20 Facts About Istanbul

Istanbul is a sprawling metropolis filled with stunning architecture and rich culture dating back 2,000 years ago. We can tell you this right now: Istanbul is a city you absolutely must see for yourself. Eager to know more? Keep on reading to learn 20 facts about Istanbul. 

Fact 1: Istanbul is one of the most populated cities in Turkey, and is the country’s economic, cultural and historic centre.

  • It was formerly known as Byzantium, Constantinople, and New Rome.

Fact 2: Istanbul encompasses two continents: Asia and Europe.

  • Its commercial and historical centre lies on the European side, and about a third of its population lives in the suburbs on the Asian side the historic city. 

Fact 3: Roughly 15.7 million people reside in this metropolis as of 2018. 

  • Istanbul is one of the world’s most populous cities, ranking as the world’s fourth-largest city.

Fact 4: Around 660 BCE, the city was founded under the name Byzantio.

  • It was later re-established as Constantinople in 330 CE and served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries. 

Fact 5: It played an important role in the historic Silk Road. 

  • The Silk Road was a network of trade routes which connected the East and West. It was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between these regions from the 2nd century BCE to the 18th century.

Fact 6: After the Turkish War of Independence in 1923, Ankara became Turkey’s new capital.

  • Consequently, Istanbul also got its present name. 

Fact 7: In 2010, it was named a European Capital of Culture.

  • In 2015, Istanbul saw over 12 million tourists, making the city the world’s fifth most popular tourist destination.

Fact 8: Istanbul’s biggest attraction is its historic centre which is partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Many sights in Istanbul can be reached easily by foot. The best place to start off your historic journey is in the historic quarter of Sultanahmet in the Fatih district.  

Fact 9: In 1502, Istanbul was the most populated city in the world.

  • The city was later dethroned by London in 1840. 

Fact 10: Istanbul was also formerly known as Constantinople, after the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. 

  • This was because the city was built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.

Fact 11: Turkey’s Istanbul has the highest number of mosques: 3,113 mosques are here, these include the historical Sultanahmet Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.

  • Consequently, Turkey has 82,693 mosques in total. 

Fact 12: It’s home to the Hagia Sophia, which was once the largest church in the world. 

  • The Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral in 537 CE, then it became a mosque under the Ottoman rule. It was then adapted and revamped into a museum, it still is a museum to this day. The Hagia Sophia is probably the most important landmark, and one of the absolute highlights in Istanbul, it attracts over 3 million tourists a year.

Fact 13: You’ll find in the city of Istanbul some of Turkey’s oldest sports clubs. 

  • These include Beşiktaş J.K. which was established in 1903 and used to be the country’s sole sports club. 

Fact 14: The Tünel is the shortest and third oldest subway in the world.

  • Inaugurated on 17 January 1875, Istanbul’s Tunnel is the world’s shortest and third-oldest passenger terminal, after the underground systems of London and New York. The subway is only 573 meters long.  

Fact 15: Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. 

  • It first opened its doors to shoppers in 1461. Today, it spans across 61 streets and has around 4,000 shops. It attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.

Fact 16: Directly opposite the Hagia Sophia is the largest and undoubtedly most impressive mosque in all of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque.

  • The Blue Mosque was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. It remains a functioning mosque, while also attracting large numbers of tourists.

Fact 17: The city’s most famous shopping street is Istiklal Caddesi.

  • The street stretches from the south-near the Galata Tower, all the way to the famous Taksim Square in the north.

Fact 18: Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” inside the Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.

  • The Orient Express train travelled between Paris and Istanbul from 1883 to 1977. In the novel, the lavish train is stopped by heavy snowfall while passengers are on board. A murder is discovered, and it’s up to Poirot to solve the case! 

Fact 19: The city of Istanbul has not hosted the Olympics.

  • Interestingly, it has bid a number of times to host the Olympics but has fallen short on each occasion.

Fact 20: Istanbul is the second most congested city in the world. 

  • If you’re planning on commuting leave in plenty of time as your journey will take you 55% longer than usual to get anywhere! 


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