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Istanbul city profile | city data
  • Istanbul is rich in cultural heritage from its history as a Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman capital

  • After becoming a European Capital of Culture in 2010 it has developed its contemporary cultural offer, with new museums including the Hilye-i Şerif and Prayer Beads Museum

  • The Istanbul Biennial is a major event on the international visual art circuit, attracting over 500,000 visitors

City data: Key facts

Geographical area: 5,313 sq. km

Total population: 13,624,240

Total national country population living in the city: 18.23 %

Working age population: 10,420,392

Number of households: 2,550,607

Education level - with degree level or higher: 9.23 %

Average income per capita per year (ppp): 10,576

Median gross weekly earnings (ppp): 108

GDP (ppp) (million): US$ 182,000

İstanbul, with its thousands of years of history, unique architectural structures, rich cultural texture, millions of population and vibrant economic life, is an important center of attraction today as it was yesterday. It was the capital city during the Roman, Eastern Roman/Byzantine and Ottoman periods. History does not end in İstanbul. History in İstanbul is not only in books and archives, but also in buildings, streets, cemeteries, parks and gardens, even trees and plants, and the names of neighborhoods.

Today İstanbul is Europe’s most populous metropolitan area, with over 15 million residents and a fast-growing economy. Its population has grown rapidly since the middle of the 20th century, mainly driven by internal migration from Turkey’s rural areas. One of the city’s major challenges is dealing with the consequences of this growth and accommodating its new residents while retaining access to green space, water resources and a high quality of life. Recent years have seen a number of substantial additions to the city’s infrastructure to address these issues. For instance, there are eleven National Gardens currently under implementation in order to provide open and green areas based around aesthetic, ecological and sustainable values.

New transport links are an important part of the city’s infrastructure development. The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the Marmaray Tunnel, the Eurasia Tunnel and Kuzey Marmara Highway are the most significant links. In addition İstanbul Airport is serving as one of the world’s largest airport.

İstanbul is massively rich in cultural heritage, and the historic peninsula of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some landmarks date back to Roman times, including the monumental Valens Aqueduct. However, buildings from the Byzantine and Ottoman era dominate the city’s skyline. The Hagia Sophia was inaugurated in 537 AD and the world’s largest cathedral. Today it is a mosque. The 16th century Süleymaniye Mosque and the 17th century Blue Mosque are two main important historical buildings. Other landmarks of the Ottoman era include the Topkapi Palace, which was the residence and administrative centre of the Ottoman sultans for centuries.

Cultural and heritage policy in İstanbul is shaped by a number of bodies, including the  Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Public investment is largely concentrated on heritage restoration and the creation of cultural centres. Çamlıca Tower as a tallest tower in Turkey is another touristic destination where locals and tourists have chance to enjoy İstanbul view 360 degree since May 2021.

Like other historical cities, issues of modernisation versus preservation is one of the problems of İstanbul. Studies have been conducting on this issue. For example, the deeply historic Karaköy area has become a trendy and artistic neighbourhood. The Galataport Project, aims to transform the area into a new gateway to İstanbul, with a major cruise ship terminal, a luxury hotel and culture and art centers including İstanbul Modern and Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Painting and Sculpture Museum. Golden Horn shipyard (Tersane İstanbul) which is founded by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 15th century is under restoration and preparing to be a new cultural destination in the city. Beside the relocation of Sadberk Hanım Museum to Tersane İstanbul,with its hotels, offices, place for fishermen and restaurants the complex will present a multifunctional living space. One of the icons of İstanbul, Atatürk Cultural Center, was under construction since 2012, has started to host performing arts and exhibitions with a sui generis architecture.

Along with cultural heritage, Go İstanbul platform also offers tourism strategy appealling to five senses: see, taste, smell, touch and listen.

İstanbul blends tradition and modernity. It is an ancient city with an unparalleled cultural heritage, also possessing a strong economy, a young population and an increasingly vibrant contemporary cultural scene. Its challenge is to build upon these opportunities, managing growth in order to preserve the uniqueness of its culture and heritage.

Cultural policy in the city is led by the İstanbul Directorate of Culture and Tourism, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and performs a number of important roles. These include the protection and conservation of historical and archaeological sites, the promotion of arts and culture, managing cultural services such as libraries and undertaking research and policy to improve the cultural lives of citizens. The Directorate works closely with the City’s cultural institutions in order to co-ordinate cultural activities and provision. This includes the İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), a non-profit cultural institution founded in 1973. The İKSV organizes music, film, theatre and jazz festivals, the İstanbul Biennial, İstanbul Design Biennial, Leyla Gencer Voice Competition and Filmekimi. İKSV also conducts research and prepares reports in order to contribute to the development of cultural policies.