Liz says: Although Time Out İstanbul (if that’s where you live) in either the print or online version will probably be your best friend in finding out what’s happening, if you can read Turkish then subscribe to Le Cool magazine (lecool.com), a beautifully produced free online weekly newsletter detailing goings on in contemporary culture.
For cinema, just put “films in İstanbul” or your city into Google and first to come up will be listings of all the mainstream films showing that day, with an option for tomorrow, complete with times, cinema locations, whether or not the film is dubbed into Turkish and if it has subtitles. For something a bit grittier and less Hollywood, the Pera Museum in İstanbul has its own cinema and shows films and documentaries from around the world based on particular themes (http://en.peramuzesi.org.tr).
If you don’t know Turkish, it’s often difficult to find out from websites exactly what’s on at any given venue, so if you’re passing a concert hall or salon, go in and have a look at the brochures -- sometimes they’re in English. While you’re traveling around the city, keep an eye out for posters advertising events -- the subway is a good place for this and is often a venue for art in itself. Simply wandering around the city can lead to some fascinating discoveries, so just take the time to slow down, pick a neighborhood and walk.
Rose says: İstanbul is a city with 17 million people and seemingly 17 million things to do. That said, resources for finding out what kind of events are on are somewhat scattered, especially if your Turkish is still pretty basic. This paper generally has upcoming concerts, ongoing art events and the like on page 13 as well as movie listings on page 16. After checking that, I like to head to biletix.com to see what they’ve got coming up -- I find concerts, sports events and music there -- before heading to timeout.com/istanbul for all kinds of happenings.
Of course, there are also the expat forums. MyMerhaba is perhaps the most well known, and Internations has a very active İstanbul community, but my favorite is The Sublime Portal. Registration is usually required for the expat forums, and there may be restrictions on membership (The Sublime Portal, for example, is quite strict about requiring that members be an expat or a repat). These sites both contain information on events around the city and host their own gatherings, from small coffee brunches to sports-watching meet-ups to larger galas and parties. More popular abroad is meetup.com, which does have a small selection of İstanbul-based groups.
Another great resource is the cultural centers, consulates and other similar groups. The Italian Cultural Center has frequent events; you can sign up for their mailing list on their website (http://www.iicistanbul.esteri.it/IIC_Istanbul), which is easy to navigate even if you don’t speak Italian. The British Community Council hosts events as well and has a monthly newsletter which you can subscribe to via their website, bccistanbul.org. The French Institute, the Goethe Institute and the Cervantes Institute also have events, classes and information.
You can also become a member of the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT); they have semi-frequent lectures at their İstanbul office on a wide variety of topics, as well as tours of the city focused on subjects as diverse as Byzantine architecture, the Ottoman water system and the city’s lighthouses. ARIT also offers trips to historical or archaeological sites around the country, usually with experts and professors and often with excavation heads.
With all this, I often end up with way too much to do and not enough time to do it in. İstanbul is just teeming with activity, and once you find a few things to do, you’ll keep finding more and more.
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