Few cities have attracted as much cinematic interest as Istanbul. Situated on the apex of Asia, straddling two continents and housing a vibrant clash of cultures; Turkey’s capital is as comfortably exotic as you can get without straying too far from home. And film crews love it. From Daniel Craig to Liam Neeson, via Sam Mendes and Oliver Stone, actors and directors alike have flocked there in the hope of capturing the essence of this most mystical of cities. The result is a town awash with iconic locations from cinematic history – all within easy walking distance. Here we give you the lowdown on where to go to relive some of cinema’s greatest moments:
Basilica Cistern (From Russia with Love)
In the second-ever Bond film (and possibly the best), Sean Connery is in Istanbul to handle the defection of a Soviet agent. Predictably, SPECTRE get involved and everything goes a bit pear-shaped; culminating in a bruising fist fight and boat chase with explosions galore. Prior to that though, there’s a number of tense scenes set beneath the city in a sort of sunken ruin. The ruin – through which Bond later escapes – is the famous Basilica Cistern. Although now-inaccessible by boat and unlikely to be housing any hidden periscopes or Soviet bombs, it remains open for an atmospheric walking tour all year round. Want to relive the halcyon days of Sean Connery’s suave secret agent? Here’s the place to do it.
Grand Bazaar (Taken 2 & Skyfall)
With its rickety roofs and irregular shape, the Grand Bazaar and neighbouring Spice Market have become a recent haven for high-speed (and low-speed) Hollywood chases. In Taken 2, Liam Neeson’s daughter leaps from building to building in an attempt to escape the bad guys, while Skyfall’s blistering motorbike chase ends with Daniel Craig crashing headlong into the interior and nearly running down a few pedestrians. While we can’t guarantee that sort of excitement on your visit, the Bazaar is open 6 days a week and is always a big tourist draw. Who knows? You may even find yourself following the trail of Bond’s motorcycle chase.
Blue Mosque (Argo)
Highbrow(ish) as it was, Ben Affleck’s recent Argo made at least one glaring error. In the crucial meeting scene at Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque the interior seems to have magically transformed itself into that of the nearby Aya Sofia. Luckily, the two combined make for a wonderful full-day tour: while the Blue Mosque may be stunningly beautiful from the outside and very impressive within, it is the Aya Sofia’s interior that really leaves you gasping with awe. No surprise they switched the two around in the edit then, but book a tour of them both to really appreciate the difference yourself.
Taksim (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
If you watched the recent big-budget John le Carre adaptation, you may have found yourself wondering exactly what part of Istanbul Tom Hardy spent his screen time prowling around. Well, that gorgeous slice of decadence is none other than the bohemian Taksim, the Shoreditch of Istanbul. While slightly off the beaten track, especially if you’re after sights and nothing more, the area does boast some of the finest bars in town – no less cool than those Tom Hardy visits, if a little less 70s. Navigating a true film tour through the winding streets may be virtually impossible, but as an area to go and soak up some atmosphere it’s near unbeatable.
The Bosphorus (Murder on the Orient Express)
The 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express begins with a journey to the train itself that acts as an accidental advert for seeing Istanbul by the river. After an intriguing murder, the camera gives us a panoramic view of the heaving city and a ferry snaking its way toward the distant port of Sirkeci and the titular train. While most of the subsequent ‘action’ takes place many miles from the town, nothing in cinema is quite as romantic as seeing the Bosphorus unfurl before the camera’s eye like some glittering carpet. A perfect destination for a day’s idle cruising.
If you’re a film buff and wish to visit any of these classic locations, then Swissotel The Bosphorus luxury hotel offers as the perfect hotel for your stay; nestled within the European banks of the Bosphorus in the centre of the Turkish capital.