When is the Best Time to Visit Istanbul?
When the best time to visit Istanbul, all depends on your personal travel preferences. Istanbul, a city that commands global respect, is an all-rounder, accommodating everyone from all social classes during all 12 months of the year. Sitting in northwest Turkey, Istanbul is about much more than historical timelines as the capital ruling centre for the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Over ten years, the arts and culture, food, nightlife, fashion, entertainment, and shopping scenes have expanded in ways no Turk imagined before the year 2000. Today, Istanbul easily matches other global cities like Paris, Rome, and Milan. So tourists should expect nothing but the best because Istanbul delivers in many ways.
The Best Time to Visit Istanbul
1: To Beat the Crowds in Winter
Can tourists beat the crowds in Istanbul? After all, the population of nearly 15 million people makes the city, Turkey’s most populated and busiest. However, some people do not like long queues at tourist attractions. They do not want to pay inflated hotel prices during the high season and want good flight ticket bargains. So, in this case, winter (December, January, and February) is the best time to visit. While pedestrian traffic is still heavy, tourist arrivals are at their lowest. However, visiting in winter means dealing with cold weather. Many people, having seen Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts assume Istanbul is a hot furnace all year round. It is not. Forget about al fresco-style dining during winter. Also, expect rain and snow. Average temperatures drop to 3 degrees so wrap up warm.
2: Visiting Istanbul in Spring
Ah, we love Istanbul during Spring (March, April, and May.) The beginning of Spring can still be cold, so we time our visit as late as possible. Alfresco-style dining is out of the question until May, and even then, we wrap up warm. However, daytime temperatures during April and May are perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. This makes exploring even more fun and gives us incentive, energy, and enthusiasm to pack more into our daily schedule. After all, there is never a shortage of things to do and places to go in Istanbul. Visit Istanbul’s beautiful parks to see flowers bloom and trees regrow their leaves. Additionally, April features Istanbul’s Tulip festival. The authorities plant millions of humble but delightful flowers all over parks and green spaces, which adds a colourful kaleidoscope.
3: Summer and the Peak Season
We avoid summer. Firstly, temperatures get extremely hot, eventually peaking at around 35 degrees in August. This makes exploring uncomfortable, and even worse when navigating public transport and standing in queues at attractions. Secondly, when the Turkish school holidays happen, the city gets busy with families, and hotel and flight prices go up. If you visit in summer, take a Bosphorus cruise to elevate the heat. This is a great way to explore another part of Istanbul’s history away from the Sultanahmet district. The Bosphorus shores are home to many small villages like Arnavutkoy, which are easily reached by ferry. Also, keep an eye out for old castles, churches, and mosques. Another option is to head to beaches near the black sea Bosphorus entrance to enjoy swimming and sunbathing. Night times are ideal during summer, but this means putting up with the daytime temperatures.
4: Colours of Autumn
Autumn (September, October, November) is another favourite season of ours to explore Istanbul. At the end of September, daytime temperatures drop, but we still wear our shorts and t-shirts, and although night temperatures drop as well, with an extra layer, we still enjoy rooftop terrace drinks. When November comes around, we are back to wearing trousers during the day, but the weather is still good enough to get out. Once again, Istanbul’s parks burst into the autumn colours of red, orange, and yellow. Additionally, for accommodation, there is a lull between the end of peak season and the Christmas and New year bookings which means incredible deals.
5: How Many Days Should You Spend in Istanbul?
You could live in Istanbul and never explore the city fully because it is so big. However, if it is your first visit, and you want to see tourist highlights, three days is enough. The highlights centre around the Sultanahmet district and include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi palace and Basilica cistern. Additionally, many people on a fleeting visit to Istanbul visit the nearby Ottoman Grand Bazaar, a great place to shop for souvenirs.
6: Where to Stay in Istanbul?
First-time visitors to Istanbul should stay in the Fatih district but look at hotels close to Sultanahmet. These hotels charge more, but this is better than navigating heavy traffic, and these historical landmarks on your doorstep add nostalgic vibes to your trip. If nightlife and shopping are what you want on your city break to Istanbul, stay in Beyoglu, which includes highlights like Istiklal avenue and the famous Galata area.
- Fatih Area of Istanbul: Major historical attractions and UNESCO Sites
- Beyoglu Area of Istanbul: Shopping, nightlife, art galleries and museums
7: How to Save Money
Istanbul Tourist Passes: If you plan to visit many attractions, investigate the Istanbul Muze Card or Istanbul Tourist Pass. Both offer discounted prices for attractions. In addition, the latter Istanbul card also offers highlighted extras depending on the package like internet, What’s App guide, airport transfers and guided tours.
Istanbul Transport Card: If you plan to stay around Sultanahmet to see tourist highlights, you won’t use public transport. However, get an Istanbul transport card for sale from many ferry and metro ports to explore further afield.
Haggle Like a Turk: Most people buy souvenirs while in Istanbul but for items with hefty price tags, haggle on prices. Many foreigners are ashamed to do this because the practice is shameful in their culture, yet Turkish shopkeepers expect it, so they already put their prices up.
8: More About Istanbul
We are Turkey Homes, a real estate specialist with offices in Istanbul and other parts of the country. We have taken our extensive local knowledge of Turkey to write articles like when is the best time to visit Istanbul. We hope we have answered your question and given much more helpful information at the same time. For more information, tips, and advice, see our blog that talks more about the great city of Istanbul.