Some tourists may get confused about dress codes or how to dress in Istanbul. Thus, as an inhabitant, I would like to guide you and answer this question.
So how to dress in Istanbul as a tourist? To say directly, you don’t have to overthink about it. You can wear whatever you want but I recommend you wear comfy outfits to travel more easily. In general, the main concern is how to dress properly according to culture. Actually, there is no specific dress code in Turkey. Although Istanbul has Sunni Muslim inhabitants predominantly, the Muslim dress code is not obligatory for men or women. So, there is no need for you to worry about your dress except if you want to visit mosques or any religious sites. Then you need to dress neatly. Think like dressing for church. You should wear long sleeve tops or dresses that cover your shoulders, knees and for women don’t forget to take a scarf with you.
Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city. She congregates the cultures of Asia and Europe. That’s why you can observe the differences between people’s way of life, their mindset, culture and the way they dress from one to another. If we make a comparison, it is more likely to say some parts of the city are more conservative like Fatih, Ümraniye, Bağcılar, Esenyurt, Gülsuyu etc. So, you may prefer dressing more modest in these parts of the city. But it doesn’t mean that you need to dress according to the Muslim dress codes.
Besides, Istanbul is a big city that gets you fall in love with her immediately after seeing its enchanted structure that connects numerous people from different ethnicity, culture, religion, race, and nation. While you are walking through the streets, you can see people who dress casual or flamboyant, sporty or chic, bohemian or conservative.
The way we dress reflects our culture and interpretation of ourselves. When we are in our own country, we don’t overthink about what we wear because from our childhood we have grown up by learning codes that guide us subconsciously about social instructions like how to dress, behave and act. However, when we plan to travel to other countries, especially with very distinct cultural motives and codes, we tend to step out of our comfort zone. So, in order to show respect to that culture, act according to it or blend in easily, we make some researches on how to dress, how to act or to learn more about their cultures. That is the reason why most tourists, especially from European countries, tend to research dress codes before visiting Istanbul or any part of Turkey since her confusing yet magical social and cultural construction that ranging from Ottoman Empire to these modern times.
Some people are inclined to think that there are legal and social limitations on dress code, especially for women, in Turkey that inherited from Ottoman Empire, but unlike some Arab countries, there is no limitation or rule on dress code. The main reasons of this confusion are predominant Muslim population, cultural effects of Arab region on Turkey, and its location in the Middle East (apart from its European side) but there is no constraining situation in Turkey, unlike Arab countries. In fact, Turkey, especially Istanbul, hosts many different cultures and way of lives.
Predominant population of Muslim people gives foreigners the idea of likeness between Turkey and Arab countries. Because Muslim countries come to the front with their dress codes and strict rules for that, it makes tourists search for the proper dress code in Turkey, as well. However, due to having no official religion and multicultural characteristic of Turkey, it is not like that.
In fact, not everyone believes or practices the religion of Islam. There are lots of other religions that people practice and believe in. However, Islam is the predominant one. Also, there is one thing to keep in mind; not all Muslim women wear hijab. Everyone has their own interpretation of Islam. Some prefer to wear hijab while others don’t. On the other hand, you may see some women that wear the burka (the black dress that covers the whole body and face with a veil). These women are likely to be from other Muslim countries that have strict dress rules for women. However, some Turkish women may prefer to wear the burka as well according to their thoughts and preferences in terms of religion.
While I was gathering information on the subject ‘’how to dress in Istanbul as a tourist’’, the first thing that questioned most was ‘’how to dress in Istanbul as a woman’’ and in ‘’People also ask section’’: ‘’How should a woman tourist dress in Turkey?’’. People still feel like they need to search for dress codes before visiting Istanbul or any part of Turkey and that is the reason why I wanted to explain the difference between Arab countries and Turkey in terms of the dress code.
Dress Code in Istanbul
Istanbul offers people a wide diversity in terms of culture. That’s why it is hard to make sweeping generalizations. There are no rules to limit the way people dress or how they live. Therefore, you can see people who dress very different from each other. However, as I stated before, there are some conservative parts in the city like every other country. To feel more comfortable in these places, you may prefer to choose more modest clothes. But it does not mean that it is a rule or an obligation. Nobody has a right to tell you how to dress. For some parts of the city, we can call them more liberal such as Bebek, Nişantaşı, Etiler, Ortaköy, Kadıköy etc. you may feel more comfortable to wear whatever you want while visiting these places.
Additionally, we can say that dressing is much more context dependent. It is related to the seasons and where you are planning to visit. Thus, it would be more proper packing your luggage according to your prior visiting preferences. If your preferences center around cultural sites generally, especially mosques which are highly recommended, then more modest outfits would be appropriate for you to bring alongside.
Also, there is no need to worry on condition that you forget to bring modest outfits since Istanbul is known for amazing bazaars and streets for shopping. Besides, these bazaars are the right place for you to spice up your closet. On the other hand, there are so many fancy restaurants famous for their delicious foods ranging from Asia to Europe cuisine, or traditional Ottoman food and cocktail bars that you would like to go and have a good time. So, you may want to consider bringing some chic clothes, as well.
In daily life, comfortable clothes like sneakers and jeans would be handier when you consider long-term walking. Istanbul is a big city and has numerous places that await you to wander so comfortable clothes can be more practical and it is important to wear comfortable shoes especially if you are planning to walk around the city.
How to Dress in Istanbul According to Seasons
During summer times, Istanbul is hot with temperatures that rise to 90s or 100s F, especially from July to August. During winter times, the city is generally cold. Snow and rain are common in January and February. During spring and autumn times, the weather can be confusing. It can change from one day to another and day to night. For winter, cold weather clothes, for summer lightweight, light-colored and comfortable clothes and for spring and fall, layered dressing can be the savior. In any season, bringing comfortable shoes is a must because a lot of your time in Istanbul is likely to be spent by walking around. If you are planning to visit Istanbul in winter times, then sturdy boots are needed since sidewalks would probably be icy or wet.
How to Dress in Istanbul as a Woman
As I stated before, there are no rules for the dress code for women or men. Dress code for women is more questioning when you think about visiting some predominant Muslim populated countries due to the strict Muslim dress codes for women. Istanbul is a very crowded and multicultural city. You can see women with hijabs or short skirts. You can observe that dress preferences can change from one person to another. But to generalize, women usually wear casual outfits like jeans and sneakers to be more comfortable. In more conservative areas, you may be stared at with some weird looks in less modest outfits. So, jeans or tracksuits and sneakers or gym & training shoes can be your comfort zone to wander around the city.
Is Istanbul Safe to Travel?
This question was one of the most searched questions. The reason must be the bomb attacks that happened back in 2016. It was dangerous to travel or be in Istanbul at those times, but today Istanbul can be traveled without safety hesitations. However, like in every other country or big cities in the world, there are always some places that contain safety risks mainly about pickpocketing especially in crowded places or streets, so you’d better be careful about your properties while traveling.
Traditional Dress in Turkey
In daily life, Turkish people dress in western ways; however, they have some traditional clothes that originally come from the Ottoman Empire. The salwar and the fez are the ones that generally worn in special events. Also, in some remote villages, people still may wear some of the traditional clothes. Especially in some traditional weddings, they dress according to the traditions. All seven regions in the country have their own traditional clothing. They wear it in big events and dance with their own traditional music.
How to Dress to the Blue Mosque
Women should choose clothes that cover their arms, shoulders, and legs. You will also need a scarf to cover your hair when you enter the mosque. If you are unprepared then Blue Mosque offers scarves for visitors. Also, you should wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t reveal your body shape. Men should choose clothes that cover their legs and prefer loose clothes while avoiding tank tops and vests.
Is the Dress Code Same Through the Whole Country?
Well, as I addressed before, there is no rule or limitation on how to dress but some parts are likely to be more conservative such as Eastern sides. So, you may feel more comfortable wearing modest clothes while visiting there. On the other hand, coastal areas like İzmir and Antalya, it is likely to say that people are more open-minded and to say liberal. People, especially women, are freer to wear whatever they want.
Is Turkey Part of Europe or Middle East?
It is always confusing when it is questioned especially if you ask it to a Turkish citizen. Turkish people practice Middle Eastern religion in general but culturally Turkey differs from the other Middle Eastern countries. The way Turkish people live and dress are more likely to say in European style. Turkey has a very detailed history of these two regions. So, when all these terms combined, you can think Turkey is a bridge between that bonds Eastern and European cultures both literally and metaphorically. She embodies both Eastern and European ways but also has distinctive characteristics to identify herself as Turkish.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Istanbul, Turkey?
The best time to visit Istanbul is the last term of spring and the first term of summer. In these times, the weather is the best since it is not too hot or cold to restrain traveling cozily. It is easier to walk around without sweating or an umbrella. However, You may visit touristic sites in every season and if you are intrigued in and want to spend your traveling with cultural, artistic or any kind of special events, then you can follow agendas on the websites of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Pera Museum, Istanbul Museum of Modern Arts etc.