Istanbul will be celebrated as a European Capital of Culture on 2010, with year-long special events, renovations of major landmarks, the opening of new museums and exhibitions, and performances by artists from around the world.

Among the featured attractions of Istanbul 2010 will be Ricardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic, who will not only perform but present master classes; a new project by the internationally renowned Peter Sellars; an international ballet competition; the European Universities Theater Festival; a youth festival and much more. Major workscommissioned for the occasion include "The 29th Parallel," a comparative musical work on the use of the oud, a stringed instrument, across the Middle East; "Freedom of Prometheus," a play from Greek director Theodoros Terzopoulos; and "10 Istanbul," a feature-length movie in 10 parts, each created by a noted foreign director. The movie will be the launching picture of the 2010 Istanbul Film Festival.

In preparation for 2010, the city also has made major renovations to landmark attractions and opened new museums. These include refurbishing the Ataturk Culture Center and opening the Maslak Cultural Center as a new venue for performing arts; initiating a Frank Gehry-designed opera house; renovating the famous Topkapi Palace museum and one of the world’s most famous churches and mosques, Hagia Sophia; and restoration of numerous monuments.

Istanbul 2010 events will be organized according to the theme "A City of Four Elements" that not only helps categorize events by season, but furthers the message of Istanbul’s diversity as it addresses each of the planet’s vital components.

January 1-March 20 marks the "Earth" period, representing the values of the past and where traditional arts and historical heritage will dominate the line-up. Highlighting the “Earth” projects will be “Istanbul of 10,000 Years,” showcasing archaeological excavations that extend Istanbul’s history more than 7,000 years, including the remains of a stone age village, 6th century churches and the newly discovered ancient port of Theodosius with its collection of recently unearthed 11th century ships. There will also be exhibits detailing the city’s historical development and “Ottoman Istanbul,” showing the influence on Istanbul of 500 years of Ottoman rule.

Representing Turkey’s spiritual wealth, "Air" is the theme from March 21-June 21, highlighted by multicultural, interreligious events inspired by the skyline's minarets and church spires that stretch into the air and help make Istanbul’s urban landscape among the world’s most distinctive sights. Among the exhibitions and events will be “Icons and Holy Relics” at the Hagia Eirene; “Islam and Humanitas,” a symposium to form a bridge between cultures; and “Hidrellez,” a celebration of spring, complete with rituals from various faiths as well as paganism and shamanism.

The people and neighborhoods of Istanbul are connected by water and this is the topic from June 22-September 22. “Water” events and activities take place on and off the city's shores that are either enabled or inspired by water. Naturally the Bosphorus takes center stage here as the legendary strait separating – or in Istanbul’s case linking – Europe and Asia. “Europe on Water” will feature two week-long presentations of art, music and cuisine by several European countries in waterfront districts of Istanbul. “Three Countries – Three Composers – Three Concerts” will highlight a musical exchange program focusing on such composers as Bartok, Liszt and A. Adnan Saygun. “Istanbul History and Sea Festival” will be a marine celebration, with a parade of tall ships and historic vessels as well as sports competitions and performances on the sea.

The year-long celebration rounds out with “Fire,” symbolizing the future of Istanbul, from September 23-December 31. The focus will be on Turkey’s contemporary art, a means of showcasing how the cultural torch continues to pass from generation to generation in a city whose history spans several millennia. “Lives and Works in Istanbul” will feature 10 prominent international artists working with 10 noted Turkish artists and 100 young talents to create art inspired by the city. An “Architectural Biennial” will bring together architects, artists and students to work on urban projects. And “Design 2010” broadens the scope of the much acclaimed Istanbul Design Week with projects in a multitude of venues.