Istanbul is the eighteenth fastest-growing city in the world, adding 19 new residents each hour. With 9.8 million inhabitants, the ancient but rapidly growing city is the largest within its young country. Istanbul straddles the Asian and European continents, with an extensive waterfront on both sides of the Bosphorus. The city grew by around 900% in the past 50 years; 27% in the last decade. Further growth of 1.5 million people is projected in the next decade. With the recent infusion of global capital and culture, the city is engaging in large infrastructure schemes. These include the Marmaray rail-tube tunnel linking its two halves, and controversial programmes for renovating its urban core and redeveloping its waterfront.

Industry is no longer the principal cog in Istanbul's economy, but it employs a third of the city's population; significantly, a third of Turkey's manufacturing plants are still in Istanbul. As industries move to the outskirts of the city, many redundant industrial areas (especially along Istanbul's extensive waterfronts) have become sites for the development of cultural institutions and facilities. This is particularly true of its Asian side; until recently, such resources have been concentrated in the historic western peninsula.