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Istanbul attracts over 10 million visitors each year, but you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to get a sense of what makes this vibrant metropolis so special – just head to Washington D.C.’s 15th Annual Turkish Festival this Sunday. 

Turkish Festival brings the magic of Istanbul to downtown D.C.

Merhaba, reader, and welcome to Istanbul. Here the waters of the Bosporus strait unite the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Here, historic empires have risen and fallen.

Istanbul attracts over 10 million visitors each year, but you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to get a sense of what makes this vibrant metropolis so special – just head to Washington D.C.’s 15th Annual Turkish Festival. Put on by the American Turkish Association of Washington D.C. (ATA-DC), the festival will take place in Freedom Plaza from 11 am to 7 pm this Sunday, September 24th.

With plenty of sounds, sights, tastes and activities to delight attendees of all ages, this free festival is the perfect place to explore and celebrate Turkish culture during D.C.’s official Turkish Heritage Month. Read on to get a sense of festival highlights or head right to the festival website to start planning your journey to Istanbul.

Turkish Cuisine

From kabobs to koftas, delicious vegetable dishes to honey and nut-filled pastries, Turkish cuisine is hard to beat. Whether you’ve been to Turkey before and crave some of your old favorites or simply want to explore rich flavors you’ve never tried, the Turkish Festival presents a great opportunity to scoop up authentic Turkish cuisine.

Turkish Coffee

This thick, sweet brew isn’t only good for those in need of a caffeine jolt – it’s also a crucial tool for fortune-telling. Stop by the Turkish coffee house to buy a cup, drink it down then hand your cup to one of the experts. They’ll read your fortune from the grinds contained therein then relay their findings to you – as long as you’re brave enough to listen ;-)

Turkish Art

ATA-DC brings singers, dancers, craftspeople and other artists directly from Turkey so that attendees can enjoy authentic Turkish art. This year, the Yeditepe University Folklore Club will travel all the way from Istanbul to perform a variety of different Turkish dances in costumes that reflect some of the diverse subcultures within the Turkish borders.

Brightly hued costumes, intricate movements, enchanting songs and contagious energy make these performances engaging for festival attendees of all ages.

The Grand Bazaar

If you want to bring a little bit of Turkey home with you, head to the Grand Bazaar. Over twenty different vendors will sell Turkish jewelry, beads, scarves, ceramics, tiles, lamps, hand-woven carpets, towels, olive oil soaps, specialty grocery items and more. Whether you hope to add interest to your home décor or snag some special gifts to disperse this holiday season, the Grand Bazaar is a sure bet for unique finds.

Kids Crafts

The Kids’ Tent is headquarters for crafts and other activities that will hold the interest of the littlest visitors. From face painting to fun Turkish craft projects, kids will find plenty to do – and parents will find some relief! – in the Kids’ Tent.

Turkish Film

Even if you’re not available for the daytime festivities on the 24th, you can still get a dose of Turkish culture by attending a free screening of a Turkish film the evening of the 28th.

Cat (Kedi) documents the complex relationships between Istanbul’s hundreds of thousands of semi-wild cats and the people who love them. Crossing the Bridge takes viewers deep into the crowded streets of Istanbul where its musicians live, creating “a musical portrait of a pulsating city in which Orient and Occident merge.” If you like either cats or music (and honestly who doesn’t like one of the two) stop by the by Goethe-Institut on September 28 for a purr-fectly wonderful evening rich in the cinematic arts.

One of the most meaningful parts of the Turkish Festival is the Line Dance for Peace, which will take place on the 24th around 2:30 in front of the main stage. All attendees are invited to honor the diverse colors and cultures that make up our community in Washington D.C. by joining in this simple line dance that symbolizes peace and cultural exchange.

In today’s tumultuous political client, it’s more important than ever to open our arms to one another and show the world that friendship, peace and tolerance are still core values that inspire our interactions with one another.

Hungry for börek already? Can’t wait to peruse the wares at the Grand Bazaar? Learn more about the Festival and plan your visit at