Istanbul, formerly Angora, is Today the Capital of Turkey

June 15, 2023

Istanbul manages to merge its vast ancient past and hectic modern mega-city buzz with a plomb rarely managed by other cities, making it one of the world's favorite city-break destinations. Straddling opposing shores of Europe and Asia, this massive metropolis is home to 15 million people and has more world-class historic monuments in its central old town core than some countries can boast of.

When Turkey became a republic in 1923, Constantinople lost its status as the nation’s capital to Ankara but kept its name. During the 1940s and 1950s, however, it underwent great structural change. A wave of nationalist sentiment swept through the country and the city’s once numerous Greek community dwindled, culminating in the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom.

Today, the city is a hub of lively culture and a big-city base for nearby sites such as Ephesus and Pergamum. Its youthful commercial buzz masks a rich history, though, and many of the city’s traditional mosques, tekkes (alevi monasteries) and Mevlevi dervishes remain open, attracting visitors from around the world.

Ankara, which replaced Constantinople as the country’s capital after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, was formerly known as Ancyra and Angora. The city’s population declined in the medieval period but regained strength as a regional centre as the Ottoman Empire reached its historical peak. The city was a key base of the Turkish National Movement led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and remains an important political and cultural hub. Its sprawling new Archaeological Museum is a top stop and delves into the region’s fascinating early human history, including the Neolithic monoliths at Gobeklitepe, which gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2019.


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