It’s important to know the best time to visit Istanbul to get the most out of your time, but, the fact you’re even thinking about visiting this vibrant city is exciting—I mean, I’m excited for you; this is one of my favorite places on earth. Istanbul is packed with history and modern-day fun at the same time; you won’t be bored for a single second.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Istanbul and have often stayed for a month or more at a time. My husband has family there, and we regularly go in the winter months to see them and explore. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.
As such, I’ve become quite the expert on when to go to Istanbul, what to see and do, and, of course, what to eat. It’s no surprise that most people who visit this city return eventually; it’s intoxicating on every single level, and if you’re into history, you’re sure to be blown away. But enough excitement for a second, let’s get down to the details.
Overall Best Time To Visit Istanbul
Istanbul is an all-year-round city, and you could argue that there’s no good or bad time to go. I particularly like to go when it’s colder, simply because the crowds are intense, (the traffic is on another level), and when you add heat into the equation, it can be a recipe for stress. But a lot of people love to visit in the spring and summer months when you could argue it’s more pleasant to walk around in the sunshine.
If you’re looking to save a bit of cash, November to February is a good time to visit, but avoid New Year as prices skyrocket. However, I have to admit that New Year is so much fun in Istanbul. Crowds never really abate too much no matter the time of year, but summer does tend to be busier because of the school holidays.
To find a piece of middle ground, (and to avoid the coldest temperatures), the shoulder months are the best times to visit Istanbul. I’m talking about September and October and between March and May. It might still rain, and you could get the odd chilly day, but overall it’s mild, and you can wander around and explore everything there is to offer—which is a lot.
Peak Season in Istanbul
As I said, every month is busy, but the peak season in Istanbul falls in the summer, between June and August. This is when Turkish schools are on vacation, along with the rest of Europe. There will be crowds at this time, but in all honesty, there are crowds no matter when you go, and at least when the sun is shining you can walk around without a coat and enjoy the weather.
Hotel prices tend to stay roughly the same throughout the year, but you may find them slightly higher at this time; I’m talking around $30 more per night perhaps. The plus point is that many events are going on, including the Istanbul Music Festival in June, the Chill-Out Festival in late May/June, and the Istanbul International Jazz Festival every July.
In terms of when to travel to Istanbul and what to do, this time of year is ideal for taking a tour, such as the Istanbul Food Tour, because everything is organized and you don’t have the challenge of using public transport in the heat. While it doesn’t usually get scorching hot in Istanbul, it’s still warm enough to make you sweat, and the Metro is not ideal in that situation. Click here for tour information.
Shoulder Season in Istanbul
(September-October & March-May)
The spring and fall months are wonderful times to visit Istanbul. The weather is still mild, and there’s the chance of rain (as there always is), but you can move around a little more freely and comfortably. This is a great time to don your comfortable shoes and take a full tour of the city’s main highlights, now the crowds have abated very slightly. Click here for more information.
You’ll find both tourists and locals alike at this time of year, but more international tourists than domestic visitors now the schools have returned. The best month to visit Istanbul for warm temperatures and lower rainfall is May. Even though the seasons are moving toward summer, it’s still pretty comfortable.
The Istanbul International Film Festival takes place every April, perfect for movie buffs, and a big draw is the Istanbul Tulip Festival, which takes place during the last few weeks of April. This is always a popular event, and you’ll get some amazing photographs with the flowers and the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia in the background.
Off-Season in Istanbul
(November – February)
Strictly speaking, November to February is the ‘low’ or ‘down’ season for Istanbul, but you wouldn’t think it judging by the crowds. I think this is the best time of year to visit Istanbul because winter just seems to suit the city so well. And if you’re lucky enough to visit when it snows, you’ll be shocked at just how beautiful it becomes.
You might find hotel prices are a little cheaper at this time of year, with the exception of the end of December. January is often a good time to grab some hotel bargains, as I’ve found this month tends to offer slightly lower prices. For example, you can often get a night’s stay in a mid-range hotel for around $45. Just grab a warm coat, and some comfortable shoes and explore; it’s my top thing to do in this amazing city.
Many events are taking place around New Year, and the city is extremely busy. You can also check out the Istanbul International Book Fair in November, along with the ever-popular Istanbul Marathon in the same month. Of course, you can still see all the major sights in Istanbul during this so-called quieter time, including the amazing Dolmabahce Palace.
When to Visit Istanbul For Beaches
Istanbul is home to some great beaches and if you’re looking for the best time to go to Istanbul for swimming, July and August are your best bets. Caddebostan Plajı is the closest beach to the city, which is near Kadıköy on the Asian side. Alternatively, you could take a trip to the Princes Islands, which offer a fantastic break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
You’ll find the nearest beaches to the city are very busy in July and August in particular, so it’s a good idea to get there as early as you can. These months offer the hottest temperatures and less chance of rain, although remember that rain can come at any time of year in this city; make sure to check the forecast before you go.
When to Visit Istanbul For Festivals
There are many festivals going on across Istanbul all through the year, so it really depends upon the type of festival you want to attend. During the summer months, you’ll find more outdoor festivals going on, with tourists and locals gathering to celebrate and see something new.
Summer sees the Istanbul Music Festival, Istanbul Festivali, Istanbul International Jazz Festival, and the Istanbul Shopping Festival. However, during December you’ll find countless events taking place across the whole city as everyone looks forward to the New Year. This is a huge celebration, known locally as Yılbaşı, and you’ll notice that hotel prices increase for a few days.
When to Visit Istanbul For Historical Sites
The best time to travel to Istanbul to see historical sites is any time! It mainly depends on which weather you prefer, but I enjoy sightseeing when it’s colder because I find it easier to move around without getting too hot. However, the warmer months mean you don’t need to take a coat with you, which could make walking around simpler.
For mild temperatures and slightly lower crowd levels, May and October are good choices. During this time, you can take a Bosphorus cruise tour or different walking tours, such as the Fener & Balat Tour. Of course, you can do this at any time of year, but the weather does make it easier when it’s not heavily raining or is so cold you can’t feel your fingers.
When to Visit Istanbul For Cheap Prices
Overall, prices tend to stay the same throughout the year, but there’s usually a slight drop in hotel prices in January. I’ve noticed this is the cheapest time to visit Istanbul and it’s also a quieter time of year—despite it still being busy for most other cities. After New Year, people are recovering from excesses, and January holds a high chance of snow.
However, don’t let that put you off because it’s much easier to explore when there are fewer people to navigate around. I’ve been in January before, and I had both snowy and very warm days; it’s potluck to some extent. A good choice at this time of year is the Hop on and off Tourist Bus, so you can save your feet and avoid getting too cold as you’re exploring. Click here for more information.
When to Visit Istanbul For Hiking
You might be surprised to learn that there are a few great hiking trails in and around Istanbul, and the Istanbul Historic Walk is the most popular. This 3.7km trail takes you through some of the oldest parts of the city, passing by sights such as the Grand Bazaar and the beautiful Topkapı Palace.
The best times to visit Istanbul for hiking are the shoulder months, including May, the beginning of June, October, and November. At these times, temperatures are mild, and it’s easier to walk around, particularly if you want to take a longer hike like the Fener and Balat Loop or the very popular Prince Islands Loop.
The Best Time to Visit Istanbul By Month
Some people like rain, others detest it; some like hot weather, and others want to hide until sundown; what I’m trying to say is that we all have our own likes and dislikes when it comes to the weather. Because there’s no definitive best time to visit Istanbul, I’m going to lay each month out for you, so you can decide when is best for you.
Istanbul in January
January is the quietest and cheapest month to visit Istanbul, so if you’re looking for lower prices, this is the time for you. However, January is also Istanbul’s coldest month, with daytime averages of around 8°C/46°F and a high chance of rain and possibly snow. Having said that, Istanbul in January is still a fantastic experience and fewer people means you can explore more freely, including a shopping tour of the Grand Bazaar. Click here for more information.
Istanbul in February
Istanbul in February is slightly warmer than in January, however, the risk of rain is still there, with daytime averages of 9°C/48°F and very chilly evenings. Of course, February is the month of love, and you’ll find lots of events going on around Valentine’s Day—remember to book restaurants in advance to avoid disappointment! This is a great time to take a Turkish bath and warm up after a day of sightseeing. Click here for more details.
Istanbul in March
If you visit Istanbul in March, you’ll notice that spring is slowly starting to show itself, especially toward the end of the month. Temperatures hover around 10°C/49°F on average but evenings aren’t quite as cold, with less rain than the previous two months. Take advantage of those warmer evenings by heading to a Whirling Dervish show and continuing to explore the city on foot as much as you can.
Istanbul in April
There are several festivals in April, as the weather starts to improve, with temperatures hovering around 14°C/56°C. Remember to check out the Istanbul Tulip Festival toward the end of the month, but this is also a great time to take advantage of spring and visit the Princes’ Islands before they get too busy. You can take a full-day walking tour, which will show you the very best of the largest island, Büyükada. Click here for more details.
Istanbul in May
Istanbul in May brings a marked difference in the weather, as averages rise to around 20°C/66°F on average during the day times. This is the perfect time of year to explore, and you’ll only need a light jacket and an umbrella in your bag. I took the guided street food tour last May, and it was such a great day out; I certainly didn’t need any dinner in the evening. Click here for more information.
Istanbul in June
If you visit Istanbul in June you’ll notice that it’s a little more crowded than the previous couple of months, but not yet as busy as it will become in the coming two months. It’s also quite warm at this time, with average daytime temperatures of around 24°C/75°F. If you want to visit any of the top highlights, such as Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, or Hagia Sofia, now is the time, before the queues get too long.
Istanbul in July
If you want to avoid rain, July is the best month to visit Istanbul and also the warmest (26°C/79°F). However, it’s also the busiest. I’d avoid Istiklal Street in Taksim at this time as gets so busy you can barely walk; instead, head to the Basilica Cistern which sits underground and offers refreshingly cool temperatures. Visiting Istanbul in July is definitely summer-like, and while it’s crowded, it does have a really fun vibe at this time of year.
Istanbul in August
Istanbul in August is still very busy because the Turkish schools are still on vacation, but toward the end of the month, it will calm down. Daytimes are still very warm at around 26°C/79°F, and this is a great time to spend time outdoors during the evening hours, perhaps with a Bosphorus dinner cruise. This is a great idea for families as there’s entertainment on board, such as belly dancing and music. Click here for information.
Istanbul in September
I love Istanbul in September because things have settled down after the summer rush, yet it’s still very warm, with an average temperature of 23°C/74°F. The only difference is that rainfall creeps up a little, but as always, just travel prepared. If you love coffee, this is the month for you, as it’s when the annual Istanbul Coffee Festival is held. It’s also a great time to walk up to Suleymaniye Mosque and check out the views. Click here for more information.
Istanbul in October
If you’re visiting Istanbul in October, you’re still in for a mild experience, with average temperatures sitting around 18°C/65°C. October is a great month for events, with the Akbank Jazz Festival as well as the Istanbul International Puppet Festival. If you’re traveling with children, this is a good time to head to Vialand Theme Park too, before temperatures drop. Click here for more details.
Istanbul in November
I’ve visited Istanbul in November several times, and it’s never been particularly cold; averages are around 14°C/58°C, but you can get some really warm days. Evenings can be chilly, so just remember a jacket when you’re out and about later in the day. Black Friday is a thing in Istanbul, and this is a great time to hit the many malls around the city and grab some bargains, including Cevahir AVM and Mall of Istanbul.
Istanbul in December
If you head to Istanbul in December you’ll need a coat (average 9°C/48°C), and it may snow. This is one of my favorite times to visit the city as it’s beautifully decorated and ready for New Year – the atmosphere is magical and there’s that winter wonderland feel around.
If you’re visiting for New Year, remember to book your hotel well ahead of time to avoid disappointment and make sure you immerse yourself in the celebrations—a Bosphorus New Year Cruise is a great choice. Click here to book.
FAQs About When To Visit Istanbul
Istanbul is a huge city, and when you first start to research it, the sheer amount of information can be confusing. But I’m a pro now, so let me answer your common questions:
There’s no best or worst time to visit Istanbul, it’s about finding the weather and situation that’s right for you. Personally, I would avoid the hottest months of July and August, and stick with June or October. Those months have warm to mild temperatures (so you don’t need a coat), but allow you to explore without the stickiness of the peak summer months.
No matter how long you go for, you’re not going to see everything, but I’d recommend at least four days to see the main highlights. However, for a deeper dive, at least a week is needed to explore the city and its hidden gems.
I love December in Istanbul; the city comes alive with twinkling lights as it gears up for New Year, and the frosty feel in the air adds to the ambiance. Of course, it can rain in December, and it might even snow, but getting all wrapped up, grabbing a takeaway coffee or hot chocolate, and exploring the city on foot is one of my favorite things to do.
In terms of when to visit Istanbul, you’ll find prices stay roughly the same price all year round, however, the peak months between June and August may have slightly higher costs, thanks to school holidays.
Turkey as a country is huge and has different climatic zones, with a hot and dry area on the south coast, and a rainier situation in the north, along with everything in between.
Istanbul is located in the northwest of the country, and in terms of the rainy season, you could say it’s between November and April. However, it can rain at any time in Istanbul, and it’s not unusual to experience heavy downpours in the summer.
Now you know the low-down on the best time to visit Istanbul, it’s up to you to decide when to go. There’s no particularly bad time to head here; I’d go any time of year and still enjoy every last second. It’s just one of those kinds of cities, and no matter the weather, you won’t be bored for a second.
Of course, we all have our preferences in terms of temperatures and rain, so choose a month with the best weather conditions for you and go; seriously, don’t even think about it for another second. I love Istanbul so much I can’t adequately put it into words; there isn’t another city like this on the planet, and even if you go for two days and it rains non-stop, you’ll still want to go back.