When we talk about Istanbul, a summer solar picture appears in our head: ancient fortresses and monuments, Bosporus Strait, eastern bazaars. Summer and sun appear in this picture as if by default. Turkey means summer. But Istanbul - the city is special. In winter it is no less beautiful. Sights do not disappear anywhere, the strait remains on the spot, and souks still beckon with their goods. Only the crowds of tourists disappear from the streets and you can enjoy all the charms of the ancient city without fuss and queues. This is a significant advantage of a winter visit to Istanbul. Afraid that the weather will interfere? Do not worry, the climate here is comfortable, you will not freeze. And from the summer heat exhausting suffering will not be necessary. Here you and another answer to the question: is it worth going to Istanbul in winter?


  1. Weather in Istanbul in winter
  2. What clothes to take
  3. Christmas and New Year in Istanbul
  4. What to do
  5. Popular sights
  6. Winter shopping
  7. Where better to stay in Istanbul

Weather in winter

We said that the weather in Istanbul this time of year is comfortable. But do not think that you will be able to walk in shorts and a jersey. It’s still some kind of winter, but winter. Let and Turkish. Average temperature - about +10 . So warm things with you need to take necessarily. Bear in mind that the wind makes its adjustments to the weather Poirot. It is damp and wet, and in winter brings snow and rain to the city. In this case, the snow can go quite suddenly. You can stand to admire the views of Istanbul under the rays of the sun, when suddenly everything will cover with snow flakes. You will not find snowdrifts here. What falls out quickly, also melts quickly. Snow lies on the strength of a couple of days.

Istanbul in the snow

There is no point in hoping for weather forecasts. Experts try not to give information for more than 1-2 days, and still often they are wrong. The climate is very volatile. But at the same time, the air temperature almost never drops below zero.

If you describe the weather in Istanbul in three words in winter, it will be: wind, damp and rain. What a comfortable weather, you may ask, you remember us earlier statements. Well, first of all, in winter here in any case often have sunny days and it is an ideal time for walks. Secondly, in the rain Istanbul acquires some special charm. The atmosphere is such that you do not catch any other time of year.

Weather in December

At the beginning of winter here is quite warm by our standards - something in the area of +9...+ 11°. Cold air streams coming from the sea do not allow you to feel the comfort of this temperature.   A clear day can turn into cloudy rather quickly. At the same time, sometimes cloudy weather is set for several days. Clouds do not just cover the sun, and sometimes bring a small drizzling rain. The air at this time becomes especially wet.

Weather in January

In January, Istanbul is colder than in December. During the day, the air warms up to only +4...+ 6°.   At night the temperature drops and can go beyond zero. For the second winter month is characterized by frequent rains. Snow falls noticeably less frequently and almost immediately melts. The maximum is how long it stays on the city streets - two days. As in the previous month, the weather in January is affected by strong sea winds. Humidity - increased.

Typical January day

Weather in February

The closer to spring, the warmer. Here and the last month of winter in Istanbul sometimes pleases residents and tourists pleasant +12...+ 14°. At night it is still cool, but without minus values. In February, more clear days, but weather variability remains. The farther away from the sea there are areas of the city, the more comfortable weather conditions. But in the territories near the Bosporus cold winds make themselves felt.

What clothes to take

Since the climate is so volatile, how to understand what clothes is the best to admire the beauty of Istanbul in winter? First, take warm clothes with you. They will certainly be useful. Jacket or windbreaker will be very convenient. Fit and light down jacket. Grab sweaters, sweaters and scarves. If the walk gets cold, you can always get warm. Do not forget about the opposite situation, when the sun looks out and the air begins to warm up. You will definitely remove the excess clothes, so choose such items of wardrobe that are easy to remove and comfortable to carry. But it definitely should not be shorts or light skirts. Save them for summer.

On a warm day you can do with a T-shirt

The best option - jeans and hoodie. Of shoes prefer sneakers or shoes without heel. This way the feet will not get tired during long hiking. Do not need gloves. Considering that winter in Istanbul are sunny days, dark glasses will be useful. To protect from the rain, take an umbrella. But if you don’t want to drag him around town, you’ll get help from the local merchants. At the right time, they can buy umbrellas at affordable prices.

Perhaps you are planning to visit some chic local restaurant. For such an occasion put in the luggage evening outfits. One will be enough.

Christmas and New Year in Istanbul

It will be a surprise to many that in late December the streets of Istanbul have the same atmosphere as in European cities. Although Turks are predominantly Muslim and therefore do not celebrate Christmas, they love to celebrate the New Year. A couple of weeks before this date, they decorate the Christmas trees, in stores appear bright garlands. However, it cannot be said that Christmas passes here unnoticed. 

festive fireworks

Many Christian tourists come to Istanbul during the winter holidays. They enjoy spending time in the city. Someone is taking a boat ride around the Bosphorus on Christmas night. A festive cruise with dinner and a special show is one of the favorite options of Istanbul guests. You can celebrate Christmas in local restaurants as well as in nightclubs. Organizers prepare a special entertainment program for visitors. If you want a more spiritual atmosphere, there are Catholic churches in the city that host Christmas services. For example, the church of Saint Anthony of Padua, or the church of Saints Peter and Paul.

Usual European Christmas fairs are also held here. One of them is organized at the beginning of winter in the territory of the German Lyceum, which is in the area of Beyooglu. Visitors can find on the shelves festive decorations, sweets, souvenir products, as well as various products made by German masters.

Christmas decorations on Istanbul streets

About two weeks before the New Year, the Winter Bazaar at the Palais Ferie is opened. The set of items here is traditional: souvenirs, gifts, holiday decorations. We note that creative workshops and other events are held here.  

Every year on the eve of the winter holidays in Istanbul takes place the International Winter Women’s Festival. We cannot tell you the exact location because it changes periodically. You will need to clarify this information yourself. This event, which has been held since the beginning of December, offers local souvenirs as well as gifts from other countries. At the festival, there is usually a zone for children who can meet Santa Claus there.

What to see

Of course, in winter in Istanbul you will not go sunbathing and not to plunge into the waters of the Bosphorus. At this time of year come here for walks and sightseeing. The presence of historical monuments are not affected by weather conditions. On the contrary, all key points of attraction for tourists are becoming more accessible. There are not as many people as in the summer and the city will appear to you more calm and cozy. Someone comes here from December to February for shopping, someone goes on a gastronomic tour. All these leisure options in winter are especially good.

When planning them, be sure to take into account the capricious nature of the local weather. Prepare several routes and programs so that you have something to do both on a sunny and cloudy day.

We’ll share a couple of routes with you. If the day turns out to be sunny, then we recommend to go to the district of Beyoğlu, that in the European part of Istanbul. There you will walk from Taksim Square down to Galata Tower. Then you can go down to the seaside area of Karaköy, or to Jihangir, which offers a stunning view of the Bosporus.   You can take a ferry to the Asian part of the city. If the weather is also windless, the route of the water walk should be extended to the Princes Islands. 

Galata Tower in February

If the day turns out to be cloudy, rainy and windy, you will still have something to do and see. The route for this weather we suggest to make up of visiting objects that can be studied for a long time from the inside. They include: Archaeological Museum, Grand Bazaar, Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapi Palace. In each of these places you will spend at least two hours. It is convenient that some of these attractions are located at a short distance from each other.

But on a snowy day to hide under the roof is not worth it. Better warm up and walk. Snow Istanbul is beautiful. You will be able to immerse yourself in a fabulous winter atmosphere and make a lot of spectacular shots.

Popular sights

There are many attractions in the city, but we will highlight the most interesting, according to the reviews of tourists.

- It is certainly worth seeing the Mosque of Sacred Sofia. Its appearance is well known even to those who have never been to Istanbul. This is the city’s main religious site. Initially this structure was an Orthodox church, then in the course of its history it changed its status several times. First the cathedral turned into a mosque, then a museum was organized here. And not so long ago the building regained the status of a mosque.

On sunny days, fountains work at the Mosque of Sacred Sofia

– The indispensable object of any tourist route - Galata Tower. It was built in the beginning of the VI century. This structure, in addition to its historical value attracts visitors to the city and an excellent observation platform. The views are stunning.   

- Be sure to look at the local shopping area: Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar

Egyptian bazaar - a huge selection of souvenirs

Not even for shopping, although it is possible to buy souvenirs there, but first of all for immersion in the historical atmosphere. Trade in these places dates back to the Ottoman Empire. The Grand Bazaar, or otherwise Kapala Charshi, is almost a small town consisting of six dozen covered streets.   Here you can taste the aromatic local coffee or relax behind the hookah.  

– Almost all tourists go for a walk on Istiklal Street. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants. Many people come here for the local shops. And someone walking down the street prefers a trip on the old tram.  

İstiklal street in snowfall

– A visit to the Blue Mosque, which should also be included in its tourist route, you will remember for a long time. The interiors of amazing beauty impress any visitor and are always imprinted in memory.

Tourists near the Blue Mosque many in any weather

– Another historical object with stunning interiors - Topkapi Palace. It was erected at the end of the 15th century and is considered a masterpiece of architecture. To study all the details of the palace decoration you are unlikely to succeed. They are so many that the excursion will have to pawn the whole day. By the way, about excursions, their visit is allowed only if the dress code. No outdoor clothing is allowed.

Interior of Topkapi Palace

– The Dolmabahçe Palace may compete with the above-mentioned Palace for architectural beauty. You don’t have to wait in long lines here. You can stroll through the amazing peacock garden, look into the harem, and from the garden square to enjoy the views of the Bosporus. There is a special chip at the Palace. It is here that is a unique crystal chandelier - the second in the world in size.

Dolmabahçe Palace - view from the water

Tank Feodosia, Tank Basilica and Tank Nakkas. They are called Byzantine cisterns - and these are ancient historical reservoirs. In those years they were used for urban water supply. They are well preserved, and one of them (Cistern Basilica) even now holds water.

– Kyz Kulesi or Maiden Tower. There are several legends related to the origin of the name of the tower, and they can tell you any local resident. The building is located on a rock in the waters of the Bosphorus. Nowadays, it has a restaurant where families with children and couples come together. Playing live Turkish music in the evenings creates a special atmosphere on this island. The tower can also be seen from the shore. The appropriate place for this review isYusudar.

Maiden tower against the winter bosphorus

– If you like craftsmen, you should visit the Carpet Museum. It is located on the Sultanakhmet Square and contains about 2500 carpets woven from the 13th to 14th centuries until the 20th century.  

Winter shopping

In winter, tourists in the city are much less, and therefore local traders greatly reduce the price of their goods. It would be strange not to take advantage of such large discounts.

Winter - the best time for shopping in Turkey

In addition, do not forget about the New Year’s sales, which are organized by city shops and shopping centers. Visit Istiklal Street for souvenirs and sweets, visit the Grand Bazaar to buy ceramic or jewelry, or go for spices at the Egyptian Bazaar. In all outlets you will be offered attractive prices.

Where better to stay in Istanbul

Finding a hotel in Istanbul is not a problem. Difficulties may arise with its choice, because there are many hotels here. It is preferable to stop in areas closer to the attractions. Yes, hotels on the outskirts will be cheaper, but get to the main tourist destinations of the city will take a long time. You will save money, but time will spend more. This means that the excursion program and walks will have to be reduced. The most popular tourist hotels in the areas of Fatih and Beyooglu, which are located in the European part of Istanbul.  

When choosing a place to stay, consider the proximity of public transport stops, because even in the historic center of the distance you have to overcome quite decent. If you have a thoughtful sleep, then pay attention to the location of mosques in the area. In the morning with them there are calls for prayer. Also note that in some places street life does not subside until late at night, which can also cause you inconvenience.   Some neighborhoods are located under the slope and if you are not ready to climb the footsteps into the hill, then you should choose a hotel at another point in the city.  

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