Istanbul in Winter
Istanbul in Winter
Winter in Istanbul lasts from mid-December to mid-March, with temperatures barely above 10 degrees Celsius. And when the weather is sunny, the sky is usually gray. This does not mean that life comes to a halt; rather, it is ordered in a different way. The central districts, such as Nişantaşı and Beyoglu, become more crowded, while the Bosphorus coasts become quieter. It is a fun time to visit Istanbul since there are almost no visitors, allowing you to peacefully explore all of the city's monuments and museums. In the winter, visiting Istanbul takes on a new identity, one that is real and enigmatic. Over the winter, it typically snows for around a fortnight, which would please photographers!
Get a Tram Ride
A trip to Istanbul is not complete without taking a historic tram ride down Istiklal Street. The tram service began in the nineteenth century and was phased out as buses took its place. In 1990, it was reopened as a mode of transportation between Taksim and Tünel Squares. The ride in these vintage trams is slow and short, but it's a perfect way to take in the sights of Istanbul's snow-covered streets in the winter. It just makes a few stops along the way, the most notable of which is at Galatasaray Square, where it meets up with the other tram.
Eat Fish and Drink Raki
The fishing season starts again at the end of September, and this is where you can find the greatest range and quality of fish. The restaurants we recommend are listed in the article The Best Fish and Mezze Restaurants.
Among the seasonal fish, we suggest the lüfer, a Bosphorus fish, and the kalkan, which, considering its unappealing look, is extremely succulent. If you want to stay warm in the winter, try pairing your meal with some rakı. Rakı, an aniseed alcohol similar to pastis, is the official alcoholic beverage. For the record, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish republic, adored it. He also arranged "rakı sofrası," dinners with his advisors and relatives at which they discussed whether or not to drink raki. In fish restaurants, it's very popular to order some. This is known as "raki balik." Travel Istanbul to eat the best grilled fish!
Intend to go skiing if you visit Istanbul in the winter. Uludag National Park is just a two-hour ferry ride from Istanbul, but it can transport you to a very different country. Ride the world's longest cable car high into the sky and you'll find yourself in a winter wonderland.
If you don't want to snow, the park also offers camping, sledding, tubing, and other activities. I went skiing in Bursa for two days and one night and wrote a guide so you can do the same – don't visit Turkey in the winter without having it on your itinerary!
Enjoy Festive New Year Celebrations
Though Christmas in Istanbul isn't particularly festive, it's not uncommon to see shops decked out in decorations. Yet it is the New Year that the city is most excited to commemorate. About the end of December, you'll see a lot of festive preparations taking place in the area. The Bosporus strait is the perfect way to celebrate New Year's Eve and see the dazzling fireworks show that lights up the city at night. You can also take a sunset cruise and watch the fireworks from the ships while eating delicious meals. Make it a romantic night by spending it with your special person!
One of the advantages of visiting Istanbul in December is the abundance of tour offers.
What to Wear in Istanbul in Winter
As previously said, be prepared for cold and rainy weather. Cold sweaters and pants, a knit dress with leggings, and a decent winter coat are recommended for women. I adore smartwool base coats, and they're the best way to stay warm in Istanbul during the winter. Pants and sweaters are also recommended for men. Wear a warm hat, scarf, gloves, boots, and heavy socks. If you forget anything, don't worry; Istanbul has fantastic shopping (particularly bargain shopping), and you'll be able to get everything you need while you're there. During your Istanbul sightseeing, do not forget to wear tight!