In the year 381, when a global council of Christian bishops convened, there was only one logical place for them to meet. From all corners of the Christian world they converged on Constantinople (now İstanbul) in what could be regarded as one of the world’s first MICE events.
For millennia, this city represented the geographical center of the human world. Situated on both banks of the Bosporus, the channel that links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, the city straddles the continental divide between Europe and Asia and stands as a crucial staging post between Northern and Eastern Europe and all points south.
Through the rise and fall of empires, through the shift from Christianity to Islam and through a change of name, İstanbul’s strategic importance remained constant. With the advent of the modern MICE sector, the city instantly established itself as a major destination.
İstanbul’s claim to be the crossroads of the world was reaffirmed with the October 2018 opening of the new Istanbul International Airport, 21 miles northwest of downtown. With an anticipated annual capacity of 200 million passengers by 2028, it would be one of the world’s busiest aviation hubs.
İstanbul boasts a wealth of state-of-the-art MICE venues. By far the largest is CNR EXPO, close to the old Atatürk International Airport (closed in 2019 and now serving general aviation and cargo). This large facility, with eight exhibition halls totaling more than 1.6 million square feet, will continue to benefit from the Metro and other transport links originally established to serve the old airport. Three additional halls in the complex are operated by World Trade Center Istanbul.
Downtown, the seven-story Istanbul Congress Center, or ICC, situated a short walk from the central Taksim Square, offers 115 fully equipped meeting rooms; nine meeting halls with capacity of up to 1,300; and an auditorium that can seat 3,705 people.
Next door to the ICC, Lütfi Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Center, known as ICEC, includes 45 versatile meeting rooms; a 2,000-seat auditorium; and magnificent views from its hillside location down to the Bosporus.
The Haliç Congress Center is picturesquely located beside the Golden Horn, the estuary dividing the European side of İstanbul in two. Although slightly off the beaten path with regard to tram and Metro links, visitors can easily reach the center by bus or taxi and, uniquely among the major venues, also by ferry (the adjacent Sütlüce ferry stop is part of the city’s busy ferry network). The center comprises several buildings, each boasting auditoriums and meeting rooms. The Erguvan Restaurant, overlooking the water, can accommodate up to 200 guests.
As you would expect of a major international city, İstanbul is well-served by high-end international hotel chains, many catering to the MICE sector. The Grand Hyatt Istanbul, located downtown close to Taksim Square, offers 21,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space. The nearby Ritz-Carlton features similarly flexible event space (with panoramic views of the Bosporus) and provides a Technology Butler to ensure everything runs smoothly.
The city boasts two Four Seasons hotels. The one in the historic Sultanahmet district proves an ideal incentive base for visits to such iconic attractions as the Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, while the other, occupying a larger site on the Bosporus shore, has a range of halls and rooms for meetings and events. From the hotel’s waterside terrace you can watch the comings and goings on the busy waterway — a reminder İstanbul has always been, and continues to be, one of the world’s great meeting places.
On the surface and beneath, the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans all left their mark on İstanbul. The great Byzantine cathedral, Hagia Sophia, proves the ultimate example. Originally built in the sixth century, it was turned into a mosque in the 15th century, converted into a museum in 1935 and again designated as a mosque in 2020. In the shadow of this great building sits one of the city’s more unusual venues, a 16th-century bathhouse, the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamami. Small groups can enjoy bath and massage offers followed by a meal in the atmospheric courtyard restaurant (please note the bathhouse itself is segregated into male and female sections).
The Sait Halim Paşa Mansion, an ornate Ottoman palace on the European waterside of the Bosporus, offers a prestigious venue for weddings and corporate events. With 13 function areas, the mansion can accommodate small groups or cocktail parties of up to 1,600 guests.
Among İstanbul’s great subterranean attractions are its Byzantine cisterns — underground reservoirs — dating back to the fourth century. The Basilica Cistern is the largest and most famous, a must-see visitor attraction. The second-biggest, now known as the 1001 Direk Cistern, has been drained of water, subtly modernized and transformed into a characterful venue capable of hosting up to 3,000 people.
The biggest names in the Middle East sporting community will gather for the Sports Industry Awards as the event returns for its eighth edition. SPIA recognizes the achievements of individuals, organizations, facilities and campaigns that contributed to the development of sport in the region.
For all its cosmopolitan trappings, Singapore remains, at heart, a tropical island. The city planners determinedly preserved gennery and the high groves of concrete and glass, and for a complete escape from urban bustle there still remain patches of the jungle and mangroves that covered the island when Sir Stamford Raffles first established a trading outpost here in 1819.
In this era of 6,500-passenger mega-ships, any cruise vessel conveying fewer than a thousand voyagers is considered a small ship, including high-end luxury liners, deluxe expedition ships and the world’s riverboats. The focus on many small ships is the destination rather than the conveyance, the expert chat rather than the Broadway show, the watersport rather than the casino, the scenery and culture rather than the full-service spa and specialty restaurant. Passengers make a travel style choice, forgoing the options and pleasures of a resort-sized vessel for the deeper, more immersive experience of a yacht-scaled ship.
Air Tahiti Nui resumed service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) last week. To welcome travelers back to French Polynesia, Air Tahiti Nui offers fares starting as low as $775 round-trip from Los Angeles, and $789 from San Francisco (SFO). The airline also allows a free date change on all of its tickets.
Turkish Airlines, already flying to more countries than any other airline, announced its 10th U.S. gateway: Newark Liberty International Airport. Service will launch May 21, with four flights per week between EWR and Istanbul (IST). Beginning June 1, the frequency increases to daily.
Magdalena, a Maryland Bistro in The Ivy Hotel partnered with Uncle Nearest premium whiskey to create a Preakness-inspired cocktail ahead of this weekend’s event. The Laws and Lilies libation honors the contributions of Black jockeys in the early days of American horse racing. Emmanuel S. West, Jr., director of food & beverage, The Ivy Hotel, crafted the cocktail using Uncle Nearest’s 1856 Premium Whiskey.