Istanbul, Turkey. ©2013 Melissa Lee/Utrecht University. All rights reserved.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country’s economic, cultural, and historical heart with a population of 13.9 million (TSI, 2012). Its commercial and historical centre lies in Europe, while a third of its population live in Asia (TSI, 2012).

For nearly sixteen centuries following its re-establishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empire (Çelik, 1993). Istanbul was the stronghold of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic one (Masters and Agoston, 2009).

Istanbul has been a cosmopolitan city throughout its history, but it became more homogenised after the end of the Ottoman Empire. Still, most of Turkey’s religious and ethnic minorities today remain concentrated in Istanbul. Although the Republic of Turkey established its capital in Ankara, Istanbul has always been the capital of finance, business, culture and entertainment.

Istanbul experienced rapid growth during the second half of the 20th century, with its population increasing tenfold between 1950 and 2000 (Gül, 2012). The remarkable growth was, and still is, largely fuelled by migrants from eastern Turkey seeking employment and improved living conditions. Istanbul’s foreign population, by comparison, is very small, amounting to just 42,228 residents in 2007 (Kamp, 2010).

Beyoğlu is one of the most distinctive residential and recreational areas of the historical centre of Istanbul, mostly known as the area centred on İstiklal Street from Taksim to Tünel (Ergun, 2004). The district is comprised of 45 neighbourhoods encompassing its famous quarters located on the north of the Golden Horn.

During the 19th century, Beyoğlu was the place of the European populations (French, Germans, Italians, British, etc.) and of non-Muslim Ottoman citizens (Greeks, Armenians, and Jews) (Saybaşılı, 2006). The district was renowned for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and its ethnic, linguistic, religious, historical and cultural diversity. Although it has lost some of its commercial and business functions in the last decades and the profile of its residents have changed substantially, for centuries the district has remained an important centre with its commerce and business capacities, entertainment facilities, recreational environment and diverse population. In recent years, Beyoğlu is mostly associated with cultural events, art and entertainment that are enjoyed by its young population.

Today, it has a very mixed demographic structure, including poor communities, immigrants mainly from eastern and south eastern regions, the creative-professional middle classes, Gypsies, Kurds, foreign immigrants such as Afghan, African Iranian and other communities, Romanians, Bulgarians and Russians. However, the diverse population profile of Beyoğlu has been gradually changing with urban renewal, gentrification projects (Galata, Cihangir, Tarlabaşı etc.) and transformation processes such as the pedestrianisation of Taksim Square (Aksoy and Robins, 2011).

District Images

Key Statistics

TURKEY Turkey Istanbul Beyoğlu
Area km2 [1] 769 603 5 196 8.66
Total population [2]) 75 627 384 13 854 740 246 152
Average household income in Turkish Lira [4] 27 577 16 126 N.I.
Unemployment [5] 10.50% 14.30% N.I.
Owner-occupied housing [6] 67% 61% N.I.
Average house price per m2 in Turkish Lira [7] 1 933 2 450 6 300
Average household income in Turkish Lira [4] 27 577 16 126 N.I.
Highest level of education completed [3] Turkey Istanbul Beyoğlu
Illiterate 13% 7% 8%
Literate but not graduated from school 22% 19% 19%
Primary education; lower secondary education 47% 50% 53%
Middle vocational education; high school 13% 16% 14%
Higher vocational education; tertiary education 5% 8% 6%
Largest ethnic groups [8] Turkey Istanbul Beyoğlu
Turks 86.21% 90.01% N.I.
Kurds + Zaza 8.89% 3.90% N.I.
Circassian 2.14% 0.46% N.I.
Arab 1.63% 0.13% N.I.
Laz people 0.02% N.I.
Others 1.02% 5.5% N.I.
Age Groups [9]

Istanbul 0-15

Istanbul 15-25

Istanbul 25-45

Istanbul 45-65

Istanbul 65+


1. Turkish Statistical Institute (2002), Area of regions.
2. Turkish Statistical Institute (2012), Province and district centers and towns and villages population and growth rate of population.            
3. Turkish Statistical Institute (2002), Population by literacy, education level and sex.            
4. Turkish Statistical Institute (2012), Income and Living Condition Survey.            
5. Turkish Statistical Institute (2010), Main labour force indicators by province.            
6. Turkish Statistical Institute (2011), Proportion of Households by Ownership Status of the Dwelling.        
8. Peter Alfrod Andrews (2001),Türkiye‘de Etnik Dağılım. 2001 Turkey/1993 Istanbul      
9. Turkish Statistical Institute (2012), Population by age group and sex.           

Eurostat (2013), Migration and Migrant Population Statistics.

Istanbul Reports

Urban Policies on Diversity

Critical analysis of existing urban policy programmes and discourses in Istanbul. Includes overview of political systems and governance structures, key shifts in national discourses, and approaches to policy over migration, citizenship, and diversity.

Governance Arrangements and Initiatives

Analysis of local governance arrangements and initiatives in the case study area that target social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance.

Work Package 5 Initiatives

Fieldwork Inhabitants

Analysis of how urban diversity and policies and arrangements affect different population groups living in cities in terms of social cohesion and social mobility.

Fieldwork Entrepreneurs

Analysis of how urban diversity and policies and arrangements with respect to urban diversity affect different population groups living in cities in terms of economic performance and to clarify who (which social groups) profit and how they profit.

Istanbul News

Istanbul City Book


In this book, we introduce findings from the case study area, Beyoglu, which is one of the districts with a diversified population in Istanbul. It has a long diversity legacy since it has hosted various
Diverse Cities Ankara

Diverse Cities in Ankara

After making contact with the Salih Alptekin Secondary School in Ankara’s Ayrancı neighbourhood in February 2016, Özge Yersen and İsmail Demirdağ of the Turkish team implemented the Diverse Cities Educational Programme between March and June