Istanbul is a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures. This is because it is geographically in both Europe and Asia. This makes Istanbul unique as it is the only transcontinental city in the world. From having many names to being the capital city of ancient empires, but not the capital of modern-day Turkey, here are some of the most interesting facts about Istanbul.
7 Interesting Facts About Istanbul
1. Istanbul is located both in Europe and Asia
Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Geographically, it is in both Europe and Asia. Istanbul is considered European, despite occupying two different continents. The Bosporus strait divides the two continents and passes through Istanbul. It is the link between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The European side is the western half of Istanbul – located west of the Bosphorus. The Asian side is the eastern half of the city and is located east of the Bosphorus. Two-thirds of the population of Istanbul live on the European side.
2. Istanbul is one of the world’s most populated cities
Since the 1950s, the population of Istanbul has grown significantly. In 1950, the city’s population was almost 970,000. Today, the population of Istanbul is 15,636,000. This makes Istanbul the most populous city in Europe and the fifth-largest city in the world in terms of population within city limits. For comparison, there are about 11.56 million people living in the entire country of Belgium.
3. Istanbul was the capital of many empires
Istanbul was the capital city of three major Empires: the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. With such a long history, it is no surprise that the city has had many different names. The Megarian colonists in 660 BC called it Byzantium. Following that, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306 to 337) made it the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and renamed it Constantinople. When the Ottoman forces captured the city in 1453 it continued to use variations of “Constantinople”. Following the Ottomans’ defeat, the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923. However, it wasn’t until 1930 that the city was formally called Istanbul.
4. Istanbul is not the modern-day capital city
Despite being the capital city of many ancient empires, Istanbul is not the capital of modern-day Turkey. Istanbul is the largest (by population) city in Turkey with more than 15 million people, but the capital city of Turkey is actually Ankara, which is located some 278 miles (447km) from Istanbul. The biggest city, by area, in Turkey is the city of Konya.
5. Istanbul is the City on the Seven Hills
Istanbul is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome. But this isn’t some sort of geographical coincidence. In fact, it was a deliberate decision by the Byzantine Empire so it could proclaim itself the ‘new Rome’ and snub the crumbling Roman empire. The city walls surrounded the seven hills, just like they did in Rome.
6. Istanbul is home to the world’s second-oldest subway
Istanbul has the second oldest subway in the world. Constructed in 1875, it is some 573 meters long and located in the Beyoglu district. Known as The Tünel, it was the first underground train in continental Europe. It is the world’s second-oldest underground urban rail line after the London Underground which was built in 1863.
7. Istanbul is home to the oldest covered market in the world
The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is the oldest and biggest covered market in the world. The Grand Bazaar is located in the district of Fatih inside the Walled city of Istanbul. Its history dates back to the winter of 1455/56. Today, the Grand Bazaar is a thriving shopping area and one of the major landmarks of the city. It has 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops selling everything from carpets to souvenirs.