Is Istanbul in Europe or Asia?

Istanbul is one of the most interesting cities in the world. Not only the city itself, but also the cultural, historical, and geographical aspects of Istanbul make it one of a kind city. Let’s look at the reasons why it is so unique.

Geographically Istanbul is in Asia and Europe at the same time. It is the only metropolis that is located on two continents. You can think of the city as a bridge that connects Europe and Asia to each other.

Historically and culturally, it is in Asia and Europe at the same time. Because it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantine Empire in history, it is influenced by the east and the west.

Let’s talk about them in details.

Istanbul is located on the two continents: Europe and Asia

Is Istanbul a European city?

As we said above, it is hard to answer this question because the answer is yes and no at the same time. If we look from the aspect of geography, the city is a European and Asian city. The old Istanbul is on the European continent. Moreover, the European side of the city is also larger than the Asian side in terms of area. So, it is obvious that Istanbul could be accepted as a European city in geographical terms. 

If we talk about cultural terms, especially some districts of Istanbul could make you feel like you are in a Western European city. Istanbul has been home to many different cultures throughout history. Therefore you can see the effects of different cultures in different districts of both the European and the Asian side.

In more liberal and secular districts like Kadıköy, Beşiktaş, Şişli you will absolutely think that you are in a European city. However, you can also see the influence of the Eastern culture on the city in more conservative districts such as Fatih or Üsküdar. So, it is possible to say that Istanbul is a European city but it is also an Asian city at the same time. 

Nostalgic Tramway at Istiklal Street

It is also very interesting that some of the conservative districts of the city are located on the European side and some of the liberal districts are located on the Asian side. So, while the European side and Asian side are separated from each other geographically, in a cultural context, it is a bit more complicated.

Where east meets west

Istanbul is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.  It not only connects the West with the East geographically but also connects them to each other culturally.  Istanbul is a unique city that you can see the harmony of Western culture and the Eastern culture with every step you take in the city. 

Walking in the streets of Istanbul would be an amazing experience for you. There are lots of old palaces, mosques, Orthodox, and Catholic churches in this magical city. The cultural heritage in Istanbul will make you love this city. 

Influence of the East and the West on the architecture

As you probably know, there are lots of historic buildings in Istanbul. The city is full of historic mosques, churches, old houses, palaces, museums, etc. When you examine the architecture of these buildings you will easily understand why this city is called the connection point between the East and the West.

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul was home to Byzantine culture and civilization for hundreds of years. After the Ottoman Empire took the city, they built their own works of course. However, they also preserved some of the monuments, buildings from the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, in some of the buildings which were built in the Ottoman era, it is possible to see the Byzantine influence. Some of the most important buildings which you can see the harmony of the Eastern & Western cultures are listed below.

  • Hagia Sophia Mosque
  • The Blue Mosque
  • Fatih Mosque
  • Süleymaniye Mosque
  • Little Hagia Sophia Mosque 
  • Actually, in almost every mosque from the classical period of the Ottoman Empire, you can easily see the influence of Western culture.
Halic, Galata Bridge and Old Town at night

Gorgeous Churches of Istanbul

As we said before, Istanbul is a very cosmopolitan city with more than 14.000.000 population. Lots of Christians live in Istanbul today. Some of them are the old residents of the city whose family lived in Istanbul in the time of the Ottoman Empire and some of them are people who came to Istanbul for work. Thus, there are several places of worship for Christians in the city. Most of them are Orthodox churches. However, there are also magnificent Catholic churches in the city.

As you know, churches with fascinating architecture are significant characteristics of Western cities. In Istanbul, you will see lots of historical churches that could remind you of the churches in some Western cities. The most significant historical churches in Istanbul are;

  • Hagia Irene
  • Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church
  • Church of St.Pierre and St. Paul
  • Church of St. Anthony of Padua
  • Church of Saint Benoit

Foods From Different Parts of The World

As you probably know, Turkish cuisine has an important place in world cuisine.  Istanbul is the most populated city in Turkey. Therefore, you can taste the most beautiful examples of Turkish cuisine in the city. Moreover, Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city, it not only offers you Turkish cuisine. Foods of Istanbul also show the West-East harmony in Istanbul. You can enjoy traditional Turkish cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, and Western cuisine at the same time. Istanbul is a perfect place for a gastronomy trip! 

Traditional Turkish Cuisine

In Istanbul, you can eat all types of food which have a place in traditional Turkish cuisine.  In different regions of Turkey, different types of food are popular. For example, in the Aegean region, the most popular foods are generally olive oil dishes. However, in the South Eastern region, meat dishes are popular. In the Central Anatolian region pastry is dominant. In the Black Sea region, fish dishes are popular. Istanbul is the economic and cultural center of Turkey. Therefore, you can eat the best examples of Turkish traditional food from different regions of Turkey. Traditional Turkish foods that we advise you to try are;

  • Döner and Kebabs
  • Kokoreç
  • Baklava
  • Lokum
  • Stuffed Vine Leaves
  • Turbot
  • Su Böreği
  • Turkish Haricot Bean

Middle Eastern Cuisine

Istanbul is one of the best cities in the world to eat traditional Middle Eastern Cuisine. Middle Eastern Cuisine has always been a magnificent cuisine but it gained popularity recently in Europe and in the US. Istanbul is the biggest city in the Middle Eastern region, and there are lots of residents from Arabian countries or Iran. Therefore, you can taste any Middle Eastern food that you want in the city.

Western Cuisine

As we said at the beginning of the article, especially some districts of Istanbul are very European, and you can feel like you are in a Western European city in some districts, some streets. Therefore, Western Cuisine also has an important place in Istanbul. There are many Italian, French, Spanish, and other European restaurants in Istanbul.  They offer you the best examples of their cuisine. 

As you can see, Istanbul not only offers you Turkish cuisine but also Western cuisine. Depending on your mood you can have dinner in a European restaurant, in a Middle Eastern restaurant or you can enjoy Turkish street foods.

Nightlife in Istanbul

Kadikoy

We can easily say that Istanbul is a city that never sleeps. There are lots of bars, pubs and nightclubs in Istanbul. Bars and nightclubs of Istanbul could be the most Westernized places in the city. Nightclubs and bars are exactly the same with the ones in the Western cities. You can dance, you can drink, you can have fun with your friends in those places. In the list below, you can see some districts that you can enjoy the nights of Istanbul in the best way.

  • Kadıköy
  • Beyoğlu
  • Ortaköy
  • Bebek

Meyhane Culture

Meyhanes (Turkish taverns)  have an important place in Turkish culture. If you visit Istanbul, you should allocate time for meyhanes. Meyhanes are the places people drink raki, traditional Turkish drink, and eat mezzes, foods prepared to eat with rakı specially. However, the most important feature of meyhane culture is the conversation at the raki table. People talk about lots of things they experience in their lives.

People at a meyhane

You can also listen to traditional Turkish music in meyhanes. Drinking raki in a meyhane would be absolutely a unique experience in your life. Moreover, it is also a good indicator of the Western and Eastern harmony in Istanbul. While having a drink with your friends, you will listen to traditional Turkish music, eat traditional Turkish food, etc.  Therefore, we strongly advise you to visit at least one historical meyhanes of Istanbul.

Can you walk from Asia to Europe in Istanbul?

No, you cannot walk from Asia to Europe in Istanbul normally. But there is an exception to this. Every year there is a special event called Istanbul Marathon and on this day bridge over Bosphorus open to the public for a short period of time. This event is also known as the Eurasian marathon.

People are walking from Asia to Europe at Istanbul Marathon

When the time for the Istanbul Marathon comes, you can walk from Asia to Europe. Of course, you need to be a registered entrant to participate in this event. On the other hand, even if its name is a marathon, you do not need to participate to the actual marathon. Thousands of people attend this event just for walking on the bridge.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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