Istanbul is one of the world's cities most vulnerable to seismic events. According to seismologists, the probability of a severe earthquake in the next 30 years is approximately 40 per cent. Following an outline of the seismicity of this vital Turkish city and a summary of current seismic risks and mitigation studies, this paper presents the results of a survey conducted in two districts of Istanbul, Avcilar and Bakirkoy. The survey comprised some 60 questions on the seismic risk perceptions of individuals and requested basic personal data, such as on age, education level, employment type, financial income, and gender. Despite various differences among the survey population, such as academic background and level of financial income, responses were surprisingly similar, especially in terms of having no plan for a safer house. The data may help those planning mitigation programmes and public awareness campaigns on preparedness and particularly mitigation in highly vulnerable regions.