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 ABOUT ISTANBUL

 

Istanbul is one of the most preferred cities in the world tourism with its historical and cultural heritage dating back to thousands of years.

Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial center and was one of three European Capitals of Culture in 2010 Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest in Europe and the world.

 

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With the Bosphorus sea-strait flowing along its heart, Istanbul is literally located at where two continents meet; and both Asia and Europe add their distinct flavors to the texture of the city. Economically and culturally, it is the pulsating hub of an extensive map, where Central Asia, East Europe, Balkans, the Caucasus, Middle East and North Africa converge. The important waterline dividing Istanbul into two is the Bosphorus. Istanbul is both the nearest Asian city to Europe and the nearest European city to Asia.Istanbul, has been a focal point of world history over the last two millennia serving as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The city's unparalleled natural beauty and historical mosques, churches, synagogues, palaces and bazaars attract visitors from all over the world. The city is now a modern metropolis with pride in its past, confidence in its present and optimism in its future safeguarding the treasures of history while meeting the requirements of 21st century citizens and visitors alike.

 

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What adds to Istanbul’s significance is its being a port city and all trade paths’ passing through the city for thousands of years. Another important feature of Istanbul is that it has a highly sheltered structure. Especially the center which is presently called as the “historical peninsula”, which was made capital city by both Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and its being located on a hill surrounded by three seas made it almost impossible to be conquered. Indeed, Halic had the quality of being an unparalleled harbour sheltering navy fleets. Today Istanbul is a huge metropolis connecting continents, cultures, and religions and being home to fifteen million people and one of the greatest business and cultural center of the region.

 

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Located in the center of the Old World, Istanbul is one of the world's great cities famous for its historical monuments and magnificent scenic beauties. Istanbul has a history of over 2,500 years, and ever since its establishment on this strategic junction of lands and seas, the city has been a crucial trade center.

 HISTORY

The historic city of Istanbul is situated on a peninsula flanked on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. It has been the capital of three great empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and for more than 1,600 years over 120 emperors and sultans ruled the world from here. No other city in the world can claim such a distinction.

 

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During its development, the city was enlarged four times, each time the city walls being rebuilt further to the west.Surrounded by 5th century Roman city walls and stretching over seven hills, Istanbul is adorned by the masterpieces of Turkish art, the great mosques of the Sultans that crown the hills. The city presents an exquisite, majestic and serene silhouette from all directions. The Golden Horn, which is a very secure natural harbor, has played a significant role in the development of the city.Fortune provided such advantages to Istanbul as a location at a junction where the main overland routes reach the sea, an easily defensible peninsula, an ideal climate, a rich and generous nature, control of the strategic Bosphorus, and a central geographical position in the ancient world.

 

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As a capital of empires, the city was not only an administrative, but also a religious center. The Patriarchate of Eastern Christians has been headquartered here since its establishment, and the largest early churches and monasteries of the Christian world rose in this city on top of the pagan temples. Within a century after the city was conquered, it was enriched with mosques, palaces, schools, baths and other architectural monuments that gave it a Turkish character, while some of the existing churches in ruins were repaired, altered and converted into mosques. Between the 16th century when the Ottoman sultans acquired themselves the title of the "Caliph of Islam" and 1924, the first year of the Republic, Istanbul was also the headquarters of the Caliphate. More Jews settled in Istanbul than any other port, and here they built themselves a new and happy life after they were rescued  from Spain by the Turks in the 15th century. Istanbul has always been a city of tolerance where mosques, churches and synagogues existed side by side. The city was adorned with a large number of dazzling and impressive works even during the period of decline of the Ottomans.

 

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During this time, the influence of European art made itself felt in the new palaces, while the northern slopes of the Golden Horn, Galata and Beyoglu districts assumed a European character. Even when the Empire, which was a party to World War I, collapsed and the young Republic that replaced it moved the capital to Ankara, Istanbul did not lose its significance.

 

 SHOPPING IN ISTANBUL

The 4,000-storeGrand Bazaar is practically synonymous with shopping in Istanbul, but there’s more to buy and browse in the city than carpets, leather bags, andnazar boncugu(evil-eye beads). New shopping malls seem to be popping up daily, many swank affairs carrying the latest in luxury brands from around the world, while innovative young designers of clothing, jewellery and house wares are showing off their work in small ateliers and boutiques.

 

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 TRADITIONAL TURKISH CRAFTS

In addition to carpets and kilims (flat rugs with no pile), popular purchases in Turkey include colorful tiles, plush towels andhamam (Turkish bath) accessories, antiques, gold jewellery, and scarves, slippers, and other textile products. The Grand Bazaar and other shops in the vicinity offer the broadest variety of such traditional crafts in one place, as well as an atmospheric setting and the opportunity -- or hassle, depending on your perspective -- to bargain. See my guide to Shopping in Istanbul: where to shop in Sultanahmet.

 

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 INNOVATIVE NEW DESIGNS

The winding streets of the Beyoğlu district, particularly the Galata, Cihangir, and Çukurcuma neighborhoods, are full of small shops selling the work of designers crafting distinctive jewellery, avant-garde attire, and modern house wares. The area is also your best bet for buying books and music, as well as wine (tryLa Cavein Cihangir,www.lacavesarap.com , Sıraselviler Caddesi No. 109, or Sensusin Galata, (www.sensuswine.com, Büyükhendek Caddesi No. 5). See my guide to Shopping in Shopping in Istanbul: where to shop in Beyoğlu.

 

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 MALLS AND LUXURY SHOPPING

Istanbul’s dozens of mallsare like mini-cities of their own, with restaurants, cinemas, and other forms of entertainment. While some cater to a broad crowd, others are veritable temples to the world’s top luxury brands. Shops on the Asian side’s high street,Bağdat Caddesi, and in the Nişantaşı neighborhood on the European side, both cater to a well-heeled crowd as well. See my guide to Shopping in Istanbul: where to shop for luxury goods.

 

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 SHOPPING AT ISTANBUL’S MARKETS

Mall mania hasn’t entirely taken over the city, however; Istanbul’s traditional markets are still lively with shoppers and are good places to pick up local foodstuffs such as herbs, nuts, spices, dried fruits, jams, and olive oils. Try the streets behind the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü, or a few blocks back from the ferry port in Kadıköy, near Çiya Sofrası.Kadıköy also has a popular weekly market on Tuesdays, while the conservative Fatih district hosts the city’s biggest weekly market -- full of food, clothes, and more -- on Wednesdays near the Fatih Mosque.

 

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 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHOPPING

Shops are generally open Mon-Sat from 9am-8pm, while malls are typically open 10am-10pm seven days a week. Markets kick off at 8am.

Bargaining is practically mandatory in the Grand Bazaar and similar shops where prices are not listed, but is not common practice at other types of establishments.

If you spend at least 118 Turkish Liras in one shop, you can claim back the 18 percent VAT (called KDV in Turkey); be sure to get the form you’ll need to present to customs officials when leaving the country to get your refund.

 

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 CLIMATE & CLOTHING

Located in North Western Turkey, Istanbul's weather is more European than Asian and can be considered as mild Mediterranean climate.

Please visit the link below for the current weather forecast for Istanbul:

Turkish State Meteorological Service

 

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 LOCAL TIME

In Istanbul the local time zone is GMT+2 and time is always used on 24 hours.

 CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS

Official currency in Turkey is Turkish Lira (TL)

ATM's are widely available throughout Istanbul and you should have no problem if you land in the city with nothing but a credit card. Credit cards, however, are usually not accepted by most government agencies, public museums or other historic places run by the government. You may frequently have to run to an ATM and withdraw some cash to cover for such expenses.

 

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VISA, MasterCard and AMEX credit cards are accepted by almost every merchant, shops, or café and restaurant. (There is a rare chance that AMEX is not accepted in some places, so it is advisable to carry a Visa or MasterCard with you in case).

Almost all banks' provide the option of making withdrawals in multiple types of currencies such as US Dollar, Euro or Turkish Lira.

 FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Exchanging money is possible almost everywhere in Istanbul. You can change currency and get cash in Turkish Lira at the airport, through banks or exchange bureaus, or directly from any ATM. Exchange bureaus are very popular, especially in touristic areas and are generally easy to spot. Exchanging almost every currency is possible, and bureaus charge no commission while the exchange rates may slightly differ from one another.

 

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 INSURANCE

Proper travel and health insurance are strongly recommended to all conference participants.

 TRANSPORTATION IN ISTANBUL

Transportation in Istanbul is provided via  bus, ferry, taxi, minibus, subway,tram, light railway.

Bus:  Public and private buses are very popular. Those buses operate frequently to different destinations in the city. You can read the name of the place you would like to go, on the sign on the side window in the front. Foreign currency is NOT accepted.

You can purchase the tickets from the ticket offices next to the stations. Sometimes you can find tickets in little corner convenience shops.  There are different types of tickets such as Akbil, Istanbul-Kart in the smart-ticket offices in return for a certain amount. For the long distance you may need to use the double-deckers buses with double tickets.

Ferry: The ferries work between  European stations (Eminonu, Besiktas, Karakoy)  and Asian Side (Kadikoy, Bostanci, Uskudar). If you like to see the Asian Side, you can simply take the ferry from Besiktas to Kadikoy every 30 minutes, 15 past and 15 to. For further info, you can ask for a brochure at the ferry stations.

 

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Minibus (Dolmus): Minibuses are small buses which do not have a specific time table. They begin operating at 06:00 am in the morning and finish about 01:00 am You pay cash to the driver and the fee changes depending on the line. 

Tram: Trams are new and very convenient in the touristic areas. There are ticket offices at the tram stations.

Subway: The "Istanbul Metro" is very convenient if you want to see the downtown and commercial centers in the city. You can purchase the tickets from the ticket offices next to the stations. There is metro station in the Ataturk Airport which takes you to the citiy.

To see the Istanbul metro map, please click the link:

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Rent-a car or limousine service:  Istanbul has a big traffic problem so you can rent a car when you want to see neighboring towns. Limousine service is given by various travel agencies and Limo Services.

 

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