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Best time to visit Istanbul

Busy restaurant and bar scene at night in Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey on July 25, 2007. Taksim is a popular destination for tourists and locals of Istanbul. 26882794 bar, barcelona, beer, busy, capital, city, citylife, crowd, cuisine, customers, eat, enjoy, europe, food, fun, holiday, hot, island, istanbul, istiklal, latin, life, market, mediterranean, men, night, nightlife, noisy, outdoor, outside, pedestrian, people, person, restaurant, sitting, south, street, summer, table, taksim, tapas, terrace, travel,

There’s rarely a dull moment in vibrant Istanbul. The city’s historic attractions can be appreciated any time of year, but its vibe does change dramatically with the seasons, from wet and moody winters to sunny and sticky summers – and accommodation prices vary accordingly.

When planning a trip, it’s worth noting the upcoming dates of the two biggest Muslim holidays, Ramazan Bayramı (Ramadan, or Eid Al Fitr) and Kurban Bayramı (Eid Al Adha), which shift by about 10 days each year. Both are big travel periods in Turkey, comparable to Thanksgiving or Christmas in the United States, with corresponding effects on costs, crowds and vacation-related closures. Here are our picks for the best times to enjoy Turkey’s largest city.

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Summer is all about dining al fresco in Istanbul © paul prescott / Shutterstock

June to August is best for outdoor dining and concerts in Istanbul

Summer is peak tourism season in Istanbul. Many residents decamp for vacation or family homes elsewhere in Turkey, so costs for accommodations can be high and lines long at major attractions. The weather is hot and humid, but the sun sparkling off the Bosphorus is glorious, and a slew of outdoor seating at cafes, restaurants and bars makes for a lively urban scene. Concerts, festivals and other events are staged in the open air too.

The shoulder season is best for sightseeing and cultural events

The long, mostly pleasant spring and fall seasons (March to May and September to November ) are ideal for seeing the sights and wandering the neighborhoods of Istanbul, a city that rewards exploration by foot. There’s a drop off in tourist crowds, and local urban life is in full swing, including a busy calendar of arts and cultural events.

Istanbul in December? Winter is ideal for travel on a budget

The gray, rainy and surprisingly chilly winter months aren’t the most appealing time to visit Istanbul, though they do lend the city a certain romantically melancholy mood. On the plus side, it won’t be difficult or expensive to find accommodations, and Istanbul’s many museums, mosques and other sights provide plenty of indoor activities.

Pedestrians outside of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums on a cloudy day
Istanbul’s museums and mosques are best visited in winter without the crowds © Czgur / Getty Images

Istanbul by month


The start of the year in Istanbul is usually quiet and cold with a chance of snow, though there’s always…

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