20 Interesting And Fun Facts About Istanbul, Turkey [Explained]

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

When it comes to historical and cultural significance, few cities in Europe can match the level of Istanbul. From cultural and religious sites to historical structures and delicious food, the beautiful city of Istanbul has plenty to offer. If you are interested in learning more about the city, check out these interesting facts about Istanbul, Turkey. 

Historical Facts About Istanbul

The ancient city has had its fair share of drama and legends, carrying a lot of historical significance. Here are some fun facts about Istanbul and its past.

Istanbul Was The Capital Of Several Powerful Empires

One of the most important Istanbul facts to know is that the city was the capital of many powerful empires in the past, including the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. This is also the reason the city has so many historical structures. 

However, it was not always called Istanbul. The city was previously known as Constantinople. The name came from Constantine The Great, who was the Roman Emperor from 306AD to 337AD.

It Was Built On Seven Hills, Like Rome

Rome was known as the City Of Seven Hills. While building the city of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, followed the same model as Rome. 

The Byzantines did it to give their empire more credibility and to claim that they were the new and more powerful Roman Empire. This is also why Istanbul was also known as the New Rome. 

Murder On The Orient Express Was Written In Istanbul

The popular novel Murder On The Orient Express was written by Agatha Christie in Istanbul. She wrote the novel while staying at Pera Palace Hotel. 

The story is set on the real-life Orient Express train, which traveled from Istanbul to various European cities; however, the novel follows the popular fictional detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates a murder that occurs on the Orient Express.

Ancient Cisterns Underneath Istanbul


One of the most thrilling and exciting facts about Istanbul is the hundreds of ancient cisterns underneath the city. These cisterns played a significant role in the city’s water supply and infrastructure. 

The largest of the cisterns is named Basilica Cistern, and it was built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. You can actually visit these cisterns and see how water was stored in ancient times. There’s a mysterious vibe to the whole underground lair.

This is a very popular attraction with interesting history, and you can consider joining a guided tour to learn about the past significance and also save on waiting time.

Cultural Facts About Istanbul

From its traditional music and dance to its vibrant festivals and art galleries, the city of Istanbul embraces and celebrates its diverse cultural heritage. Here are some cultural facts about Istanbul that you should know.

Simits Are A Popular Part Of Istanbul’s Culture


Simit is a type of circular bread that has been sold in Turkey for over 500 years. It is an important part of Turkish cuisine. The bread is shaped somewhat like a donut, and it has sesame seeds on it. 

Some people also use sunflower seeds instead of sesame seeds. People have been enjoying Simit in Istanbul since the time of the Ottoman Empire. It makes for a great breakfast in Turkey or a quick snack.

Tulips Originated In Istanbul


If you love tulips, then you would definitely want to visit Istanbul. Tulips originated in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire and became a symbol of the city’s heritage and culture. They were introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Ottomans. 

In Istanbul, tulips are celebrated in art and cultivated in specialized tulip gardens all over the city. Today, Istanbul still honors its tulip heritage with the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival, showcasing vibrant displays of tulips throughout the city.

Turkish Delights by Haci Bekir


If you want to experience authentic Turkish Delights, then make your way to Istanbul. Haci Bekir invented Turkish delights back in 1777. These Turkish sweets are world-famous even to this day. 

The original Turkish Delights store by the name of Haci Bekir can still be found in Istanbul. Another delish Turkish dessert and sweet that originated in Istanbul is Baklava. 

Number Of Mosques In Istanbul


common fact about Turkey is that the majority of the population follow Islam. This is reflected by the number of mosques around the country. However, one of the incredible facts about Istanbul is there are over 3000 active mosques in the city, which is the most in Turkey. 

Amongst them are some of the most famous Turkish landmarks, such as the world-renowned Blue Mosque. The historical mosques in the city attract a lot of visitors every year. 

Simple Facts About Istanbul For Kids

Like adults, kids can be equally mesmerized by the beauty of Istanbul. Here are some interesting facts about Istanbul for kids. 

Istanbul Is Often Mistaken As The Capital Of Turkey


Due to its historical importance, many people still confuse Istanbul to be Turkey’s capital. In reality, the capital of Turkey is Ankara. Ankara was made the capital in 1923 after the Ottoman Empire fell. 

It Is The Most Populated City In Europe

With a population of around 16 Million, Istanbul is the largest city in Europe in terms of population. The second and third spots are occupied by Moscow and London, respectively. 

Fun Loving Ice Cream Vendors 


Have you ever seen any video on social media where the ice cream vendors give the buyer an ice cream but then trick them and take it back? They repeat it over and over and then give the ice cream to the person after some time. 

Well, this is one of the things Turkey is famous for, and you can find hundreds of such vendors in Istanbul. 

These vendors actually sell Dondurma ice cream, which has a unique texture and elasticity. The playful presentation adds to the overall experience of enjoying dondurma in Istanbul. This activity has also made these ice cream vendors popular all over the world. 

Useful Istanbul Facts For Travelers

For travelers planning a visit to Istanbul, knowing some fun facts about the city can greatly enhance the experience. 

Hagia Sofia Is In Istanbul


Hagia Sofia is one of the most popular landmarks in Istanbul. It was originally built as a Christian cathedral by the Byzantines. When the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, the structure was converted into a mosque, and Islamic architectural elements were added, including the minarets that we see today. 

The building was transformed into a museum in the first part of the 20th century; then, it was changed back to a mosque in 2020. Regardless of its purpose, it continues to stand as one of the marquee landmarks in Istanbul, Turkey.

>Check Entry And Tour To Hagia Sofia

The Grand Bazaar Of Istanbul Is The Oldest Covered Market In The World


The Grand Bazaar is situated in the heart of Istanbul. Sultan Mehmed II ordered the construction of the Grand Bazaar. The construction of the market began in 1455, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, and it has since expanded and evolved over time. 

Today, it spans an extensive area and comprises numerous interconnected buildings and streets. You will find all sorts of cultural items, handicrafts, and goodies here. Visiting the bustling Grand Bazar is simply one of the must-do things in Istanbul.

There Are Over 60 Hammams In Istanbul


Hammams or Turkish Baths were public steam bath structures usually found in Muslim empires. They were very common in the Ottoman Empire. Their architectural beauty and design are what make these hammams so popular even in the modern world. 

Some of these hammams are still operational today, and one of the best activities to do in Istanbul is to enjoy relaxing steam in any of these hammams. 

The Most Popular District in Istanbul


Istanbul is divided into 39 districts, the most popular of which is the Fatih District. It is one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in Istanbul. It encompasses the heart of the old city and is home to iconic Turkish landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque. 

Fatih attracts a large number of tourists every year. The area also offers a vibrant atmosphere with bustling bazaars, lively streets, and a wide range of culinary delights, making it a favorite destination for both locals and foreigners.

Common Facts About Istanbul

In this section, you will learn some common information about Istanbul. While they might be common, they are definitely worth knowing.

It Is A Transcontinental City

Istanbul is one of the most famous transcontinental cities in the world. There are only four other cities in the world that are part of this elite group. Half of the city is in Asia, while the other half is in Europe. The other four transcontinental cities include Orenburg, Atyrau, Magnitogorsk, and Suez.  

The Bosphorus Straits splits Istanbul between the two continents, and when you take a cruise along the waterway, you can basically see Europe on one side, and Asia on the other.

Istanbul Is Prone To Earthquakes

Istanbul sits on two major fault lines, which is why the city is prone to earthquakes. One of them is the North Anatolian Fault which is considered one of the most active fault lines in the world. 

Scientists believe that there is seismic stress building up beneath the city which may one day result in a massive earthquake. The Turkish authorities regularly check Istanbul for earthquake preparedness. 

1/5th Of the Entire Turkish Population Lives In Istanbul

There are around 580 cities in Turkey, and 1/5th of the total population of Turkey lives in Istanbul, whereas the other 4/5th lives in the remaining 579 cities. 

This is because Istanbul is the cultural and economic hub of the country, and many people move from other cities to Istanbul for better opportunities and for various other reasons. 

Other Interesting Facts About Istanbul

Istanbul Hosts A Unique Marathon


Many people know that Istanbul is a transcontinental city, but what a lot of people don’t know is that it is the only city in the world that hosts a transcontinental marathon every year. 

Both men and women can take part in the marathon. The marathon was first held in 1979, and thousands of people from all over the world took part in the marathon. 

The Golden Horn 


The Golden Horn is a natural harbor in Istanbul, Turkey. Shaped like a horn, it separates the city’s peninsula and connects to the Bosporus Strait. It has played a vital role in Istanbul’s history as a significant commercial and strategic hub. 

The name “Golden Horn” derives from the beautiful golden reflections of sunlight on the water at sunset. Today, it is a popular tourist destination, offering picturesque views, historic landmarks, and vibrant neighborhoods.

Discovering More Fun Facts About Istanbul

Istanbul is a beautiful and fascinating city which is why people from all over the world visit all year round. These fascinating facts about Istanbul only scratch the surface of what makes this transcontinental metropolis so incredible. 

The city’s iconic landmarks and delicious cuisine make people want to come back here over and over again. With an abundance of hidden gems and captivating experiences awaiting you, Istanbul is sure to leave a lasting impression on every traveler who sets foot in this enchanting city.



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories