Is Istanbul Rich or Poor? A Local Answers with Statistics


Istanbul has been one of the major trade hubs in the world for more than 3.000 years. Istanbul has its bad and good years, but Istanbul has always been a culturally and historically rich place.

Between 2000-2010 Turkish economy was booming, and the Turkish prospect of joining the EU was high.

Those years that the EU had its own crises. Traveling to Europe was cheap. Turks were crossing the border to shop in cheaper Bulgarian and Greek supermarkets.

When watching TLC television shows, I (as a middle-income Turkish lawyer) could dream of buying a rustic Alaskan House at the same price as a simple apartment in Istanbul.

Between 2000-2010 Istanbul was one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing cities in Europe.

The Turkish economy was booming between 2000 and 2010.

Yet, those rosy days are gone now. After 2010, pandemic and economic crises hit Istanbul hard. Especially during the last couple of years, poverty and high prices have been an issue in Turkey.

Today, Turkey experiences between 80% and 130% and maybe more. (depending on how you calculate the inflation.)

Istanbul may sometimes seem poor compared to European capitals in its current state. Due to the Turkish Liras’ lower value, Istanbul also may feel cheap for foreign nationals.

Enjoy the discount in Istanbul because it will not last forever.

Yet, Istanbul is still a top choice for the extremely rich and provides extreme luxury if you can afford it.

Istanbul offers accommodation for all budgets. If you are rich you can even stay in Ottoman Palaces that are converted into hotels. Please read my guide “Where to Stay in Istanbul? A Local Answers with Map” to learn about Istanbul’s best neighborhoods.

Istanbul Economy

Population15.600.000 (as of Dec 31, 2020)
Age Distribution of Population36% – Young Population (0-24)
53% – Middle Age (24-65)
11% – Old Age Population (65 Plus)
Average Person in a Household3,36 Person
annual GDP (total value of goods and services produced) 232 billion dollars
GDP per Capita15.265 USD
Number of Tourists13.430.000 tourists visited Istanbul in 2018.
Economic Sectors%68 Service Sector, %31 Industry, %1 Agriculture
Developed Industrial SectorsHardware, machinery, automotive, shipbuilding, chemistry, weaving, ready-made food, glass, porcelain, and cement industries
Number of Cars/ Cars per capita2.927.974 / 1 car per 5 people (2020)
Istanbul Statistics

Turkish GDP per capita fell from its peak of 12.614 USD (2013) to 8.536 USD in 2020. After the pandemic, it continues to decline.

The economy of Istanbul is the lifeblood of the Turkish economy.

Istanbul is also the richest city in Turkey, and Istanbul’s economy makes up 31% of the Turkish economy. 

Istanbul with an average GDP per capita of 15.265 USD. Yet, when compared to Western capitals, Istanbul can also be considered a poor place.

Istanbul accounts for

  • 55% of Turkey’s production 
  • 45% of Turkey’s International Trade Volume
  • 31% of the Gross National Product of Turkey.
  • 54% of Turkey’s imports 
  • 50% of Turkey’s exports. 

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

For travel tips and hacks about Istanbul click to read Istanbul: All You Need to Know Before Coming.

Istanbul is a vibrant city, even at night.

Population

Istanbul’s population of 15.600.000 accounts for its permanent residents. 

This number is higher because Istanbul’s official population does include non-permanent residents (refugees, university students, international & local tourists, and business people visiting the city.)  

According to the Istanbul mayor, 2 million refugees are residing in Istanbul. (2021, Source)

Another factor that makes Istanbul’s population more than its official population is the arrival of millions of tourists each year. In 2018 before the corona crisis, 13 million 430 tourists visited Istanbul.

Additionally, Istanbul has a dynamic professional middle-aged population due to heavy migration from other parts of Turkey. 

Nearly all of my well-educated friends in Turkey live in Istanbul because Istanbul offers better options for professional white-collar workers.

You can read my article “What Languages are Spoken in Istanbul?” to learn more.

Economic Outlook

The economic outlook is not as bright in Istanbul as it used to be. According to the latest 2019 Data, The GDP of Istanbul has decreased by 60 billion dollars since 2013.

Yet, Istanbul’s economy continues to be massive. Istanbul has a GDP of 232 billion dollars.

If Istanbul was an independent country, it would still be a major economy.

If you compare Istanbul’s economic size to other countries, Istanbul has a bigger economy than Greece, Finland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Egypt.

 Suggested Reading: Is Istanbul Safe? Answered By a Local

Tourism in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most important cities globally in terms of tourism; As a center of science, culture, and art, it welcomes millions of tourists every year.

Istanbul hosts more than ten million tourists every year. For this reason, tourism is one of the biggest income sources in Istanbul.

In 2018, Istanbul was visited by 13 million 430 thousand tourists. It is estimated that each tourist spent an average of 660 dollars in Istanbul and Istanbul earned 8.6 Billion USD of tourism revenue.

Top 8 Nations that visited Istanbul the most

RankingNationalityTourist Visits to Istanbul
1.German1.071.634
2.Iran934.860
3.Saudi Arabs628.577
4.Russians618.511
5.Iraq609.589
6.English455.608
7.French448.872 
8.Americans370.112
Top 8 Nations that visited Istanbul the most (Source)

Additionally, you may want to check my “21 Fun and Unique Things To Do in Istanbul” and “Day Trips from Istanbul guides to learn more things that you can do in Istanbul.

Inflation

Consumer prices are always rising, and the Turkish Lira is devaluing. Depreciation of the Turkish Lira is the standard norm for Turkey.

For decades, Turkey has had an inflation rate between 10-%40 per year. In 2022, inflation is still rising, and Turkey may enter a hyperinflation cycle.

For this reason, I always write prices in dollar equivalent in my blog, prices are always changing please do not be surprised.

Grand Bazaar is covered, so it is excellent to wander and learn about Turkey, especially when the weather is awful outside. Photo source

Symbols of Economy in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of Europe’s oldest and most populous cities. For this reason, Istanbul has many functional places reminding more than 2000 years old commercial traditions.

Borsa İstanbul, The Grand Bazaar, and The Spice Market are regarded as major symbols of Istanbul’s Economy. 

Today, you still sense the Turkish economy’s condition with a short walk in the Grand Bazaar or The Spice Bazaar.

Istanbul Stock Exchange or Borsa İstanbul

Istanbul’s first stock market activities date back to the Crimean War of 1854. The stock exchange, established in Istanbul, was named “Dersaadet Tahvilat Borsası,” with a regulation issued in 1873.

The Exchange has continued to operate since 1873, but today its name is Borsa Istanbul.

Textile is another leading industry in Istanbul. Click to read Fashion in Istanbul – Places to Shop, Brands, Designers, and more.

Kapalicarsi (The Grand Bazaar)

Known as the world’s oldest and largest shopping center, the Grand Bazaar is built on an area of ​​45 thousand square meters. 

It is possible to find everything from carpets to bags, textiles to gold and silver jewelry, antiques to tiles, and souvenirs in the Grand Bazaar. 

The Grand Bazaar has around 3,600 shops.

SUGGESTED READING: Why and When Istanbul became Constantinople? A Local Answers

Misir Bazaar (The Spice Bazaar/ The Egyptian Bazaar) 

In its first years in the 17th century, The Spice Bazaar was also known as “The New Bazaar” and “Valide Carsisi.” 

Yet, the goods sold in the Bazaar were mostly Egyptian goods and spices. For this reason, from the middle of the 18th century, Turkish people started to call this market “The Egyptian Bazaar.” 

The Spice Bazaar may not be as important for world trade as it used to be, but Spice Bazaar is still a vital part of Istanbul’s Economy.

Check out my post: Is Istanbul Middle East? to learn the differences between Istanbul and the rest of the Middle East.

Biggest Companies in Istanbul

Koc, Yıldız, and Anadolu are Istanbul’s biggest and most well-known companies.

1) Koc Holding

Koc Holdings’ history goes back to the 1920s. Koc’s is mostly involved in electrical household appliances, automotive, and the food sector. 

In 2020, Koc was ranked the 471st largest industrial company globally in the Fortune Global 500 magazine. 

According to the Economist magazine, the Koc family is the richest in Turkey. Their annual revenue was approximately 30  billion USD in 2018.

 2) Yıldız Holding

Yıldiz was founded in 1944 by Sabri Ulker in Istanbul. Yıldız Holding is best known for its chocolate and biscuit brands.

Yıldız Holdings’ annual revenue is around 8 billion USD. 

Yıldız Holding has been the third-largest biscuit producer in the world since 2014. 

 3) Anadolu Group

The group was founded in Istanbul in 1950 by Kamil Yazıcı and İzzet Özilhan. 

The group operates beer, soft drinks, automotive, retail, agriculture, real estate, energy, and health sectors.

Anadolu has a portfolio of well-known brands; their most well-known brand is Efes Beers.  

Anadolu Efes is the 5th largest beer and malt beverage producer in Europe. Anadolu Efes also owns the best basketball team in Europe. 

The company’s annual turnover from beer production alone is around 3 billion USD. In addition, the company owns 50.6% of Coca-Cola İçecek’s rights in Turkey. 

Anadolu Efes is the 18th company in the Fortune 500 Turkey.

Efe Genit

I am a father, a passionate traveler, and a Turkish lawyer. You can enjoy my guides and tips about Turkey that only Turkish locals would know.

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