Istanbul in winter. Weather and temperature. What to see?

Istanbul in winter

When we talk about Istanbul, we have a summer sunny picture in our mind: ancient fortresses and monuments, the Bosphorus Strait, the eastern bazaars. Summer and sun appear in this picture as if by default. Turkey means summer. But Istanbul is a special city. In winter it is no less beautiful. The sights don’t disappear, the straits remain in place and the bazaars still beckon with their wares. Except that the crowds of tourists disappear from the streets, and you can enjoy all the charms of the ancient city without the hassle and queues. This is a big advantage of a winter visit to Istanbul. Worried about the weather? Do not worry, the climate is comfortable, you will not freeze. And the summer heat does not have to suffer. Here is another answer to the question: should I go to Istanbul in winter?

The Weather

We said that the weather in Istanbul at this time of year is comfortable. But don’t think you’ll be able to walk around in shorts and a T-shirt. This is winter at any rate. Even if it is Turkish. The average temperature is about +10⁰. Therefore, warm clothes to bring must. Please note that the weather changes because of the wind Poyraz. It is damp and dank and brings snow and rain to the city in winter. It can snow all of a sudden. You can stand admiring the views of Istanbul in the sunlight and suddenly everything is covered with snow flakes. You won’t find snowdrifts here. What falls quickly melts just as quickly. Snow lies here for a couple of days at most.

Istanbul in the snow

There’s no point in hoping for weather forecasts. Specialists try not to give information for more than 1-2 days, and they are often mistaken anyway. The climate is very variable. But at the same time, the temperature almost never drops below zero.

If you describe the weather in Istanbul in winter in three words, it would be: wind, damp and rain. What kind of comfortable weather it is, you ask, recalling our previous statements. Well, first of all, winter here in any case, there are often sunny days and it is the perfect time to walk around. Secondly, when it rains, Istanbul takes on some special charm. The atmosphere is something that you don’t catch at any other time of year.

Weather in December

At the beginning of winter it is pretty warm here by our standards – something like +9 … +11 °. To feel the comfort of this temperature you can’t afford the cold streams of air coming from the sea. A clear day can turn into a cloudy one pretty fast. Sometimes the cloudy weather lasts for several days. Clouds don’t just cover the sun, but sometimes bring drizzle. The air at this time is especially humid.

January Weather

In January in Istanbul is colder than in December. During the day the air gets warm to only +4 … +6 °. At night the temperature drops and can go below zero. For the second winter month it rains a lot. Snow falls much less often and melts almost immediately. The maximum time it stays on city streets is two days. As in the previous month, in January, the weather is influenced by strong sea winds. The humidity in the air is high.

A typical January day

Weather in February

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

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What clothes to wear

Since the climate is so changeable, how do you know what clothes are the best to wear to admire the beauties of Istanbul in winter? First, take some warm clothes with you. They will definitely come in handy. A jacket or windbreaker will be very useful. Take a lightweight down jacket too. Bring sweaters, blouses and scarves. If it gets cold during the walk, you can always insulate yourself. Do not forget the reverse situation, when the sun looks out, and the air begins to warm up. You’re sure to take off excess clothing, so choose closet pieces that are easy to throw off and easy to carry around. But it definitely shouldn’t be shorts or light skirts. Save them until the summer.

On a warm day you can get by with a T-shirt

The best option – jeans and a sweatshirt. As for shoes, give preference to running shoes or boots without a heel. This way your feet will not get tired during long walks. Gloves are not a bad idea, either. Considering that Istanbul can be sunny during the winter, sunglasses are a good idea. Take an umbrella to protect you from the rain. The old local merchants can help you if you have no desire to lug an umbrella around the city. At the right time they can buy umbrellas at affordable prices.

Perhaps you plan to visit some fancy local restaurant. For such an occasion, put an evening gown in your luggage. One is enough.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Istanbul

It will come as a surprise to many that at the end of December, the streets of Istanbul have the same atmosphere as in European cities. Although the Turks are predominantly Muslim and therefore don’t celebrate Christmas, they love celebrating New Year’s Eve. A couple of weeks before Christmas they decorate the Christmas trees and the brightly colored lights appear in the stores. But it is impossible to say that Christmas passes unnoticed here.

Holiday fireworks

During the winter holidays there are a lot of Christian tourists in Istanbul. They enjoy spending time in the city. Some take a boat ride on the Bosphorus on Christmas night. A holiday cruise with dinner and a special show is one of the favorite options for visitors to Istanbul. You can also celebrate Christmas in local restaurants as well as nightclubs. The organizers prepare a special entertainment program for visitors. If you want a more spiritual atmosphere, there are Catholic churches in the city where Christmas services are held. For example, the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, or the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Christmas fairs familiar to Europeans are also held here. One of them is organized at the beginning of winter in the German Lyceum, which is located in the Beyoglu district. Visitors can find festive decorations, sweets, souvenirs and various handicrafts made by German craftsmen on the stalls.

New Year decorations on the streets of Istanbul

Interestingly, the Russian-speaking diaspora in the city holds two fairs on the eve of the holidays: in the Beylikdüzü and Maltepe districts. Here you can also buy souvenirs, Christmas toys and sweets. Russian products are also presented. Guests of the fair are given the opportunity to taste traditional Russian delicacies: blinis, caviar, dumplings, etc.

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About two weeks before New Year’s Eve, the Winter Bazaar begins at the Ferie Palace. The traditional set of goods here: souvenirs, gifts, festive decorations. Note that among other things there are creative master classes and other activities.

Every year on the eve of winter holidays the International winter women’s festival takes place in Istanbul. We can not tell you the exact location of it, because it periodically changes. You will need to check this information for yourself. At this event, held since early December, you can buy local souvenirs as well as gift products from other countries. The festival usually has an area for children who can meet Santa Claus himself there.

What to see

Naturally, in winter you do not go to Istanbul to sunbathe and not to dip in the waters of the Bosphorus. At this time of year people come here for hiking and sightseeing. The presence of historical monuments is not affected by weather conditions. On the contrary, all the key tourist attraction points become more accessible. There are not as many people as in the summer and the city appears more peaceful and cozy. Some come here from December to February for shopping, some go on a gastronomic tour. All these options for leisure in winter are especially good.

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

We’ll share a couple of itinerary suggestions with you. If it’s a sunny day, head to Beyoglu on the European side of Istanbul. Walk from Taksim Square down to the Galata Tower. Then you can go down to the seaside neighborhood of Karaköy or to Cihangir, which has a spectacular view of the Bosphorus. You can take a ferry to the Asian side of the city. If the weather is calm, it is worth extending the boat ride to the Prince’s Islands.

Galata Tower in February

If the day is overcast, rainy and windy, you’ll still have plenty to do and see. We suggest an itinerary for this weather that includes visits to sites that can be explored from the inside. The Archaeological Museum, Grand Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, and Topkapi Palace are among them. You will spend at least two hours in each of these places. Conveniently, some of these sights are a short distance from each other.

But on a snowy day you should not hide under the roof. It is better to warm up and take a walk. Snowy Istanbul is beautiful. You can immerse yourself in the fabulous winter atmosphere and take lots of spectacular pictures.

Popular attractions

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

– Naturally, it is worth to see the Hagia Sophia Mosque . Its appearance is familiar even to those who have never been in Istanbul. This is the main religious site of the city. Originally this building was an Orthodox temple, and then in the course of its history, it changed its status several times. First, the cathedral was turned into a mosque, then a museum was organized here. And not so long ago, it obtained the status of a mosque again.

Fountains at Hagia Sophia Mosque open on sunny days

– The indispensable object of any tourist route is the Galata Tower. It was built in early 6th century. In addition to its historical value the Galata Tower attracts visitors to the city and an excellent viewing platform. The views from it are spectacular.

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– Be sure to check out the local shopping areas: the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar.

Egyptian Market with a huge range of souvenirs

Not even for shopping, although you can also buy souvenirs there, but first of all to immerse yourself in the historical atmosphere. Trade in these places went back to Ottoman times. Grand Bazaar, or Kapaly Charshi, is practically a small town consisting of six dozen covered streets. Here you will be offered a fragrant local coffee or relax with a hookah.

– Almost all tourists go for a walk along Istiklal Street. There is a concentration of cafes and restaurants. Many people come here for the local stores. Some prefer to walk along the street on a vintage streetcar.

İstiklal Street in the snow

– The Blue Mosque is also worth a visit that will be remembered for a long time. The interiors of amazing beauty impress any visitor and leave an indelible imprint in your memory.

No matter the weather, the Blue Mosque is crowded with tourists.

– Another historical site with stunning interiors is Topkapi Palace . It was built in the late 15th century and is rightly considered a masterpiece of architecture. You can hardly study all the details of the palace decorations. There are so many of them that you will have to spare a whole day for the excursion. Speaking of excursions, you can visit them only if you adhere to the dress code. No open clothes are allowed.

Topkapi Palace interior

– In terms of architectural beauty the Dolmabahce Palace can compete with the aforementioned Palace. Here you do not have to stand in long lines. You can stroll through the marvelous garden with peacocks, peek into the harem, and enjoy the views of the Bosphorus from the garden square. The palace also has a special feature. Here you can find the unique crystal chandelier which is the second largest in the world.

Dolmabahce Palace - View from the Water

– Theodosia Cistern, Basilica Cistern, and Nakkash Cistern. They are called Byzantine cisterns – and they are ancient historical water reservoirs. In those years they were used for the city’s water supply. They are well preserved and one of them (Cisterna Basilica) holds water even now.

– Kyz Kulesi or Maiden’s Tower. There are several legends related to the origin of the name of the tower, and any local resident can tell you them. The building is situated on a rock in the waters of the Bosphorus. These days it has a restaurant where families with children as well as couples in love come to visit. The live Turkish music playing in the evenings creates a special atmosphere on this island. The tower is also visible from the shore. A good place for this view is Yuskudar promenade.

Maiden Tower on the background of the winter Bosphorus

– If you like the works of craftsmen, you should visit the Carpet Museum. It is located in Sultanahmet Square and has a collection of about 2500 carpets woven from the 13th-14th centuries until the 20th century.

Winter Shopping

There are fewer tourists in the city in winter and therefore local vendors lower their prices considerably. It would be strange not to take advantage of such great discounts.

Winter is the best time to shop in Turkey.

And don’t forget about New Year’s sales, which are organized by stores and shopping centers. Go to Istiklal Street for souvenirs and sweets, visit the Grand Bazaar for pottery and jewelry, or go to the Egyptian Bazaar for spices. All the outlets will offer you tempting prices.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Finding a hotel in Istanbul is not a problem. It may be difficult to choose, because there are many hotels here. It is preferable to stay in areas closer to the attractions. Yes, hotels on the outskirts will cost less, but to get to the main tourist spots of the city will take quite a long time. You’ll save money, but you’ll spend more time. This means that the sightseeing program and walks will have to shorten. The most popular among tourists hotels in Fatih and Beyoglu districts, which are located in the European part of Istanbul.

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When choosing a place to stay take into account 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 light sleeper, pay attention to the location of mosques in the area. There are calls to prayer from them in the morning. Also note that in some places the street life does not subside until deep into the night, which can also make you uncomfortable. Some of the neighborhoods are gradient and if you are not ready to go uphill, you should choose a hotel elsewhere in the city.

Is it worth to go to Istanbul in winter

Istanbul in winter

Is it worth to go to Istanbul in winter? What is the weather like in each of the winter months and how best to dress? What can I do and see on holiday?

All travelers agree that the weather in Istanbul in winter is very changeable and we confirm it: do not trust the long-term forecasts, the maximum you can hope for is a 1 or 2 day forecast. There is no winter as we know it here, the snowfall is small and short-lived. Mostly blows a cold wind, damp, frequent precipitation. The average temperature in Istanbul in winter ranges from +3 ° C to +9 ° C, and there are days when it can fall below 0 ° C.

Where to look for cheap tickets? The best way to do this is with the Aviasales and Skyscanner search engines. To find the best price, check with both and see tickets for different dates. Read also the instructions on how to search for cheap airline tickets correctly.


What’s the weather like in Istanbul in winter


In December, Istanbul’s weather is more like that in the middle and end of October in the middle zone of Russia: it drizzles rain and blows a sharp wind. The daytime temperature is around +8. +10°C during the day, but a cold wind blows from the sea. Rainy days prevail, the sun rarely shines. The weather can change several times during the day. Despite the weather, Istanbul is a popular place for New Year celebrations.


The winter weather in Istanbul is inclement and January is no exception: 18 rainy days, it can snow. The average daytime temperature is +6. +8 ° C, high humidity and cold winds do not allow tourists to walk outside for long hours.

If you are planning to visit in winter not only Istanbul, it is recommended to read our article about the weather in Turkey in winter, which includes other cities of the country.

Istanbul in winter

Istanbul on a cloudy winter day.


As we have already written above the weather in Istanbul in winter is really changeable and reminds us a lot of St. Petersburg: the sun was shining the first time and in five minutes there were clouds and wet snow. In different parts of the city the weather can vary dramatically.

We went to Istanbul in February, and before the trip we were glad that the forecast promised sunshine and a comfortable +15°C, with no precipitation. However not: on the second day the weather changed a lot, and most of the time we were very cold. The temperature during the day was +1. +5°C, at night about 0°C. Often (sometimes for the whole day) it was drizzling with unpleasant rain, wet snow and hail, and a piercing sea wind was blowing. Throughout the city we had to run for cover. By comparison, in Moscow it was -2°C and snowing when we arrived back, but it felt much warmer than in Istanbul, as there was no icy wind.

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At the same time, according to tourist reviews, some people were very lucky with the weather in Istanbul in February. They write that the sun was shining, it was so warm that you could sunbathe, everything was in bloom. Well, one can envy the lucky ones. We found the city gloomy, cold and dreary, only three days out of ten were sunny (but warm they still could not be called because of the wind).

Istanbul in winter

What to see and do in Istanbul in winter

The advantages of a holiday in Istanbul in winter:

  • The opportunity to walk around the city without the crowds of tourists and see the sights without queues.
  • The opportunity to do shopping while there are sales.
  • Prices for airline tickets and hotel accommodation straight out of the box!

The disadvantages of vacationing in Istanbul in winter:

  • Many museums are under reconstruction in winter, in the parks in general it is better not to look. We walked around Yoldiz and Gulhane parks, they look deplorable at this time, especially the first one.
  • The museums close early, at 17:00.
  • In general, if you are not very lucky with the weather in Istanbul in winter, it is uncomfortable to walk around the city. But you can make a full gastronomic tour, basking in attractive pastry shops and coffee shops!

What to see in Istanbul in winter, where to go? The same as at any other time of year: museums and monuments, temples and mosques, bazaars and facades of old houses. There are boat trips on the Bosphorus, weather permitting, and a visit to a hammam. Read our detailed guide “What to see in Istanbul” – with tips, detailed museum plans and current ticket prices.

Winter Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Photo:

Our tips

How to dress in winter. Even if the forecast promises great weather in Istanbul, it is better to be reinsured and have an umbrella, warm jacket, windproof jacket, scarf, hat, gloves and warm waterproof shoes. Turks in winter dress in the autumn style: coat or jacket, scarf and hat, boots.

Speaking of shoes: high heels and stilettos will be completely inappropriate here, because the streets are paved. If you plan to walk a lot in the city, wear comfortable shoes that do not chafe blisters.

Do not rely on the fact that the temples, palaces and museums will be warm, you can freeze there even more. Some are kept at a certain temperature, while others simply do not have heating, such as the Dervish Museum.

Choose a hotel with heating or air conditioning. Check out our selection of good cheap hotels in central Istanbul with heating. Search for the best hotels with discounts on – the site compares prices from a variety of booking systems and finds the best one.

It is also better to have a first aid kit with cold medicine in case of bad weather.

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