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The History of Istanbul: Why is it not the Capital of Turkey?

November 25, 2022 7 min read.

Istanbul is known to be one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the world. It is also recognized for being the only city located between two continents, Europe and Asia, being separated by the Bosphorus Strait, a water channel of inexplicable beauty.

Undoubtedly, Istanbul is the best known and most populated city in Turkey and Europe, with approximately fifteen million inhabitants. Its lands were home to the ancient cities of Byzantium and Constantinople, making it rich in culture and history at once.

Despite being a cosmopolitan mega-city, and the largest in the country, Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey. You want to know why? We leave you the information below!

Beginnings of the city

Istanbul has always been an important city in world history, and throughout its existence it has been home to different cultures and empires, among which the Roman Empire stands out; of which it was the capital of the Orient, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman, in said order. But at its beginnings, in the 7th century BC, it was simply a small fishing village.

The city has been a participant in different historical events, and in its beginnings, it was a predominantly Christian city, since Constantinople was for a long time the most powerful city of this religion. It was not until the fall of Constantinople that the Ottoman Caliphate was established, becoming a Muslim city, which to this day is appreciated in the religion of the majority of the population.

Istanbul was the capital of Turkey until 1923, when the government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey, decided to move the seat of government to the city of Ankara, since after the First World War, it needed that the country's capital was in a safer area and more difficult to infiltrate, making the necessary changes until it became official in 1930.

Ankara, the Turkish capital

The city of Ankara, located in the Central Anatolia region, is the second most populous city in the Turkish country. Around five million inhabitants live there, and it is also a place full of history, museums and much to see and explore. It is a predominantly industrial city, and many economic activities of agriculture and production take place there.

When the Republic of Turkey was founded, Ankara was a small city of only about fifteen thousand inhabitants. It was a solution to a vulnerability that the country suffered in times of war, and as a result the city developed impressively. Walking through Ankara today, you will be able to appreciate the contrasts between the old and the modern. The different empires that lived there still have their mark on the architecture and the city, while very modern areas have been built with modern skyscrapers, hotels and avenues.

Must-see places in Ankara

If you want to visit Ankara, you will have the chance to discover a beautiful and busy city. The main attraction of the city is the Anıtkabir mausoleum, where the body of the father of the country Mostafa Kemal Atatürk rests. It is an iconic site of the city and essential to understand the history and development of Ankara until today. There you can see the changing of the guard and appreciate part of modern Turkish culture.

If you're a museum lover, you definitely can't miss the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, a historical gem home to various remains of the Hittite, Phrygian, and Lydian civilizations. This is one of the most important archaeological museums in the world, which was built by the same Turkish president Mostafa Kemal Atatürk, and is located near the Ankara Castle.

On the other hand, the Ankara Castle is undoubtedly a symbol of the Turkish capital. Mysterious and interesting to explore, it is made up of a set of stairs and historical and beautiful buildings. This fortress has a unique charm, full of shops and people walking through it, prevailing the history of the ancient times of Turkey. This historic fortification is the perfect place to spend the afternoon and get lost in its charming streets.

If you are interested in religion, you should definitely visit the first mosque in the city of Ankara - Aslanhane Mosque. Its construction dates from the year 1290 and it is located under the Ankara Castle, so you can take advantage of visiting them together. Its old architecture and tile decoration is really a nice experience.

For the more modern, visiting the iconic Atakule communications tower is a good option. This 125-meter tower has leisure and shopping options, with different shops at the bottom, and even a revolving restaurant and a terrace at the top of the tower. If you prefer the ancient and archaeological, the Ancyra Monument is a Roman ruins of the well-known temple of Augustus and Rome in Ankara, which was later converted into a mosque and known for its inscriptions engraved on its walls.

Must-see places in Istanbul

If you are visiting the city for the first time, you should head to the magnificent and imposing Hagia Sophia Mosque. It is undoubtedly the icon of the city, and the beauty of its architecture and surroundings is indescribable. During its history it served as a Byzantine Orthodox cathedral and later a Catholic one, as a museum and a mosque. On the other side, just in front and separated by a beautiful garden, you will get the huge Blue Mosque, officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, with extremely beautiful details both inside and outside.

Istanbul is a city of mosques, so you cannot miss the largest mosque in Asia and inaugurated in 2016: the Çamlıca Mosque. There can be more than 35,000 people and you can enjoy a museum, art galleries and a really beautiful environment. As an interesting fact, this mosque together with the Blue Mosque are the only ones in the world with six minarets located outside of Mecca and Medina.

Visiting the Bosphorus Strait is a unique experience on your way through Istanbul. Navigating through it will give you stunning views of both sides of the city, while you relax appreciating the mix between nature and the imposing buildings that cover both coasts of European and Asian Istanbul.

Another must-see in Istanbul is to lose yourself in the Grand Bazaar, where thousands of vendors gather to offer products, spices and almost everything you can imagine in one place. It is part of the identity of the city, and you will be impressed with the size of this gigantic market.

Finally, another landmark of the Turkish city is the Galata Tower, a beautiful medieval land located in one of the busiest areas of the city. This tower offers beautiful views of the city when you climb the 143 steps that will take you to the top of it, where you can enjoy a bar and a restaurant.

Istanbul or Ankara? You don't need to decide! Both cities offer their visitors a mixture of culture, years of history and interesting places to visit and discover. You can visit them together or separately, enjoying their traditions is a unique experience. Check our Packages to Istanbul and Ankara and make the trip of your dreams now!

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