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Explore the Culture of Istanbul, a 2010 European Capital of Culture

hagiaEvery year, one or more “European capitals of culture” are chosen to highlight some of the amazing culture and history that can be found throughout Europe. In 2010, one of those European Capitals of Culture is Istanbul.

Straddling two continents (Asia and Europe) Istanbul is a mish-mash of cultures, religions, and cuisines. The city was the seat of three successive empires – Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman – and traces of each stage in its development are still evident everywhere you look – from the sparkling cerulean tiles of the Blue Mosque to the lavish rooms of the Topkapi Palace.

You can literally walk through different stages of history here, take a boat ride from one continent to another, and examine the juxtaposition of old versus new.

There are dozens of activities lined of to celebrate the city’s inclusion as a Capital of Culture; the events take place all year round so the ideal time to go depends more on your budget. Your best chance to find cheap flights to Istanbul is during the spring and fall. More cheap hotels in Istanbul are available during this time as well.

As elsewhere in Europe, the most popular times (and therefore the most expensive) to visit Istanbul tend to be during the summer months and over the holidays. Shoulder season (late spring and early fall) are a good compromise. Prices may be lower, tourist crowds will be fewer, and you’ll still be able to enjoy all the sights and culture of Istanbul, but without the sweltering heat that accompanies the height of summer.

Photo by David Spender