Events in Istanbul, from institutional, religious to private ones
Istanbul’s annual calendar is filled with fantastic events, religious and secular, and entertainment to suit everyone’s interests. The most important religious event is certainly Ramadan, a name given to the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year (Hegira).
Among the secular events we remember on April 23 the National Day that commemorates the first session of parliament in 1920. Popular tourist events include the Tulip Festival, Istanbul Theater Festival, Istanbul Biennial, Akbank Jazz Festival, the International Puppet Festival and the International Istanbul Film Festival. But let’s see what are the main Turkish events that are celebrated in Istanbul!
Turkish National Events
The main national Turkish events that are also celebrated with days off from work are different.
We list all the main holiday events so that you can organize a holiday in these periods.
– January 1st
New Year : until a few decades ago, New Year’s Eve was not celebrated in Istanbul but over the years it has become a habit for restaurants and clubs to organize dinners with special menus and themed parties for the night of December 31st. Today New Year’s Eve is an unmissable occasion of celebration and is synonymous with dinners with friends, street gatherings and entertainment.
– April 23
National Children’s Day and Ataturk commemoration: the Turks celebrate their official state holiday on April 23, commemorating the events that took place during the 1919-1923 Turkish War for Independence. In particular, the country celebrates the first Turkish Grand National Assembly, founded on April 23, 1920. The Ottoman Empire has long since been defeated in the First World War, and the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, dedicated the new status for children, hence the tradition of celebrating Children’s Day, which coincides with National Sovereignty Day. Since 1979, the party has acquired international status and interest.
– May 1
Labour day: as in many countries of the world, work is also celebrated in Turkey on May 1st. During this day we recommend avoiding Taksim square where very intense demonstrations often take place.
– May 19
Youth and Sports Day: the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day is an annual Turkish national holiday celebrated to commemorate Mustafa Kemal’s landing at Samsun on May 19, 1919, which is regarded as the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence in the official historiography.
– August 30th
Victory Day: on this day the victory of the War of Independence is celebrated. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the occupation of the territories by foreign powers, the attempt by the Greek army to invade Anatolia was also added. After that the struggle for independence began, which lasted several years. The last string of the War of Independence was the Battle of Dumlupinar, which was triumphed on August 30, 1922. This victory guaranteed the opportunity for the founding of the Republic of Turkey.
We celebrate the Feast of August 30, the victory of our military heroes and our nation, the guarantee of our independence. We commemorate with gratitude and mercy all those who participated in this blessed victory and our ancestors who damned us this beautiful country.
– October 29th
Republic Day: a public holiday in Turkey commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, on 29 October 1923. The annual celebrations start at 1:00 pm on 28 October and continue for 35 hours. The holiday commemorates the events of 29 October 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared that Turkey was henceforth a republic.
Religious events in Turkey
Religious events follow the Islamic lunar calendar.
The most important holiday period is Ramadan: a name given to the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year (Hegira).
From sunrise to sunset everyone must respect fasting; in this period the atmosphere is almost surreal and immobile. All the shops are closed and nothing seems to be animated. At sunset, after sunset, life explodes into a ritual of celebration and collective prayer. Tourists must also respect Ramadan in public.
The period of the holy month of Ramadan ends with the festival called Aid al-Fitr or small party: children are the happiest, for them there are in fact sweets at will!
Celebrated on the 10th day of the month of the Pilgrimage, Aid al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, is the most important solemnity of the Islamic calendar: it is such an important celebration that it is also nicknamed Aid al-Kabir (great festival). It commemorates the miracle that Allah performed by replacing Abraham’s son with a ram during the sacrifice.
The Ghadir-é Khom, on the other hand, commemorates the day of Muhammad’s birth.
Events in Istanbul to see at least once in a lifetime
In addition to religious and secular events, Istanbul organizes several very interesting festivals. It offers its visitors a wide variety of social activities. This paragraph is not meant to be a complete list of all Istanbul festivals and events. Instead, a simple guide on the most significant or known events not to be overlooked.
Tulip Festival: in Istanbul Tulips are the most loved and widespread flowers. They have a very important relevance due to the history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish culture (our logo also has a blue tulip). Holland itself, famous for tulips, has the Ottoman Empire to thank for exporting its most beautiful flowers.
The Tulip Festival is an evocative and colorful event and takes place in the main parks of Istanbul: Gülhane Parkı in Sirkeci, Sultanahmet Square in Sultanahmet, Yıldız Parkı in Beşiktaş, Emirgan Parkı in Emirgan, Fethi Pasa Grove and Çamlica Hill in Üsküdar, Cubuklu Grove in Cubuklu and Beykoz Park in Beykoz on the European side of Istanbul, and Fethipaşa Grove. This free festival is a great way to celebrate spring with billions of tulips in 120 different types. During the festival, visitors can enjoy a range of cultural and artistic activities in Emirgan Park and Sultanahmet Square.
Istanbul Theater Festival: The Istanbul International Theater Festival lasts two weeks and takes place every two years. On the occasion of Istanbul’s main art festival in November, art and theater lovers will be able to enjoy outstanding local and international performances and theater activities as well as dance and music events and some free workshops in different locations in Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Fatih, Üsküdar and Kadiköy districts.
Istanbul Biennial: the Istanbul Biennial Heat Protector has been held at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts since 1987. The aim of the biennial is to bring together artists from all walks of life in the visual art area in Istanbul, as well as the general public. The fifteen Istanbul biennials that have been organized to date have fostered the creation of an international cultural network between local and international art circles, artists, curators and art critics, bringing together new discoveries in contemporary art every two years. The Istanbul Biennale, rather than depending on national representation, uses an exhibition format that allows artists and the general public to interact with their work. The curator is chosen by an international advisory board, resulting in a framework led by a diverse community of artists. All eligible artists and projects from around the world are invited to participate in the show. Art in Istanbul is developing at a faster pace than ever thanks to these biennials. See everything this biennial has to offer while in Istanbul! This biennial takes place every odd year.
Akbank Jazz Festival: the Akbank Jazz Event is a ten day jazz festival sponsored by Akbank Sanat Art Headquarters (renowned Turkish bank). In the capital, in many excellent places with cheap costs, and in this leading music festival in Istanbul throughout October, as well as in Turkey, you will witness some famous and exquisite jazz artists from all over the world. Other features include panels, lectures, and documentaries.
The Akbank Jazz Festival has taken on an important role as an attraction not only for jazz lovers, but also for fans of other genres, as a member of the European Jazz Network. The Festival takes place in several enchanting settings, including Akbank Sanat and the Hagia Irene Museum, one of the best museums in the city.
International Puppet Festival: this historic Ottoman art style, which is now almost lost, was once extremely popular. This is a great opportunity to see puppets, marionettes and shadow theater in action. Since most of the games are quiet, they are suitable for both children and adults. (2nd week of May, several small clubs around the city).
The International Istanbul Film Festival: it is a film festival event that takes place in Istanbul, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), a non-profit organization. It is held every year in April in various cinemas in Istanbul. As mentioned in its regulation, the festival tends to encourage the development of cinema in Turkey and promote quality in the Turkish film market. On the occasion of the XXVIII edition, in 2009, the festival began to deliver the Golden Tulip Awards also to nationally produced films. Since the beginning of the Festival, 2 065 000 spectators have registered for the screening of 2 330 films presented from 72 different countries (2005). The festival registered its highest attendance (170,000) in 2007.