Spanning two continents and once serving as home to three great world empires, Istanbul has always been a crossroads for ideas and innovation. As such, it's no surprise that the city is the recipient of numerous industry awards and accolades, including being named the European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the European Union. It was also ranked number 15 on the International Congress and Convention Center's 2008 city rankings for meetings. This well-deserved popularity undoubtedly comes from Istanbul's distinct ability to blend its historic cultural treasures with modern infrastructure, charming hospitality and quality accommodations.
Istanbul's versatility is easily seen in its many contemporary meeting facilities, which are spread among three conference "clusters": the Airport & Exhibition District, the Business & Finance District and the Conference Valley. Perhaps the largest of the districts, the Airport & Exhibition District boasts two large exhibition centers, a convention center and several four- and five-star hotels. Among them, the massive World Trade Center Istanbul is an all-in-one meeting option, offering a 97,000-square-meter exhibition center, two luxury hotels, a convention center with a 4,000-person capacity, and a three-plaza business center.
The Business & Financial District, which lines the Bosphorus, offers numerous five-star accommodations with meeting space. Among them, the 323-room Grand Cevahir Hotel and Convention Center boasts 22 meeting rooms, a 2,500-square-meter ballroom, and a state-of-the-art, 1,013-seat auditorium. Combined with the convenience of being near the headquarters of several major companies and the Istanbul Stock Exchange, convention hotels in this district are ideal for conducting important business.
Within the Business & Financial District is Istanbul's Conference Valley, whose centerpiece is undoubtedly the expansive Istanbul Convention & Exhibition Centre. Here, convention guests find a 2,000-seat auditorium and a 2,100-square-meter ballroom in the brand new 7,000-square-meter Rumeli Fair & Exhibition Hall. The center also features 21 meeting rooms, five boardrooms and six VIP suites, plus 12-language simultaneous translation facilities, audio-visual technicians, catering for 7,000 people and all the other necessary amenities to make conferences and banquets go smoothly.
Both within its three major meeting districts and outside of them, Istanbul has a wealth of unique venues that are sure to make an impression on convention goers. Sip champagne in the gardens of the stunning Dolmabahçe Palace, former home to six Ottoman sultans and one-time residence of the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. Groups of 10 to 800 people will delight in belly dancing performances and Turkish songs at Kervansaray, a traditional Turkish revue that's located within walking distance to numerous Conference Valley hotels. Or, book a luxury dinner cruise aboard the Bosphorus Princess, where panoramic views of the city's soaring minarets and majestic palaces serve as an unforgettable ending to a day in Istanbul.
Istanbul's meeting venues are made even more appealing by their accessibility. Whether by land, sea or air, the city is easily reached from points around the globe. With nine domestic and 23 international gates, Istanbul Atatürk International Airport saw 30 million passengers in 2009. With about 700 daily flights, the airport is fewer than three hours by air from most major European cities. Within the city, an extensive public transportation network, along with large multi-seat taxis, or dolmuses, make it easy for guests to travel to and from points of interest.
Istanbul is the center of the Turkish economic, being both the hub of trade routes and the largest industrial center in the country. Major industrial products produced include textiles, rubber, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, glass and electronics. The city is also an important place of higher learning, being home to over 20 public and private universities.