Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires – Christian and Islamic. Once capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural pulse of Turkey, and its beauty lies in its ability to embrace its contradictions. Ancient and modern, religious and secular, Asia and Europe, mystical and earthly all co-exist here.
Its variety is one of Istanbul’s greatest attractions: The ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars reflect its diverse history. The thriving shopping area of Taksim buzzes with life and entertainment. And the serene beauty of the Bosporus, Princes Islands and parks bring a touch of peace to the otherwise chaotic metropolis.
Golden Horn: This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbors in the world, it was once the centre for the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests. Today, attractive parks and promenades line the shores, a picturesque scene especially as the sun goes down over the water. At Fener and Balat, neighborhoods midway up the Golden Horn, there are entire streets filled with old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues dating from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides at Fener and a little further up the Golden Horn at Eyup, are some wonderful examples of Ottoman architecture. Muslim pilgrims from all over the world visit Eyup Camii and Tomb of Eyup, the Prophet Mohammed’s standard bearer, and it is one of the holiest places in Islam. The area is a still a popular burial place, and the hills above the mosque are dotted with modern gravestones interspersed with ornate Ottoman stones. The Pierre Loti Cafe, atop the hill overlooking the shrine and the Golden Horn, is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.
Beyoglu and Taksim: Beyoglu is an interesting example of a district with European-influenced architecture, from a century before. Europe’s second oldest subway, Tunel was built by the French in 1875, must be also one of the shortest – offering a one-stop ride to start of Taksim. Near to Tunel is the Galata district, whose Galata Tower became a famous symbol of Istanbul, and the top of which offers a tremendous 180 degree view of the city.
From the Tunel area to Taksim square is one of the city’s focal points for shopping, entertainment and urban promenading: Istiklal Cadesi is a fine example of the contrasts and compositions of Istanbul; fashion shops, bookshops, cinemas, markets, restaurants and even hand-carts selling trinkets and simit (sesame bread snack) ensure that the street is packed throughout the day until late into the night. The old tramcars re-entered into service, which shuttle up and down this fascinating street, and otherwise the street is entirely pedestrians. There are old embassy buildings, Galatasaray High School, the colorful ambience of Balik Pazari (Fish Bazaar) and restaurants in Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage). Also on this street is the oldest church in the area, St Mary’s Draperis dating back to 1789, and the Franciscan Church of St Antoine, demolished and then rebuilt in 1913.
The street ends at Taksim Square, a huge open plaza, the hub of modern Istanbul and always crowded, crowned with an imposing monument celebrating Ataturk and the War of Independence. The main terminal of the new subway is under the square, adjacent is a noisy bus terminal, and at the north end is the Ataturk Cultural Centre, one of the venues of the Istanbul Theatre Festival. Several five-star hotels are dotted around this area, like the Hyatt, Intercontinental and Hilton (the oldest of its kind in the city). North of the square is the Istanbul Military Museum.
Taksim and Beyoglu have for centuries been the centre of nightlife, and now there are many lively bars and clubs off Istiklal Cadesi, including some of the only gay venues in the city. Beyoglu is also the centre of the more bohemian arts scene.
Sultanahmet: Many places of tourist interest are concentrated in Sultanahmet, heart of the Imperial Centre of the Ottoman Empire. The most important places in this area, are Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, Sultan Ahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque), the Hippodrome, Kapali Carsi (Covered Market), Yerebatan Sarnici and the Museum of Islamic Art.
In addition to this wonderful selection of historical and architectural sites, Sultanahmet also has a large concentration of carpet and souvenir shops, hotels and guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants, and travel agents.
Ortaköy: Ortakoy was a resort for the Ottoman rulers because of its attractive location on the Bosporus, and is still a popular spot for residents and visitors. The village is within a triangle of a mosque, church and synagogue, and is near Ciragan Palace, Kabatas High School, Feriye, and Princess Hotel.
The name Ortakoy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life, when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed at weekends and holidays.
Wondering more about Istanbul and Turkey? Below, you will find links to web pages that may help you during your visit. The information below is intended to give you brief understanding about where you will be during the ISMISS 2009.
This website is a comprehensive source of information if you would like to learn in depth. The ministry of Tourism and Culture runs the website.
The website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website is also full of information. You can also reach the Consular information through the website.
Turizm.net is known as a commercial website but there is a lot to find out about.
The well-known website has full coverage on Istanbul, definitely worth looking at.
A very good and unbiased guide for Istanbul. New York Times has also a different perspective.
We would urge you to buy catalogues, guides, etc., if you would like to, from approved booksellers and agencies with TURSAB logo on or Ministry of Tourism and Culture Souvenirs shops that are available at historical sites. This is only to keep participants safe from fraud and illegal publications.
If you would like to receive more information, please, let the organizers know.