Istanbul location map

Turkey & Istanbul

Turkey’s capital Istanbul can best be described as a real-life fairytale. Advertised by Sean Connery in 1963, with the words “Moonlight over the Bosporus...”, Istanbul truly is a romantic city. This lead to full exposure of the city’s splendour in From Russia With Love and again in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. More recently, Istanbul and other parts of Turkey featured in Skyfall (2012).

Below is a summary of the full story Moonlight over the Bosporus, as featured in full in the travel guide.
The city lies on two continents, Europe and Asia, which are divided by the Bosporus. This narrow, navigable strait being the only sea way from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, you will quickly understand the strategic importance of the city. This explains why Istanbul is the most besieged city in the world. Built in 667 BC by the Megares and named after their leader, Byzantium, the city rapidly became a leading trade post. When the city was finally captured by the Romans, it became the new capital of the East Roman empire. In the year 330, Emperor Constantine decided the city’s name should be Constantinople. The city had its ‘golden age’ under emperor Justinianus. The beautiful Aya Sofia (Saint Sophia) or ‘church of the divine wisdom’ is the most famous representative of that time.

In 1354 the city became part of the Osmanic Empire, but it wasn’t until 1453, when Mehmet II Fatih (the conqueror) took the city and made it the new capital of the Osmanians, that the city got its final name: Istanbul. It was turned into an Islamic city. The Aya Sofia was converted into a mosque and was made the centre of the Osmanic religion and therefore the building model for future Osmanic structures. After the collapse of the Osmanic Empire at the end of the First World War, the city was captivated by the allied forces. The Turkish freedom movement, lead by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, fought successfully for independence, making Atatürk the most important statesman in Turkish history. Atatürk, whose image is still visible everywhere in Istanbul, laid the foundations of the independent state Turkey is today. But, although the country undergoes rapid modernization, the remains of Turkey’s rich history still attract millions of visitors each year.

Nowadays, travellers coming from overseas arrive at the modernized Atatürk Havaalani Airport (map mark 1). When James Bond arrived in Istanbul to get his hands on a Lektor decoder, back in 1963, the small airport was then called Yesilköy, after the area surrounding it. 007 actually arrived at what was then and still is the domestic arrival gate. The modern building it is today is only recognizable from the communications tower on its roof.
Travel link banner
When 007 was driven by his chauffeur from the airport into the city, he passed some great views, which have changed so much since 1963, it is hard to imagine they are in fact the same. Mirihmah Camii is a mosque, visible in the background of these first Istanbul scenes, and if it wasn’t for this mosque’s recognizable exterior, you would probably pass the street without even considering it was in a Bond film once. Along this same road, from the Topkapi district to the Edirnekapi district, you will find the remains of the old city defence wall, also shortly visible in the film, before Bond is brought to Kerim Bey.

The most important, ancient and historically interesting buildings you will find in the Sultanahmet district. Here is also most of the tourist hotels located, simply because the area has a lot to offer. When you look at the map, you will notice the area is a peninsula, offering three magnificent views. In the upper left corner, the famous ‘Golden Horn’ divides the European part of the city in two. The waterway going north is the Bosporus, and finally in the lower right corner, the Marmara Sea is the right way to end up in the Mediterranean.
When Bond arrives in the heart of the city, he passes some still very recognizable houses, just before he asks his chauffeur about the fact that they are being followed. Standing at the Gülhane Tramcar Stop, having the park on your left, you will notice the wooden Ottoman houses visible in 1963’s film. They are on the corner of a small street called Soguk Cesme Sokak and the main road Alemdir Caddesi. Since these last locations cannot be combined in a direct route to Bond’s end goal, one can only assume the locations were purely used because of their beauty.
His end goal was a meeting with Kerim Bey, head of station T Turkey, at the Grand Bazaar. This Bazaar is an absolute must for those of you who like shopping, carpets, gold, shopping, leather, jewellery, more carpets and even more shopping. Housing over 4000 little shops (including 2000 jewellers!!) this famous covered bazaar still is a model for every oriental bazaar around the world. Thousands of tourists arrive here daily to get lost in the maze of tiny streets. A remarkable experience you should not miss! Neither did 007... He was driven to the Nuru Osmaniye Camii, east of the Grand Bazaar. This Osmanic mosque is the best way to the Bazaar. At this place, the Rolls was parked, and Bond and his chauffeur walked towards the Bazaar. Here they walked through a magnificent stone gate, entering the Grand Bazaar from the East. This area around the mosque is extremely busy, so if you want to take some photographs, you can best wait until Sunday, when the Bazaar is closed. You will then have the whole area to yourself and can fully enjoy this marvellous piece of Bond history. As I said before, the Grand Bazaar is a covered area, but also a well secured area. Every night at 19:00h, the local policemen close and lock the 17 huge entrance doors, leaving the 16th century bazaar behind as a desolate underground city.
There are many hidden locations insode the Grand Bazar
Even the rooftop of the Grand Bazar is a filming location
Walking back towards the busy space in front of the Blue Mosque, we now turn towards the second landmark, the famous Aya Sofia. This church in the heart of old Byzantium was completed in the year 537, and built by order of Roman Emperor Justinianus. Later renamed a mosque, it received 4 minarets, and finally became a museum in 1934. When you enter the structure it is not hard to imagine why the filmmakers decided to let it play a major part in From Russia With Love. The Aya Sofia is so ingeniously designed and built that it is simply breathtaking to walk inside and enjoy the imposing interior. It is open for public, every day (except Mondays) from 9:30h until 17:00h. The entrance fee is about US$ 3.00 per adult.

Principle filming for From Russia With Love started here on Monday 22 April 1963. Every morning the crew left the Hilton Hotel in convoy consisting of 28 vehicles, half of which were filled with lighting equipment, indispensable to film inside the dark mosque. The Turkish Ministry for Tourism had allowed EON to film inside the Aya Sophia, as long as normal tourists wouldn’t be bothered. This did in fact cause some trouble, when later that afternoon a big group walked in, causing a twenty minute delay.

When Tania enters the building, she’s coming in from the south. This is not the main tourist entrance, which is more west. From this tourist entrance you will walk onto the inner centre of the church. On your left you will see a huge urn beside a round red column. Bond stood here pointing with his sunglasses into the direction he wanted Tania to go. When you walk towards that urn, the most northern side of the inner space is the area where it all happened.

The huge stone columns are the ones where Bond spotted the Bulgarian. In between the columns are wooden booths, the most rectangular being the one where Tania left the ground plan for Bond to pick up. This is the booth where Grant killed the Bulgarian who took the ground plan before Bond got there. The Aya Sofia obviously hasn’t changed at all since filming took place there and all the important areas are still very recognizable. Whenever you walk around there, you always expect the Bulgarian to show up behind one of the columns...

Before Bond sets out for a little boat trip across the Bosporus with Tania, he was scheduled to have another encounter with the ‘enemy’. Driving towards the ferry departure, Bond is once again being tailed by the Bulgarian, who on his turn is being followed by Kerim Bey. When Bond hits the brakes, the three cars collide causing the Bulgarian to be stuck in between. While 007 is being picked up by the Rolls, Kerim walks up to the trapped Bulgarian saying: “Well my friend, that’s life”. This notorious but brilliant scene unfortunately had to be deleted when during a pre-screening Terence Young’s 12 year old son discovered that the Bulgarian had been previously killed by Grant in the Aya Sophia... Apparently it was one of Pedro Armendariz’ (Kerim Bey) best scenes.

. . .

This and much more can be found in the chapter 'Moonlight over the Bosporus' in ON THE TRACKS OF 007

Connected hotels:

There are no Bond hotels connected to this destination
Travel link banner
Share by: