The 23rd Akbank Jazz Festival kicks off in Istanbul on with Swedish jazz pianist Matthias Nilson at the Akbank Arts Centre and Texan jazz singer Chrysta Bell at Babylon. Part of the wonderful vibe of this jazz festival is the eclectic mix of performers and venues, making it a true pick and mix event. There is no need to stint yourself if you visit the Akbank Jazz Festival this year; beginning on 25 September and going on through into October, there are performances and workshops to keep even the most avid jazz fan happy. Also on the line-up is the stupendous Mulatu Astatke with his usual virtuoso performance on the vibraphone, Wurlitzer and percussions. He appears with special guests HÃ¼snÃ¼ Åženlendirici and Misirli Ahmet.
How to get there
As a favourite venue for tourists from around the world, Istanbul is really easy to reach, with its international airport just under four hours flying from the UK, and relatively low prices offered by most UK-holiday providers, (check out what First Choice have on offer). Anyone coming into the city for the jazz festival will want to be central to be close to where the action is, but there are frequent shuttles from the airport and the public transport system is a dream, with very cheap and reliable buses which will get you round town safely and with no fuss. As always in a large city it is important to take measures to keep yourself safe, Istanbul is not a violent place and there is no need to feel vulnerable. In fact, with the Akbank Jazz Festival in town, there is very definitely a laid back feeling.
See a performance from last yearâ€™s event:
And after the jazz?
If there is a gap in the line up that leaves you a day or two, there is plenty to do in Istanbul. There are plenty of guided tours to be had if you want to see as much as possible with no risk of getting lost and they leave from various stops throughout the city. One good pairing for a dayâ€™s sightseeing is the Blue Mosque and Topkapi, although your visit to Topkapi may be rather fleeting this way. Using a tour bus is a good way of sorting out where you would like to revisit and this is what many people do on their first trip to Istanbul. The city is very friendly and there are many pavement cafes where you can enjoy a Turkish coffee â€“ be careful when you have your first one, the caffeine rush can almost lift your head off!
And of course, shopping!
Istanbul is perfect for shoppers no matter what their budget. The gold quarter is of course a must-visit, even if you donâ€™t buy anything. If you do have the money there are certainly bargains to be had, but make sure you haggle. The indoor market is a great place if you donâ€™t have too much to spend. You can get anything from a packet of saffron to a giant box of Turkish Delight and these make great gifts for foodie friends at home. You can even haggle over your sweets and this adds to the fun.