Your Hot Summer in Istanbul
From alfresco super clubs and art walks to 120-day music marathons and manmade islands, Istanbul's summer season happens along the banks of the Bosphorus. Sarah Gilbert rounds up ten must-do events
Bosphorus Super Clubs
Summer in the city means Istanbul’s party people leave Beyoglu to dance under the stars at the Bosphorus super-clubs. The stunning waterfront locations of Sortie and Anjelique means that the view is as glittering as the crowd they attract. The first and still the glitziest, Reina has a range of bars and restaurants serving everything from Italian to Japanese, including the best kebabs in Istanbul at Kosebasi.
The Princes’ Islands
Once a place of exile for renegade royalty, today the Princes’ Islands make the perfect escape from the heat and hubbub of the city. In summer, regular ferries make the 90-minute journey from Kabatas dock to Buyukada, the largest of the nine islands. There are no cars here, so rent a horse-drawn carriage or a bicycle from around the main square to explore the island’s grand summer houses. A row of busy fish restaurants lines the water but for something more unique, head inland to Club Mavi set in a beautiful hilltop mansion overlooking the sea.
When the temperature rises, join the beautiful people cooling off in Suada Club’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, or sipping cocktails on a daybed. This privately owned manmade island floats between Europe and Asia in the middle of the Bosphorus, with a collection of high-end restaurants and bars, including a branch of Beyoglu’s award-winning 360Istanbul. Built in 1872 as a present for one of the Sultan’s right-hand men and later owned by Galatasary Football club, today it’s one of the city’s most exclusive places to eat, drink, see and be seen. To get there, take the free, 15-minute shuttle from Kurucesme.
Istanbul Shopping Fest
From the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar to Nisantasi’s international boutiques and cutting-edge fashion in Galata, Istanbul can satisfy the most ardent shopaholic. From June 8th – 30th, shop ’til you drop at the Istanbul Shopping Fest. Look out for extended opening hours (Istinye Park and Kanyon malls will stay open until 2am), discounts and the latest fashions on show. For top Turkish design, check out Bahar Korcan, Arzu Kaprol and Simay Bubol.
Istanbul’s transformation into a contemporary art powerhouse continues apace and its Biennial is now up there with Venice, Sao Paulo and Sydney. The 13th Biennial, running from September 14 to November 10, will bring together new trends in contemporary art under the title, “Mom, Am I Barbarian?” Exploring the concept of the public domain as a political forum, vacant public buildings (courthouses, schools, post offices, train stations and more) will be used as temporary exhibition spaces. Tickets will soon be available online at Biletix, and at their outlets around the city.
Even if you miss the Biennial, you can still get an insight into Istanbul’s booming contemporary art scene on a new series of art walks from GriZine. Every Saturday, a local tastemaker leads groups of five to ten people to Istanbul’s best new galleries and exhibitions. They run four routes in different neighborhoods, including upscale Nisantasi and Akaretler, and up-and-coming Karakoy, picking out trailblazing galleries from a growing list.
Istanbul Calling, which launched this year, is a 120-day music marathon held from May 1 until August 30. Concerts, events and workshops take over venues throughout the city, from the iconic live-music club Babylon, to the elegant Pera Museum. Highlights include Snoop Dogg and Cee Lo Green on June 7, Indie Park Day Festival on June 23 with Noah and the Whale and Emiliana Torrini, and Dance Day on June 29 with The Prodigy and Basement Jaxx.
Istanbul is alive with the sound of music this summer. Expect first-rate performances of orchestra and chamber music, dance and ballet at the 41st International Music Festival from June 4 – 29, and a rare chance to see inside Hagia Eirene church in Topkapi Palace. The 20th Istanbul Jazz Festival runs from July 2 – 18, with 40 concerts and over 400 local and international artists, including heavy hitters such as Alicia Keyes and Bryan Ferry.
Drink in the views from Nu Teras, a sleek rooftop bar, restaurant and club at the top of the Nu Pera complex. During the summer months, the action moves outside and Nu Teras is as famous for its sunset views over the Golden Horn and Sultanahmet as its young and trendy crowd. Feast on dishes such as goat cheese with lavender and thyme and lamb shank with eggplant and caramelized onions as guest DJs spin summer beats.
Two new tours from Locally Istanbul will show you the city from a different angle — the sidecar of a WW2 vintage motorcycle to be exact. Explore the best-kept secrets of the European coast road, including cosmopolitan Ortakoy and pretty Bebek, up to the northernmost district of Sariyer. Or cross the Bosphorus Bridge to discover the Asian shore, including a 14th-century Anatolian Fortress. And a camera attached to your helmet means that you’ll be able to relive the experience back at home.