The fascinating culture of Istanbul

Istanbul was crowned ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2010 and it’s an accolade of which it is undisputedly worthy, and which it shares with both Essen (Germany) and Peç (Hungary).

Previously known as Constantinople, Istanbul has a fascinating and impressive history that includes periods as the capital city of the Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire too.

Straddling two continents, Istanbul has long served as the gateway through which Eastern influences have reached Europe, and vice versa. Istanbul’s range of cultural influences have forged it into a city with a truly unique character in terms of atmosphere, architecture and cuisine.

Previously, Istanbul was often viewed as a destination for the ‘adventurous’ traveller, with its buzzing and slightly chaotic feel. In recent years, however, the city has seen an influx of boutique restaurants, stylish rooftop bars, nightclubs on the shores of the Bosporus and every class of restaurant, which have all attracted a different type of visitor. Istanbul can now boast a really varied range of attractions that makes it one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations.

In the run-up to 2010, extensive restoration to some of the city’s most famous sites was undertaken. Counted amongst these were the Topkapi Palace, heart of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries, and Aya Sofia, which, for nearly 1,000 years, was the largest enclosed space in the world.

Visitors to Istanbul will always be wowed by its array of stunning buildings, but this year they will leave an even longer-lasting impression thanks to the mass of cultural events that will be hosted within them. Included in the line-up are festivals and events celebrating visual arts, music and opera, film, literature, theater, cultural heritage and international relations. For full listings of events for the coming year please visit the official website.

There has never been a better time to visit this vibrant and exciting city. Get ready to visit Istanbul with our Turkish phrases – 20 holiday essentials. Then you will be ready to take a trip to Istanbul and learn Turkish in Turkey.

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