. In order to avoid the still valid prohibition, these organisations represent themselves as "cultural associations."

The city has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchatemarker since the 4th century AD, and continues to serve as the seat of some other Orthodox churches, such as the Turkish Orthodox Church and the Armenian Patriarchate. The city was formerly also the seat of the Bulgarian Exarchate, before its autocephaly was recognized by other Orthodox churches.

The everyday life of the Christians, particularly the Greeks and Armenians living in Istanbul changed significantly following the bitter conflicts between these ethnic groups and the Turks during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, which began in the 1820s and continued for a century. The conflicts reached their culmination in the decade between 1912 and 1922; during the Balkan Wars, the First World War and the Turkish War of Independence. The Christian population declined from 450,000 to 240,000 between 1914 and 1927. Today, most of Turkey's remaining Greek and Armenian minorities live in or near Istanbul. The number of the local Turkish Armenians in Istanbul today amount to approximately 45,000 (not including the nearly 40,000 Armenian workers in Turkey who came from Armeniamarker after 1991 and mostly live and work in Istanbul); while the Greek community, which amounted to 150,000 citizens in 1924, currently amounts to approximately 4,000 citizens. There are also 60,000 Istanbulite Greeks who currently live in Greecemarker but continue to retain their Turkish citizenship.

The Sephardic Jews have lived in the city for over 500 years. They fled the Iberian Peninsulamarker during the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, when they were forced to convert to Christianity after the fall of the Moorish Kingdom of Andaluciamarker. The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II (1481–1512) sent a sizable fleet to Spainmarker under the command of Kemal Reis in order to save the Sephardic Jews. More than 200,000 fled first to Tangiermarker, Algiersmarker, Genovamarker and Marseillemarker, later to Salonicamarker and finally to Istanbul. The Sultan granted over 93,000 of these Spanish Jews to take refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Another large group of Sephardic Jews came from southern Italymarker which was under Spanish control. The İtalyan Sinagogu (Italian Synagogue) in Galatamarker is mostly frequented by the descendants of these Italian Jews in Istanbul, where more than 20,000 Sephardic Jews still remain today. There are about 20 synagogues, the most important of them being the Neve Shalom Synagoguemarker inaugurated in 1951, in the Beyoğlumarker quarter.


Apart from being the largest city and former political capital of the country, Istanbul has always been the center of Turkey's economic life because of its location as a junction of international land and sea trade routes. Istanbul is also Turkey's largest industrial center. It employs approximately 20% of Turkey's industrial labor and contributes 38% of Turkey's industrial workspace. Istanbul and its surrounding province produce cotton, fruit, olive oil, silk, and tobacco. Food processing, textile production, oil products, rubber, metal ware, leather, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, glass, machinery, automotive, transport vehicles, paper and paper products, and alcoholic drinks are among the city's major industrial products. According to Forbes magazine, Istanbul had a total of 35 billionaires as of March 2008, ranking fourth in the world.

Originally established as the Ottoman Stock Exchange (Dersaadet Tahvilat Borsası) in 1866, and reorganized to its current structure at the beginning of 1986, the Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) is the sole securities market of Turkey. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Bankalar Caddesimarker (Banks Street) in Galatamarker was the financial center of the Ottoman Empire, where the headquarters of the Ottoman Central Bank (established as the Bank-ı Osmanî in 1856, and later reorganized as the Bank-ı Osmanî-i Şahane in 1863) and the Ottoman Stock Exchange (1866) were located. Bankalar Caddesi continued to be Istanbul's main financial district until the 1990s, when most Turkish banks began moving their headquarters to the modern central business districts of Leventmarker and Maslak. In 1995, the Istanbul Stock Exchange moved to its current building in the Istinyemarker quarter.

Today, the city generates 55% of Turkey's trade and 45% of the country's wholesale trade, and generates 21.2% of Turkey's gross national product. Istanbul contributes 40% of all taxes collected in Turkey and produces 27.5% of Turkey's national product. In 2005 the City of Istanbul had a GDP of $133 billion. In 2005 companies based in Istanbul made exports worth $41,397,000,000 and imports worth $69,883,000,000; which corresponded to 56.6% and 60.2% of Turkey's exports and imports, respectively, in that year.

Istanbul is one of the most important tourism spots of Turkey. There are thousands of hotels and other tourist oriented industries in the city, catering to both vacationers and visiting professionals. In 2006 a total of 23,148,669 tourists visited Turkey, most of whom entered the country through the airports and seaports of Istanbul and Antalyamarker. The total number of tourists who entered Turkey through Atatürk International Airportmarker and Sabiha Gökçen International Airportmarker in Istanbul reached 5,346,658, rising from 4,849,353 in 2005. Istanbul is also one of the world's major conference destinations and is an increasingly popular choice for the world's leading international associations.

Public services


Istanbul holds some of the finest institutions of higher education in Turkey, including more than 20 public and private universities. Most of the reputable universities are public, but in recent years there has also been an upsurge in the number of private universities. Istanbul Universitymarker, founded in 1453, is the oldest Turkish educational institution in the city, while Istanbul Technical Universitymarker (1773) is the world's third-oldest technical university dedicated entirely to engineering sciences. Other prominent state universities in Istanbul include Boğaziçi Universitymarker, Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Yildiz Technical Universitymarker and Marmara University. The major private universities in the city include Koç Universitymarker, Sabancı Universitymarker, Istanbul Commerce University, Bahçeşehir University, Yeditepe University, Kadir Has University, Doğuş University and Bilgi University.

Almost all Turkish private high schools and universities in Istanbul teach in English, German or French as the primary foreign language, usually accompanied by a secondary foreign language. Galatasaray Lisesimarker, established in 1481 as Galata Sarayı Enderun-u Hümayunu (Galata Palace Imperial School) and later known as Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi (Galatasaray School of the Sultans) is the oldest Turkish high school in Istanbul and the second oldest Turkish educational institution in the city. İstanbul Lisesimarker, also commonly known as İstanbul Erkek Lisesi (established in 1884), abbreviated İEL, is one of the oldest and internationally renowned high schools of Turkey located in İstanbul. Kuleli Military High School is the only military high school in Istanbul, located in Çengelköymarker district.

Anadolu Liseleri (Anatolian High Schools) were originally furnished for the Turkish children who returned home from foreign countries, such as the Üsküdar Anadolu Lisesi with German as the primary foreign language and technical instruction in German. Kadıköy Anadolu Lisesi is one of the first six special Ministry of Education Colleges established in 1950s in big cities across Turkey. Those English-medium colleges were renamed as "Anadolu Lisesi" in subsequent decades. There are also many foreign high schools in Istanbul, most of which were established in the 19th century in order to give education to the foreigners residing in Istanbul. Following the establishment of the Republic of Turkeymarker, most of these schools went under the administration of the Turkish Ministry of Education, but some of them still have considerable foreign administration, such as the Liceo Italiano Statale I.M.I. which is still regarded as an Italian state school by the government of Italymarker and continues to receive funding and teachers from Romemarker. Robert Collegemarker, established in 1863, is another foreign school in the city, among numerous others.

Istanbul has numerous libraries, many of which contain vast collections of historic documents from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, as well as from other civilizations of the past. The most important libraries in terms of historic document collections include the Topkapı Palace Library, Library of the Archaeological Museummarker, Library of the Naval Museum, Beyazıt State Library, Nuruosmaniye Library, Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul University Library, Köprülüzade Fazıl Ahmed Paşa Library, Atatürk Library and Çelik Gülersoy Library.


The city has many public and private hospitals, clinics and laboratories within its bounds and numerous medical research centers. Many of these facilities have high technology equipment, which has contributed to the recent upsurge in "medical tourism" to Istanbul, particularly from West European countries like the United Kingdommarker and Germanymarker where governments send patients with lower income to the city for the inexpensive service of high-tech medical treatment and operations. Istanbul has particularly become a global destination for laser eye surgery and plastic surgery. The city also has an Army Veterans Hospital in the military medical center.

Pollution-related health problems increase especially in the winter, when the combustion of heating fuels increase. The rising number of new cars in the city and the slow development of public transportation often cause urban smog conditions. Mandatory use of unleaded gas was scheduled to begin only in January 2006.


The first water supply systems which were built in Istanbul date back to the foundation of the city. Two of the greatest aqueducts built in the Roman period are the Mazulkemer Aqueduct and the Valens Aqueductmarker. These aqueducts were built in order to channel water from the Halkalı area in the western edge of the city to the Beyazıt district in the city center, which was known as the Forum Tauri in the Roman period. After reaching the city center, the water was later collected in the city's numerous cisterns, such as the famous Philoxenos (Binbirdirek) Cistern and the Basilica Cisternmarker. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent commissioned Sinan, his engineer and architect-in-chief, to improve the water needs of the city. Sinan constructed the Kırkçeşme Water Supply System in 1555. In later years, with the aim of responding to the ever-increasing public demand, water from various springs was channeled to the public fountains by means of small supply lines; see German Fountainmarker.

Today, Istanbul has a chlorinated and filtered water supply and a sewage disposal system managed by the government agency İSKİ. There are also several private sector organizations distributing clean water. Electricity distribution services are covered by the state-owned TEK. The first electricity production plant in the city, Silahtarağa Termik Santrali, was established in 1914 and continued to supply electricity until 1983.

The Ottoman Ministry of Post and Telegraph was established in the city on 23 October 1840. The first post office was the Postahane-i Amire near the courtyard of Yeni Mosquemarker. In 1876 the first international mailing network between Istanbul and the lands beyond the vast Ottoman Empire was established. In 1901 the first money transfers were made through the post offices and the first cargo services became operational. Samuel Morse received his first ever patent for the telegraph in 1847, at the old Beylerbeyi Palace (the present Beylerbeyi Palacemarker was built in 1861–1865 on the same location) in Istanbul, which was issued by Sultan Abdülmecid who personally tested the new invention. Following this successful test, installation works of the first telegraph line between Istanbul and Edirnemarker began on 9 August 1847. In 1855 the Telegraph Administration was established. In July 1881 the first telephone circuit in Istanbul was established between the Ministry of Post and Telegraph in Soğukçeşme and the Postahane-i Amire in Yenicami. On 23 May 1909, the first manual telephone exchange with a 50 line capacity was established in the Büyük Postane (Grand Post Office) of Sirkeci.



Istanbul has two international airports: The larger one is the Atatürk International Airportmarker located in the Yeşilköymarker district on the European side, about west from the city center. When it was first built, the airport was situated at the western edge of the metropolitan area but now lies within the city bounds. The smaller one is the Sabiha Gökçen International Airportmarker located in the Kurtköy district on the Asian side, close to the Istanbul Park GP Racing Circuitmarker. It is situated approximately east of the Asian side and east of the European city center.


Sea transport is vital for Istanbul, as the city is practically surrounded by sea on all sides: the Sea of Marmaramarker, the Golden Hornmarker, the Bosphorusmarker and the Black Seamarker. Many Istanbulites live on the Asian side of the city but work on the European side (or vice-versa) and the city's famous commuter ferries form the backbone of the daily transition between the two parts of the city – even more so than the two suspension bridges which span the Bosphorus. The commuter ferries, along with the high speed catamaran Seabus (Deniz Otobüsü), also form the main connection between the city and the Princes' Islandsmarker.

The first steam ferries appeared on the Bosphorus in 1837 and were operated by private sector companies. On January 1, 1851, the Şirket-i Hayriye (literally the Goodwill Company, as the Istanbul Ferry Company was originally called) was established by the Ottoman state. The Şirket-i Hayriye continued to operate the city's landmark commuter ferries until the early years of the Republican period, when they went under the direction of Türkiye Denizcilik İşletmeleri (Turkish State Maritime Lines). Since March 2006, Istanbul's traditional commuter ferries are being operated by İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri (Istanbul Sea Buses) which also operates the high speed catamaran Seabus.

İDO (İstanbul Deniz OtobüsleriIstanbul Sea Buses) was established in 1987 and operates the high speed catamaran Seabus which run between the European and Asian parts of Istanbul, also connecting the city with the Princes' Islandsmarker and other destinations in the Sea of Marmaramarker. The Yenikapı High Speed Car Ferry Port on the European side, and the Pendik High Speed Car Ferry Port on the Asian side, are where the high speed catamaran "car ferries" are based. The car ferries which operate between Yenikapı (on the European side of Istanbul) and Bandırmamarker reduce the driving time between Istanbul and İzmirmarker and other major destinations on Turkey's Aegeanmarker coast by several hours; while those which operate between Yenikapı or Pendikmarker (on the Asian side of Istanbul) and Yalovamarker significantly reduce the driving time between Istanbul and Bursamarker or Antalyamarker.

The port of Istanbul is the most important one in the country. The old port on the Golden Hornmarker serves primarily for personal navigation, while Karaköymarker port in Galatamarker is used by the large cruise liners. Regular services as well as cruises from both Karaköy and Eminönümarker exist to several port cities in the Mediterranean Seamarker and Black Seamarker. Istanbul's main cargo port is located in the Harem district on the Asian side of the city. Istanbul also has several marinas of varying size for personal navigation, the largest of which are the Ataköy Marina on the European side and Kalamış Marina on the Asian side.


The State Road and the European route , the Trans European Motorway (TEM) are the two main motorway connections between Europe and Turkey. The motorway network around Istanbul is well developed and is constantly being extended. Motorways lead east to Ankaramarker and west to Edirnemarker. There are also two express highways circling the city. The older one, the , is mostly used for inner city traffic; while the more recent one, the , is mostly used by intercity or intercontinental traffic.

The Bosphorus Bridgemarker on the and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridgemarker on the establish the motorway connection between the European and the Asian sides of the Bosphorusmarker. The southern and northern shores of the Golden Hornmarker, an inlet of the Bosphorus on the European side of the city, are connected through the Galata Bridgemarker, the Atatürk Bridge and the Haliç Bridge; the latter also being a part of the motorway network.

Büyükdere Avenue is the main artery that runs through the central business districts of Leventmarker and Maslak on the European side, and is also accessible through a number of subway stations. At the point where the motorway junctions and tunnels between the quarters of Gayrettepe and Zincirlikuyu come together, Büyükdere Avenue connects with Barbaros Boulevard, which descends towards the ferry port of Beşiktaşmarker. There it connects with the coastal highway that runs along the European shore of the Bosphorusmarker, from Eminönümarker in the south to Sarıyermarker in the north.


In 1883, a Belgianmarker entrepreneur, Georges Nagelmackers, began a rail service between Parismarker and Constantinoplemarker, using a steamship to ferry passengers from Varnamarker to Constantinople. In 1889, a rail line was completed going through Bucharestmarker to Constantinople, making the whole journey via land possible. The route was known as the Orient Express, made even more famous by the works of Agatha Christie and Graham Greene.

Today, the Sirkeci Terminalmarker of the Turkish State Railways (TCDD), which was originally opened in 1890 as the terminus of the Orient Express, is the terminus of all the lines on the European side and the main connection node of the Turkish railway network with the rest of Europe. Currently, international connections are provided by the line running between Istanbul and Thessalonikimarker, Greecemarker, and the Bosphorus Express serving daily between Sirkeci and Bucharestmarker, Romaniamarker. Lines to Sofiamarker, Belgrademarker, Budapestmarker, and Chişinăumarker are established over the Bosphorus Express connection to Bucharest.

Beyond the Bosphorus, the Haydarpaşa Terminalmarker on the Asian side serves lines running several times daily to Ankaramarker, and less frequently to other destinations in Anatoliamarker. The railway networks on the European and Asian sides are currently connected by the train ferry across the Bosphorus, which will be replaced by an underwater tunnel connection with the completion of the Marmaraymarker project, scheduled for 2012. Marmaray (Bosphorus Rail Tunnel) will also connect the metro lines on the European and Asian parts of the city. Inaugurated in 1908, the Haydarpaşa Terminal was originally opened as the terminus of the Istanbul-Konya-Baghdad and Istanbul-Damascus-Medina railways.

A railway line runs between the main train station of the European part, the Sirkeci Terminalmarker, and the Halkalı district towards the west of the city center, with 18 stations along its 30 km length. A single trip takes 48 minutes. Another suburban line runs on the Anatolian part from the main train station, the Haydarpaşa Terminalmarker, to Gebzemarker at the eastern end of the city. The 44 km long line has 28 stations and the trip takes 65 minutes. 720,000 passengers use the urban rail lines on the European side of the city every day.


Trams first entered service in Istanbul on September 3, 1869, at the Tophane – Ortaköy line. In 1871 the Azapkapı – Galata; Aksaray – Yedikule; Aksaray – Topkapı; and Eminönü – Aksaray lines entered service. Other lines which entered service in the late 19th century included the Voyvoda Caddesi – Kabristan Sokağı – Tepebaşı – Taksim – Pangaltı – Şişli line; the Bayezid – Şehzadebaşı line; the Fatih – Edirnekapı – Galatasaray – Tünel line; and the Eminönü – Bahçekapı line. Since 1939 the trams of the city are operated by the İETT. On August 12, 1961, the historic red trams of Istanbul were removed from the city's European side; and on November 14, 1966, they were removed from the city's Asian side. Towards the end of 1990, replicas of these historic red trams were put in service along the İstiklal Avenue between Taksimmarker and Tünelmarker, which is a single 1.6 km-long (1640 m) line. On November 1, 2003, another nostalgic tram line (T3) was reopened on the Anatolianmarker part of Istanbul between Kadıköymarker and Modamarker. It has 10 stations on a 2.6 km long route. The trip takes 21 minutes.

A fast tram (T1) was put in service in 1992 on standard gauge track with modern cars, connecting Sirkecimarker with Topkapımarker. The line was extended on one end from Topkapı to Zeytinburnumarker in March 1994, and on the other end from Sirkeci to Eminönümarker in April 1996. On 30 January 2005 it was extended from Eminönü to Fındıklı, crossing the Golden Hornmarker through the Galata Bridgemarker for the first time after 44 years. A final extension to Kabataş was opened in June 2006. The line has 24 stations on a length of 14 km. Service was initially operated with 22 LRT vehicles built by ABB, now reassigned to other lines; while stations were provided with temporary high platforms. These vehicles were replaced by 55 low-floor Bombardier Flexity Swift trams in 2003. An entire trip takes 42 minutes. The daily transport capacity is 155,000 passengers. The amount of investment totaled US$110 million. In September 2006, a second tram line (T2) was added, running west from Zeytinburnumarker to Bağcılarmarker. Service on this line is operated with 14 ABB LRT cars. Stations have high platforms at the level of the car floor.


Istanbul is served by two underground funicular railways, of very different ages and styles. The older of these lines is the Tünel marker. Inaugurated on January 17, 1875, the Tünel is the second-oldest subterranean urban rail line in the world after the London Underground (arguably third in the world, if one counts Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker's abandoned Atlantic Avenue Tunnelmarker) and the first subterranean urban rail line in continental Europe; though the first full subway line with multiple underground stations in continental Europe was the Line 1 of the Budapest Metro (1896). The Tünel is 573 m long with an altitude difference of 60 m and no intermediate stations between Karaköymarker and Tünel Square. It has been continuously in service since 1875. Two trains run on a single rail every 3.5 minutes, and a trip takes 1.5 minutes. Making 64,800 trips, totaling 37,066 kilometres a year, the Tünel carries 15,000 passengers per day.

A second funicular line, the Kabataş-Taksim Funicular, entered service on June 29, 2006, connecting Kabataş and Taksimmarker. This system connects the Seabus station and the tram stop in Kabataş to the metro station at Taksim Squaremarker. It is about 600 meters long and climbs approximately 60 meters in 110 seconds, carrying 9,000 passengers per day.

Light rail

The Istanbul LRT is a light rail transit system consisting of 2 lines. The first line (M1) began service on 3 September 1989 between Aksaraymarker and Kartaltepe. The line was further developed step-by-step and reached Atatürk Airportmarker on December 20, 2002. The other line (T4) was opened in 2007 between Edirnekapı and Mescid-i Selam. There are 36 stations, including 12 underground and 3 viaduct stations, on the line's 32 km length. The lines are totally segregated from other traffic, without level crossings, and run underground for 10.4 km. Service is operated with LRT vehicles built by ABB in 1988.


Construction works of the Istanbul Metro (M2) began in 1992 and the first completed section between Taksimmarker and 4.marker Leventmarker entered service on September 16, 2000. This section of the line is long and has 6 stations. In 2000, there were 8 Alstom-built 4-car train sets in service, which ran every 5 minutes on average and transported 130,000 passengers daily. On January 30, 2009, the first train sets built by Eurotem entered service. Eurotem will build a total of 92 new wagons for the M2 line. As of January 30, 2009, a total of 34 train sets, each with 4 cars, were being used on the M2 line.

A northern extension from 4. Levent to Maslak was opened on January 30, 2009. The southern extension of the M2 line from Taksim to Yenikapımarker, across the Golden Hornmarker on a bridge and underground through the historic peninsulamarker, has thus far been completed up to the Şişhane station in Beyoğlumarker, which also entered service on January 30, 2009. At Yenikapı the M2 network will intersect with the extended light metro and suburban train lines, and with the Marmaray tunnelmarker.

At present, the M2 line has 10 stations in service on the European side of the city; while 6 new stations on the European side and 16 new stations on the Asian side are currently under construction. The trip between the Şişhane station in Beyoğlumarker and the Atatürk Oto Sanayi station in Maslak is long and takes 21 minutes. The total length of the European side of the M2 line will reach when all 16 stations from Hacıosman to Yenikapı will be completed; not including the 936 metres long Golden Hornmarker metro bridge, the 0.6 km long Taksim-Kabataş tunnel connection with the Seabus port, the 0.6 km long Yenikapı-Aksaray tunnel connection with the LRT network, and the 13.6 km long Marmaray tunnelmarker.

On the Asian side, construction of the long M2 line from Kadıköymarker to Kartalmarker continues, which will have a total of 16 stations. The Marmaray tunnelmarker (Bosporus undersea railway tunnel) will connect the metro lines of the Asian and European parts of the city. According to the scheduled construction timeline, the tunnel will enter service in 2012.

Culture and contemporary life

Fine and performing arts

Istanbul is becoming increasingly colourful in terms of its rich social, cultural, and commercial activities. While world famous pop stars fill stadiums, activities like opera, ballet and theater continue throughout the year. During seasonal festivals, world famous orchestras, chorale ensembles, concerts and jazz legends can be found often playing to a full house.The Istanbul International Film Festival is one of the most important film festivals in Europe, Istanbul Film Festival history, retrieved June 10, 2009 while the Istanbul Biennial is another major event of fine arts.

Istanbul Modernmarker, frequently hosts the exhibitions of renowned Turkish and foreign artists. Pera Museum and Sakıp Sabancı Museum have hosted the exhibitions of world famous artists and are among the most important private museums in the city. The Doğançay Museum – Turkey’s first contemporary art museum – is dedicated almost exclusively to the work of its founder Burhan Doğançay. The Rahmi M.marker Koç Museummarker on the Golden Horn is an industrial museum that exhibits historic industrial equipment such as cars and locomotives from the 1800s and early 1900s, as well as boats, submarines, aircraft, and other similar vintage machines from past epochs.

Istanbul Archaeology Museummarker, established in 1881, is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. The museum contains more than 1,000,000 archaeological pieces from the Mediterranean basin, the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Istanbul Mosaic Museum contains the late Roman and early Byzantine floor mosaics and wall ornaments of the Great Palace of Constantinoplemarker. The nearby Turkish and Islamic Arts Museummarker displays a vast collection of items from various Islamic civilizations. Sadberk Hanım Museum contains a wide variety of artifacts, dating from the earliest Anatolian civilizations to the Ottomans.

Occasionally, in November, the Silahhane (Armory Hall) of Yıldız Palace hosts the Istanbul Antiques Fair, which brings together rare pieces of antiques from the Orient and Occident. The multi-storey Mecidiyeköy Antikacılar Çarşısı (Mecidiyeköy Antiques Bazaar) in the Mecidiyeköy quarter of Şişlimarker is the largest antiques market in the city, while the Çukurcuma neighbourhood of Beyoğlumarker has rows of antiques shops in its streets. The Grand Bazaarmarker, edificed between 1455–1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror also has numerous antiques shops, along with shops selling jewels, carpets and other items of art and artisanship. Historic and rare books are found in the Sahaflar Çarşısı near Beyazıt Square, and it is one of the oldest book markets in the world, and has continuously been active in the same location since the late Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Live shows and concerts are hosted at a number of locations including historical sites such as the Hagia Irenemarker, Rumeli Fortressmarker, Yedikule Castle, the courtyard of Topkapı Palacemarker, and Gülhane Parkmarker; as well as the Atatürk Cultural Centermarker, Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hallmarker and other open air and modern theatre halls. A significant culture has been developed around what is known as a Turkish Bath. It was a culture of leisure during the Ottoman period, the finest example being the Çemberlitaş Hamamı (1584) in Istanbul, located on the Çemberlitaş (Column of Constantine) Square.


Traditional beach resorts had gradually disappeared due to water pollution. Recently, however, old places have reopened in the city. The most popular places for swimming in the city are in Bakırköymarker, Küçükçekmece, Sarıyermarker and the Bosphorusmarker. Outside the city are the Marmara Sea's Princes' Islandsmarker, Silivrimarker and Tuzla; as well as Kilyos and Şilemarker on the Black Sea.

The Princes' Islandsmarker (Prens Adaları) are a group of islands in the Marmara Seamarker, south of the quarters Kartalmarker and Pendikmarker. Pine and stone-pine wooden neoclassical and art nouveau-style Ottoman era summer mansions from the 19th and early 20th centuries, horse-drawn carriages (motor vehicles are not permitted) and seafood restaurants make them a popular destination. They can be reached by ferry boats or high-speed catamaran Seabus (Deniz otobüsü) from Eminönümarker and Bostancı. Of the nine islands, only five are settled.

Şilemarker is a distant and well-known Turkish seaside resort on the Black Sea, from Istanbul, where unspoiled white sand beaches can be found. Kilyos is a small calm seaside resort not far from the northern European entrance of the Bosphorus at the Black Sea. The place has good swimming possibilities and has become popular in the recent years among the inhabitants of Istanbul as a place for excursions. Kilyos offers a beach park with seafood restaurants and night clubs, being particularly active in the summer with many night parties and live concerts on the beach.


Istanbul has numerous historic shopping centers, such as the Grand Bazaarmarker (1461), Mahmutpaşa Bazaar (1462) and the Egyptian Bazaarmarker (1660). The first modern shopping mall was Galleria Ataköymarker (1987), which was followed by dozens of others in the later decades, such as Akmerkezmarker (1993) which is the only mall to win both "Europe's Best" and "World's Best" awards by the ICSC; Metrocitymarker (2003); Cevahir Mallmarker (2005) which is the largest mall in Europe; and Kanyon Mallmarker (2006) which won the 2006 Cityscape Architectural Review Award for its interesting design. İstinye Parkmarker (2007) and City's Nişantaşı (2008) are two new malls which target high-end consumers and are almost exclusively dedicated to world-famous fashion brands.


Along with the traditional Turkish restaurants, many European and Far Eastern restaurants and numerous other cuisines are also thriving in the city. Most of the city's historic winehouses (meyhane in Turkish) and pubs are located in the areas around İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlumarker. The 19th century Çiçek Pasajı (literally Flower Passage in Turkish, or Cité de Péra in French) on İstiklal Avenue, which has many historic meyhanes, pubs and restaurants, was built by Hristaki Zoğrafos Efendi at the former site of the Naum Theatre and was inaugurated in 1876. The famous Nevizâde Street, which has rows of historic meyhanes next to each other, is also in this area.

Other historic pubs are found in the areas around Tünel Pasajı and the nearby Asmalımescit Sokağı. Some historic neighbourhoods around İstiklal Avenue have recently been recreated, with differing levels of success; such as Cezayir Sokağı near Galatasaray Lisesimarker, which became unofficially known as La Rue Française and has rows of francophone pubs, cafés and restaurants playing live music.

Istanbul is also famous for its historic seafood restaurants. The most popular seafood restaurants are generally found along the shores of the Bosphorusmarker and by the Marmara Seamarker shore towards the south of the city. The largest of the Princes' Islandsmarker in the Sea of Marmara (namely Büyükadamarker, Heybeliadamarker, Burgazadamarker and Kınalıadamarker) and Anadolu Kavağı near the northern entrance of the Bosphorus towards the Black Seamarker (close to Yoros Castlemarker, which was also known as the Genoese Castle due to Genoa's possession of it in the mid-15th century) also have many historic seafood restaurants.

Night life

There are many night clubs, pubs, restaurants and taverns with live music in the city. The night clubs, restaurants and bars increase in number and move to open air spaces in the summer. The areas around Istiklal Avenue and Nişantaşımarker offer all sorts of cafés, restaurants, pubs and clubs as well as art galleries, theaters and cinemas. Babylon and Nu Pera in Beyoğlumarker are popular night clubs both in the summer and in the winter.

The most popular open air summer time seaside night clubs are found on the Bosporus, such as Sortie, Reina and Anjelique in the Ortaköy district. Q Jazz Bar in Ortaköy offers live jazz music in a stylish environment.

Venues such as Istanbul Arena in Maslak and Kuruçeşme Arena on the Bosporus frequently host the live concerts of famous singers and bands from all corners of the world. Parkorman in Maslak hosted the Isle of MTV Party in 2002 and is a popular venue for live concerts and rave parties in the summer.


The first Turkish newspaper, Takvim-i Vekayi, was printed on August 1, 1831 in the Bâbıâli (Bâb-ı Âli, meaning The Sublime Porte) district. Bâbıâli became the main center for print media. Istanbul is also the printing capital of Turkey with a wide variety of domestic and foreign periodicals expressing diverse views, and domestic newspapers are extremely competitive. Most nationwide newspapers are based in Istanbul, with simultaneous Ankara and İzmir editions. Major newspapers with their headquarters in Istanbul include Hürriyet, Milliyet, Sabahmarker, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman, Türkiye, Akşam, Bugün, Star, Dünya, Tercüman, Güneş, Vatan, Posta, Takvim, Vakit, Yeni Şafak, Fanatik and Turkish Daily News. There are also numerous local and national TV and radio stations located in Istanbul, such as CNBC-e, CNN Türk, MTV Türkiye, Fox Türkiye, Fox Sports Türkiye, NTV, Kanal D, ATV, Show TV, Star TV, Cine5, SKY Türk, TGRT Haber, Kanal 7, Kanal Türk, Flash TV and many others. In the city of Istanbul, there are over a hundred FM-radio stations.


During the Roman and Byzantine periods, the most important sporting events were the quadriga chariot races that were held at the Hippodrome of Constantinoplemarker, which had a capacity to accommodate more than 100,000 spectators. Today, sports like football, basketball and volleyball are very popular in the city. In addition to Galatasaray, Fenerbahçemarker and Beşiktaşmarker, which field teams in multiple sports, several other clubs have also excelled in particular team sports; such as Efes Pilsen, Fenerbahçe Ülker, Galatasaray Cafe Crown, Türk Telekom and Beşiktaş Cola Turka in basketball; or Eczacıbaşı, Vakıfbank, Fenerbahçemarker and Galatasaray in volleyball.

The Atatürk Olympic Stadiummarker, the largest multi-purpose stadium in Turkey, is a 5-star UEFA stadium and a first-class venue for track and field; having reached the highest required standards set by the International Olympic Committeemarker and sports federations such as the IAAF, FIFA and UEFA. The stadium hosted the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final. The Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadiummarker, which is also a 5-star UEFA stadium, hosted the 2009 UEFA Cup Final that went down to history as the last Final of the UEFA Cup football tournament. The UEFA Cup will be replaced by the UEFA Europa League starting from the 2009-2010 season.

The Sinan Erdem Domemarker, the largest multi-purpose indoor arena in Turkey, will host the Final of the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championship, and will also be the venue for the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships and the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships. The Abdi İpekçi Arenamarker hosted the Final of EuroBasket 2001, and was also the venue for the 1992 Euroleague Final Four.

Istanbul hosts several annual motorsports events, such as the Formula One Turkish Grand Prixmarker, the MotoGP Grand Prix of Turkeymarker, the FIA World Touring Car Championship, the GP2 and the Le Mans Series races at the Istanbul Park GP Racing Circuitmarker. From time to time Istanbul also hosts the Turkish leg of the F1 Powerboat Racing on the Bosphorusmarker. Several annual sailing and yacht races take place on the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmaramarker. The Golden Hornmarker is where the rowing races take place. Major clubs like Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, and major universities such as the Bosphorus University have rowing teams. Air racing is new to the city. On 29 July 2006, Istanbul hosted the 5th leg of the spectacular Red Bull Air Race World Series, as well as the 4th leg on 2 June 2007, in both cases above the Golden Hornmarker.

Personal sports like golf, horse riding and tennis are gaining popularity as the city hosts international tournaments such as the WTA Istanbul Cup. For aerobics and bodybuilding, numerous fitness clubs are available. Paintball is a sport which has recently gained popularity and is practiced by two large clubs in the proximity of Istanbul. Martial arts and other Eastern disciplines and practices such as Aikido and Yoga can be exercised in several centers across the city. Istanbul also hosts the annual MTB races in the nearby Belgrad Forest and Büyükada Islandmarker. Two of the most prominent cycling teams of Turkey, namely the Scott/Marintek MTB Team and the Kron/Sektor Bikes/Efor Bisiklet MTB Team, are from Istanbul.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

The following is a list of Istanbul's sister cities:

Continent Country flag City Country Start
Europe Athensmarker Greecemarker
Bakumarker Azerbaijanmarker
Berlinmarker Germanymarker
Barcelonamarker Spainmarker
Budapestmarker Hungarymarker
Cologne Germanymarker
Bucharestmarker Romaniamarker
Constanţamarker Romaniamarker
Durrësmarker Albaniamarker
Florencemarker Italymarker
Groznymarker Russiamarker
Londonmarker United Kingdommarker
Odessamarker Ukrainemarker
Plovdivmarker Bulgariamarker
Praguemarker Czech Republicmarker
Rotterdammarker Netherlandsmarker
Saint Petersburgmarker Russiamarker 1990
Sarajevomarker Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker
Skopjemarker Republic of Macedoniamarker
Stockholmmarker Swedenmarker
Strasbourgmarker Francemarker
Venicemarker Italymarker
Warsawmarker Polandmarker 1991
Asia Almatymarker Kazakhstanmarker
Ammanmarker Jordanmarker
Beirutmarker Lebanonmarker
Busanmarker South Koreamarker
Damascusmarker Syriamarker
Dubaimarker United Arab Emiratesmarker
Ho Chi Minh Citymarker Vietnammarker
Isfahanmarker Iranmarker
Jakartamarker Indonesiamarker
Jeddahmarker Saudi Arabiamarker
Johor Bahrumarker Malaysiamarker
Kabulmarker Afghanistanmarker
Kazanmarker Russiamarker
Lahoremarker Pakistanmarker
Marymarker Turkmenistanmarker
Oshmarker Kyrgyzstanmarker
Samarqandmarker Uzbekistanmarker
Shanghai Chinamarker
Shimonoseki Japanmarker
Surabayamarker Indonesiamarker
Tabrizmarker Iranmarker
Xi'anmarker Chinamarker
Americas Buenos Airesmarker Argentinamarker
Caracasmarker Venezuelamarker
Havanamarker Cubamarker
Houstonmarker USAmarker
Mexico Citymarker Mexicomarker
Rio de Janeiromarker Brazilmarker
Torontomarker Canadamarker
Africa Cairomarker Egyptmarker
Constantinemarker Algeriamarker
Khartoummarker Sudanmarker
Rabatmarker Moroccomarker

See also


  1. BBC: "Istanbul's ancient past unearthed" Published on January 10, 2009. Retrieved on January 11, 2009.
  2. A description of the city in this period can be found in the Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae ( text).
  3. Today's Zaman
  4. Belgrade Forest
  5. ("Climate change: impact on coastal habitation" by edited meterorologist Dr. Doeke Eisma with particular reference on the transitional climate of Istanbul Chapter 8 "Impact of Climatic Change on Coastal Cities" by Tjeerd Deelstra on page 174.)
  6. Istanbul, Turkey Historical Weather Data with Monthly Details (Source: International Station Meteorological Climate Summary)
  7. Ana Britannica: Turkish edition of Encyclopedia Britannica
  8. Freely, John (2000). Blue Guide Istanbul. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32014-6.
  9. Kartın. F, 1974, Ortaköy Camii, Rölöve ve Restorasyon Dergisi, 1., Ankara, p. 87–89
  10. Doģan Kuban, Osmanlı Mimarisi, YEM Yayın, 2007, ISBN 978-975-8599-89-9
  11. Türkiye istatistik kurumu Address-based population survey 2007. Retrieved on 2008-03-19.
  12. The Kurdish question. Al–Ahram Weekly. 6–12 April 2006.
  13. Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, and the Dönme in Ottoman Salonica and Turkish Istanbul. Marc Baer. University of California, Irvine.
  14. Gilson, George. “ Destroying a minority: Turkey’s attack on the Greeks”, book review of (Vryonis 2005), Athens News, 24 June 2005.
  15. PriceWaterhouseCoopers: U.K. Economic Outlook and Global City GDP Ranking 2005–2020 Full Report (PDF)
  16. CNN Türk: Dış ticaretin lokomotifi İstanbul (Istanbul is the locomotive of foreign trade)
  17. Silahtarağa Santral becomes Santralistanbul Museum
  18. PTT Chronology
  19. Istanbul City Guide: Beylerbeyi Palace
  20. Türk Telekom: History

External links

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