Tourism Turkey

Popular Sports in Istanbul

Some sports in Istanbul are extremely popular, to the extent that they have contributed to the thriving tourism industry in the city. One such sport is football, which has gained widespread popularity among various audiences. The vibrant football scene in Istanbul has led to many major events in the sport, such as hosting the finals of various competitions. This has transformed Istanbul into a popular destination for sports enthusiasts. However, football is not the only sport in Istanbul. In this article, we will explore some of the beloved sports in Istanbul.

Sports Infrastructure in Istanbul

Istanbul has a suitable sports infrastructure that enables individuals to engage in both recreational and professional sports. Some important sports facilities in Istanbul include:

Sports Infrastructure in Istanbul

1. Stadiums and Sports Arenas: Istanbul is home to large stadiums and sports arenas that host various sporting events and competitions. Some of the well-known stadiums and arenas in Istanbul include Türk Telekom Stadium, Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Vodafone Park, and Türk Telekom Arena.

2. Sports Complexes: Istanbul has large sports complexes that provide facilities for training and playing different sports. These complexes include football fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pools, sports halls, and gymnastics facilities.

3. Parks and Green Spaces: Istanbul has numerous parks and green spaces where people can engage in sports activities. These parks provide suitable spaces for running, cycling, walking, yoga, and other recreational sports. Some of the famous parks and green spaces in Istanbul include Gulhane Park, Emirgan Park, Yildiz Park, Maçka Park, and Feshane Park.

4. Sports Clubs: Istanbul has multiple sports clubs that allow individuals to train in various sports under experienced coaches. These clubs include fitness clubs, tennis clubs, basketball clubs, and aquatics clubs.

5. Bike Paths: Istanbul offers suitable and exciting bike paths that attract cycling enthusiasts. These paths are usually located in coastal areas, parks, and quieter parts of the city, providing a safe and peaceful environment for training and recreation.

This sports infrastructure highlights Istanbul’s emphasis on health and physical activity. The residents and visitors make use of these facilities for training and participating in a variety of sports activities.

Overall, Istanbul is recognized as a dynamic sports city with its stadiums, sports arenas, sports complexes, parks and green spaces, sports clubs, and bike paths.

Most Popular Sports in Istanbul

The popularity ranking of sports in Istanbul is not significantly different from their popularity worldwide. Since there are no sports specific to Istanbul, the most popular sports in the city are also the globally popular ones. The Press Agency ranked the most popular sports in Turkey in 2014. According to their classification, football was the most popular sport in Turkey with 475,000 news articles published in 2014. Following football, basketball, which has a large number of fans among women and children as well, ranked second among the most popular sports in Turkey with 95,000 news articles. Nonetheless, there are other popular sports in Turkey that not only have a significant fan base but also play a role in the thriving tourism industry.

Now, let’s proceed to introduce these sports in order of popularity in Istanbul.

1. Football:

Football is one of the most popular and important sports in Istanbul and throughout Turkey. Istanbul has a large number of professional football teams that compete in various leagues. The three major professional football teams in Istanbul are:


Besiktas: Besiktas is one of the most famous football teams in Turkey with over a century of history. The home games of this team are held at Vodafone Park in Istanbul.

Galatasaray: Galatasaray is also one of the prominent and popular teams in Istanbul. The stadium of Galatasaray, Ali Sami Yen Sports Complex, is located in the Besiktas district.

Fenerbahce: Fenerbahce is also a popular and well-established team in Istanbul. The stadium of Fenerbahce, Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, is located in the Sisli district.

The Ataturk Stadium, which also hosts the matches of the Turkish national team, is one of the famous football venues in the city. Football fans in Istanbul are passionate and devoted, and watching a football match in this city is a memorable experience.

In summary, football in Istanbul has not only sports appeal but also significant social, cultural, and economic importance. This sport is not only seen as a physical activity but also as a social and identity factor in Istanbul society. The importance of football in Istanbul can be justified for various reasons:

Football History and Heritage: Istanbul has a rich and long football history. Istanbul football clubs like Galatasaray and Besiktas have their own ancient history, and football enthusiasts in this city have been associated with and supported their beloved teams for generations.

Intense Competitions: Matches and competitions between Istanbul teams are one of the most thrilling and exciting sports events in Turkey. Matches between Fenerbahce and Besiktas, known as the “Istanbul Derby,” are always accompanied by a large number of fans and create an atmosphere full of excitement and sometimes tension.

Social Role: Football plays an important role in Istanbul society and is recognized as a significant social factor. Football fans in Istanbul come from various social and economic backgrounds, and by attending stadiums and watching matches, they contribute to the vitality of this sport.

Economy and Tourism: Football has a major economic impact in Istanbul. Football matches between Istanbul teams and European teams attract a large number of fans and tourists to the city. These visitors travel to Istanbul to watch the games, which contributes to the city’s economic growth.

Cultural Influence: Football in Istanbul has a significant influence on national and regional identity. Like everywhere in the world, football in Istanbul has the ability to bring people together and strengthen their sense of unity and loyalty to their favorite teams, as well as to their city and region.

2. Basketball:

Basketball is also a popular sport in Istanbul. Due to the attractiveness of the game and exciting competitions, basketball holds a special place among the general public and is one of the popular sports in Istanbul. The fast-paced and technical style of play, along with the appeal of basketball moves, has attracted a large population and enthusiasts. Basketball is also a sport that allows for activity in parks and small neighborhood courts, and you can see basketball courts and players engaged in the game throughout the city.


In Istanbul basketball, the prominent team in Turkey and Istanbul is Anadolu Efes. This team competes in the Turkish Basketball League and also participates in international competitions.

Anadolu Efes is considered the most prestigious team in the Turkish league. Efes Group is the financial supporter of this club. The club has successfully introduced players such as Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur to the world of basketball, who are currently playing in the NBA. This club also forms a significant part of the Turkish national basketball team, in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, where Turkey became the runner-up, six out of twelve players were members of this team. The Abdi Ipekci Arena is another important venue for basketball competitions in Istanbul.

Anadolu Efes has been able to perform very well in various basketball competitions in recent years as one of the top teams in the Turkish Basketball League. They compete in the Turkish Basketball Super League and European competitions such as the EuroLeague.

3. Volleyball:

Volleyball is another popular sport in Istanbul. Although volleyball has fewer spectators compared to football and basketball in Turkey, it is still considered one of the most popular sports in the country. Volleyball attracts a significant number of fans in Turkey, both for league matches and national team competitions. The Turkish government’s investment in this sport has led to remarkable progress and outstanding results. Istanbul hosted the 2010 FIVB Volleyball World Championship, where the Turkish national team achieved second place, greatly impacting the growth and popularity of volleyball among the people.


Sports stadiums and complexes in Istanbul often host volleyball competitions, and various clubs and teams from Istanbul participate in Turkish leagues and international tournaments. Volleyball is played professionally and non-professionally in Istanbul, providing an opportunity for social interaction, exciting game-watching, and support for favorite teams. The most famous volleyball team in Istanbul is “Vakıfbank.” This team competes in the Turkish Volleyball League and is also considered Turkey’s representative in international competitions. The Vakıfbank Sports Sarayı, the club’s stadium, is located in Istanbul. Vakıfbank has had outstanding performances at the national and international levels, becoming the champion of the Turkish Volleyball League multiple times. They have also achieved remarkable success in international tournaments, including winning the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship.

After football, basketball, and volleyball, other sports in Istanbul do not enjoy the same level of popularity. However, they have their own dedicated fan base and significantly contribute to the thriving tourism industry in Istanbul. If we were to mention two other sports in this field, we could refer to the following options.

Oil wrestling, a traditional sport in Turkey:

The next traditional sport is oil wrestling, which is considered one of the most important national sports in the country. This sport has been popular among the people since the Ottoman era, and its most prominent competition is the Kırkpınar tournaments.

The grand wrestling tournament of Kırkpınar has been held annually in Edirne since the fourteenth century, bringing together many fans from inside and outside the country. In this national sport of Turkey, wrestlers typically wear leather trousers and have a belt around their waist. Additionally, their entire bodies are greased with olive oil.

In addition to oil wrestling, there are other types of wrestling in popular sports in Turkey, including local wrestling, Olympic wrestling, and Greek-Roman wrestling. Famous Turkish wrestlers include Bayram Şit, Hamit Kaplan, Mustafa Dağıstanlı, Yaschar Dögan, Mesut Bahtiyar, Tufan Kiş, Taha Akgül, Hamza Yerlikaya, Rıza Kayaalp, and Şeref Eroğlu.


Given Istanbul’s geographical location and its position on the shores of the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, it’s not surprising that one of the most popular sports is rowing. The rivers, lakes, and coastlines of Istanbul offer a wide range of opportunities for rowing and rafting, providing favorable conditions for both beginners and experienced individuals.


Cycling is a highly popular sport in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul. Turkey has made significant efforts to promote and expand this sport, to the extent that the city of Konya is the second city in the world in terms of having dedicated cycling routes. Istanbul also offers numerous suitable cycling routes. This sport has attracted many tourists, including those from Iran, who travel to various cities in Turkey, especially Istanbul, for cycling or to participate in important cycling tours and events in the country.

Istanbul has a wide range of cycling routes and paths that provide suitable facilities for enthusiasts of this sport. Cycling in parks and public areas is also very popular, and people of all age groups can participate in this activity. Istanbul has exceptional cycling routes, although the cycling infrastructure in Turkey may not be as developed as that of European countries. Nevertheless, there are special routes for cycling, and during an Istanbul tour, you can explore these routes for a peaceful cycling experience.

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