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Turkey, with Istanbul pinpointed at the northwest along a thin strip of land bounded by water
Turkey, with Istanbul pinpointed at the northwest along a thin strip of land bounded by water
Location within Asia
Coordinates: 41°00′49″N 28°57′18″E / 41.01361°N 28.95500°E / 41.01361; 28.95500
Ali Yerlikaya
 • Urban
2,576.85 km2 (994.93 sq mi)
 • Metro
5,343.22 km2 (2,063.03 sq mi)
Highest elevation537 m (1,762 ft)
 (31 December 2022)[4]
 • Metropolitan municipality and province15,907,951
 • Rank1st in Turkey
Website (in Turkish)
Official nameHistoric Areas of Istanbul
CriteriaCultural: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Inscription1985 (9th Session)
Area765.5 ha (1,892 acres)

Istanbul (

Latin: Constantinopolis), is the largest city in Turkey, serving as the country's economic, cultural and historic hub. The city straddles the Bosporus strait, lying in both Europe and Asia, and has a population of over 15 million residents, comprising 19% of the population of Turkey.[4] Istanbul is the most populous European city,[c] and the world's 15th-largest city

The city was founded as

Latin: Nova Roma)[10] and then as Constantinople (Constantinopolis) after himself.[10][11] The city grew in size and influence, eventually becoming a beacon of the Silk Road
and one of the most important cities in history.

The city served as an imperial capital for almost 1600 years: during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), late Byzantine (1261–1453), and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires.[12] The city played a key role in the advancement of Christianity during Roman/Byzantine times, hosting four of the first seven ecumenical councils before its transformation to an Islamic stronghold following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE—especially after becoming the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1517.[13] In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara replaced the city as the capital of the newly formed Republic of Turkey. In 1930, the city's name was officially changed to Istanbul, the Turkish rendering of εἰς τὴν Πόλιν (romanized: eis tḕn Pólin; 'to the City'), the appellation Greek speakers used since the 11th century to colloquially refer to the city.[10]

Over 13.4 million foreign visitors came to Istanbul in 2018, eight years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making it the world's eighth most visited city.[14] The historic centre of Istanbul is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city hosts the headquarters of numerous Turkish companies, accounting for more than thirty percent of the country's economy.[15][16]


The first known name of the city is

Ottoman Turkish: قسطنطينيه) and İstanbul were the names used alternatively by the Ottomans during their rule.[20]

The name İstanbul (Turkish pronunciation: 

Ottoman Turkish: اسلامبول) 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]


This large keystone might have belonged to a triumphal arch at the Forum of Constantine (present-day Çemberlitaş).[17]
Historical affiliations

Byzantium 667 BC–510 BC
 Persian Empire 512 BC–478 BC
Byzantium (Under Athens) 478 BC–404 BC
Byzantium 404 BC–196 CE

196–395 (Capital between 330–395)
Byzantine Empire 395–1204
Latin Empire 1204–1261
Byzantine Empire 1261–1453
 Ottoman Empire 1453–1918
United KingdomFrench Third RepublicKingdom of ItalyKingdom of Greece Occupation of Istanbul 1918–1923
Ottoman Empire Turkish National Movement 1923
 Turkey 1923–Present

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,[10][33][d] when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosporus. 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

Originally a church, later a mosque, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia (532–537) by Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral
(1507) in Spain

Constantine the Great effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire in September 324.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47]

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.

Christian civilization".[54][55]

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.[56] They established the Latin Empire in place of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire.[57] Hagia Sophia was converted to a Catholic church in 1204. The Byzantine Empire was restored, albeit weakened, in 1261.[58] Constantinople's churches, defenses, and basic services were in disrepair,[59] and its population had dwindled to a hundred thousand from half a million during the 8th century.[e] After the reconquest of 1261, however, some of the city's monuments were restored, and some, like the two Deesis mosaics in Hagia Sophia and Kariye, were created.[60]

The 6th century Basilica Cistern was built by Justinian the Great

Various economic and military policies instituted by

Kayser-i Rûm (the Ottoman Turkish equivalent of the Caesar of Rome) and the Ottoman state was reorganized into an empire.[64][65]

Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic eras

Map of Istanbul in the 16th century by the Ottoman polymath Matrakçı Nasuh

Following the conquest of Constantinople,

aqueducts.[69] Like many monarchs before and since, Mehmed II transformed Istanbul's urban landscape with wholesale redevelopment of the city center.[70] 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.[69] Mehmed II turned the ramshackle old town into something that looked like an imperial capital.[70]

Social hierarchy was ignored by the rampant plague, which killed the rich and the poor alike in the 16th century.[71] Money could not protect the rich from all the discomforts and harsher sides of Istanbul.[71] 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.[71] Opulent houses shared the same streets and districts with tiny hovels.[71] Those rich enough to have secluded country properties had a chance of escaping the periodic epidemics of sickness that blighted Istanbul.[71]

Seraglio Point from Galata Tower


ceramics, stained glass, calligraphy, and miniature flourished.[72] The population of Constantinople was 570,000 by the end of the 18th century.[73]

A period of rebellion at the start of the 19th century led to the rise of the progressive Sultan

Two aerial photos showing the Golden Horn and the Bosporus, taken from a German zeppelin on 19 March 1918

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.[79] 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.[80]

The Ottoman Empire joined

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

A view of Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street) in the late 1920s. Completed in 1892, the Ottoman Bank headquarters is seen at left. In 1995 the Istanbul Stock Exchange moved to İstinye, while numerous Turkish banks have moved to Levent and Maslak.[83]

Following 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.[84] 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.[84] 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.[85][86]

A 1942 wealth tax assessed mainly on non-Muslims led to the transfer or liquidation of many businesses owned by religious minorities.[87] 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.[88] 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.[89]


Satellite image showing a thin piece of land, densely populated on the south, bisected by a waterway
Satellite view of Istanbul and the strait of Bosporus

Istanbul is located in north-western

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

higher engineering standards
for new construction.


Istanbul's climate is temperate, and is often described as transitional between the Mediterranean climate typical of the western and southern coasts of Turkey, and the oceanic climate of the northwestern coasts of the country.[93] Much divergence exists in the terminology used to classify the city's climate, however.

The city's summers are warm to hot and moderately dry, with an average daytime temperature of about 27 °C (81 °F), and less than 7 days of precipitation per month. Despite the generally acceptable temperature range, however, mid-summer in Istanbul is considered moderately uncomfortable, due to high dew points and relative humidity.[94] Winters, meanwhile, are cool, quite rainy, and relatively snow-rich for their well-above-freezing temperatures.

Istanbul's precipitation is unevenly distributed, with winter months getting at least twice the level of precipitation of their summerly counterparts. The mode of precipitation also varies by season. Winter precipitation is generally light, persistent and often of mixed precipitation such as rain-snow mixes and graupel; while summer precipitation is generally abrupt and sporadic. Cloudiness, as with precipitation, varies greatly by season. Winters are quite cloudy, with around 20 percent of days being sunny or partly cloudy. Meanwhile, summers experience 60-70 percent of possible sunshine.

Snowfall is somewhat common, and often persistent and disruptive; sea-effect snowstorms with more than 30 centimetres (1 ft) of snowfall happen almost annually, most recently in 2022.[95][96]

Climate data for
Kireçburnu, Istanbul (normals 1981–2010, snowy days 1996-2011, more data on the main article
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.8
Average low °C (°F) 3.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 99.5
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
Percent possible sunshine 22 29 38 46 57 64 69 66 65 46 31 22 46
Source: [97][98]

Climate change

As with virtually every part of the world, climate change is causing more heatwaves,[99] droughts,[100] storms,[101] and flooding[102][103] in Istanbul. Furthermore, as Istanbul is a large and rapidly expanding city, its urban heat island has been intensifying the effects of climate change.[104] If trends continue, sea level rise is likely to affect city infrastructure, for example Kadıkoy metro station is threatened with flooding.[105] Xeriscaping of green spaces has been suggested,[106] and Istanbul has a climate-change action plan.[107]


Districts and neighborhoods

A view of Levent from Kanlıca across the Bosporus

European side

The Fatih district, which was named after Sultan Mehmed II (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.[108] 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.[109]

Bomonti are important nodes within the CBD.[111][112]

The Atatürk Airport corridor is another such edge city-style business, residential and shopping corridor with over 900,000 m2 (9,700,000 sq ft) of class-A office space.[112]

Two- and three-story colored houses with docks and balconies, built directly on the edge of the water
Originally outside the city, yalı residences along the Bosporus
are now homes in some of Istanbul's elite neighborhoods.

Asian side

During the Ottoman period,

edge cities", i.e. corridors and nodes of business and shopping centers and of tall residential buildings.[112]


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.[114] At present, some gecekondu areas are being gradually demolished and replaced by modern mass-housing compounds.[115] Moreover, large scale gentrification and urban renewal projects have been taking place,[116] such as the one in Tarlabaşı;[117] some of these projects, like the one in Sulukule, have faced criticism.[118] The Turkish government also has ambitious plans for an expansion of the city west and northwards on the European side in conjunction with the new Istanbul Airport, opened in 2019; the new parts of the city will include four different settlements with specified urban functions, housing 1.5 million people.[119]


A view of Taksim Square with the Republic Monument (1928) designed by Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and Taksim Mosque

Istanbul does not have a primary urban park, but it has several green areas.

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.[121] 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.[122][123]


Galata Tower dominates the skyline of the medieval Genoese citadel at the north of the Golden Horn

Istanbul is primarily known for its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Despite its development as a Turkish city since 1453, it contains many 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)[124] 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.

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.[126] 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.[125] 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.[127]

Abdülaziz, the 19th-century Dolmabahçe, Çırağan, Beylerbeyi and Küçüksu palaces on the Bosporus were designed by members of the Armenian Balyan family of court architects.[128]

Next in age is 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).[129]

Built in

Manuel Komnenos (r. 1143–1180).[17][125]

There are traces of the Byzantine era throughout the city, from ancient churches that were built over early Christian meeting places like the

Porta Aurea (Golden Gate), among numerous others. 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]

However, it is the Hagia Sophia 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 Byzantine architecture.[130] The Hagia Sophia stood as the world's largest cathedral in the world until it was converted into a mosque in the 15th century.[130] The minarets date from that period.[130] Because of its historical significance, it was reopened as a museum in 1935. However, it was re-converted into a mosque in July 2020.

İznik tiles which adorn its interior.[131] The Obelisk of Thutmose III (Obelisk of Theodosius
) is seen in the foreground.

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.[132]

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.[133] Over the next four centuries, the Ottomans made an indelible impression on the skyline of Istanbul, building towering mosques and ornate palaces.

Prince Islands
in the background

Topkapı Palace, dating back to 1465, is the oldest seat of government surviving in Istanbul. Mehmed II built the original palace as his main residence and the seat of government.

Baghdad Kiosk, to commemorate his conquest of Baghdad the previous year.[136] Government meetings took place here until 1786, when the seat of government was moved to the Sublime Porte.[134] After several hundred years of royal residence, it was abandoned in 1853 in favor of the baroque Dolmabahçe Palace.[135] Topkapı Palace became public property following the abolition of monarchy in 1922.[135] After extensive renovation, it became one of Turkey's first national museums in 1924.[134]


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.[137] 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.[138]


Since 2004, the municipal boundaries of Istanbul have been coincident with the boundaries of its province.[139] 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

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.[141][142] This system continued beyond the founding of the Turkish Republic, with the province renamed a belediye (municipality), but the municipality was disbanded in 1957.[143]

Istanbul Province

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.[144][145] 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.[146] 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.[147] The Municipal Council is advised by the Metropolitan Executive Committee, although the committee also has limited power to make decisions of its own.[148] 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.[148][149]

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.[146] All members of the district councils and the Municipal Council, including the metropolitan mayor, are elected to five-year terms.[150] Representing the Republican People's Party, Ekrem İmamoğlu has been the Mayor of Istanbul since 27 June 2019.[151]

With the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Istanbul Province having equivalent jurisdictions, few responsibilities remain for the provincial government. Like 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.

Governor of Istanbul Province since 26 October 2018.[154]


Historical populations
7th c.150–350,000
8th c.125–500,000
9th c.50–250,000
YearPop.±% p.a.
Sources: Jan Lahmeyer 2004,Chandler 1987, Morris 2010,Turan 2010[155]
Pre-Republic figures estimated[e]

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.[157] 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.[158]

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.[159] 64.4% of the residents live on the European side and 35.6% on the Asian side.[159]

Istanbul ranks as the

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.[162] This growth was fueled by internal and international migration. Istanbul's foreign population with a residence permit increased dramatically, from 43,000 in 2007[163] to 856,377 in 2019.[164][165]

According to 2020 TÜİK data around 2.1 million people in a population of over 15.4 million have been registered[g] in Istanbul, meanwhile the vast majority of the residents ultimately originate from Anatolian provinces, especially those in the Black Sea, Central and Eastern Anatolia regions due to internal migration since the 1950s.[166] People registered in Kastamonu, Ordu, Giresun, Erzurum, Samsun, Malatya, Trabzon, Sinop and Rize provinces represent the biggest population groups in Istanbul, meanwhile people registered in Sivas has the highest percentage with more than 760 thousand residents in the city.[167] A 2019 survey found that only 36% of the Istanbul's population was born in the province.[168]

Ethnic and religious groups

Ethnic groups among Turkish citizens in Istanbul (2019 KONDA survey)

Istanbul has been a cosmopolitan city throughout much of its history, but it has become more homogenized since the end of the Ottoman era. The dominant ethnic group in the city is Turkish people, which also forms the majority group in Turkey. According to survey data 78% of the voting-age Turkish citizens in Istanbul state "Turkish" as their ethnic identity.[168]

With estimates ranging from 2 to 4 million, Kurds form one of the largest ethnic minorities in Istanbul and are the biggest group after Turks among Turkish citizens.[169][170] According to a 2019 KONDA study, Kurds constituted around 17% of Istanbul's adult total population who were Turkish citizens.[168] Although the initial Kurdish presence in the city dates back to the early Ottoman period,[171] the majority of Kurds in the city originate from villages in eastern and southeastern Turkey.[172] Zazas are also present in the city and constitute around 1% of the total voting-age population.[168]

refugees of the Syrian Civil War in Turkey residing in Istanbul is estimated to be around 1 million.[177] Native Arab population in Turkey who are Turkish citizens are found to be making up less than 1% of city's total adult population.[168]

Built by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Süleymaniye Mosque (1550–1557) was designed by his chief architect Mimar Sinan, the most illustrious of all Ottoman architects.[132]

2019 survey study by KONDA that examined the religiosity of the voting-age adults in Istanbul showed that 57% of the surveyed had a religion and were trying to practise its requirements. This was followed by nonobservant people with 26% who identified with a religion but generally did not practise its requirements. 11% stated they were fully devoted to their religion, meanwhile 6% were

religious conservatives". Around 90% of Istanbul's population are Sunni Muslims and Alevism forms the second biggest religious group.[168][178]

Into the 19th century, the Christians of Istanbul tended to be either

Levantines.[179] 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.[180] 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.[180] There are today 50,000 to 70,000 Armenians in Istanbul[181] down from a peak of 164,000 in 1913.[182] As of 2019, an estimated 18,000 of the country's 25,000 Christian Assyrians live in Istanbul.[183]

There are 234 active churches and chapels in the city,[184] including the Church of St. Anthony of Padua on İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu (Pera)

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.[185] 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.[186] 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.[187] 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.[187] 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.[187] In marked contrast to Jews in Europe, Ottoman Jews were allowed to work in any profession.[188] Ottoman Jews in Istanbul excelled in commerce and came to particularly dominate the medical profession.[188] By 1711, using the printing press, books came to be published in Spanish and Ladino, Yiddish, and Hebrew.[189] In large part due to emigration to Israel, the Jewish population in the city dropped from 100,000 in 1950[190] to 15,000 in 2021.[191][192][193]


Politically, Istanbul is seen as the most important administrative region in Turkey. In the run-up to local elections in 2019, Erdoğan claimed 'if we fail in Istanbul, we will fail in Turkey'.[194] 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.[195] For Ekrem İmamoğlu, winning the mayorlty 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.[196]

Mayor of Istanbul, elected in 2019