All seasons are magical in Istanbul. Istanbul in winter is sure to be full of interesting things to do. You will find the city decorated to welcome the upcoming New Year. The cost of accommodation in Istanbul drops dramatically once most tourists leave around the end of October and you can easily find discounted hotels and apartments especially in January and February.
And it’s not just cheaper accommodation – flights to Istanbul are much more affordable too and you’ll find that some excursions and activities in Istanbul will also be heavily discounted.
Istanbul Weather in Winter
If you are thinking about visiting Istanbul in Winter, make sure you pack layers, a scarf to ward off the cold wind, sunglasses and an umbrella, so that you are basically prepared for anything. It rains frequently and there is a higher chance of snow as well. But still, there are lots of great activities to do in Istanbul in winter. Your stay will be more comfortable since the city will be less crowded.
Top Things to Do in Winter in Istanbul
Istanbul in winter is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. While many tourists flock to this captivating city during the summer, the winter months offer a unique and equally enchanting experience. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, or simply seeking a different kind of adventure, Istanbul has something special to offer you during the colder season.
Here are my Top 11 picks for the Best Things To Do in Istanbul in Winter.
1. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern
Regardless of the season, these four things don’t need an introduction and are a must-do in Istanbul. Normally, these places are crowded with people, but they’re more attractive in Winter because they’re less crowded. So we recommend you visit these four in the wintertime.
These four are really close to each other. So it would be possible in winter to visit all for of them in one day since the waiting time will be significantly lower. If you are looking for a guided tour you should plan for 2 days in this area. You might also be able to visit the Suleymaniye mosque while you are in the area.
To skip the Ticketline and go around faster you can buy your Museum tickets from the following link. You can also purchase combo tickets so you don’t pay for every single museum. They offer some sweet winter deals as well.
2. Do Some Holiday Shopping at the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ‘Covered Market) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world In 2014, it was listed No.1 among the world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors according to travel and leisure. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls in the world.
Thisis the ultimate local market to do some random shopping or pick up some souvenirs. You will be spoilt for choices here as stalls feature a variety of items such as local artisan jewelry, perfume, hand-embroidered table mats, ceramics, Turkish lamps, and other ornaments.
A visit here is not simply about shopping for souvenirs. With its grand arcaded main streets and narrow alleys leading between Hans (old trader inns) and bedestens (market halls), it is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul to get a sense of Ottoman life. They have sometimes sweet winter sales as well so it could be a great shopping season for you.
3. Enjoy the lively atmosphere at Istiklal Street
While some areas of Istanbul become quieter in the winter, Istiklal Street never sleeps. During the winter. İstiklal gets all lit up. You’ll find them wrapped around trees, decorating storefronts, and even draped between buildings. People from all over the world come to Istiklal Street to listen to street musicians, ride the nostalgic tram, and sample the local specialties.
At every step, Istiklal Street brings together people from various places and cultures, to listen to street musicians, ride the nostalgic tram, and sample local specialties in the many cafes.
Ride the Tünel, the quaint subway funicular inaugurated in 1875, and stroll along charming French Street, also known as Cezayir Street.
Though you can find them year-round, there may be nothing more tempting during a chilly Istanbul evening than a small bag of kestane, or Turkish roasted chestnuts. stop by one of the vendors selling fragrant hot roasted chestnuts and try this delicious and warming street snack.
4. Visit the Museums of Istanbul
A terrific winter activity in İstanbul is to visit one of the city’s numerous museums. In Sultanahmet, the Archaeological Museum and the Turkish-Islamic Arts Museum are the highlights, as is Dolmabahce Palace and the İstanbul Naval Museum, in Beşiktaş, and the Istanbul Military Museum, in Harbiye.
In Beyoğlu, the charming Pera Museum offers interesting temporary exhibits; its permanent exhibits include Osman Hamdi Bey’s renowned painting, the Tortoise Trainer. There is also a Madame Tussauds on Istiklal street if you are a fan. It is only recommended if you have a lot of time in Istanbul.
Additionally, there are other museums and attractions as well. To skip the Ticketline and go around faster you can buy your Museum tickets from here. They offer some sweet winter deals as well. With this link you’ll get an extra 5% discount:
5. Try Boza & Salep
Boza is a traditional winter beverage in Istanbul and the best place to drink it is in the Vefa district in Fatih, İstanbul. The original Turkish version of boza is thought to have originated in the 10th century and has been a staple in the Fertile Crescent for centuries.
The alcohol-free boza recipe perfected in the Vefa neighborhood is sweeter than the original drink, which had a low alcohol content and is often topped with powdered cinnamon and roasted chickpeas.
History of Boza
The most famous and the best place where you can try this drink is the Vefa Bozacısı. This historic location was founded in 1876, but only a small number of tourists are aware of it because it was built for true national tradition fans.
Hadji Sadık Bey promoted the boza, which he produced through his own means in the cellar of his house, by circulating it in copper billycans that he carried on his shoulders around the Palace and its surroundings at winter nights for six years. Being impatiently waited for at each corner, Hadji Sadık Bey took to heart with the increasing demand.
He opened the first official business of boza product in September 1876 in Vefa, one of the most distinguished neighborhoods in Istanbul where dynasties, aristocratic families, and bureaucrats of the era resided. The boza shop that was opened in Vefa was named “Vefa Bozacısı”, and this ancestral beverage was both standardized and made into a profession, maintaining its continuity for generations.
Hadji Sadık Bey produced this special, sought-after Turkish beverage himself for many years in order to maintain its thickness and flavor. Taking along his son, Ismail Hakkı Vefa into business in the later years, Hadji Sadık Bey continued production together with his son. They also produce different kinds of vinegar and sauces so you might try them too. The shop is close to Grand Bazaar so you can connect your shopping trip to a great beverage.
Made from the ground roots of several different species of orchids, salep has long been another cold-weather tradition in Turkey. It came to Anatolia via the Ottoman Empire, which revered it as an aphrodisiac. Today, you’ll find salep at most Turkish coffee shops, often served with a dusting or stick of cinnamon.
It’s served hot and sweet, so feel free to savor it like a dessert. You can drink this beverage in Yeniköy Kahvesi at Bosphorus, Fazıl Bey’in Türk Kahvesi in Kadıköy, or at Karaköy Güllüoğlu.
6. Relax at a Turkish Hammam
A Turkish hammam, also known as a Turkish bath, is a type of public bath or steam room that originated in Turkey. It is a place where people can go to relax, unwind, and cleanse their bodies. A traditional Turkish hammam typically consists of a series of hot and cold rooms, where bathers will spend time steam cleaning, scrubbing, and massaging their skin.
Some Turkish hammams also offer additional services such as haircuts, beard trims, and traditional Turkish massages. Many people consider a trip to a Turkish hammam to be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Most hammams in Istanbul have different sections or different hours of the day for men and women and follow traditional hammam rituals.
Hammams in Istanbul offer 45 minutes of washing; traditional body scrubbing with a handwoven washcloth (kese), a foam wash, and a massage. A visit to a hammam is for more than simply getting clean; it’s also for unwinding and reviving. When your treatments are finished, spend some time relaxing in the bath rather than feeling hurried to go. For further information on Istanbul’s hammams and spas, you can find detailed insights in this article.
7. Do a Shopping Mall Crawl with Christmas Markets
In general, shopping malls are typically open all year round, including in the winter. When it comes to shopping, Istanbul offers a good variety of world-famous brands as well as high-quality local designs and brands. Whether you browse the numerous shopping malls all over the city or find your way to local designer shops.
Winter Sales are attractive and Shopping malls like Zorlu Center ( You can watch a short video about the Zorlu Center Christmas market here) build small Christmas Markets for a better Christmas Feeling!
8. Enjoy the View on Pierre Loti Hill
The Pierre Loti Hill in the Eyüpsultan neighborhood, which has great views of the Bosphorus, gets its name from a French naval commander who frequented the nearby teahouses and authored his first book in Istanbul. With its views of the Golden Horn, Pierre Loti Hill can be visited just once to get a fresh perspective on the city. Order a cup of hot salep and take in the atmosphere during the winter.
The Hill is reachable via cable car, as well as by foot and by car. We advise taking the cable car because the route is steep, especially during the winter months (you can use your Istanbul card).
9. Visit Galataport
Opened in 2021 Galataport Istanbul has transformed this historical city harbor into a world-class cruise liner port and touristic destination, while opening the promenade to public use for the first time in approximately two centuries. Atmosphere With its accessible low-rise buildings, an architectural design that embraces the historical tapestry of the area, broad range of transport options and more, Galataport Istanbul offers a breathing, healthy and safe environment for culture & arts, work, shopping and dining.
Its pier, plazas and streets embrace all visitors and offer unrestricted physical and visual access to the unparalleled view of the Bosporus in an environment that is vibrant throughout the day. Galataport Istanbul houses the finest works of modern art in Turkey with the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and Mimar Sinan University Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture, both of which are located inside its premises.
Located in the center of the Clock Tower Square, the Tophane Clock Tower, dating back to 1848, has been restored on-site using a special technique. Commissioned by Sultan Abdulmejid in the 19th century and bearing his tughra, or royal seal, the Tophane Clock Tower attracts Istanbul residents and visitors to the city alike as a monument that blends the historical with the modern, embracing memories and moments in time, and represents time and transformation.
Galataport is also the World’s First Underground Cruise Ship Terminal which makes the place more interesting. You can find more Information about Galataport here. We recommend you to visit the best Baklava Store in town Karaköy Güllüoğlu as well , while you are in the area.
10. Visit Ortaköy
The Bosphorus shore’s Ortakoy square is quite active in winter. Waffle and Kumpir vendors with their culinary kiosks complement the stalls selling handcrafted trinkets and welcome the customers sipping tea in upscale cafés.
Kumpir is a type of baked potato dish that originated in Istanbul, Turkey. It is made by baking a large, oblong potato in an oven until it is soft and tender. The potato is then split open and stuffed with a variety of ingredients, such as cheese, butter, sausage, corn, pickles, and other toppings. Kumpir is a popular street food in Istanbul, and it is often sold at outdoor kiosks or in small shops.
Along with souvenir shops, kumpir vendors are engaged in a friendly rivalry in the busy streets. Right adjacent to the Bosphorus Bridge is the majestic Ortakoy Mecidiye Mosque, which is situated on the beach and draws attention with its lights.
At dusk, people swarm into upscale eateries and nightclubs. With its prominent pubs, nightclubs, cafes, restaurants, stores selling handicrafts, souvenirs, and intriguing items, Ortakoy is one of the most well-liked gathering places for Istanbul residents.
11. New Years Eve at the Bosphorus
In general, New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration and festivity, and many people in Istanbul likely celebrate the occasion with parties, fireworks, and other forms of entertainment. Every year, a massive firework display is held on the Bosphorus.
You can enjoy it at the cruise party on the Bosphorus or on the shore. You can watch the show from 2019 here
Istanbul in winter offers a unique and captivating experience, away from the bustling crowds of the summer months. Explore the city’s rich history, indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine, and immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere created by the winter festivities. With the right clothing and preparations, you can enjoy every moment of this enchanting season in Istanbul.
Don’t miss the chance to discover Istanbul’s hidden charms and create memories that will last a lifetime. Plan your winter getaway to Istanbul, and let this magnificent city cast its spell on you.
Istanbul is charming in December and January, with fewer tourists. However, December offers the chance to experience the city’s festive decorations.
Most of Istanbul’s attractions remain open in winter, but it’s a good idea to check their operating hours.
Pack warm clothing, including a waterproof jacket, and comfortable walking shoes.
Istanbul is generally safe in winter, but be cautious of slippery sidewalks and use common safety measures.
While snowfall is not guaranteed, Istanbul does experience snow occasionally, adding to the city’s charm.
Winter brings forth heartier dishes, such as soups and stews, which are perfect for the colder weather. This article also mentions Boza and Salep, which are renowned winter beverages in Turkey.