As much for its tourist haunts and delightful way of life, did you know that Istanbul has some quirky facts to its own history?
Here are 15 surprising facts about Istanbul
- Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.
- Istanbul, while being the ancient capital of many empires, from Rome to the Ottoman era, it is not the modern capital of Turkey as Ankara is.
- Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine the great, is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.
- Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets.
- While not the capital, Istanbul is Turkey's largest city with more than 13 million people - 99 percent of which are Muslim.
- Tulips, the symbol of Holland, originated in Istanbul and were sent from Istanbul to Netherlands.
- The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3.000 shops.
- British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel ''Murder on the Orient Express'' at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.
- Istanbul is surrounded by sea/ with the Bosphours cutting right through it. And yet, snow is common in the city, with the annual average being 18 inches.
- Istanbul has the same population -- 13 million and rising -- as one of the smallest countries in Europe, Belgium.
- Originally named the Tower of Christ, the Galata Tower was built in 1348 at the apex of fortified walls and was used to house prisoners of war, later became an observatory, but now offers a 360-degree viewing gallery of the city.
- It has been a noted inspiration for authors from Paul Theroux and Ernest Hemingway to Orhan Pamuk and Abdulhak Sinasi Hisar.
- Istanbul was once renowned as the most crowded city in the world - in 1502.
- Istanbul has the third oldest subway in the world, built in 1875. It's 573 meters long and located in the Beyoglu district.
- Istanbul was the European Cultural Capital City in 2010, but has never hosted the Olympics.