Istanbul is a city with a distinct beauty in each season. As the weather is open during the summer, open-air concerts and festivals bring the city to life, and you may think that there are fewer activities that can be done in the winter months. However, you can enjoy the winter in Istanbul with the right choices.
Places to Walk Around in Winter in Istanbul
Although it is more comfortable to visit in spring and summer months in Istanbul, there are so many places to be seen in winter even in cold weather. Let’s take a look at the places to visit in winter, some of which are outdoors where some of which are indoors.
Bosphorus, Beşiktaş, Ortaköy Line
Riding on the ferry lines on the Bosphorus, sipping your warm tea is one of the most enjoyable ways to watch Istanbul without getting tired. If you are on the Anatolian side, by taking Kadikoy-Besiktas ferry, you can see the historical and touristic places to visit in Istanbul like Haydarpaşa Station, Dolmabahçe and Topkapi Palaces and the Galata Tower from the middle of the sea.
After you get off at Besiktas, you can take a short Besiktas Bazaar tour and then you can go to Ortakoy with municipal buses. After wandering around Ortaköy Mosque, you can have tea or coffee at one of the beach cafes, or take a kumpir from the kumpir shops, and sit on the beach benches. In both options, the first thing that comes to mind when you say Istanbul is the view of the Bosphorus and Ortaköy Mosque.
Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek and Rumelian Fortress
You can walk the Ortaköy-Kuruçeşme-Arnavutköy-Bebek-Rumeli Hisarı line with the most enjoyable walking route on the edge of the Bosphorus in about 1 hour and enjoy the Bosporus view in the maximum possible way.
You can take a break in Kuruçeşme Park and Bebek Park which are one of the most beautiful parks of Istanbul and are positioned to the seafront during the walk. Don’t forget to drink a cup of tea or coffee in Bebek Kahve, which is a famous cafe in the Bebek center.
Beyoğlu, Taksim, Galata Tower
After a trip to Ortakoy and Dolmabahce Palace, you can visit Taksim, which is one of the best touristic places to visit in Istanbul. If you are not at the rush hour, take a bus from Ortaköy to Taksim which takes half an hour. When you come to Taksim Square, you can walk to the Galatasaray High School along Istiklal Street which is one of the famous streets to be visited in Istanbul.
You can visit the Fish Market across from Galatasaray High School, and you can have a kokoreç or some mussels at the Mercan located at the entrance of Balık Pazarı, one of Istanbul’s most famous kokoreç places. It is also very pleasant to have a meal at Nevizade Sokak or at Çiçek Pasajı. Then you can continue through Istiklal Street to the Tunnel. You can reach the Tunnel through Asmalımescit.
There are two options here. You can either visit the Galata Tower and its surroundings which is the focal point of the tourists or you can take the tunnel tram directly to Karaköy and continue to walk. You may be amazed at the development and change in this region. If you choose to visit Galata Tower which is one of the important symbols of Istanbul, you should definitely climb up it. When you climb up the Galata Tower, which is one of the oldest towers in the world, you can watch the Golden Horn and Istanbul Bosphorus.
Historical Sultanahmet Köftecisi, Sultanahmet Park and Erol Taş Coffeehouse
The historical Sultanahmet Köftecisi is waiting for you in its original form. You should not leave Sultanahmet, without eating meatballs and soufflé of this place. There are many different places named Sultanahmet Köftecisi which are also similar to each other. If you want to eat in the original Sultanahmet Köftecisi, you should prefer Selim Usta.
You can enjoy the views of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque by sitting at the poolside inside the Sultanahmet Archaeological Park. From here you can go to Cankurtaran, which is a 10-minute walk away, and you can visit the coffeehouse of the actor Erol Tas. Erol Taş used to run this coffeehouse and helped the staff personally in the remaining time from the film sets in his healthy times.
Beyazıt Square, Sahaflar Bazaar, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar
If you use the Kabataş-Bağcılar Metro and get off at the Beyazıt station, you can easily reach Beyazıt Square. After seeing the entrance of Beyazit Square and the famous Istanbul University, you can visit the famous Sahaflar Bazaar nearby if you are interested in books. If you ask the tradesman, they will guide you.
This region is also the southwest entrance of the famous Grand Bazaar. From here you can enter the Grand Bazaar and walk towards the direction of Spice Bazaar and Eminönü, sightseeing, and exploring the historical Istanbul. You can buy spices from the spice sellers as well.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque and Pierre Loti Hill
You must visit the Eyüp District which has brought the old Istanbul spirit and the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, one of the largest legacies left by the Ottoman Empire to Istanbul if you go down to the Golden Horn. You can eat Eyüp stew which is a kind of pide in the historical Eyüp Sultan Güveçcisi and go to Pierre Loti Hill.
Sipping a cup of salep or a Turkish coffee overlooking the view of the Golden Horn in the historic Pierre Loti Coffeehouse is also a good alternative to enjoy Istanbul in the winter months.
6 Winter Activities to Try in Istanbul
Istanbul is known for its abundance of activities that can be done in any weather condition because of being a large and developed city. You can have fun with your friends and loved ones thanks to the multitude of transportation facilities and the development of rail systems.
You can visit the streets of Kadikoy, Besiktas, and Beyoglu, which are known as the city’s attraction centers, and you can visit the shops and stores that interest you. You can eat stuffed mussels, meatballs or bagels from the street vendors, and sip a warm cappuccino in the coffee shop just around the corner.
If you want to make a more detailed plan, here are the 6 winter activities you should try in Istanbul, which I have compiled for you:
Go to Theater
Istanbul is a city with a wide range of theater options. You can review the programs of the State and City Theaters, or you can choose the games of private theaters.
Located in almost every district of the city, these theaters show dozens of different plays from comedy to classics. You can have a cup of coffee with your friends, or have a snack in one of the cafes in the area, before watching the play according to your personal tastes.
It is particularly difficult to find tickets to the State Theaters, with a limited number of games and high interest, so you should try to buy your tickets at the ticket windows.
Drink Boza at the Vefa Bozacısı
One of the indispensable tastes of Istanbul is undoubtedly boza. In the past, boza used to be sold on the streets. However, nowadays it is on the market shelves since there is mass production. Yet, the Vefa still has the best boza in the town.
The Vefa Bozacısı in Fatih is crowded every hour of the day and every day of the week. You may have to wait a while before you can taste the freshly prepared boza, but I can guarantee that it is worth the wait.
Especially preferred during the evening, boza attracts customers from every point of the city. You can complete a pleasant evening with your loved ones with a delicious glass of boza. It is also possible to go to Vefa Bozacısı with your private car.
Walk around the Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar stands out as the world’s oldest covered bazaar. It is visited by thousands of people every day by its proximity to Sultanahmet, one of the most touristic areas of Istanbul.
There are hundreds of stores and shops in the Grand Bazaar, and thousands of different products are sold. You can find all kinds of products you’re looking for, from carpets and rugs to hand-made chandeliers, spices, and clothes.
The Grand Bazaar, which can be visited easily in every period of the year due to being a covered bazaar, is an indispensable part of the cultural tours to be held in Istanbul. You can go to the Grand Bazaar in the morning and visit the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Museum for the rest of the day. Don’t forget to stop by Sultanahmet Köftecisi and have a delicious lunch.
Go to a Turkish Bath
The Turkish bath, which is an integral part of our culture, was changed over time and adapted to modern days. You can visit the historical baths in every part of the city, but I recommend you to choose Cağaloğlu Hamam for a better bath experience. Constructed in 1741 and intensively visited by both domestic and foreign tourists, the bathhouse maintains its traditional texture.
You can benefit from the Turkish Bath service in many of the spa centers. You can have a relaxing aromatherapy massage by setting aside a day to yourself, and you can meet your body’s needs in Turkish Bath and sauna.
The part of Istanbul called the historical peninsula has been the center of the city for centuries. Eminönü has become a popular destination for all those who want to shop with its bazaars and shops.
Do not forget to visit the Spice Bazaar, Tahtakale and Suleymaniye Mosque during your tour in Eminonu. For lunch, you can eat fish on the boats on the beach, and at the same time, you can watch the magnificent view of the city. On weekends, it is important to prefer the tram instead of going with your private car.
Drink Mulled Wine
In cold winter days, my last suggestion in Istanbul is to drink mulled wine. The Pano Wine House can be an ideal option, offering a variety of mulled wine options from different types of grapes.
Leb-i Derya will be a good choice as well if you want to drink mulled wine in a warm place overlooking the Istanbul view.
Cultural Winter Activities in Istanbul
Cold, rainy and even snowy days in winter do not interfere with exploring the beautiful places of Istanbul! If you want to spend entertaining times in winter seasons as in the spring and summer months, or if you want to be outside instead of sitting at home and enjoy the winter, many cultural locations are waiting for you in Istanbul. Here is a list of cultural activities to be done in Istanbul in the winter.
Istanbul Toy Museum
Do you want to go to a place where you can warm up in the winter without a plan? Istanbul Toy Museum, which is always on the list of places to visit in Istanbul, regardless of summer or winter, is one of the sweetest places you can prefer for your holiday.
Istanbul Toy Museum is a colorful museum with games and toys that change from past to present, where both adults can enjoy individually and families with children can have a great weekend event.
If you are looking for a cultural activity that can be done at the end of the week or on Thursdays where the museum opens its doors for free, Istanbul Modern is another place you can choose. Istanbul Modern is at the top of the list both because its interior is full enough to spend time all day long and because when you go out, Şişhane and Karaköy are among the places to visit in Istanbul in winter.
Istanbul Modern is one of the museums that exhibits modern and contemporary works of art in the temporary and permanent exhibition halls and also offers a cultural activity area for everyone with its educational and social programs, café and library departments. In addition, this place can be visited several times as it manages to stay up to date.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Since Madame Tussauds Wax Museum which has many branches in several countries opened a branch in Istanbul as well a short time ago, it is necessary to add this place to the list of places to visit in Istanbul in winter. This is because the wax museum seems to be a good option because it is a closed space due to the weather conditions of the winter season and a fun, but also an instructional activity.
Even though the entrance fees of the wax sculpture museum, which includes famous names from the music and cinema industries, athletes and even world leaders seem a bit pricey, it is “worth it” when you see the amazingly beautiful and realistic sculptures inside!
In Madame Tussauds Museum, you can find the opportunity to see famous starts from Arda Turan to Hidayet Turkoglu, from Einstein to Leonardo de Vinci, from Zeki Muren to Madonna, from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga, from MFÖ to Rihanna, from Adile Naşit to Barış Manço, and from Shek to Hollywood stars, as well as experiencing the excitement of touching them.
Panorama 1453 History Museum
You should visit the Panorama 1453 History Museum, located within the boundaries of Topkapı Culture Park, approximately 150-200 meters from the Topkapı station where you can arrive taking the Kabataş-Bağcılar Metro. A feast of conquest is waiting for you, offering spectacular visuals in which cannon sounds, Mehter music, and Ottoman horses are used as effects.
Inside a large room, you can watch the conquest of Istanbul. There are lots of places where 360 degrees of panoramic images exhibited in a circular way in the world. But the only place where the sky is included in the image and the whole of the hemisphere is displayed in this dimension is the Panorama 1453 museum. I think it is a must place to visit in Istanbul.
Rahmi Koc Museum, Golden Horn
When you reach from Eminönü to Haliç, you will see the Rahmi Koç Museum, one of the most beautiful museums in Istanbul. At the Rahmi Koç Museum which is opened in 1994 with the support of the businessman Rahmi Koç, and is the first major museum in Turkey which is dedicated to industry, transportation, and the history of communications, you can visit the nostalgic Fenerbahce ferry, check classic cars or have fun with interactive experiment sets in Color Math World section with your children.
Beautiful Sights to Be Seen in Istanbul in Winter
To Rest Your Soul: Maiden’s Tower
In the winter months, the beautiful Maiden’s Tower offers you a perfect meal in the middle of the sea, even in cold weather and even under snow. In the middle of the waves, under the snow, you experience an experience full of excitement and serenity away from everything.
The beauty of the view of the restaurant, beyond offering you a fine dining experience, puts it among the best places to visit in winter.
Romanticism in Cold Weather: Aya Yorgi Hill
In December, when all we are leaving a huge year behind us, New Year’s Eve is fast approaching and couples make their own plans together, if you are looking for a quiet, calm, peaceful trip and relaxation with your life partner, we recommend you to visit Aya Yorgi Hill. Located in Büyükada, this address is the stop of many romantic couples in every season.
Especially in the winter months, there is no description of the perfect view that you will see while embracing your loved one. Do not be limited to Aya Yorgi Hill when you go to Buyukada. If there is no heavy rain or snow in the air, make sure you enjoy Büyükada with a small phaeton trip.
Watch the Bosphorus Under Snow: Aşiyan Hill
Aşiyan Hill which is located in a large garden of Boğaziçi University on its peak point is one of the points that allow the viewing of the Bosphorus in the most special way during these cold months.
Even if you don’t know a lot of destinations in Istanbul, you should visit this hill to see the Bosphorus which is the main point of Istanbul. Since it is very convenient to reach the top, it can be preferred for a beautiful Bosphorus view at any time.
List of Open Air Places to Visit in Winter in Istanbul
Beyoğlu, with its red tram, is one of the most popular places in Istanbul waiting for its visitors for four seasons.
- 60th Year Park
The 60th year park on Bağdat Street can also be visited in winter in İstanbul. It is the only park designed by the baroque architecture in Turkey where you can spend time with pleasure. This park has an excellent landscape and environmental design, and there is plenty of space for activities. You can also visit the florist at the entrance of the park.
- Valens Aqueduct
Valens Aqueduct, which has hosted many Yeşilçam movies, is located in the Fatih district of Istanbul. This arch, built by the Roman emperor Valens, still maintains its splendor. If you want to spend time in the historical texture of Istanbul, you should definitely visit the Valens Aqueduct. However, be careful when you climb up to the upper parts.
Nişantaşı, which is known as the most modern district of Istanbul, is definitely a region to be visited in Istanbul in winter. You can feel that you are in a European city as you wander around this neighborhood where many cafes and shopping centers are located. Nişantaşı, which is one of the most vibrant regions of the city, is also known for its historical beauties. The district, which was a hunting area during the Ottoman period, is named after the sight stones erected by III. Selim and II. Mahmut. Besides, there are many buildings from the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
Balat, which is a unique district with its colorful streets and historical texture, should be included in the list of places to visit in winter in Istanbul. It is one of the authentic districts of Istanbul with its 19th-century houses and stone-paved historic streets. Balat is a very convenient neighborhood for both sightseeing and taking photos.
- Basilica Cistern
One of the unique examples of Byzantine architecture, the Basilica Cistern is one of the historical areas that you must see. This cistern, located in the western part of Hagia Sophia, has long been a museum. However, it should be noted that the cistern, which is visited by millions of tourists every year, can be dangerous for asthma patients.
- Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square is one of the areas that has not lost its function for thousands of years. The region, which was built as a hippodrome during the Byzantine period, was one of the most important squares of the city during the Ottoman period and it preserved its importance until today. There is an obelisk that was brought from Egypt during the Byzantine period in Sultanahmet Square. There are also many restaurants in the square that serve quite affordable prices.
- Atatürk Arboretum
Atatürk Arboretum, one of the greenest places in Istanbul, is very suitable for hiking and taking photos in both winter and summer.