Istanbul is beautiful all year round but many of the most popular attractions are seen to their best at different times of the year. You should make a list of places to visit according to when you’re planning to come. This list can be developed according to how many days you will be staying.
Summer in Istanbul
Istanbul, with its bright sea and cheerful seagulls brings you all the beauties of summer. You can throw bagels to the seagulls from the ferry, eat fish bread by the sea and visit the beaches for a swim. Or you can visit the historical buildings and streets of Istanbul, which is literally an open-air museum.
Which Districts Should You Visit in Summer?
The ambiance of a Taksim summer is not to be missed. Entertainment continues on Istiklal Street night and day. You can take a tram from the square to the Tünel. If you get off at the last stop of the tram you can enjoy a stroll back to the square. In the meantime, you can see Galatasaray High School, churches and historical passages while listening to street music.
Besiktaş pier; the Naval Museum; the energy of the Çarşı (fan group of Beşiktaş Football Team; each one is an individual reason to visit Besiktaş. You should go to Beşiktaş especially when there is a football match. It’s impossible not to enjoy walking to the stadium surrounded by the Çarşı. In the restaurants within the bazaar, you’ll find lots of great fish to eat.
One of the oldest districts of Istanbul where people from many different cultures live together. There is an always-open bazaar where you can enjoy shopping in the streets which will remind you of Christmas bazaars. You’ll feel the unique atmosphere of Ortaköy as you sit in cafes and bars and enjoy a drink. Once the sun sets you’ll be mesmerised by the sea as it’s lit up by the lights of Bosphorus.
Kuzguncuk is a quiet, and peaceful residential district of Istanbul. You’ll feel like you’re in another time as you wander the streets of the district where many series’ and movies are shot. It’s highly recommended to eat fish and drink rakı at İsmet Baba, or you can enjoy the ambiance of Kuzguncuk while sipping tea at Çınaraltı on the beach.
Balat is famous for its streets and its cats. The streets are full of antique stores where you’ll find all sorts of delightful treasures – maybe even an old lamp to take you back to your childhood. The Fener Greek Patriarchate, the Red School and the Church of Stefan are among the most important places to visit in Balat which is filled with historical buildings. Don’t forget your camera!
You should come to Kadıköy by ferry from Beşiktaş. We recommend you start your tour at Haydarpaşa Railway Station where you’ll see and feel the serenity of the acoustics in this historic building. When you enter the Kadıköy bazaar from the beach you’ll be greeted by a vast choice of restaurants to eat at. In Bahariye, you’ll see Süreyya Opera House as you walk towards Moda. Don’t forget to visit this historical building. Then you can enjoy a stroll up to Moda, down the stairs to the Moda Tea Garden and back to Kadıköy via the beach. For a moonlit romantic evening, you can use the city lines ferry from Moda to Anadolu Kavağı.
Üsküdar, one of the oldest districts of Istanbul, has many mosques, palaces, and groves. Fethi Pasha Grove is a particularly nice grove to visit. You can finish your walk-in Fethi Pasha Grove by visiting the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque and the Beylerbeyi Palace. After soaking up the history why not head to Salacak, go to the beach and watch the Maiden Tower at sunset while sipping tea. Don’t forget to read the story of the Maiden Tower before you go.
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Which Places to Visit in Summer?
The open-air museum, which is composed of miniatures of historical buildings, is one of the best places to visit in summer. The museum is built on 60 thousand square meters, and a visit here might help you decide which of the buildings in Istanbul you want to see for real.
2. Atatürk Arboretum
The arboretum is located on an area of 345 hectares and has more than 1500 plants. It’s a great place to see different species of plants, take photos and enjoy romantic moments by the lake.
3. Emirgan Grove
If you come to Istanbul in late April, you’ll see tulips everywhere as the city hosts the tulip festival. Emirgan Grove takes part in the festival and you can wander through the grove to see gardens adorned with tulips, and squirrels running free. There are also historical mansions and places to eat.
4. Yıldız Park
It’s said in mythology that the Pan has played the flute among the greenery of this park. You can wander and have a picnic in Yıldız Park, which is the largest park in the city with its bay forests.
5. Fatih Kadınlar Bazaar – Bozdoğan Arch
In Fatih, the Valens arches connect two hills. You can take a walk near this historical building to reach the Kadınlar Bazaar, where you can enjoy büryan kebab and have a dark tea at the bottom of the arch.
6. Polonezköy Cherry Feast
If you come to Istanbul in June, you should definitely visit the Cherry Feast in Polonezköy. This feast has established a cultural tie between Turkey and Poland. After seeing Beykoz and Beykoz forest, why not immerse yourself in a local tradition and taste delicious cherries while watching performances by Polish and Turkish artists?
Islands of Istanbul to Visit in Summer
Would you like to experience the peaceful silence of the coastal towns in the city? You should visit the island set, also known as the Prince Islands. If you come to Istanbul in spring the islands will be decorated with mimosa flowers.
Buyukada, which you’ll reach by ferry, is the largest of the island set. Motor vehicles are prohibited on the island but you can tour it by bicycle, or just head to the beach.
There are many things to do in Burgazada. You can rent a bicycle and go to Kalpazankaya, where you can eat and swim or visit the museum house of Sait Faik, one of Turkey’s most important writers. As you stroll through the streets of the island, the scent of flowers and the sea will transport you to a whole new world.
There are not many trees in Kınalıada which is unique among the beaches of Istanbul. Since the geographic structure of the island is predominantly stone, the walls, docks, and harbours have been built with stones obtained from the island since the days of the Byzantine Empire.
When you set foot on this island, go to the Papatya Tea Garden and have a glass of tea. But be careful, you may find you don’t want to leave the tea garden with its magnificent view. Although you might be tempted to leave just to try an ice cream from the Roman ice cream shop next door. You can explore the whole island on foot and there’s a hiking path in the pine forests for a stunning and unforgettable walk.
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Winter in Istanbul
Istanbul has clammy weather in winter. If you’re visiting the city in winter, we recommend that you bring coats which are not too thick but protect you from rain showers. In winter, Istanbul’s views are quite different, so it’s worth going to the places mentioned above in winter for another perspective. But if you prefer more indoor places, the palace, cistern, and museums below are just a few of the places you can visit.
Which Places to Visit in Winter?
1. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is one of the important symbols of Istanbul. You can see the head of Medusa in the cistern, which featured in Dan Brown’s book, Hell. The cistern, which is close to Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia Museum can be visited in summer and winter.
2. Topkapı Palace
It’s impossible not to feel the glory of the Ottoman Empire in this charming palace. Topkapı, one of the most important palaces in Istanbul, was built in 1478 by Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror. You should see the gardens, courtyards, rooms, and treasure. It was opened to the public and turned into a museum by order of the founder of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1924.
3. Hagia Sophia
Built as a church by the Justinyanis in the 6th century, it took just 5 years to construct and was later turned into a museum. The atmosphere inside the building will take you on a mystical journey.
Hagia Sophia became a mosque again in 2020 with the Presidential decree. On 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again after 86 years. Visitors wish to see the Hagia Sophia can enter without an entrance fee from now on. Please keep in mind that there are five prayer times for a day, you might want to visit the Hagia Sophia besides these times. Don’t forget that know it’s a mosque again women and men have to wear according to Islamic rules. For men and women, legs and arms need to be covered, no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight fitting. And women have to cover their heads.
Related post: Hagia Sophia: Cathedral or Mosque?
4. Spice Bazaar
Spice-sellers… Magical shops that warm the hearts of people in the clammy weather of Istanbul. The Turkish delights are unique here and there spices from all over the world. Don’t be surprised by the sincerity of people when walking around here. Everyone is hospitable.
5. Yıldız Palace
Many civilizations have passed through this land and have left us various structures as their legacy. Yıldız Palace is one of these important buildings. Yıldız Palace, the Sultan of the Bosphorus, was built for Selim’s mother Mihrişah Sultan.
6. Dolmabahçe Palace
This palace, where the Republic of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk passed away, has an air of sadness for the people of Turkey which is not found at other palaces. Located on the shores of the Bosphorus, it’s a dazzling feat of architecture and is a must-see historical building.
7. Panorama 1453 History Museum
The museum in Topkapı is one of the places that must be visited by all history lovers. You can see how the conquest of Istanbul took place with a 360-degree panoramic view. One of the most interesting parts of this museum is that every time you go, you’ll encounter another detail that you have not seen before.
8. Istanbul Toy Museum
The toy museum in Erenköy, on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, has more than 4,000 toys. In the museum, where various workshops take place, you’re bound to find some of your own childhood memories.
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Born and raised Istanbulite. Keeping an eye on the opportunity to explore this ancient city even more. Trying to do the best for nature.