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The annual festival calendar is pretty full, especially between April and October. The most important modern art event is the International İstanbul Biennial, held on odd-numbered years. Organized by IKSV, the İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (wiksv.org), it uses venues ranging from historic buildings like the Topkapı Palace to urban-chic warehouses.

April

International Film Festival

wfilm.iksv.org/en. Turkish, European and Hollywood movies premiere at İstanbul’s cinemas, mainly in Beyoğlu, plus the best of the non-English-speaking world’s releases from the previous year.

Tulip Festival

Week-long festival honouring the national flower, including concerts, arts events and competitions at different locations around the city. Over three million bulbs flower across the city, planted by the municipality.

May

Chill Out

wchilloutfest.com. Dance and electronica festival held in the incongruous surroundings of ultra-posh Kemer Golf and Country Club in Belgrade Forest.

Conquest Celebrations

wibb.gov.tr. Week-long celebration of the Ottoman conquest of old Constantinople (May 29, 1453) – concerts by the Ottoman Mehter military band, fancy-dress processions and fireworks.

Freshtival

wmillerfreshtival.com. Held in Maçka’s Kücükçiftlik Parkı, this festival mixes indie, dance and rock sounds, with both international and local acts and DJs.

International Puppet Festival

t0212 232 0224. A celebration of Turkish Shadow Theatre, or karağoz – silent puppets perform behind a two-dimensional screen.

International Theatre Festival

wiksv.org. The year’s best Turkish plays (both local avant-garde and established theatre groups), and performances by visiting foreign theatres.

June/July

Efes Pilsen One Love

wefespilsenonelove.com. Moderately alternative city-centre weekend-long festival, usually held at Santralistanbul, with plenty of DJ-led dance sets and performances from international bands such as Röyksopp and Klaxons, plus assorted home-grown acts.

The International Music Festival

wiksv.org. This hugely successful festival was launched in 1973 to celebrate Turkey’s fifty years of independence and brings top-notch orchestras and soloists from all over the world to perform in such atmospheric venues as the church of Aya Irene.

Sonisphere

wsonispherefestivals.com. Two-day head-banging event for (mainly Turkish) heavy-metal lovers.

July/August

International Jazz Festival

wiksv.org. Two weeks of gigs and jamming sessions from world-class performers (with the definition of jazz stretched to include rock artists such as Lou Reed and Marianne Faithful).

Rumeli Hisarı Fortress Concerts

Nightly summer concerts within the walls of this Ottoman fortification overlooking the Bosphorus – a varied programme from classical to rock.

Rock N’ Coke

wrockncoke.com. Attracts major international acts – often a little past their prime – to the (defunct) Grand Prix track on the Asian side of the city.

September

İstanbul Arts Fair

wtuyap.com. A week-long fair selling the work of some fifty or so İstanbul galleries and visiting foreign artists – paintings, sculptures, pottery and fabrics.

International İstanbul Biennial

wiksv.org. Multimedia contemporary arts festival that usually runs mid-September to the first week in November. Held odd years: 2013, 2015, etc.

October/November

Akbank International Jazz Festival

wakbanksanat.com. Two-week festival concentrating on traditional jazz, with performers such as Dave Holland and Henry Threadgill. Events include film screenings, informal jamming sessions and drum workshops. Varied venues include the Byzantine church of Aya Irene and the Babylon Performance Centre in Beyoğlu.

Efes Pilsen Blues Festival

Two-day late-night blues festival – a showcase of new local talent and famous foreign bands.

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