Istanbul Culture and Art Guide

Istanbul Travel Info

Cultural Activities in Istanbul
Istanbul’s cultural activities, both traditional and contemporary, are rich and varied, although not well publicized. Matching the city’s exploding youth population, there is a growing number of festivals, galleries, new music venues and film centers and, within the last decade, Turkish artists have begun to make an international impact. There are now a number of independent record companies in the city, releasing experimental works that combine Turkish traditional artists with contemporary groups and new venues where this new music is showcased. In particular, however, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art, the Istanbul Kultur ve Sanat Vakfi (IKSV), puts on an impressive series of international festivals. The French Culture Centre, Istiklal Caddesi often has French film screenings, and dance performances.

Tickets can be hard to come by for the popular film and jazz festivals, so visitors should book well in advance for any events at existing concert venues, such as the Open Air Theatre (Acik Hava Tiyatrosu), at Taskisla Caddesi (street) in Harbiye district and the Ataturk Cultural Centre or Ataturk Kultur Merkezi, Taksim Square, Taksim. Tickets for most cultural events are also available at Biletix outlets, located at Ada bookshop on Istiklal Caddesi, Vakkorama, Migros supermarkets and Raksotek record stores and can be purchased online at

Related pages of Time Out Istanbul and Hurriyet Daily News also have up to date listings of cultural events.

Music  & Dance
The most reliable guide to music events in the city is fly posters and banners along Istiklal Caddesi. The 900-seat Ataturk Cultural Centre or AKM at Taksim Square, is shared by the State Opera and Ballet, the State Theatre and the State Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Istanbul Festivals. The most stunning concert venue in the city is the Byzantine church of Hagia Eirene, in the grounds of the Topkapi Palace complex – now a museum and used by the IKSV during the Classical Music Festival in June. The most popular summer venue is the Open Air Theatre (Açik Hava Tiyatrosu), which hosts Jazz Festival events and other contemporary concerts. The indoor Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall, Darulbedayi Caddesi, Conference Valley, Harbiye is another popular venue for concerts and exhibitions. The International Istanbul Music Festival, International Bosphorus Festival, International Istanbul Jazz Festival and Acik Hava Tiyatrosu concerts are spread out throughout the summer.

Turkish State Opera and Ballet performs at various concert halls in different districts and there are also dance performances at the indoor Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall. There are also performances in galleries and smaller venues. There are dance performances during the International Istanbul Theatre Festival.

Films & Theatre
Foreign films, mostly from Hollywood, used to outnumber Turkish domestic output and were generally shown in their original language with Turkish subtitles. Since the early 2000's the number of spectators watching Turkish films exceeded Hollywood movies. Most of the city’s cinemas are in Istiklal Caddesi, in Beyoglu. Mega cinema complexes are only found at huge shopping malls in the outer suburbs. Beyoglu cinemas also participate in the International Film Festival. Turkish films have made a recent impact on world cinema, especially Uzak (2002) and Hamam (1997), both filmed in Istanbul and winning several international awards.

Plays by international and Turkish playwrights are frequently staged in Istanbul, many in smaller venues off Istiklal Caddesi, while the more commercial extravaganzas (such as during the Istanbul International Theatre Festival usually held in May) sometimes with digital subtitling in English.

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See Also


Travel Tips for Tourists Public Transportation Istanbul Culture and Art Guide Historical Landmarks Culture and Art Guide A Brief History of Istanbul