Istanbul Festivals and Events Guide


Istanbul, the vibrant city straddling two continents, is a melting pot of cultures and has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The city offers a wide array of festivals and events that cater to diverse interests, from film and music to art and puppetry. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most renowned festivals and events held in Istanbul, giving you insights into what each offers, how to get tickets, and where to find the best venues.

Istanbul International Film Festival


The Istanbul International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious film events in the region, held annually since 1982. The festival showcases a diverse selection of films from around the world, with a strong emphasis on promoting Turkish cinema and supporting emerging filmmakers.

Notable films and awards

Each year, the festival presents a number of awards, including the Golden Tulip for Best Film, the Special Jury Prize, and the FIPRESCI Prize. Some notable films screened in previous years include “Winter Sleep,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” and “The Salesman.”

Istanbul International Music Festival

Highlights of the festival

Held annually since 1973, the Istanbul International Music Festival is a prominent event in the world of classical music. The festival showcases world-class orchestras, ensembles, and soloists, as well as contemporary and traditional Turkish music. Some of the notable past performers include the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and renowned pianist Lang Lang.

Tickets and venues

The festival takes place in various venues throughout Istanbul, including historic sites such as the Hagia Eirene Museum and the Topkapı Palace. Tickets can be purchased through the festival’s official website or at the venue box offices.

Istanbul Jazz Festival

Festival lineup

The Istanbul Jazz Festival, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), is a celebration of jazz, blues, and world music. Since its inception in 1994, the festival has hosted renowned international musicians like Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding, and Marcus Miller, as well as promoting local talent.

Venues and tickets

The festival takes place in various venues throughout Istanbul, ranging from intimate clubs to large outdoor spaces like the Harbiye Open-Air Theatre. Tickets can be purchased through the festival’s official website or at the venue box offices.

Istanbul Biennial

Exhibitions and participating artists

The Istanbul Biennial is a contemporary art event that takes place every two years, showcasing works by emerging and established artists from around the world. Since its inception in 1987, the biennial has been an influential platform for contemporary art, featuring works by Ai Weiwei, And Olafur Eliasson, among others.

Venues and tickets

The Istanbul Biennial is held in various venues throughout the city, such as Istanbul Modern, the Pera Museum, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Many of the exhibitions are free to the public, while some venues may require a ticket or have an admission fee. Keep an eye on the official website for updated information on exhibitions, venues, and ticketing.

Istanbul International Puppet Festival

Performances and workshops

The Istanbul International Puppet Festival is a unique event that brings together puppeteers and enthusiasts from around the world. The festival features a wide range of performances, from traditional Turkish shadow puppetry to contemporary puppet theatre. In addition to the performances, the festival also offers workshops for both children and adults, providing an opportunity to learn the art of puppetry from skilled professionals.

Festival venues

The Istanbul International Puppet Festival takes place in several venues throughout the city, such as the Istanbul Municipality City Theatres and the Sahne Beşiktaş. Tickets for performances can be purchased through the festival’s official website or at the venue box offices.


Istanbul is a city that embraces art and culture, offering an array of festivals and events that cater to a wide range of interests. From film and music to contemporary art and puppetry, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to add these events to your itinerary when visiting this enchanting city and experience the best of Istanbul’s cultural scene.


Q: When is the best time to visit Istanbul for festivals and events?

A: Istanbul hosts events and festivals throughout the year, but the peak season for cultural events is between April and October, when the weather is generally mild and pleasant.

Q: Are the festivals and events family-friendly?

A: Most of the events and festivals in Istanbul are suitable for all ages, but it’s always best to check the specific event information for any age restrictions or content advisories.

Q: How do I stay updated on the latest festival schedules and ticket information?

A: The best way to stay updated is to follow the official websites and social media accounts of the festivals and events you’re interested in, as they will provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Q: Can I buy tickets for these events in advance?

A: Yes, most events and festivals allow you to purchase tickets in advance through their official websites or designated ticketing platforms. It’s recommended to buy tickets early, especially for popular events, as they may sell out quickly.

Q: Are there any free events or exhibitions during these festivals?

A: Many of the festivals and events in Istanbul offer free events or exhibitions, particularly during the Istanbul Biennial. It’s a good idea to check the official websites for details on free events and exhibitions.

Q: What is the best way to get around Istanbul during festivals and events?

A: Istanbul has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and ferries. It’s a good idea to use public transportation, as traffic can be heavy during festivals and events. You can also use taxis or ride-hailing apps like Uber and BiTaksi.

Q: Are there any accommodation options close to the festival venues?

A: Istanbul offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. It’s a good idea to book accommodation near the festival venues, as it will make it easier to attend events and explore the city.

Q: Can I volunteer at these festivals and events?

A: Many festivals and events in Istanbul welcome volunteers who want to gain experience and contribute to the success of the event. Check the official websites of the festivals you’re interested in to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Q: Is it safe to attend large events in Istanbul?

A: Istanbul is generally safe for tourists and locals attending large events. However, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions, such as keeping your personal belongings secure and staying informed about any safety advisories or updates from event organizers.

Q: Do the festivals and events in Istanbul cater to attendees with special needs?

A: Many events and festivals in Istanbul strive to be accessible and inclusive for attendees with special needs. It’s best to check the official websites of the events you’re interested in for information on accessibility, as well as any accommodations or services that may be available.

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