Istanbul is one of the oldest and most unique cities in the world. Bordering Asia and Europe, the city stands with a foot in the East and West. This city of many names is the only country that was once the capital to three empires.
With the influence of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, Istanbul is colored with multicultural architecture and history. Now a predominantly Muslim society, Istanbul’s long legacy reflects in its food, art, and way of life.
But when is the best time to visit Turkey’s largest city? Have you considered important Islamic holidays before planning your trip? Did you know Istanbul is often very crowded during the peak season? All of these factors can make planning your trip overwhelming. Continue reading to find out the perfect time to travel to Istanbul.
If you’re interested in visiting another ancient city, why not visit Rome as part of your trip?
Best Time to Go to Istanbul | Seasons
While there are peak, shoulder, and off seasons for Istanbul, you might not be interested in what’s considered the most ‘popular’ season. You could be interested in each season’s different weather, prices, and experiences.
Istanbul has an interesting climate described as both temperate and transitional. Depending on where you are in the city, you can experience Mediterranean or oceanic weather.
However, there is some debate over the exact climate of the region. Overall, you can expect warm to hot summers with humidity during the hottest months and cold, rainy winters with snowfall occasionally.
This section breaks down the seasons and some of their highlights to help you decide which month is the best month to visit Istanbul. Just remember, choosing the best months to visit Istanbul is entirely up to you.
Spring in Istanbul
Spring is from March to May, and the temperature differs slightly each month. The weather is still chilly in March, with strong winds and some rain.
During this season, you can expect temperate weather to accompany the city’s beautiful sights. Which is great because prices during this time are moderate. This is because it’s a shoulder season (Spring and Fall) and still attracts many visitors seeking low prices.
The average temperature for this time is highs of 52°F (11°C) and lows of 41°F (5°C). March is a great time to visit sights like the Galata Tower watch tower as there are fewer crowds.
April warms up enough for the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival held in Emirgan Park. The average temperatures for April are a high of 61°F (16°C) and a low of 46°F (8°C). May ends spring with the highest temperatures of the season, an average high of 68°F (20°C) and a low of 54°F (12°C).
May’s main events include the International Theatre Festival and the Conquest Celebrations festival. Conquest Celebrations commemorates the capture of Constantinople and features a laser show on the Golden Horn.
Summer in Istanbul
Summer is the peak season and spans from June to August. It is the perfect time to sail the Bosphorus Strait. The weather is hot and humid during these months, and rainfall is likely depending on the humidity.
June has an average high and low of 79°F and 63°F (26°C and 17°C). While July and August both average highs and lows of 82°F and 66°F (28°C and 19°C).
There is plenty to do during summer, from outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, and sightseeing. There are also festivals like the International Jazz Festival in June and the Istanbul Shopping Festival in July.
Remember, this time of year has the highest prices for flights, accommodation, and tourist attractions.
Tip: Wear lightweight clothes, pack sunscreen, a hat, and your bathing suit during summer. To avoid the worst of the heat, you may find yourself at the beach or sipping cold drinks at taverns too.
Fall in Istanbul
Fall is one of the best times to visit Istanbul for tourist attractions. This shoulder season is cheaper than summer, and the temperature is perfect for indoor and outdoor activities. Even though the city is slowing down, it’s still bustling with tourists from September to November.
The average temperature for September is a high of 77°F (25°C) and a low of 61°F (16°C). The temperate weather at this time makes outdoor activities more comfortable. Some outdoor activities include sights like Topkapi Palace and the Chill Out Festival. The Chill Out Festival is known for its day-long dance party in the middle of September.
October sees colder temperatures and increased rain, with an average high of 66°F (19°C) and a low of 54°F (12°C). There are two notable public holidays during this season — Republic Day Eve and Republic Day. They are celebrated with fireworks, processions, and dance and music performances at this time.
November is the last semi-warm month of the year before winter starts. You can expect average highs and lows to sit at 57°F (14°C) and 48°F (9°C). The weather is certainly a lot rainier and colder at this point in the year.
To stay warm, you can enjoy the taverns, drink Turkish teas and coffees, and explore indoor activities. The Spice Bazaar and Kucuksu Palace are also wonderful daytime activities.
Winter in Istanbul
Winter is the off-season in Istanbul and is very cold and rainy. One of the best activities to fight the cold is to partake in the Turkish bath or Hammam ritual. An attendant massages, scrubs, and guides you through the bathhouse as you warm up in the steamy rooms.
From December to February, temperatures drop to highs of 50°F to 46°F (10°C to 8°C) and lows of 39°F to 37°f (6°C to 3°C). Snow becomes more likely at this time, and prices are the cheapest. You can join in on Christmas and New Year’s festivities and watch the fireworks by the Bosphorus waterfront.
February is a great time to participate in the Istanbul Social Dance Festival. Winter is also a fantastic time to see the rest of the museums and architecture in the city.
Best Time to Travel to Istanbul | Key Activities
With so much to do in Istanbul, you may not know exactly where you want to visit while you’re there. Some events are affected by weather or occur at particular times of the year. Sometimes you need a specific activity to help you plan the rest of your trip.
If you’re traveling to Istanbul solely for activities, you may want to know about some open year-round. The two key activities you can’t miss when visiting Istanbul are the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar.
Note: When planning your trip, remember the two biggest Muslim holidays, Ramadan and Eid Al Adha. These holidays are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and shift about ten days each year. These holidays may affect tourism as locals celebrate, fast, or travel during these times.
The Blue Mosque is a marvel of classical architecture built to rival the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia has a long history and started as a Christian church before becoming an Islamic mosque today. To show Ottoman imperial strength Sultan Ahmet I ordered the Blue Mosque to be built.
So, why visit this mosque when there are thousands in Istanbul? Well, the Blue Mosque is worth visiting for several reasons. The thousands of intricate tiles covering the mosque’s interior are just one of them.
These Iznik tiles feature tulips, roses, carnations, and lily designs, often featuring the color blue, hence, the name. The sheer beauty of the tiles could be a reason to visit alone.
Not only can you see the gorgeous art on the walls, but the sheer size of the mosque and its surroundings will keep you busy for hours.
Nearby attractions include Sultanahmet Square, where you can easily access Hagia Sophia and the Arasta Bazaar. There are also several relics, like the German Fountain and the Serpent Column.
Tip: If you want to visit a place with as much religious and historical intrigue, check out the Vatican City, home to The Pope.
The Grand Bazaar is like nothing you’ve ever imagined. It is the largest covered market, with over 4000 shops open daily. Sultan Mehmed II opened the bazaar to create economic growth in the 15th century. Today the bazaar amasses crowds well into the hundreds of thousands and spans over 60 streets within the district of Faith.
You can spend the whole day searching for goods at the bazaar; from edibles to pashminas, almost everything is available. The trading hours are between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm, so you have plenty of time to explore all the bazaar offers.
Some recommended items worth buying at the bazaar include carpets and kilims, some of Turkey’s most famous traditional, handmade items. You will also find lamps, lanterns, ceramics, and Turkish metalware with intricate designs.
Top Tip: If you go to the Grand Bazaar, you’ll have to haggle down your prices with every vendor you meet.
Best Time of Year to Visit Istanbul | Final Thoughts
Istanbul is an exciting destination, no matter the time of the year. With so much to do in each season, it’s unlikely you’ll have nothing to do. Any time of the year can be a perfect time to visit Istanbul.
Affordability and the main activities you’re interested in should be the main focus when planning your trip if the weather isn’t an issue. Go forth and fall in love with Istanbul.