Democracy and National Unity Day: What to Do in Istanbul on July 15th

In the heart of Turkey's bustling metropolis, Istanbul, lies a day of profound significance — Democracy and National Unity Day. Observed annually on July 15th, this day marks a pivotal moment in Turkey's modern history, commemorating the resilience of its people and the strength of its democratic values. For those fortunate enough to find themselves in Istanbul on this moving occasion, it offers a unique opportunity to dive into the city's rich tapestry of culture, history, and collective memory.

With the backdrop of Istanbul's iconic landmarks and vibrant streets, visitors can immerse themselves in a city that pulsates with life, yet also carries within it the echoes of past struggles and triumphs. From the majestic domes of the Hagia Sophia Mosque to the bustling streets of the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul's charm lies not only in its architectural splendor but also in its ability to embrace diversity and honor its heritage.

In this blog post, we'll explore the significance of Democracy and National Unity Day, shedding light on its historical roots and the events that have shaped its legacy. We'll also delve into the various ways in which Istanbul commemorates this day, from solemn ceremonies to vibrant cultural festivities. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or simply someone seeking to experience the soul of a city, being in Istanbul on July 15th offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the spirit of resilience and unity that defines modern Turkey. But before we start digging into the past, let’s take a look at the best way to discover Istanbul on your own terms: Istanbul Tourist Pass®.


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Importance of Democracy and National Unity Day for Turkey and Istanbul

July 15th holds profound significance for Turkey, marking the anniversary of a pivotal moment in its modern history. On this day in 2016, the Turkish people bravely stood against a coup attempt, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to democracy and national unity. The events of July 15th serve as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding democratic principles and preserving the unity of the nation. For Turkey, Democracy and National Unity Day symbolizes resilience, solidarity, and the triumph of democracy over forces seeking to undermine it.

In Istanbul, the significance of this day is deeply intertwined with the city's identity and spirit. As Turkey's cultural and economic hub, Istanbul played a central role in the events of July 15th, with its residents taking to the streets to defend democracy.


The events of July 15th left a lasting impact, with 290 casualties and over 1200 wounded. In Istanbul, the Bosphorus Bridge became a focal point of the turmoil, as soldiers opened fire on civilians responding to the government’s call to resist the coup. Many lost their lives or were injured during these tragic events. In recognition of their sacrifice, the Council of Ministers renamed the Bosphorus Bridge as the “15th July Martyrs’ Bridge,” honoring those who stood against the coup. This renaming serves as an important reminder of the resilience and unity demonstrated by the people of Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, in defense of democracy and national unity.

Today, the city commemorates Democracy and National Unity Day with solemn ceremonies, cultural events, and public gatherings, honoring the sacrifices made and reaffirming its commitment to democratic values. For Istanbul, this day serves as a testament to its resilience, unity, and unwavering dedication to freedom and democracy. Together, Democracy and National Unity Day hold a profound meaning for both Turkey and Istanbul, serving as a reminder of the importance of democracy, unity, and the collective strength of the nation.

Exploring Istanbul on July 15th: What to Do and to See

On July 15th, Istanbul comes alive with a blend of commemorative events and cultural activities, offering visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the city's spirit of resilience and unity. First of all, this day is a National Holiday and nearly all non-touristic workplaces are closed. On this day, public transportation is free for all Turkish citizens, so expect a more crowded Monday than a normal one in central Istanbul areas.

You can start your day by paying homage to the brave souls who stood against the coup attempt at the 15th July Martyrs’ Bridge, formerly known as the Bosphorus Bridge. There might be a walk on the bridge so you can join locals and visitors alike in a moment of reflection and solidarity at this historic landmark.


As the day unfolds, delve into Istanbul's rich cultural tapestry by exploring its iconic landmarks and attractions. Visit the Hagia Sophia Mosque with a FREE guided tour, a symbol of the city's enduring legacy, and marvel at its awe-inspiring architecture and intricate mosaics. You can also enjoy the vibrant streets of the Grand Bazaar, where you can immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of Istanbul's bustling marketplace.

For a deeper understanding of Turkey's history and heritage, consider visiting museums such as the Istanbul Archaeology Museums or the Topkapi Palace Museum, where you can discover artifacts spanning centuries of civilization.

In the evening, embrace the spirit of unity and celebration by attending cultural events and performances across the city. From traditional music concerts to folk dance performances, Istanbul offers a plethora of entertainment options to suit every taste. What about a Premium Dinner Cruise with Turkish Shows? It can be the perfect night since the weather will be amazing as well. Or you can enjoy a Whirling Dervishes Show which is FREE with your Pass.

You can listen to our professionally prepared audio guide and walk around Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue, the beating heart of the city. As you navigate the streets of Istanbul on July 15th, take a moment to reflect on the resilience and strength of the Turkish people and the enduring values of democracy and unity that define the city's identity. Whether you're exploring historic landmarks, sampling local cuisine, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, being in Istanbul on this significant day promises an unforgettable experience filled with meaning and reflection.

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As the sun sets on July 15th in Istanbul, reflecting on the events of the day offers a profound reminder of the city's resilience, unity, and unwavering commitment to democracy. From solemn commemorations at the 15th July Martyrs’ Bridge to vibrant cultural festivities across the city, the spirit of solidarity is palpable in every corner of Istanbul. As visitors bid farewell to this memorable day, they carry with them not only memories of a city steeped in history and tradition but also a deep appreciation for the values that bind its people together.


For those planning to explore Istanbul on July 15th, the Istanbul Tourist Pass® offers a convenient and comprehensive way to experience the city's rich heritage and vibrant culture. With access to over 100 attractions and services, including skip-the-line tickets, guided tours, and transportation options, the Istanbul Tourist Pass® ensures a seamless and unforgettable journey through the heart of Turkey's beloved metropolis. 

As visitors depart from Istanbul, they carry with them not only memories of a city that captivates the senses but also a profound appreciation for the resilience, unity, and enduring spirit of democracy that define Istanbul and its people. In every step taken, and every moment cherished, the essence of Istanbul on July 15th resonates deeply, reminding us of the power of solidarity, the strength of community, and the timeless allure of this magnificent city.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens on 15 July in Turkey?

July 15th is commemorated as Democracy and National Unity Day in Turkey. It marks the day in 2016 when a faction of the military attempted a coup d'état against the government.

What holiday is July 15 in Turkey?

July 15th is a national holiday in Turkey called Democracy and National Unity Day.

What happened in Istanbul on 15 July?

Istanbul was one of the major cities affected by the 2016 coup attempt. Military forces attempted to seize control of key locations, including bridges and government buildings.

What do people do on July 15 in Turkey?

Many people participate in ceremonies and events to honor those who defended democracy during the coup attempt. It's a day to reflect on national unity and the importance of a democratic government.

What is closed on July 15th Day in Turkey?

While not everything is closed, some government offices and public institutions may have adjusted hours on Democracy and National Unity Day.

Is Turkey a democracy?

Yes, Turkey is a republic with a democratic system of government. However, the definition of democracy can be complex, and there are ongoing discussions about the state of democracy in Turkey.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey now?

Yes, for tourists in Istanbul, it is always safe & sound! We are safely living in Turkey as Westerners, we travel, drink, dance, and enjoy living safely. Don't believe every safety concern from outside, if you have any doubts, contact our customer service.

Are shops open in Turkey on July 15th?

Some shops may have adjusted hours on Democracy and National Unity Day, but many will likely remain open.

 

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