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Largest city in Turkey

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Clockwise from top: the Bosphorus Bridge connecting Europe and Asia; Maiden's Tower; a nostalgic tram on İstiklal Avenue; Levent business district; Galata Tower; Ortaköy Mosque in front of the Bosphorus Bridge; and Hagia Sophia.
Emblem of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Location within Turkey
Location within Europe
Location within Asia
Istanbul (Earth)
Coordinates: 41°00′49″N 28°57′18″E / 41.01361°N 28.95500°E / 41.01361; 28.95500Coordinates: 41°00′49″N 28°57′18″E / 41.01361°N 28.95500°E / 41.01361; 28.95500
Provincial seat[a]Cağaloğlu, Fatih
 • TypeMayor–council government
 • BodyMunicipal Council of Istanbul
 • MayorEkrem İmamoğlu (CHP)
 • GovernorAli 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 2020)[4]
 • Megacity15,462,452
 • Rank1st in Turkey
 • Urban
 • Urban density5,879/km2 (15,230/sq mi)
 • Metro density2,894/km2 (7,500/sq mi)
(Turkish: İstanbullu)
Time zoneUTC+3 (TRT)
Postal code
34000 to 34990
Area code(s)+90 212 (European side)
+90 216 (Asian side)
Vehicle registration34
GDP (Nominal)2019[5]
 - TotalUS$ 237 billion
 - Per capitaUS$ 15,285
HDI (2018)0.828[6] (very high) · 3rd
GeoTLD.ist, .istanbul
Official nameHistoric Areas of Istanbul
CriteriaCultural: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Inscription1985 (9th session)
Area765.5 ha (1,892 acres)

Istanbul (/ˌɪstænˈbʊl/ IST-an-BUUL,[7][8] US also /ˈɪstænbʊl/ IST-an-buul; Turkish: İstanbul [isˈtanbuɫ] ( listen)), historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the largest city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. The city straddles the Bosphorus strait, and lies in both Europe and Asia, with a population of over 15 million residents, comprising 19% of the population of Turkey.[4] Istanbul is the most populous city in Europe,[b] and the world's fifteenth-largest city.

Founded as Byzantion by Megarian colonists in 660 BCE, and renamed as Constantinople in 330 CE,[9] the city grew in size and influence, becoming a beacon of the Silk Road and one of the most important cities in history. It served as an imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), Byzantine (1261–1453), and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires.[10] It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before its transformation to an Islamic stronghold following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.[11] 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, an appellation Greek speakers used since the eleventh century to colloquially refer to the city.[12]

Over 13.4 million foreign visitors came to Istanbul in 2018, eight years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fifth-most popular tourist destination.[13] Istanbul is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and hosts the headquarters of numerous Turkish companies, accounting for more than thirty percent of the country's economy.[14][15]

Istanbul Intro articles: 14


The first known name of the city is Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion), the name given to it at its foundation by Megarean colonists around 660 BCE.[17] Megaran colonists claimed a direct line back to the founders of the city, Byzas, the son of the god Poseidon and the nymph Ceroëssa.[17] Modern excavations has raised the possibility that the name Byzantium might reflect the sites of native Thracian settlements that preceded the fully fledged town.[18] Constantinople comes from the Latin name Constantinus, after Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who refounded the city in 324 CE.[17] Constantinople remained the most common name for the city in the West until the 1930s, when Turkish authorities began to press for the use of "Istanbul" in foreign languages. Kostantiniyye (Ottoman Turkish: قسطنطينيه‎), Be Makam-e Qonstantiniyyah al-Mahmiyyah (meaning "the Protected Location of Constantinople") and İstanbul were the names used alternatively by the Ottomans during their rule.[19]

The name İstanbul (Turkish pronunciation: [isˈtanbuɫ] ( listen), colloquially [ɯsˈtambuɫ]) is commonly held to derive from the Medieval Greek phrase "εἰς τὴν Πόλιν" (pronounced [is tim ˈbolin]), which means "to the city"[20] and is how Constantinople was referred to by the local Greeks. This reflected its status as the only major city in the vicinity. The importance of Constantinople in the Ottoman world was also reflected by its Ottoman nickname "Der Saadet" meaning the "gate to Prosperity" in Ottoman.[21] An alternative view is that the name evolved directly from the name Constantinople, with the first and third syllables dropped.[17] Some Ottoman sources of the 17th century, such as Evliya Çelebi, describe it as the common Turkish name of the time; between the late 17th and late 18th centuries, it was also in official use. The first use of the word "Islambol" on coinage was in 1730 during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I.[22] 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).[23] A person from the city is an İstanbullu (plural: İstanbullular), although Istanbulite is used in English.[24]

Istanbul Toponymy articles: 9


This huge keystone found in Çemberlitaş, Fatih, might have belonged to a triumphal arch at the Forum of Constantine; the forum was built by Constantine I in the quarter of modern-day Çemberlitaş.[16]
The surviving lower walls of the Sphendone, the curved tribune[25][26] (facing southwest) of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which was originally built by the Roman emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century and was later enlarged by emperor Constantine the Great after he decided to make Byzantium (Constantinople) the new capital of the Roman Empire.

Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul's historic peninsula was settled as far back as the 6th millennium BCE.[27] That early settlement, important in the spread of the Neolithic Revolution from the Near East to Europe, lasted for almost a millennium before being inundated by rising water levels.[28][29][30][31] The first human settlement on the Asian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500 to 3500 BCE,[32] 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,[33] mentioned by Pliny the Elder as an earlier name for the site of Byzantium.[34]

The history of the city proper begins around 660 BCE,[35][c] when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. The settlers built an acropolis adjacent to the Golden Horn on the site of the early Thracian settlements, fueling the nascent city's economy.[41] 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.[42] Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian League, before gaining independence in 355 BCE.[43] Long allied with the Romans, Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in 73 CE.[44] 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.[45] Five years later, Severus began to rebuild Byzantium, and the city regained—and, by some accounts, surpassed—its previous prosperity.[46]

Rise and fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire

The construction of the Aqueduct of Valens began during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantius II and was completed in 373 during the reign of emperor Valens.
The Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) of the walls of Constantinople was used by Byzantine emperors.[47]

Constantine the Great effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire in September 324.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]

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.

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.[50][51] Numerous churches were built across the city, including Hagia Sophia which was built during the reign of Justinian the Great and remained the world's largest cathedral for a thousand years.[52] Constantine also undertook a major renovation and expansion of the Hippodrome of Constantinople; accommodating tens of thousands of spectators, the hippodrome became central to civic life and, in the 5th and 6th centuries, the center of episodes of unrest, including the Nika riots.[53][54] Constantinople's location also ensured its existence would stand the test of time; for many centuries, its walls and seafront protected Europe against invaders from the east and the advance of Islam.[51] During most of the Middle Ages, the latter part of the Byzantine era, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city on the European continent and at times the largest in the world.[55][56]

Created in 1422 by Cristoforo Buondelmonti, this is the oldest surviving map of Constantinople.

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.[57] They established the Latin Empire in place of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire.[58] Hagia Sophia was converted to a Catholic church in 1204. The Byzantine Empire was restored, albeit weakened, in 1261.[59] Constantinople's churches, defenses, and basic services were in disrepair,[60] and its population had dwindled to a hundred thousand from half a million during the 8th century.[d] After the reconquest of 1261, however, some of the city's monuments were restored, and some, like the two Deesis mosaics in Hagia Sofia and Kariye, were created.[61]

Various economic and military policies instituted by Andronikos II, such as the reduction of military forces, weakened the empire and left it vulnerable to attack.[62] In the mid-14th-century, the Ottoman Turks began a strategy of gradually taking smaller towns and cities, cutting off Constantinople's supply routes and strangling it slowly.[63] On 29 May 1453, after an eight-week siege (during which the last Roman emperor, Constantine XI, was killed), Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople and declared it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hours later, the sultan rode to the Hagia Sophia and summoned an imam to proclaim the Islamic creed, converting the grand cathedral into an imperial mosque due to the city's refusal to surrender peacefully.[64] Mehmed declared himself as the new "Kaysar-i Rûm" (the Ottoman Turkish equivalent of Caesar of Rome) and the Ottoman state was reorganized into an empire.[65]

Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic eras

Following the conquest of Constantinople,[e] Mehmed II immediately set out to revitalize the city. Cognizant that revitalization would fail without the repopulation of the city, Mehmed II welcomed everyone–foreigners, criminals, and runaways– showing extraordinary openness and willingness to incorporate outsiders that came to define Ottoman political culture.[67] He also invited people from all over Europe to his capital, creating a cosmopolitan society that persisted through much of the Ottoman period.[68] Revitalizing Istanbul also required a massive program of restorations, of everything from roads to 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 sixteenth 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]

The first Galata Bridge in the 19th century

The Ottoman Dynasty claimed the status of caliphate in 1517, with Constantinople remaining the capital of this last caliphate for four centuries.[11] Suleiman the Magnificent's reign from 1520 to 1566 was a period of especially great artistic and architectural achievement; chief architect Mimar Sinan designed several iconic buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, stained glass, calligraphy, and miniature flourished.[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 Mahmud II and eventually to the Tanzimat period, which produced political reforms and allowed new technology to be introduced to the city.[74] Bridges across the Golden Horn were constructed during this period,[75] and Constantinople was connected to the rest of the European railway network in the 1880s.[76] Modern facilities, such as a water supply network, electricity, telephones, and trams, were gradually introduced to Constantinople over the following decades, although later than to other European cities.[77] The modernization efforts were not enough to forestall the decline of the Ottoman Empire.[78]

Two aerial photos showing the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, 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 World War I (1914–1918) on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated. The deportation of Armenian intellectuals on 24 April 1915 was among the major events which marked the start of the Armenian Genocide during WWI.[81] Due to Ottoman and Turkish policies of Turkification and ethnic cleansing, the city's Christian population declined from 450,000 to 240,000 between 1914 and 1927.[82] The Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918 and the Allies occupied Constantinople on 13 November 1918. The Ottoman Parliament was dissolved by the Allies on 11 April 1920 and the Ottoman delegation led by Damat Ferid Pasha was forced to sign the Treaty of Sèvres on 10 August 1920.

A view of Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street) in the late 1920s. Completed in 1892, the Ottoman Central 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 Turkish War of Independence (1919–1922), the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara abolished the Sultanate on 1 November 1922, and the last Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed VI, was declared persona non grata. Leaving aboard the British warship HMS Malaya on 17 November 1922, he went into exile and died in Sanremo, Italy, on 16 May 1926. The Treaty of Lausanne was signed on 24 July 1923, and the occupation of Constantinople ended with the departure of the last forces of the Allies from the city on 4 October 1923.[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] According to historian Philip Mansel:

after the departure of the dynasty in 1925, from being the most international city in Europe, Constantinople became one of the most nationalistic....Unlike Vienna, Constantinople turned its back on the past. Even its name was changed. Constantinople was dropped because of its Ottoman and international associations. From 1926 the post office only accepted Istanbul; it appeared more Turkish and was used by most Turks.[87]

A 1942 wealth tax assessed mainly on non-Muslims led to the transfer or liquidation of many businesses owned by religious minorities.[88] 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.[89] 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.[90]

A panoramic view of the Ottoman era city from Galata Tower in the 19th century (image with notes)

Istanbul History articles: 105


Satellite view of Istanbul and the strait of Bosporus

Istanbul is located in north-western Turkey and straddles the strait Bosporus, which provides the only passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Sea of Marmara.[14] Historically, the city has been ideally situated for trade and defense: The confluence of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn provide both ideal defense against enemy attack and a natural toll-gate.[14] Several picturesque islands—Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kınalıada, and five smaller islands—are part of the city.[14] Istanbul's shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Large sections of Caddebostan sit on areas of landfill, increasing the total area of the city to 5,343 square kilometers (2,063 sq mi).[14]

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 metres (1,762 ft) high.[14]

The nearby North Anatolian Fault is responsible for much earthquake activity, although it doesn't physically pass through the city itself.[91] North Anatolian Fault caused the earthquakes in 1766 and 1894.[91] The threat of major earthquakes plays a large role in the city's infrastructure development, with over 500,000[91] vulnerable buildings demolished and replaced since 2012.[92] The city has repeatedly upgraded its building codes, most recently in 2018,[92] requiring retrofits for older buildings and higher engineering standards for new construction.


Microclimates of Istanbul according to Köppen–Geiger classification system

Istanbul has borderline Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa), humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) with generally cool winters and warm to hot summers (mean temperature peaking at 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) in August).[93] Spring and fall are usually mild, with varying conditions dependent on wind direction.[94][95]

Istanbul's weather is strongly influenced by the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Black Sea to the north. This moderates temperature swings and produces a mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation. Because of its hilly topography and maritime influences, Istanbul exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates.[96] Within the city, rainfall varies widely owing to the rain shadow of the hills in Istanbul, from around 635 millimeters (25.0 in) on the southern fringe at Florya to 1,167 millimeters (45.9 in) on the northern fringe at Bahçeköy.[97]

Lake-effect snow is common and forms when cold air, upon contact with the Black Sea, develops into moist and unstable air that ascends to form snow squalls along the lee shores of the Black Sea.[98] These snow squalls are heavy snow bands and occasionally thundersnows, with accumulation rates approaching 5–8 centimeters (2.0–3.1 in) per hour.[99]

The highest recorded temperature at the official downtown observation station in Sarıyer was 41.5 °C (107 °F) and on 13 July 2000.[98] The lowest recorded temperature was −16.1 °C (3 °F) on 9 February 1929.[98] The highest recorded snow cover in the city center was 80 centimeters (31 in) on 4 January 1942, and 104 centimeters (41 in) in the northern suburbs on 11 January 2017.[100][98][101]

Climate data for Istanbul (Sarıyer), 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.4
Average high °C (°F) 8.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.8
Average low °C (°F) 3.5
Record low °C (°F) −13.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 99.5
Average 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
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
Source: Turkish State Meteorological Service[102]
Climate data for Istanbul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average sea temperature °C (°F) 8.4
Mean daily daylight hours 10.0 11.0 12.0 13.0 14.0 15.0 15.0 14.0 12.0 11.0 10.0 9.0 12.2
Average ultraviolet index 2 2 4 5 7 8 9 8 6 4 2 1 5
Source: Weather Atlas [105]

Climate change

Climate change in Turkey may cause more urban heatwaves,[106] droughts,[107] storms,[108] and flooding.[109][110] Sea level rise is forecast to affect city infrastructure, for example Kadıkoy metro station is threatened with flooding.[111] Xeriscaping of green spaces has been suggested,[112] and Istanbul has a climate-change action plan.[113]

Istanbul Geography articles: 25


Çırağan Palace (1867) briefly served as the Ottoman Parliament building between 14 November 1909 and 19 January 1910, when it was damaged by fire. It was restored between 1987 and 1992 and was reopened as a five-star hotel in the Kempinski Hotels chain.
A view of Topkapı Palace from across the Golden Horn, with the Prince Islands in the background

The Fatih district, which was named after Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (Turkish: Fatih Sultan Mehmed), corresponds to what was, until the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the whole of the city of Constantinople (today is the capital district and called the historic peninsula of Istanbul) on the southern shore of the Golden Horn, across the medieval Genoese citadel of Galata on the northern shore. The Genoese fortifications in Galata were largely demolished in the 19th century, leaving only the Galata Tower, to make way for the northward expansion of the city.[114] 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.[115]

Dolmabahçe Palace, the seat of government during the late Ottoman period, is in the Beşiktaş district on the European shore of the Bosphorus strait, to the north of Beyoğlu. The Sublime Porte (Bâb-ı Âli), which became a metonym for the Ottoman government, was originally used to describe the Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyun) at the outermost courtyard of the Topkapı Palace; but after the 18th century, the Sublime Porte (or simply Porte) began to refer to the gate of the Sadrazamlık (Prime Ministry) compound in the Cağaloğlu quarter near Topkapı Palace, where the offices of the Sadrazam (Grand Vizier) and other Viziers were, and where foreign diplomats were received. The former village of Ortaköy is within Beşiktaş and gives its name to the Ortaköy Mosque on the Bosphorus, near the Bosphorus Bridge. Lining both the European and Asian shores of the Bosphorus are the historic yalıs, luxurious chalet mansions built by Ottoman aristocrats and elites as summer homes.[116] Farther inland, outside the city's inner ring road, are Levent and Maslak, Istanbul's main business districts.[117]

Originally outside the city, yalı residences along the Bosphorus are now homes in some of Istanbul's elite neighborhoods.

During the Ottoman period, Üsküdar (then Scutari) and Kadıköy were outside the scope of the urban area, serving as tranquil outposts with seaside yalıs and gardens. But in the second half of the 20th century, the Asian side experienced major urban growth; the late development of this part of the city led to better infrastructure and tidier urban planning when compared with most other residential areas in the city.[118] Much of the Asian side of the Bosphorus functions as a suburb of the economic and commercial centers in European Istanbul, accounting for a third of the city's population but only a quarter of its employment.[118] 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.[119] At present, some gecekondu areas are being gradually demolished and replaced by modern mass-housing compounds.[120] Moreover, large scale gentrification and urban renewal projects have been taking place,[121] such as the one in Tarlabaşı;[122] some of these projects, like the one in Sulukule, have faced criticism.[123] The Turkish government also has ambitious plans for an expansion of the city west and northwards on the European side in conjunction with plans for a third airport; the new parts of the city will include four different settlements with specified urban functions, housing 1.5 million people.[124]

Istanbul does not have a primary urban park, but it has several green areas. Gülhane Park and Yıldız Park were originally included within the grounds of two of Istanbul's palaces—Topkapı Palace and Yıldız Palace—but they were repurposed as public parks in the early decades of the Turkish Republic.[125] Another park, Fethi Paşa Korusu, is on a hillside adjacent to the Bosphorus Bridge in Anatolia, opposite Yıldız Palace in Europe. Along the European side, and close to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, is Emirgan Park, which was known as the Kyparades (Cypress Forest) during the Byzantine period. In the Ottoman period, it was first granted to Nişancı Feridun Ahmed Bey in the 16th century, before being granted by Sultan Murad IV to the Safavid Emir Gûne Han in the 17th century, hence the name Emirgan. The 47-hectare (120-acre) park was later owned by Khedive Ismail Pasha of Ottoman Egypt and Sudan in the 19th century. Emirgan Park is known for its diversity of plants and an annual tulip festival is held there since 2005.[126] 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.[127][128]

Panoramic view of Istanbul from the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Several landmarks—including Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, and Dolmabahçe Palace—can be seen along their shores.


Interior facade of the Gate of the Sultan (Saltanat Kapısı) located on Dolmabahçe Avenue, one of the main entrances of Dolmabahçe Palace.
Built by Ottoman sultans Abdülmecid and Abdülaziz, the 19th-century Dolmabahçe, Çırağan, Beylerbeyi and Küçüksu palaces on the European and Asian shores of the Bosporus were designed by members of the Armenian Balyan family of court architects.[129]

Istanbul is primarily known for its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, and despite its development as a Turkish city since 1453, contains both Christian and ancient monuments.

There are three ancient monuments in the city.[130] The most ancient is the Egyptian Obelisk.[130] Built of red granite, 31 m (100 ft) high, it came from the Temple of Karnak at Luxor, erected in 1500 BC.[130] It was brought to Istanbul in 357 CE by the order of Constantius II and put up in the Hippodrome.[130] When re-erected, the Egyptian Obelisk was mounted on a decorative base, with a statue that depicted Theodosius I and his courtiers.[130] Next in age is the Serpentine Column, from 479 BCE.[130] It was brought from Delphi in the time of Augustus and also erected in the Hippodrome.[130] The slightly smaller Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, was another of Augustus's trophies. Built of porphyry, 35 m (115 ft) high, it came from Heliopolis, erected in 330 CE to inaugurate the new Byzantine capital.[130] Originally part of a sculpture of Emperor Constantine the Great dressed as Apollo, the column first stood at the entrance to the Forum of Constantine.[130]

There are traces of the Byzantine era throughout the city, from ancient churches that were built over early Christian meeting places like Chora Church, Hagia Irene to public places like the Hippodrome, the Augustaion. It is the Hagia Sophia, however, that fully conveys the period of Constantinople as a city without parallel in Christendom.

Hagia Sophia, topped by a dome 31 meters (102 ft) in diameter over a square space defined by four arches, is the pinnacle of the Byzantine architecture.[131] Hagia Sophia stood as the world's largest cathedral in the world until it was converted into a mosque in the 15th century.[131] The minarets date from that period.[131]

Over the next four centuries, the Ottomans transformed of Istanbul's urban landscape with a vast building scheme building towering mosques and ornate palaces. Blue Mosque, another landmark of the city, faces Haghia Sophia in Sultanahmet Square.

Completed in 1616, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque due to the blue İznik tiles which adorn its interior.[132] The Obelisk of Thutmose III (Obelisk of Theodosius) is seen in the foreground.

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.

Topkapı Palace, dating back to 1465, is the oldest seat of government surviving in Istanbul. Mehmet II built the original palace as his main residence and the seat of government.[134] The present palace grew over the centuries as a series of additions enfolding four courtyards and blending neoclassical, rococo, and baroque architectural forms.[135] In 1639 Murat IV made some of the most lavish additions, including the 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]

The imperial mosques include Fatih Mosque, Bayezid Mosque, Yavuz Selim Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque), and Yeni Mosque, all of which were built at the peak of the Ottoman Empire, in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the following centuries, and especially after the Tanzimat reforms, Ottoman architecture was supplanted by European styles.[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]

Istanbul Cityscape articles: 90