Istanbul is one of the most enchanting cities in the world and among the top 100 most popular travel destinations worldwide. Istanbul is also the only city in the world that is spread over two continents, connecting Asia and Europe. Besides being the largest city in Turkey, after the capital Ankara, Istanbul represents the economic, cultural, and historical hub of Turkey.
With over 2500 years of history, tradition, culture, grand landmarks, palaces, mosques and architectural wonders, stunning views, and one of the best cuisines in the world, Istanbul is well worth the visit, any time of the year. On average, Istanbul sees 1o million visitors in a year, with tourist crowds year-round. But it gets even busier in summer, during the peak tourist season.
Istanbul weather, in general, has hot and sunny summers, cold winters, and a rainy season in autumn and winter. Over the course of one year, the temperatures range from 38 degrees F (3 degrees C) to 85 degrees F (29.5 degrees C). The city sees on average 130 rainfall days or 17.3 in of rain per year, and 7 days of snow showers.
If you are planning on visiting Turkey, you need to find which month is the best for you and this depends on your preferences. What are you visiting Istanbul for? What do you want to see and do? Do you like outdoor activities? Are you a fan of tourist crowds? Or prefer to skip the long lines? Do you want to hit the beaches or would rather enjoy the bustling markets in December? Do you have specific places in mind, like Sultanahmet, for instance?
Whichever season you choose for your trip to Istanbul, make sure to find a luggage storage spot first to store your bags safely so you can start the biggest adventure of your life.
Summer in Istanbul: June - August
Summer is the best time to visit many places in the world and the same goes for Istanbul. The peak season is June and the busiest month of the year is August, despite the sweltering heat.
The summers are warm, and humid, with clear skies, and are relatively dry. Daytime temperatures range from 79 degrees F (26 degrees C) to an average high of 83 degrees F (28 degrees C). Summer in Istanbul lasts for 3 months with an average daily temperature of 77 degrees F (25 degrees C).
Though relatively dry, there may be occasional rainfall which on average is 28 days during the entire summer season. This doesn't mean you should pack your rain gear for the summer vacation in Istanbul. Instead, a proper summer outfit and shoes would be the best choice and add a few extra layers for the cooler evenings when temperatures can drop to 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).
What to expect to see and do when you visit Istanbul in summer? From tons of outdoor activities and music festivals to open-air markets and a romantic Bosphorus cruise, your days and nights in the city can get pretty busy.
In June, you can enjoy sightseeing without having to worry about the summer heat. This is also the time of the year when lots of music festivals take place like the Istanbul International Music Festival (May 29 - June 29) and the Chill-Out Festival.
Surprisingly, the hottest month of the year, August, is also the busiest month. This is the perfect time to check out Istanbul Theme Park, visit the Princes Islands, have a picnic in one of the beautiful parks, or take a Bosphorus sunset cruise on a yacht.
Summer months are also ideal for summer family vacations. Istanbul has lovely beaches in the coastal areas 12 miles from the city center, with beach clubs and beach bars that are always crowded.
Yes, there are tons of things to do in Istanbul in summer, but they come with a price. Prices go up starting in June, crowds get bigger, and lines get longer. If this is what you are trying to avoid, then you should also avoid visiting Istanbul in high season.
Fall in Istanbul: September - November
For some, fall in Istanbul is the best time to visit the city. Starting from September all the way to November, the weather remains generally warm and pleasant, with both warm days and nights, and fewer rain showers than in spring. The average temperatures in fall range from 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) to 55 F (12 degrees C) and precipitation is around 3.4 in.
Late September sees as many tourists as May. The shoulder season or off-season in fall starts in October and lasts until November. This time of the year is the best time to visit for anyone traveling on a budget and looking to avoid crowds.
Things to do in Istanbul in the fall are plenty. From the Akbank Jazz Festival at the beginning of October, (a 10-day long festival), and the International Puppet Festival (11-day long festival), to double-decker excursions, Bosphorus cruises and pampering in a Turkish bath, you have much to do.
Turkey celebrates a few public holidays in the fall, like Republic Day on October 29. During the holiday, the city of Istanbul organizes many art events and fireworks displays. It's a good time to be in Istanbul for this public holiday. International Istanbul Book Fair also takes place from late October or early November and lasts for 9 days.
If you don't mind the chilly weather, grey skies, and some rain showers, then this is the ideal time to visit Istanbul. But don't forget to pack your umbrella, a weather-resistant jacket, warm clothes and boots, and be prepared for any weather surprises.
Winter in Istanbul: December - February
Winter in Istanbul is a low season and ideal for everyone who'd like some quiet time. The cool season starts in November and lasts until the end of March with a substantial drop in temperature to an average of below 55 degrees F (12.7 degrees C). Winters in Istanbul are long, cold, windy, and cloudy with an average of five snow days a year and 4.3 inches of rain.
This time of the year is when you'd wake up to foggy mornings, but it is not all that bad. Some people like winters and traveling to Istanbul during the winter season means you'll see a significant drop in room rates too, making these months ideal for budget-conscious travelers.
Things to do in Istanbul during the cold months are surprisingly a lot! From museum hopping and visiting famous landmarks like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, to warming up in a Turkish bath, sipping Turkish tea on Istiklal street, or looking for spices and gifts at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest markets in the world.
If you happen to be in Istanbul for New Year's, you should plan well ahead and make your reservations in advance. On New Year's, tourists and locals get to watch fireworks along the Bosphorus shores, take a Bosphorus cruise, or welcome the New Year in one of the many Istanbul clubs, or restaurants.
Although the temperature in winter months in Istanbul hardly ever goes below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), you should still pack your warm clothes, such as a winter coat, sweater, gloves, hat and a scarf, and of course an umbrella. Warm shoes and boots are also recommended.
Visiting Istanbul during the winter season is ideal for people traveling on a budget. It will also make you feel like you are on a private tour visiting the landmarks and museums, as the crowds are long gone. If you don't mind the cold, possibly rainy or snowy days, then wintertime in Istanbul can be magical, especially when covered in snow.
Spring in Istanbul: March - May
The peak season in Istanbul begins mid April and ends in June. This is the best time to visit Istanbul as there are various events in the city that are better experienced in good weather than in cold weather.
Spring weather is moderate, with an average temperature of 62 degrees F (17 degrees C). During the day, temperatures can go as low as 49 degrees F (9 degrees C) to a high of 75 degrees F (23 degrees C), so it is a good idea to pack a warm sweater, a wind breaker, comfortable and warm shoes, scarves, a raincoat, and a few layers for the cooler evenings.
Spring in Istanbul is the season of many events, and festivals like the Istanbul Tulip Festival, and Istanbul Film Festival are celebrations that last throughout the entire month of April and the beginning of May. If you want to see tulips in full bloom, it's best to visit some of the parks like Yildiz Park and Gulhane.
The International Dance Festival happens from the 27th of March to the 1st of April. There are over 5000 dancers from 80 countries performing over the course of 6 days. The festival takes place at The Green Park Pendik Hotel & Convention Center.
This time of the year sees a lot of food festivals too, like the Cheese Festival (18-21 April) the Kadikoy Waffle Festival (31 May-2 June) and more. During the Spring Market Festival which takes place in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, you can purchase handcrafted items from local artisans.
Keep in mind that there are a few public holidays in May starting with Labor Day on May 1, when all government offices are closed for the day. May 19 is a public holiday that commemorates the beginning of the Turkish Republic.
Conquest Celebrations is another festival that takes place end of May. During this time there are wonderful light and laser shows across the iconic landmarks of Istanbul and are best viewed from the Golden Horn.
A very important religious holiday in Turkey that is celebrated by Muslims worldwide is Ramadan Bayrami or Eid Al Fitr which lasts for three days. During the holiday almost everything is closed, but public transportation such as buses, trams, ferries, funiculars, trains and metro buses are free of charge.
However, it is best to avoid traveling in Turkey and Istanbul on the first and last days of Ramadan as traffic can be very hectic.
The shoulder season in Istanbul starts in March and lasts until April. This is the right time to pack your suitcase as hotel prices drop too.
When is the best time to visit Istanbul for you?
If Istanbul is the next city on your bucket list, make sure you are prepared. This means choosing the best month for you to visit Istanbul so you can plan accordingly. Before you fly into Istanbul airport, have an itinerary, whether it's a 3 day itinerary or a plan for a few weeks.
Peak season in Istanbul starts in June and lasts until early September when the weather is still hot. So, if you love outdoor activities in warm weather then June and September are the perfect months to visit Istanbul. July and August are ideal for summer vacation on the beautiful beaches near Istanbul.
On the other hand, if you prefer the magical winter season in the city, and want to celebrate New Year's Eve on a Bosphorus cruise party, December is your month. For those traveling on a budget, the cheapest time to visit Istanbul is during the winter months, from December to February. Though prices drop, temperatures do too, so if you don't mind the cold weather, winter is a good time for you to visit Istanbul.