Many Things to Know About Istanbul
Despite massive fame and admiration worldwide, Istanbul is still vastly misunderstood regarding location. Many people arrive at our website having asked questions like where Istanbul is or about which continent it sits on. Istanbul, an Alpha World City with economic power and political influence both domestically and internationally, regains supreme. As Turkey's most prominent and wealthiest city, the 15 million substantial population makes Istanbul one of the world's largest cities.
Yet, Istanbul's strategic location solely accounts for the colourful historical timeline and current importance. Indeed, if it wasn't for Istanbul's location, history wouldn't have happened as it did. So, to answer the question directly of where the city is, Istanbul sits on the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black and Marmara Seas.
The city's geographic coordinates are 41.0082° N and 28.9784° E. Additionally, Istanbul city straddles the two continents of Europe and Asia by covering both sides of the Bosporus Strait. As the world's only city on two continents, Istanbul's historical centre sits in Europe. In contrast, the Asian side is primarily residential. As a result, 95% of Istanbul is in Asia, and 5% is in Europe. However, some more fun aspects to know about Istanbul and geography perfectly explains the heavy importance and weight this city carries on the global stage.
Common Geographical Questions about Istanbul
The Lesser Talked About the Asian Side of Istanbul
While European Istanbul is more famous and heavily visited by tourists, the Asian side deserves praise. Asian Istanbul divides into 14 districts of which Kadikoy, Uskudar, and Kartal are well-known. Uskudar features several Ottoman-era mosques and palaces, while modern Kartal is gaining prominence in the real estate scenes. Asian Istanbul is more laid-back than the European side, as seen in Kadikoy's bohemian vibes with street art, live music, trendy cafes, and restaurants and bars in Moda. Other popular attractions on the Asian shore include Beylerbeyi Palace, a former summer residence for Ottoman sultans, and Camlica Hill, which offers panoramic Golden Horn views.
Welcome to European Istanbul
The area divides into several neighbourhoods, including famous ones like Beyoglu, Besiktas, and Fatih. Besiktas's lively atmosphere revolves around the beautiful waterfront. Fatih features several vital landmarks like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Galata, a historic neighbourhood with steep streets, excels in charming cafes. Besiktas boasts of the Dolmabahce Palace, and Ortakoy Mosque. Additionally, the European side hosts the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Modern Art Museum, and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
Beyoglu on the Golden Horn's northern shore is a historic district with vibrant shopping scenes and lively nightlife. Beyoglu, originally called Pera, which means "beyond" in Greek, was beyond the old city walls. Then, many foreign embassies, schools, and churches were based here. Today, the Beyoglu district features the Galata Tower, Istiklal Avenue, and Pera Museum.
The diverse Beyoglu district mixes neighbourhoods and communities from different ethnic backgrounds, including Turks, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews. Vibrant Beyoglu shines with the modern and historic architecture around the famous Istiklal Avenue, lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, Turkey's longest and busiest streets. As you can see, European Istanbul has much to offer.
The Sea of Marmara
The Marmara Sea, with an area of about 11,350 square kilometres and an average depth of 200 meters, surrounds Istanbul. The sea provides access to ports in both Europe and Asia. In addition, it features several small islands, called the Princes' Islands, that were a place of exile during Byzantine days. Now, the islands attract Istanbul locals and tourists with their relaxed vibes, a far cry from city living. The car-free islands also mean transportation is by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage.
Where is the Golden Horn Located?
The Golden Horn inlet of the Bosphorus Strait separates the historical peninsula and the Beyoglu district. The 7.5 kilometres long Golden Horn varies in width from 500 to 1500 meters. The Byzantine Empire built a 5th-century fortress on the Golden Horn, making the area commercially successful during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. The Golden horn is famously connected with Galata Bridge. The original 19th-century Galata Bridge, spanning the Golden Horn, was replaced by a newer bridge in the 1990s.
The current steel bridge features two levels, and fishermen can often be seen lining the upper level while restaurants sit on the lower. Galata bridge links the Eminonu and Karakoy neighbourhoods through the tram system. Meanwhile, sitting nearby, the 14th-century Galata Tower, built by the Genoese colony, stands 67 meters tall. It offers panoramic views from the observation deck and restaurant. Over the centuries, the tower underwent several renovations and restorations, including being a watchtower, prison, fire lookout, and tourist attraction.
Why is the Bosphorus Strait So Important?
The 32 kilometres long Bosphorus Strait separates Europe and Asia and connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. The strait is lined with several landmarks, varying in width from 700 meters to 3.7 kilometres. They include Dolmabahce Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, and Rumeli Fortress, as well as Istanbul's famous bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. The Bosphorus Strait also provides shipping access to the Black Sea and beyond. However, strong currents make navigation challenging, particularly in narrow areas.
Despite these challenges, the strait remains an iconic symbol of Istanbul and a vital transportation link. From Istanbul, travel by boat along the Bosphorus Strait sea route to reach the Black Sea boasting of pristine beaches and historic cities. Popular destinations include Trabzon, Rize, and Amasra. In addition, many locals in Istanbul often head to the black sea districts for weekend breaks. (Fun things to do on the Bosphorus.)
Where is the Tourist Part of Istanbul?
Well, there are two major centres. Taksim square, the new central Istanbul, leads onto Istiklal avenue, Turkey's longest street and best hub for shopping and nightlife. However, most tourist sites sit in the historical Fatih district and Sultanahmet neighbourhood. This is where the Byzantine and Ottomans empires ruled. To understand the importance, it is worth knowing a bit of history.
The history of Istanbul, called Byzantium during Roman times and Constantinople during the Byzantine period, dates back thousands of years. The Roman Emperor Constantine renamed the city Constantinople in 330 AD. Impressive structures were built, including the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, the Holy Apostles church, Chora Church, and Theodosian Walls.
The famous siege of Istanbul when the Ottomans took over lasted for several months, and they used various tactics, including building massive cannons, to break through the city's walls. Finally, on May 29, 1453, the Ottomans breached the walls, leading to a bloody battle for several days.
The Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI, was killed in the fight, and the Ottomans captured the city as their new capital. After the conquest, Sultan Mehmed II rebuilt the city to excel in Islamic culture, commerce, and politics.
Istanbul remained the Ottoman Empire's capital for almost four centuries until the empire's collapse after World War I. Many landmarks, like the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, were converted into Islamic sites during this period. During this time, sultans ruled over the empire from either Topkapi palace or Dolmabahce palace.
Famous Ottoman empire sultans who ruled from Constantinople include Mehmed the Conqueror, who conquered Constantinople in 1453. Suleiman the Magnificent oversaw the empire's expansion into Europe, Asia, and Africa. Selim II conducted successful campaigns in Persia. Ottoman Sultan Murad III conducted victorious campaigns against Austria and Venice to strengthen the Ottoman navy. Finally, Ahmed, I commissioned the famous Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also called Blue Mosque. These sultans, along with others, played essential roles in shaping the history and culture of Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire.
Official Districts of Istanbul Province
Istanbul divides into 39 official districts, each with a municipality and administrative structure. These districts further divide into neighbourhoods and smaller administrative units. Several lesser-known areas include Sile coastal district, Beykoz forested district and Eyup, with several important religious sites like Eyup Sultan Mosque and Pierre Loti Cafe. For international real estate investors, these districts are attractive, because of modern developments. Read more about the 39 official communities here.
Why is Istanbul called a European Capital?
Although not official, Istanbul is often referred to as a European capital due to its historical and economic ties to other European cities. One reason for the unofficial nickname is 5% of the city sits in Europe. This part features the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. In addition, Istanbul was the Byzantine Empire's capital, a European power lasting over a thousand years.
Istanbul's location on the edge of Europe aided Turkey when applying for EU membership in 1999. Many European companies and investors also operate here. Undoubtedly, Istanbul's location on the border between Europe and Asia and economic and political connections with the European Union all contribute to the European reputation.
What is the Name of the Famous Bridge in Istanbul?
The Bosphorus suspension Bridge, called the July 15 Martyrs Bridge, spans the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. The bridge was completed in 1973 and was the first to connect the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The Bosphorus Bridge, an iconic landmark of Istanbul, symbolises the city as the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The 1,560 meters long bridge spans 1,074 meters, with 165-meter-tall towers. The bridge deck is 64 meters above the water.
The Bosphorus Bridge is vital to keep transportation in Istanbul running smoothly. 200,000 vehicles use the four-lane traffic bridge every day. In 2016, the Bosphorus bridge was renamed the July 15 Martyrs Bridge to honour those who lost their lives during the attempted coup in Turkey. In addition, to this bridge, there are two more covering the Bosphorus strait, and also famous bridges on the Golden Horn like Galata.
Which Region Does Istanbul Belong To?
Istanbul belongs to the north western Marmara region, surrounded by the Aegean, Black Sea, and the sea of the same name. The Marmara Region, one of seven geographical regions in Turkey, includes 11 provinces. It is densely populated, with 30 million people living there, nearly 40% of Turkey. The region is bordered by the southern Aegean Region, the eastern Black Sea Region and Central Anatolia Region to the southeast.
Other prominent places in Marmara include Beautiful Bursa with Ottoman-era architecture, thermal baths, Uludag Mountain, the Green Mosque, the Grand Mosque, and the Tombs of Osman and Orhan. The Marmara Region is Turkey's most developed and industrialised region and is responsible for much of Turkey's GDP. More about destinations in the Marmara region of Turkey.
More About Istanbul
We hope we have given an excellent introduction to the fun geographical facts about Istanbul. We are Turkey Homes, and we have helped hundreds of people buy a property and invest in the city. To learn more about Istanbul, browse our blog about touristic and investment hotspots of this great city of Turkey.