Turkey is a unique geography. It is a bridge connecting not only East and West, but also the past and the future. İstanbul, the country’s cultural capital, has been an attractive settlement for various civilizations since ancient times.Today the city is visited each year by millions of travelers who come to catch a glimpse of its ancient city walls, enchanted churches, palaces and mosques, while savoring the delightful tastes of the city’s rich cuisine. İstanbul offers an unforgettable experience with its colorful daily life and dynamic nightlife. It is also an attractive destination for international meetings with its world class accommodation and convention facilities.
İstanbul, Dersaadet, Konstantiniye, Byzantion…The many names of this city is a refl ection of its many faces. As the only city in the world situated on two continents -Asia and Europe- İstanbul has proved an attractive settlement for various civilizations since ancient times. Thanks to its rich history, colorful daily life and dynamic spirit, İstanbul continues to offer a once in a lifetime experience to its visitors. The largest city in modern Turkey, İstanbul’s cultural diversity, state of the art accommodation alternatives, unique blend of modern and traditional dining and entertainment options and stunningly rich history makes the 2010 European Capital of Culture an ideal destination for business organizations and leisure trips.
As the former capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, present day İstanbul retains the history that emerged form the city and integrates its historical values to the modern life. Sultanahmet, located at the center of the historic peninsula, is where most of the İstanbul’s famous historical sights are located. Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are both situated in this dynamic part of the city. A few hundred meters away is the world famous Grand Bazaar, which for the past six centuries has been a center for the trading of gold and authentic Turkish produce. The nearby Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) is a breathtaking venue for banquets and special events. No visit to İstanbul is complete without crossing the beautiful Golden Horn the natural harbor opening to the Bosphorus- and relaxing on the green parks that stretch along the shore to enjoy magnificent sunsets. With their mixed Turkish, Greek and Jewish quarters, Eyüp, Fener and Balat are ideal for those who feel in the mood for a little time travel. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which administers 85 churches, stands in the Fener district. North of the historic peninsula, across the Golden Horn, is Galata, crowned by the Galata tower. Galata, Beyoğlu and the İstiklal Street accommodate much of the city’s nightlife venues. On the nearby front of Karaköy, you can fi nd İstanbul Modern, a museum with exhibitions of contemporary Turkish art.
Beyoğlu, İstanbul’s culture and entertainment center, has always been a meeting point for cultures and peoples. The multiculturalism of this vibrant district is abundantly refl ected in architecture, daily life and culinary culture. İstiklal Street is the heart of this large district full of cinemas, theaters, restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs and almost every visitor to İstanbul is attracted by the bright lights of the Street. North of the Taksim Square is the newer part of the city. High skyscrapers rise from Levent and Maslak, the main business districts, reflecting a different skyline from the old city. Moving forward to Kurtuluş, Osmanbey and Nişantaşı with neoclassical and Art Nouveau buildings, time starts to fl ow backwards. However modern cafes and shops are just around the corner to surprise you.
The Bosphorus, separating Asia and Europe, is the ultimate treasure and beauty of İstanbul, where the city breathes. Both banks of the Bosphorus are decorated by characteristic, wooden waterside mansions, symbols of the old tradition of large, wealthy families residing on the Bosphorus’ shores. Fishing dominates life on the Bosphorus thanks to the fertile sea that brings shoals of fresh fi sh daily and on every shore of the Bosphorus are restaurants serving delicious seafood. North of Beşiktaş you arrive at Ortaköy, whose cafés, restaurants and bars are enjoyable day or night. The districts beyond Ortaköy on the European side of the Bosphorus all have great natural beauty and places of entertainment: Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, Rumelihisarı, Baltalimanı, Emirgan, İstinye, Yeniköy, Tarabya, Kireçburnu, Büyükdere, Sarıyer and Rumelifeneri are all charming districts.
Across the Bosphorus to east is the Asian side centered on the historical districts of Üsküdar and Kadıköy. Üsküdar is symbolized by the Maiden Tower located on an islet just off the shore. The coasts of the Asian side are characterized by picturesque neighborhoods of Beykoz,Paşabahçe, Çubuklu, Kanlıca, Anadolu Hisarı, Kandilli, Çengelköy, Beylerbeyi, Kuzguncuk and Paşalimanı. These districts once hosted the grand summer houses of the Ottoman elite. Growing steadily, today this beautiful land is a vital part of the cultural life of İstanbul. Üsküdar and Kadıköy are quite popular with sea-side cafes, parks and traditional restaurants serving popular Turkish dishes.
LEADING DESTINATION FOR Turkey is increasing its appeal for the international meeting industry every year as a result of its growing importance for international trade, commerce and industry, constantly improving infrastructure, internationalnetworking and active involvement of national associations and corporations. İstanbul is the hub city of Turkey for international meetings. The city hosted many important and large scale international congresses with success within the past 10 years and became one of the world’s leading destinations for international events providing the city worldwide reputation and references. İstanbul has countless qualities which make the city a perfect location for international meetings. It is easily accessible from all parts of the world and off ers world class accommodation and convention facilities. The city has a colorful cultural and social life, a rich history and exotic appeal. These qualities make İstanbul an attractive destination for participants.
It is hard to know where to start when you are talking about sightseeing in İstanbul. Ancient Roman walls may lie alongside a glittering skyscraper, an ornate Ottoman mosque may stand only yards away from a Greek Orthodox church and a synagogue, and a fantastically modern bridge may lead you to a narrow cobbled street fi lled with centuries-old houses. Do you start with ancient history and artifacts, or do you prefer the Roman, Byzantine or Ottoman Empires? İstanbul was capital of all three. Few cities in the world have such an amazing array of treasures, from those made by man and collected or constructed by three of the world’s greatest empires, to those made by nature, like the beautiful Bosphorus. This modern city’s maze of narrow streets, climbing steeply angled hills and aff ording fantastic views at every turn, depicts the city’s 8000 years of civilization. In İstanbul, the glorious Haghia Sofi a, a Holy Roman Church built in the 6th century AD, stands opposite the equally impressive Blue Mosque, of nearly the same size and grandeur, but built almost 1,000 years later. Nearby Topkapı Palace gives you a glimpse of the Ottoman sultans’ lifestyles, who lived here for over 400 years. Other must-sees include Dolmabahçe Palace, the Basilica Cistern, the fortresses of Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı and the Grand Bazaar. And do not leave İstanbul without visiting a hamam, a traditional Turkish bath, and getting scrubbed and massaged as residents and visitors have for millennia. There is so much to do in İstanbul, and the city is so full of surprises, that it would be hard to be at a loss for things to do!
This is a half-day morning tour in the Sultanahmet Square, the heart of the Old City.
The tour includes:
Hagia Sophia; one of the greatest marvels of architecture, constructed as a basilica in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian. Blue Mosque; facing Hagia Sophia, famous with its blue İznik tiles and unique with its 6 minarets, built in the name of Sultan Ahmet I. Hippodrome; center of sportive (chariot races, athletics) events and political activities of the Old City. Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Theodosius, and German Fountain of Wilhelm II are monuments decorating the Hippodrome. Grand Bazaar; the most attractive shopping center and the biggest souk (market) in the world, with nearly 4000 shops selling antiques, jewelry, gold, carpets, leather goods and souvenir.
This is a half-day afternoon tour of the Topkapı Palace and Süleymaniye Mosque. Topkapı Palace was the imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans. There, you will see sacred Islamic relics, old kitchen utensils, collections of Chinese porcelain, weapons, calligraphy section etc. Treasury and Harem sections are not included in the program, but you can visit those sections by paying an extra entrance fee. Süleymaniye Mosque is the most renowned imperial mosque. It is the masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, who was the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque was built during the 16th century in the name of Süleyman the Magnifi cent.
This is a full-day tour including Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Obelisk of Theodosius, Serpentine Column, German Fountain of Wilhelm II, Grand Bazaar (there will be an art demonstration of handmade Turkish carpets), Topkapı Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, Galata Bridge and Golden Horn. This tour ends approximately at 17:00 hrs. Since Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays, it is replaced with Kariye (St. Savior in Chora) Museum. Topkapı Palace is closed on Tuesdays and Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays.
This is a half-day afternoon tour including Dolmabahçe Palace, Bosphorus Bridge and Çamlıca Hill. Dolmabahçe Palace is the last residence of the Ottoman Sultans and Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is famous for its collection of
European antiques, furniture and 4.5 tons chandelier. Çamlıca Hill is the best point for a panoramic view of İstanbul and the Bosphorus.
Various transportation vehicles are available in İstanbul, one of the biggest cities in Europe. Railroads, bus lines, and trams are supported by sea vehicles that travel between two continents. “Akbil” (smart ticket) devices - used in almost all transportation vehicles – can be purchased from offi ces near major transport interchanges all around the city. The website www.iett.gov.tr submits detailed information on transportation alternatives.
Metropolitan buses in İstanbul are frequent and economic. They travel to almost any point within the city and some villages around the city. Alternatives are privately operated buses using the same lines where you can pay onboard. The “metrobus”, which operates between Söğütlüçeşme on the Asian side and Avcılar on the European side, is another popular transportation alternative that can save a lot of time.
The modern subway and tram system is one of the most convenient means of transportation in İstanbul. Trains departing from Sirkeci on the European side and Haydarpaşa on the Anatolian side reach the outer parts of the city.
The İstanbul Metro, or the M2, is a masstransit underground railway network, running from the Atatürk Oto Sanayi station at Maslak in the north to the Şişhane station at Beyoğlu in the south.
The tramline lines are Zeytinburnu-Kabataş, Güngören-Bağcılar and Edirnekapı-Sultançiftliği. Taksim, the cultural and entertainment center of the city is accessible from Kabataş by a short funicular railway. A light rail line, known as M1, runs from Yusufpaşa, near Aksaray, to Esenler and Atatürk Airport.
The sea route is usually the quickest way between the European and Asian sides, particularly during rush-hour. Ferries connect the two sides of the city. There are city-line ferries that run the length of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, and also go to and from the islands. There are also tourist excursions along the Bosphorus. Smaller private motorboats that depart from Beşiktaş on the European side drop their passengers at Üsküdar on the Asian side in six minutes. The modern catamarans are for those who want to get about fast.
Licensed taxis in İstanbul are yellow and have registration numbers on the sides. They can be found on the ranks or hailed on the street. Also hotel, restaurant and bar staff s provide taxi. Bridge tolls are added onto the taxi fare.
One practical solution to transportation in İstanbul is the dolmuş, a shared taxi seating 7 or 8 passengers that operates on specifi c routes through the busiest parts of the city until midnight. The destination is written on signs placed on the windscreen.
When the sun goes down, ıstanbul opens its doors to all kinds of entertainment. While the city is undoubtedly Turkey’s cultural and historical capital, it is also the ultimate dining and entertainment center, with countless restaurants, bars, clubs and concert halls.
Taksim and Beyoğlu are no doubt the center of nightlife in the city. The bars and pubs on the streets leading to İstiklal Caddesi, the clubs that can be found around the streets nearby, the wine bars in the area, and the venues where DJs play the hottest hits from all over the world and live bands perform, form the heart of the city’s nightlife. If you are in Beyoğlu, do not miss the historic Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Market), home to many traditional taverns, and Asmalımescit, a lively street with a new bar popping up even in the smallest corners. If you are up for a little music, İstanbul has it all; rock music, Latin and world music, jazz and so on. Located in the woods, with various stages, restaurants, cafes, and a big swimming pool, Park Orman is one of the most important concert venues of the city. Maslak Venue also hosts international artists and festivals at its open and indoor venues. Kuruçeşme Arena is another important concert venue by the Bosphorus. For more traditional entertainment, you can visit Kumkapı, one of İstanbul’s best known entertainment centers on the European shore of the Marmara Sea. Ortaköy boasts many bars and is one of the main centers of nightlife in the city. Also Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy have both great bars and restaurants aligned on the sea side.
İstanbul incorporates the fi nest examples of traditional and international cuisines. Turkish cuisine reached a peak of sophistication with the cuisine of the Ottoman palace, where skilled and experienced cooks created an imperial cuisine with fi nest ingredients. The addition of delicious vegetables and herbs from the coastal regions of the Mediterranean in particular, and the fl avor of olive oil led to the emergence of mezes, or hors d’oeuvres, which are an integral feature of Turkish cuisine. Fish meals are an essential part of the Turkish cuisine. For most of the year, the Çanakkale and İstanbul straits are full of migrating fi sh, the majority of which are peculiar to those straits. As well as Turkish cuisine in all of its diversity, İstanbul has a large number of excellent restaurants specializing in French, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Far Eastern and other world cuisines. Over the past decade these have multiplied to include English pubs, French cafés, sushi bars, Tex-Mex and South American restaurants.Turkish cuisine possesses a range of fabulous desserts, including milk puddings, sweet pastries, and fruit puddings of various kinds, often fl avoured with pistachios and other nuts. Turkish delight (lokum), made of starch and sugar. Baklava, which is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts is another desert. With a history going back to Ottoman times, Turkish coffee is the subject of many stories. After a fabulous meal, you are ready to hit the streets. Bon appetite!
Turkish cuisine is among the most varied and extensive in the world, and fine restaurants offering the classics of Turkish cuisine as well as modern interpretations of classic favorites dot the Istanbul culinary landscape. Turkey, with a restaurant almost literally at every turn, is a real culinary treat, and a snacker's paradise. Many of the best restaurants can be found in the areas around the Bosphorus and Taksim, and the districts with the big shopping centers such as Nisantasi, Tesvikiye, Etiler, and Levent. Meyhanes, the most typical of Istanbul restaurants, are the place to go to listen to live music, eat mezes and drink raki. Kebab restaurants also abound.
Turkish chefs rely heavily on the freshness of ingredients and the quality of oils. Meats, especially lamb, cheeses, and yogurt, figure heavily in the Turkish diet, as they have since the Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia centuries ago. But while these nomadic roots provided a foundation for Turkish cuisine, after centuries as a Silk Road crossway where spices and tastes from East and West converged, and the infusion of ingredients from an environment rich in varieties of plants and animals, as well as abundance from the sea, Turkey now offers gourmands an even richer variety of foods, dishes and spices.
Tantalizing creations feature the freshest ingredients, like rich, ripe red tomatoes, glossy purple eggplants, crisp spring onions, fresh garlic, pungent spicy pepper and cool, crunchy cucumbers. Numerous fresh vegetables, from artichokes to zucchini can be found plain, stuffed with rice, meat and spices, or served with olive oil as appetizers, and aubergine is used in a delicious variety of forms.
Of course, you really can't fail to mention kebabs, made of lamb threaded on a skewer and grilled over charcoal. They can be found in varying forms, almost everywhere. Whether it's that all time favorite, shish kebab, with or without a spicy marinade, or döner kebab, sliced thin and served with yogurt on the side, kebabs are an unforgettable experience. And, with over 100 different varieties available to tempt your taste buds, everything from kebabs with pistachios in them to garlic kebabs and Turkish-style ribs, you'll just have to come to Istanbul and experience them for yourself.
And since Turkey is surrounded by four seas, a nice serving of fresh grilled fish is never far away, and is best enjoyed at a fish restaurant right on the waters of the Bosphorus, a definite must while in Istanbul. There you can also find what is arguably the best part of a Turkish meal, the never-ending selection of delectable mezes, or appetizers, which you pick from a large tray carried to you by your waiter, and which may range from simple fresh vegetables in olive oil to elaborate, delicious seafood or meat dishes. Whether it's in a converted former ferry landing or a chic restaurant, fish in Istanbul is like nowhere else. Calamari, mussels fried or stuffed, pickled fish, dried anchovies and more are just a few of the appetizers on offer, all of which go great with Turkey's anise-flavored national drink, raki, also known as "lion's milk." This clear fire-water turns a milky white when water is added to it, and is best enjoyed with a plate of meze, or a selection of fruits and cheeses on a lazy afternoon or evening.
Turkey is also home to a burgeoning wine industry, which is just now beginning to gain some international acclaim. The Bogazkere, Okuzgozu, and Kalecikkarasi grape varieties yield excellent vintages and are definitely worth a try. With vinyards all across western Anatolia between the age-old lunar landscapes of Cappadocia, the Euphates Valley, Thrace and the Aegean, there is no shortage of excellent choices of wines, but Turkey also produces a few of its own beers. For a healthy, refreshing drink, try ayran, a salty-yogurt flavored drink which is not only a Turkish favorite, but also something of a cure-all remedy for whatever ails you.
For the main course, you might want to consider an Istanbul special, Fish in Salt. Don't let the name mislead you. This dish is the freshest sea bass, around which a salt mold is formed, and the fish is slow-baked before being brought to your table where the salt mold is ceremonially broken open and the fish served at the table. But, if you'd like to try this Istanbul delicacy, make sure to call ahead, because it takes some time to prepare. Another delicacy that is a must-try when in season is Lufer. This small bass, "bluefish", is legendary in Istanbul because it is here, in the waters of the Bosphorus, that it is at its best. Ottoman sultans had special boats made to catch it, and poets of the time wrote poems about it. You might be inspired by it, too.
If you're looking for a taste of home, or for a taste of the world, international cuisine is available at enticing locations across Istanbul, historic and modern, many with breathtaking views of the Bosphorus. As they always say, cosmopolitan Istanbul is a meeting place of cultures, and has been for centuries. And that also means it's also a meeting-place of foods and cuisines.
Finally, for dessert, you can find a sweet-shop, known as a pastane, filled with nearly infinite varieties of baklava, pastries of all sorts, sweetened nuts and spreads, and milk-based sweets on just about every street corner. They range from the bizarre - a sweet pudding made entirely out of the shredded white meat of a chicken breast, to the exquisite, like "the Bottom of the Pot," or Kazan Dibi, a rich custard-like dessert with a crunchy, scorched crust, and nearly all make a fine accompaniment to a cup of fresh-brewed Turkish coffee. Turkish Delight is an excellent choice and is available at any of these shops. It is made from solidified sugar and pectin, and usually flavored with rosewater and sometimes pistachios, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. These desserts make a sweet finish to your introduction to the flavors and pleasures of all that Turkish cuisine has to offer. So come to Turkey, experiment a little, and as the Turks say, "Afiyet olsun.," or "Bon appetit."
İstanbul was originally founded to control major trading routes. Since shopping and trade are central characteristics of this great city, you should defi nitely include some shopping in your to do list in İstanbul. İstanbul has both historical bazaars dating back to the Ottoman era, and modern shopping malls essential for all metropolises. One can fi nd everything in İstanbul, where people live together in a tremendous hustle and bustle; the mystery of the East and the practicality of the West combined. The best place to start shopping is the magnifi cent Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı), which stands in one of the oldest settlements of the city, the historical peninsula. First time visitors are astounded by the Grand Bazaar’s splendor and size. It contains 3,000 shops, 61 streets and two mosques. In jewelry stores, decorated with gold, silver and precious stones, you can fi nd all kinds of valuable decorative items, from antique jewels to modern pendants. Renowned rug and carpet shops sell priceless hand-made carpets that come from all over Turkey. In addition to gifts and souvenirs made of pottery, wicker, wood, copper and silver, the Grand Bazaar is also a center for leather goods and accessories. Next to Yenicami at Eminönü is the Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) or the Spice Bazaar. Here, the attractive smells of cumin, mint, cinnamon and countless other herbs and spices create an amazing ambiance. Sultanahmet is also an excellent place for shopping, where you can watch craftsmen making their merchandises in İstanbul Sanatları Çarşısı. The Arasta Bazaar close to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, textiles, and carpet shops. As opposed to the large crowds at the Grand Bazaar, the Arasta Bazaar is more low-key. In the Antique Books Market (Sahafl ar Çarşısı), located between the Grand Bazaar and the Sultan Beyazıt Mosque, you can find second hand and antique books. If you want to experience the real İstanbul, you should defi nitely visit the traditional markets set up on particular days in various parts of the city. These have a delightful, local fl avor with their sales patters and thousands of items on display. These markets are set up in areas set aside by local municipalities, and are named by the days of the week they take place. The most famous markets are Salı Pazarı (Tuesdays) in Kadıköy on the Asian side, Yeşilköy Pazarı (Wednesdays) in Yeşilköy, Ulus Pazarı (Fridays) in Ulus and Cumartesi Pazarı (Saturdays) in Beşiktaş, all on the European side. Another way to spend a shopping day in İstanbul is to go antiquing. The antique markets of Çukurcuma in Beyoğlu and Horhor in Aksaray on the European side, as well as numerous shops in Kadıköy and Üsküdar on the Asian side, are the best places to look for antiques at reasonable prices. These places will never stop surprising you. After exhausting the historical peninsula and its traditional markets, İstanbul has still a lot to off er. Bağdat Caddesi (on the Asian side), Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı (both on the European side) are shopping centers on their own with hundreds of top quality stores and boutiques that would satisfy your every need from jewelry to shoes, from clothes and accessories to antiques, and from furniture to carpets and rugs. If you want to fi nd everything in one place, countless shopping centers await.