Discover the 4 Most Populated Cities in Turkey

Izmir, City, Waterfront, Night, Sea
© iStock.com/soner tuncer

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: July 8, 2023

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Officially the Republic of Turkey, Turkey is a large transcontinental country that borders the Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia and the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. The total area of Turkey is 302,535 square miles, of which 9,175 square miles are in Europe and 291,773 square miles are in Asia, making it the 34th largest country in the world. With a total population of over 80 million people, it is only fair to imagine that most of its cities are huge and full of people.

Picture graph of the 4 Most Populated Cities in Turkey.
Each of these cities has unique surroundings and industries.

This article aims to cover some of the most interesting features of this country’s most populated cities. Let’s go!

1. Istanbul – 15,636,243

Istanbul

Istanbul is the largest and most populated city in Turkey.

©Travel Turkey/Shutterstock.com

Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul is Turkey’s largest and most populated city. Commonly mistaken as the country’s capital, Istanbul is Turkey’s economic, cultural, and historical hub, with over 15 million of the country’s citizens living in this city. Istanbul is a sizable metropolis with a rich past, vibrant culture, and stunning scenery. Originally known as Byzantium, the city’s name was changed to Constantinople after the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. The city’s current name came from Greek and had been in use for centuries before it was officially adopted upon the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in the 1920s. 

As the only transcontinental city in the world, with the Bosporus (or Strait of Istanbul) running through the city, separating Anatolia (Asian Turkey) from Thrace (European Turkey), Istanbul is also the largest and most populated city in all of Europe and the 13th largest in the world. The city is filled with magnificent reminders of its vast and famous past, and its tourist attractions will astonish even the most monument-weary traveler. As the city has been home to three different empires, the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman, it has a perfect blend of artifacts from the different periods as well as its unique blend of Christian and Islamic sites. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city is the Hagia Sophia, a church built centuries ago by the then Emperor that was converted into a mosque, a museum, and back to a mosque. 

Apart from the Hagia Sophia, the city is also home to other religious structures, museums, and fantastic food. As Turkish cuisine is one of the best in the world, it is abundant in the city of Istanbul, with a wide selection of restaurants, eateries, and even street food, making it nearly impossible to go hungry while taking a tour of the city.

2. Ankara – 5,310,000

Ankara

Ankara is an important commercial and industrial city and Turkey’s capital.

©Bilal Kocabas/Shutterstock.com

Turkey’s second most populated city is the country’s capital, Ankara. Formerly known as Angora, the city has a population of over five million people. Despite not being the biggest, Ankara is an important commercial and industrial city and the country’s capital; it serves as the seat of the Turkish government and is home to all foreign embassies. At an elevation of 938 meters (3,077 feet), Ankara is located in the heart of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the vast, lofty Anatolian Plateau. 

The provinces of Cankiri and Bolu, Eskisehir, Konya, and Aksaray, as well as Kirikkale and Kirsehir, form its northern, western, southern, and eastern borders, respectively. Highways, trains, and an enormous international airport provide the city with excellent access to other regions of the nation and even other nations. Like Istanbul, Ankara also has a vast past and a vibrant history. The dynamic history of the area dates back to the Bronze Age Hatti culture, in which the Hittites succeeded in the second millennium BC, the Phrygians in the tenth century BC, the Lydians, and the Persians in the following centuries. By 333 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the area from the Persians. Again, like Istanbul, the city has witnessed several empires in its time. 

With the creation of the Republic on October 29, 1923, Ankara replaced Constantinople (now Istanbul) as the nation’s capital, which it had held since the Ottoman Empire’s fall. The modern city’s architecture reflects its rich heritage. Due to the presence of the parliament and the heads of state, Ankara is a formal city. However, Ankara offers a variety of fascinating tourist attractions and lively nightlife.

3. İzmir – 3,056,000

Izmir, City, Waterfront, Night, Sea

İzmir boasts a population of over three million people.

©iStock.com/soner tuncer

İzmir is a city in western Turkey. With a population of over three million people, the city is Turkey’s third most populated city and home to one of its largest ports. The sophisticated, industrialized, and bustling city of İzmir, once known as Smyrna, is situated on a sizable bay that is bordered by mountains. The geographic location, climate, and fact that various ethnicities and religions have called İzmir home have contributed to the city’s position as a vibrant economic and social center. A few of the many multiple civilizations the city has housed throughout its lengthy history include the Persians, Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. 

The city is home to Turkey’s second-largest port. It also has lovely scenery and a comfortable climate, particularly in the summer and spring, when tourism in Turkey is at its peak. Because of the abundant sunshine it receives all year, İzmir is frequently referred to as “the city where the sun never sets.” It is a well-liked summer vacation spot for travelers due to its close proximity to several magnificent beaches. However, the winter weather is chilly and windy, with lots of rain and the potential for snow. 

4. Bursa – 2,055,000

Bursa - Turkey, Türkiye - Country, City, Mosque, Tourism

Bursa is known as the “Green City” because of its many gardens and parks.

©iStock.com/muharremz

Also called Green Bursa, Bursa is the fourth most populated city in Turkey, with over two million inhabitants. Bursa is known as the “Green City” because of its many gardens and parks, as well as the fact that it is situated in the heart of a significant fruit-growing region. The city is located in northwestern Turkey with a view of the Marmara Sea. Bursa is also regarded as a prominent position in the world of trade because of its history as a Silk Road dating back to the Ottoman Empire, and its abundance of mulberry trees.

Bursa is a city with a rich culture and has evidence of numerous civilizations throughout its long history. Bursa is a city rich in natural beauty, breathtaking waters that are believed to contain healing properties and potential for summer and winter tourists. Bursa is one of the most important cities in Turkey because it has a unique cultural legacy and a surrounding structure that combines elements from the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Republican periods.

Bursa is highly rich in religious landmarks, mosques, and tombs as a result of being the first Ottoman capital. The warm, mineral-rich springs in Bursa are appreciated by a lot of visitors; in fact, the majority of the hotels in this area offer thermal baths. 

Summary of the 4 Most Populated Cities in Turkey

Rank in PopulationName of CityPopulationFeature
1.Istanbul15,636,243Economic, cultural, and historic hub.
2.Ankara5,310,000Capital; commercial and industrial center.
3.İzmir3,056,000Large port; social, economic, and industrial center.
4.Bursa2,055,000“Green City”; many parks and gardens; in fruit-growing region.


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