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The Ultimate Guide to Winter in Istanbul 2023: What You Need to Know

Diamond Painting Artist, Bocconi graduate, cat lover, passionate about learning. Travelled a lot, but found my forever home - Antalya.

If there’s a city that knows how to handle winter, it’s Istanbul. With temperatures regularly dipping below 0 and snowfall commonplace, the city continues its hectic life during December, January and February.

The frosty season is also a magical time in the city; from shimmering lights illuminating famous landmarks to snow-dusted cobbled streets and snowy trails for sledging and skiing in the city’s parks. There are plenty of reasons why you should visit Istanbul in winter. In this Ultimate Guide to Winter in Istanbul 2022, you will find all the information you’ll need.

What are the ski brands in Istanbul? Where are the best ski resorts in Turkiye? All questions are answered about the winter season in Turkiye. Stay tuned!

1. Travelling in Istanbul during winter

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Winter is the best time to visit Istanbul for many reasons:

Weather – Colder weather and fewer tourists than in summer make for the best conditions for exploring Istanbul and enjoying Turkish tea.

Festivals – Istanbul is home to a variety of winter festivals, art festivals and more.

Shopping – You’ll get to shop for Christmas gifts at lower prices than in many other cities. Shopping in Istanbul is a real experience you should taste.

Cuisine – Warm and appetizing Turkish cuisine is best appreciated during the cold season. Traditional Turkish restaurants will help you out!

Prices – Hotels in Istanbul are significantly cheaper in winter.

Taking into account all the things listed above, winter is the best time to visit the city.

2. Top 6 things to do in Istanbul in winter

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These top 6 things to do during winter in Istanbul will help you make the most of your visit to the city:

Christmas MarketsChristmas Market Istanbul is a must to visit. Since Christmas is not celebrated in Turkiye, you can check the activities such as Christmas Market Istanbul specifically taking place in December.

Visiting Hagia Sophia – One of the most famous buildings in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia was built in the 13th century and is now a museum. This architectural marvel is lit in gold during winter and is a sight to behold.

Dolmabahçe Palace – An ornate 19th-century palace built by a sultan, one of the most beautiful palaces in Istanbul, the Dolmabahçe Palace is worth a visit any time of the year. However, it’s particularly beautiful during winter, with its stunning architecture, lush gardens and warm fireplace.

What’s More?

Bosphorus Cruise – Winter is the best time to take a cruise along the Bosphorus. The cruise routes are making it easier to spot the city’s famous landmarks. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a snow-dusted Istanbul.

Orient Express Train – Well, this activity is more about what to do in winter in Türkiye. But is definitely worth being included in this list. The Orient Express Train departs from the Sirkeci Train Station, which is within walking distance from Sultanahmet Square. With just six passenger cars and a dining car, the Orient Express is one of the world’s most luxurious and beautiful train rides.

Dogu Ekspresi (Eastern Express Train) – Dogu Ekspresi is a long-distance passenger train. It travels between Istanbul and Kars, stopping in numerous locations along the way. The route takes in some of Turkiye’s most attractive and historic areas, including the eastern Anatolian plateau, the Black Sea region, and the country’s east. With a variety of seating options and onboard amenities, the train provides comfortable and convenient travel for both tourists and locals. You can check the tickets here.

3. Sightseeing tips for travelling in Istanbul during winter

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Here are some tips that will help you enjoy Istanbul during the winter season:

Dress warmly – It is important to dress warmly when you are travelling during winter in Türkiye Istanbul as you may need an extra layer as the temperatures in Istanbul can easily drop below freezing. You can expect temperatures to fluctuate between -1 and -8 degrees Celsius, so it is always best to be prepared.

Stay at a centrally located hotel – When in Istanbul, it is highly recommended to stay at a centrally located hotel in Istanbul. Being close to the main attractions, shopping areas, and restaurants will help to make your trip much more enjoyable.

Go skiing – If you visit Istanbul with your family during winter, you can also go skiing at one of the ski resorts nearby. Check out our blog including best ski resorts in Turkiye and ski equipment brands in Istanbul to see how you can spend great time in winter!

4. Must-try foods and drinks while travelling in Istanbul in Winter

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Turkish CoffeeTurkish coffee in Istanbul is a traditional way to drink Turkish coffee that you must try when visiting the city during winter.

BaklavaBaklava in Istanbul is a rich, sweet dessert made with layers of filo pastry, chopped nuts and sugar – is a local experience! It is a popular Turkish sweet and is best consumed when served warm.

Çay – Çay is a traditional Turkish drink made with black tea leaves and water. It is best served at room temperature or warm.

Salep – A traditional Turkish warming drink made of Orchis tubers flour.

5. Is it worth visiting Istanbul in December?

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December is one of the best months to visit Istanbul. The weather during this month is between 5-10 degrees Celsius, with occasional rain and snow. While the weather during this month is pretty cold, it is manageable if you’re dressed accordingly.

And the city is significantly quieter and cheaper than at other times of the year since there are not as many tourists visiting this magnificent city compared to different seasons.

6. Is it worth visiting Türkiye in winter?

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If you want to visit Türkiye, specifically Istanbul in winter, you will find that the weather is generally milder than in other countries in the region. However, it is important to note that Istanbul is notorious for its quick weather changes, so it could go from mild to freezing in a matter of minutes.

While the weather may not be as extreme as in other parts of the world, it is still important to be prepared with the necessary winter gear. And be prepared for Istanbul’s winds, there are in the city throughout the year.

7. What clothes to pack for the Istanbul winter trip?

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To ensure you are well prepared for winter’s cold and windy weather in Istanbul, it is important to take warm clothes with you. You can either dress in layers or wear winter jackets and some accessories such as scarves, hats and gloves.

When visiting Istanbul in winter, you must be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions. You may experience extreme cold one day and mild rain the next. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella with you! It is important to dress appropriately to protect yourself from the elements throughout your trip.

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