Istanbul – European Capital of Culture 2010
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city (approx. 12 million) and the country’s undisputed cultural and financial centre. Gearing up for its title of European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul offers a great deal in the way of history, culture, food and entertainment, in fact far too much to take in on a short city break. You will need to come back time and time again to truly see all that this atmospheric city has to offer and it’s a great city to visit as part of a twin-centre holiday.
Enjoying a deeply romantic setting as the only city in the world that straddles two continents and surrounded by the waters of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is the former capital of three great empires, Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman and the city exudes history at every turn, with its centuries-old palaces, castles, mosques, churches and other monuments. Istanbul today is also a city undergoing a dramatic renaissance, bubbling with a bold new energy that’s exciting and intensely alive with cutting-edge international film and music festivals, designer shops and chic restaurants and bars.
Highlights of any trip to Istanbul include the architecture and Iznik tiles of the Blue Mosque, the majesty and mosaics of the Haghia Sophia, a breathtaking boat trip along the Bosphorus, the impressive Topkapi Palace the thrill of shopping at the Grand and Spice Bazaars and a nostalgic tram ride through historical Beyoglu. For those with more time there are the Byzantine frescoes of the Chora Museum, the Underground Cistern where scenes from an old James Bond movie were shot, Ottoman architect Sinan’s masterpiece the Suleymaniye Mosque, Dolmabahce Palace, painting and photography exhibitions at the Istanbul Modern and a cable car ride to the peak of holy Eyup on the Golden Horn for its fine views, amongst many others!
Hip new hangouts are also springing up everywhere; from sophisticated cocktail-sipping in trendy bars to clubbing to global beats, the choices are endless. In the summer, Istanbul also revels in water-side fun, with a whole host of open-air venues boasting stunning views across the Istanbul skyline as well as countless days out, from the car-free Buyukada, one of the Princes’ Islands, to hip beach clubs north of the city.
The Guide Istanbul is a sharp, sophisticated, and trustworthy filter for the city’s happenings, offering a comprehensive listings of restaurants, bars, hotels, and more
Turkey’s capital and second-largest city (pop. 4.5 million), Ankara is the seat of government and diplomacy and is also a university town with a large student population. Built up largely after it became the capital in 1923, the city boasts modern architecture and infrastructure, museums and concert halls. A must-see in Ankara is the Anitkabir, the monumental modernist tomb of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Just 10 km away is the archaeological site of Catalhoyuk, Turkey’s most important Neolithic site and one of the earliest cities in the world. Many of the impressive finds are housed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, giving visitors an excellent background for understanding the many layers of Turkey’s history.
Edirne – European Destination of Excellence in 2008
Home of the world-famous annual Kirkpinar oil-wrestling competition, Edirne was also chosen as the European Destination of Excellence in 2008 for its cultural and historic riches. Located 225 km from Istanbul, Edirne is one of the oldest settlements in Turkey, dating back to the Neolithic age 7.000-6.000 B.C. and was also the second largest city of the Ottoman Empire. Hence, its rich cultural heritage: Don’t miss the Çardakaltı prehistoric settlement and Lalapasa just a short drive away, as well as some of Turkey’s most famous historic mosques: Eski Cami (1418), Uc Serefeli (1447) and Selimiye Cami (1575), the latter being described as the great architect Mimar Sinan’s masterpiece. There is also a fascinating new medical museum (Sultan Beyazit II. Mosque and Complex) – one of the most important health centers of its period in the 15th Century where patients were treated with the sound of water, music, scents, various occupations, as well as cutting-edge medical knowledge of the day.
The tradition of wrestling is also a highlight, dating as far back as 1361 – thus the city is host to the world-famous Kirkpinar (meaning forty springs) oil-wrestling competition which began in 1925.
The cosmopolitan city of Izmir on the Aegean coast is Turkey’s third-largest city and second most important port, attractively tumbling down the hillside to its idyllic bay full of fish restaurants. A convenient base for visits to ancient Ephesus, Turkey’s most-visited archaeological site, and Pergamum, the city is also a busy commercial centre that enjoys a year-round temperate climate. Behind the palm-lined promenades and avenues that follow the shoreline, the city gently ascends the slopes of the surrounding mountains. Luxury hotels and facilities for sports, entertainment, shopping and business meetings and conference and incentive tourism of all kinds give the city a cosmopolitan and lively atmosphere all year round. Izmir bursts with an added vibrancy during the International Arts Festival and the International Fairs.
Just a few hours away from Istanbul the city of Bursa, the first capital of the Ottomans, combines thermal springs in town with skiing on the slopes in Uludag and the ancient Mount Olympos nearby.
Antalya is the largest city on the Mediterranean, also known as the Turkish Riviera, offering over 300 days of sunshine, fantastic beaches, luxury hotels, a myriad of water-front bars and restaurants and great shopping. Antalya’s old quarter of Kaleici captivates locals and visitors alike, while entertainment opportunities include the nearby Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, international beach volleyball, triathlon competitions, golf tournaments, tennis, skiing, music, theatre and exhibitions. Thanks to its excellent transport connections including its international airport, its high standards of accommodation, and sound infrastructure, Antalya is also an important conference and incentive travel destination.
Further inland the central city of Konya is the home of the whirling dervishes and hosts a sufi festival every December when the city comes alive with visitors. The cities in the east of the country have quite a different flavour. Trabzon on the far north-eastern Black Sea coast has its own Haghia Sophia from the 13th century and makes a good base to visit the cliff-hugging Sumela Monastery set in the spectacular semi-tropical forested landscape that so typifies this region. Sanliurfa to the far southeast is at the centre of many the area’s most interesting sites, including Turkey’s highest peak Mount Nemrut with its giant ancient heads at the summit and Biblical Harran and its beehive houses. Further to the east is Van, close to the shores of the lake of the same name and marking a gateway to the wonderful sights of the legendary Akdamar Church set on an island on Lake Van and the dramatic Hosap and Van castles rising from the surrounding plains.