02-12-2022 - Tips & Guides

Christmas in Istanbul: Weather, Christmas Services, Christmas Meals, and more

Istanbul is a great place to be in the Christmas season. The whole city is in a festive atmosphere because the new year is close by and the new year is commonly celebrated in Turkey. 

In Istanbul, many main streets, especially the well-known Istiklal and Bagdat Avenue, are decorated with stylish festive lights and other decorations. In the Galata neighborhood, there’ll be views of the Galata Tower with sparkling lights too. There are also decorated pine trees, especially in shopping malls, you’ll love the city during this season. 

So, yes Christmas in Istanbul is a good idea! In this article, we have gathered all the necessary information for you to know from Christmas services to special dinner places. If you decide to come to ıstanbul, we're here for you to enjoy the best of the city. With more than 100+ attractions, Istanbul Tourist Pass® is the best way to enjoy Istanbul the most. Check out here the prices and plans, and Merry Christmas!

Weather in Istanbul in the 2022 Christmas Season

Istanbul is generally cold in December as low as 5-7°C so it is pretty much warmer than any other European country! Especially in the 2022 Christmas season, we expect temperatures to rise slightly and the sunshine to favor beautiful days that are bright and clear. Although in the early days of December, it is expected to rain mostly, the Christmas season will be mostly dry. As this period is still the heart of winter, don’t forget to wrap warmly in comfortable clothes.

General Information about Christmas in Istanbul 

Istanbul has been the leading city of the Orthodox Church for hundreds of years. Istanbul has been home to numerous Christian communities that prospered in the region for centuries. While the Greek Orthodox community is the best known; there are also Armenians, Georgians, Bulgarians, and Syrian Orthodox who still speak the language of Jesus Christ, Aramaic.

Although the majority of Turkey is known as Muslim, don’t forget Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city that is home to people from different cultural backgrounds and religions. Yes, Christmas is not as big as in European countries, but because of its close proximity to New Year, the city is in a festive mood for sure! 

In 2022, because of the recent economy in Turkey, spending Christmas in Istanbul is much cheaper than in any other country, so this budget-friendly way of spending your Christmas is a great idea! 

The Most Popular Christmas Mass and Services

Throughout the city, all churches have Christmas services. But if you’d like to be one of the most popular ones, here are the most popular churches you can catch a Christmas mass and services. A beautiful place to celebrate Christmas is St. Antoine Church, one of the city's largest Roman Catholic churches. During the service on December 24th, hymns will be sung at 8 PM followed by a celebration of Jesus' birth at 9 PM. On December 25th, additional services are held in four different languages: English; Polish; Italian; and Turkish.

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The British Consulate Chapel of Saint Helena has a Christmas Eve service and the Crimean Memorial Church has a service on Christmas Morning. December 24th at 7:30 PM. Last but not least, Orthodox Christmas services are held at the Church of St. George in the Balat district. Here check out the best 5 churches in Istanbul. 

Best Christmas Meals in İstanbul 

There are not many alternatives for dinners for Christmas but we have gathered the best ones for you. The Swissotel Bosphorus has a notable Brunch and Dinner at Christmas with a special menu in their Sabrosa Restaurant so it can be a good choice if you want to be in a specially decorated restaurant on Christmas day and evening. Another great place to be at Christmas is the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul. The hotel every year has a famous Christmas market and they have special meals for Christmas in their Aqua Restaurant. 

If you’d like a different Christmas meal, you can enjoy a Bosphorus Dinner Cruise many of that have special menus for that day on December 25th. So while cruising around the Bosphorus, you can have a great meal and enjoy some music and dance shows. A belly dancer show at Christmas? It is an absolutely memorable experience. With Istanbul Tourist Pass®, you can enjoy this amazing Christmas dinner for FREE! Check out 

New Year and Christmas Markets in Istanbul

The new year is widely celebrated in Turkey but it is fair to say that Istanbul hosts the best New Year Markets and events. In many neighborhoods, you will see decorated squares and streets with Christmas lights and decorations. You’ll feel hope and happiness for the upcoming year 2023 everywhere in the city!

There are also great markets mostly in shopping malls for you to have great presents for your loved ones. Galataport, Kanyon Shopping Mall, and Zorlu Center have their open-air Christmas markets around mid-December. Here you can check out the best 5 shopping malls in Istanbul. 

There are also other bazaars and markets open for presents, in Besiktas’ main square there is a big New Year market between December 1-28, 2022. Here check out other great things to do in the Christmas season: December in Istanbul

Bonus: Hagia Irene Museum Guided Tour

Hagia Irene or Holy Peace was a Greek Eastern Orthodox church built under the orders of Emperor Constantine I over the ruins of a pagan temple as the first church in Constantinople. It served as the church of the Patriarchate until the Hagia Sophia basilica was built. Due to fires and earthquakes, the church suffered much damage and was restored on several occasions.

In Istanbul Tourist Pass® guided tour, you will discover Hagia Irene, a Greek Eastern Orthodox church with an informative and friendly tour guide. Don't miss this tour, especially at Christmas! Here you can check out the tour details, and don't forget, it is FREE with Istanbul Tourist Pass®!



How do they celebrate Christmas in Istanbul?

In Istanbul, there are many churches, and all of them have Christmas services and masses. The city is widely decorated for New Year with festive lights. So it is a great option to have Christmas in Istanbul. 

Is everything open in Istanbul at Christmas?

Yes, in Istanbul Christmas season everything including all the shops is open. 

What do Turkish do for Christmas?

Turkish Christians generally have their Christmas dinners at their home and then attend Christmas services in one of the churches. 

Is Istanbul closed during Christmas?

No,  in Istanbul Christmas season everything including all the shops is open. 

What do Turkish eat for Christmas?

Turkish Christians generally have a big table full of mezes and wine. Turkish Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas. At New Year's dinner, many families have stuffed turkeys. 

Is Istanbul very cold in December?

In December 2022, Istanbul will be around 7-10°C. although mid-December is expected to be rainy, the Christmas season is expected to be dry with sunlight.

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