No trip to Turkey is complete without a visit to the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul. Straddling either side of the Bosphorus Strait, the city is a warren of busy markets, magnificent mosques, and other historic buildings. All of this is interspersed with famous landmarks including the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. If you’re planning a trip to the city then we’ve got some inspiration for you, with 10 interesting facts about Istanbul.
Our facts about Istanbul:
1. Istanbul is the only transcontinental city in the entire world. On the western side of the Bosphorus Strait, you’re in Europe, but if you cross to the other side then you’re setting foot in Asia!
2. The city’s Grand Bazaar is the largest covered market in the world. It’s expanded massively since opening way back in 1431, and now houses approximately 3,000 shops and covers a massive 61 streets. That’s your souvenir shopping covered then!
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3. Lowering the tone a bit here, let’s talk about toilets. The Ottoman Empire was founded at the end of the 13th century, when public hygiene was somewhat lacking. But while sewage ran through the streets of many cities, Istanbul became the city of public toilets. There were around 1,400 toilets across the city, way before even the kings and emperors of Europe had regular access to one. A city ahead of its time!
4. Istanbul was the capital city of three empires – Roman, Latin and Ottoman. But it is not the capital city of modern Turkey, contrary to popular belief. Turkey’s capital today is Ankara, a city located in the middle of the country.
5. Throughout most of its long history, Istanbul was known as Constantinople. It was named after Constantine the Great, the ruler who first made the city his capital. It wasn’t until 1930 that it was officially renamed Istanbul, though people had referred to it by both names long before that.
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6. When the name was finally changed, the Turkish Post Office refused to deliver any mail that was addressed to Constantinople, in an effort to get people to use the new name!
7. Hagia Sofia is one of Istanbul’s most recognisable landmarks, dating back to a temple built in the year 325. But what you see today is not the same temple. Fires in 404 and 532, and an earthquake in 558 all caused significant damage. But despite this, the majority of today’s structure still dates back to the 6th century!
8. Tulips are synonymous with the Netherlands, but they actually originated in the Tian Shan mountains of Central Asia. Specifically, it was the Ottoman Empire which first shipped the flowers to the country from Istanbul.
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9. There were many reasons historic Constantinople was built where it was. Great access to the coast was one obvious reason, important for trade. But another is that the city is built on seven hills. This might sound like more of a nuisance than a reason to build a city here. But for Emperor Constantine the Great, it was a way to compete with the famous Seven Hills of Rome!
10. The Blue Mosque is the most famous of Istanbul’s mosques. But there are another 3,112 to see in the city – the most mosques in any city in Turkey. Mosques are allowed to be built with no more than six minarets, and the Blue Mosque is one of just a handful to have the full six. This was controversial at the time of construction, because only the Grand Mosque in Mecca had six. This problem was solved when a seventh was added to the mosque in Mecca!
If you enjoyed our facts about Istanbul and would like to visit the city, then why not browse our Turkey tours? The majority visit Istanbul, so you’ll be able to take in the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar and much more!