30-11-2022 - Months in Istanbul Updated At: 28-11-2023

Istanbul in December: Tips for 2023

The end of 2023 is here! December is an amazing time to visit Istanbul, and Istanbul is a great city to meet the new year! Here is all the information about the weather, events, Christmas markets, and more gathered for you. Save this page to your bookmarks in case of updates! 

Whenever you want to take a trip to Istanbul, whether it is summer or winter, don’t forget to check out carefully handpicked 100+ attractions and services included in Istanbul Tourist Pass®

Let’s check out the city’s agenda for December 2023! Take photos and videos and share your experiences with us; here is our Instagram @istanbultouristpass

Weather in Istanbul in December 2023

First things first, Istanbul is not freezing cold in December mostly. The first days of December see humidity intensify, especially in the morning and evening. With temperatures around 13°C (55.4°F) in the middle of the day, only the mornings can be rather cool. From mid-December to the end of the month, it is expected to rain or snow, especially in the early mornings. The weather will be around 13°C (55.4°F) all month. This year, it is expected to have 13 rainy days and some like-summer days in December. 

There will be cloudy days and also bright and clear days in December 2023 as the weather professionals expect. Especially 6-8 December 2023, we expect the weather will go up to 18°C (64.4°F) Don’t forget to bring your waterproof and warm clothes to enjoy open-air activities and walks around the city. 

Packing for a Winter Trip to Istanbul in December 2023

As the weather cools down and the festive spirit fills the air, Istanbul transforms into a mesmerizing winter wonderland. While the city's charm remains undimmed, packing for a December trip requires careful consideration of the chilly temperatures and occasional rainfall. Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure you're well-equipped for your Istanbul winter adventure:

Warm Layers: Embracing the layering principle is essential for a comfortable winter experience in Istanbul. Pack a variety of long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and a fleece jacket to adjust to fluctuating temperatures. A warm and cozy coat is a must-have for chilly evenings and outdoor explorations.

Waterproof Outerwear: Istanbul's winters can be unpredictable, with occasional showers and chilly winds. Pack a lightweight waterproof jacket or rain poncho to protect yourself from unexpected downpours.

Warm Bottoms: Pairing warm bottoms with your layered tops is crucial for staying comfortable in the chilly weather. Pack a few pairs of jeans, leggings, or warm trousers to keep your legs protected from the cold.

Comfortable Footwear: Navigating Istanbul's cobbled streets and bustling bazaars requires comfortable footwear. Pack a pair of sturdy ankle boots or sneakers that provide good traction and support.

Essential Accessories: Keep your extremities warm with a scarf, hat, and gloves. A pair of waterproof gloves is particularly useful for protecting your hands from the cold and damp.

Personal Care Items: Pack your usual toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, soap, and sunscreen, regardless of the season. Additionally, consider bringing a moisturizing lotion to combat dry skin caused by cold weather.

Travel Essentials: Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout your explorations. A small backpack or crossbody bag is convenient for carrying essentials like a camera, guidebook, and snacks.

Cultural Considerations: When packing for Istanbul, be mindful of local customs. Modest clothing is generally preferred, especially when visiting religious sites. Women may want to consider bringing a scarf to cover their heads and shoulders to enter mosques.

Electronics and Chargers: Pack the necessary chargers for your electronic devices, including your phone, camera, and laptop. A universal adapter may be useful if you're traveling from a different country.

Medications: If you take any prescription medications, ensure you have an adequate supply for your trip. It's also advisable to pack over-the-counter pain relievers and stomach upset remedies.

Entertainment: Pack a book or download e-books to keep yourself entertained on long flights or during downtime. Consider bringing a portable music player or noise-canceling headphones to enhance your travel experience.

Emergency Supplies: Pack a small first-aid kit with essential items like bandages, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes. A small flashlight and a portable phone charger can also be helpful in case of unexpected situations.

Souvenir Space: Leave some extra space in your luggage to bring back souvenirs from your Istanbul adventure. Consider purchasing local handicrafts, spices, or traditional Turkish sweets to cherish your memories.

Is it a good idea to come to Istanbul in December 2023?

If you are a summer person, the answer is ''may be'' but if you love your warm clothes and indoor activities then it is a ‘‘yes yes and yes’’. First of all, in the early days of December, it is still off-season so there will be many deals in hotels. But if you want to celebrate Christmas or New Year, then you should book your hotel as early as possible. 

In any case, there will be fewer lines and great indoor activities. The city will be vibrant and joyful with decorative lights, Christmas markets, and huge year-end sales in malls. So, it is a good idea to come to Istanbul in December 2023, you’ll love the city. 

Christmas in Istanbul

On Christmas, Istanbul where the cultures and religions meet is -as always- attractive and beautiful. There are many churches around the city and if you’d like to attend a Christmas service or mass, you can find many of them happening in Istanbul’s historic and beautiful churches.

Although the majority of Turkey is identified as Muslim, there are many Christian or Jewish citizens in Istanbul. Istanbul is historically and culturally very important in Christianity since its the base of the Orthodox Church. So, even though the city is not fully decorated for Christmas, it is a great idea to be in a Christmas mass in Istanbul.

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Here are some churches you can catch a Christmas service.The British Consulate Chapel of Saint Helena has a Christmas Eve service and the Crimean Memorial Church has a service on Christmas Morning. Grand Saint Anthony of Padua, the city’s largest Catholic church, is on Istiklal Caddesi and holds Christmas masses throughout Christmas Day in Polish, English, Italian and Turkish.

Many restaurants and international hotels offer Christmas meals, often buffet-style, and will need to be booked in advance. Have your family Christmas meal in Istanbul this year, you’ll have unforgettable memories.

New Year 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. Traditionally Kanyon Shopping Mall and Zorlu Center have their open-air Christmas markets around mid-December.

There are also other bazaars and markets open for presents, save this page in your browser and check later for more updates!


Unlimited Public Transportation Card

Starting this month, Istanbul Municipality has announced a new public transportation card specifically for tourists: Istanbul City Card. This is a prepaid public transportation card that gives you unlimited access to public transportation for the number of days you choose.  Istanbul City Card is valid in every public transportation vehicle including metro, trams, buses, metrobuses, and ferries.  It is a beautifully designed physical card delivered at your hotel by Istanbul Tourist Pass® and after using it, you can keep it as a souvenir. You can have up to 40% advantage in buying with Istanbul Tourist Pass®.

Check it this unlimited public transportation card here and buy easily! So you can freely travel around the city.

Bursa Day Trip with Historic Market & Outlet Shopping

If you love day trips to nature then this is the must-do day trip for you. With an amazing trip to Bursa, the city will surprise you with its magnificent nature, great weather, traditional culture, and modern life! Bursa is famous for its abundant green areas. If you are tired of the city crowds and in need of a natural atmosphere, you should visit this city and feel the peace!

With informative and friendly guides of Istanbul Tourist Pass®, the Bursa Day Trip will be a great experience for you! You will feel relaxed, peaceful, and comfortable after your trip. You will be amazed by this green-filled city and you will always want to visit again! Plus, do not forget to visit famous shopping places; you love the silk clothes of Bursa. Check all the details here and book your trip right away!

Try Boza and Salep

Istanbul is beautiful in winter. And there are two traditional wintertime drinks; boza and salep. Boza is a fermented beverage that has a history in Turkey but also in countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In order to make boza, hulled millet is boiled in water and then poured into pans to cool. It has a sweet, tangy taste once it's sieved, and then water and sugar are added. Due to its thick consistency, boza is usually served with a spoon. In addition to cinnamon, the drink is occasionally served with leblebi (roasted chickpeas). There are wandering peddlers who start selling boza in certain neighborhoods in the winter, towing a large canister in tow and calling out to anyone in the mood for boza. 

Even though boza is a winter drink, it is served cold. But if you are looking for a sweet and hot winter drink here is Salep. This delicious hot drink, Salep is made from the tuberous roots of orchids. As with hot chocolate or chai spices, the dried flour is combined with other ingredients, such as sugar, cornstarch, powdered milk, cinnamon, and vanillin. Then voila! It is perfectly smooth, creamy, and sweet.

For Boza, you can go to the Vefa district which is famous for its boza places. For salep, there are plenty of cafes serving so you can decide which has the best salep for your taste.

Seb-i Arus Ceremonies & Whirling Dervishes Show

Sufi mystic, poet, and scholar Mevlana, also known as Rumi, and his teachings widely influenced mystical thought and literature throughout the world. Stories tell that Rumi, who was always a beloved figure in the Islamic world became immensely sad after the departure of his master Shams-i Tabrizi (Shams of Tabriz) with whom he had discovered the depths of spirituality. This loss caused a great change in his inner world. He gave up everything and wrote “Masnavi” which is widely recognized as the greatest Sufi poem ever written, consisting of 25 thousand couplets. For Rumi, true love meant love for Allah (God), and death was the day when he would unite with the divine. 

That is why the anniversary of his death, which is December 17th, is known not as a day of mourning but as a day of celebration, and the Seb-i Arus means ‘the Night of Reunion’ or ‘Wedding Night’.

This year in 2023, between December 7th-17th there will be Seb-Arus ceremonies in many places. If you can’t catch one, don’t worry, it is a great time to see a Whirling Dervishes Show in December. The best dervishes show is, as you can expect, FREE with Istanbul Tourist Pass®.

With 25+ years of experience in tourism, we are proud to create Istanbul Tourist Pass® which is the first and most inclusive tourist card in Istanbul. Check our website and witness yourself. Have a great time in Istanbul in December and don’t forget to stay warm!

Tips for Visiting Istanbul in December 2023

December is a great time to visit Istanbul, as the city is decked out for the holidays and there are fewer crowds. Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip:

Pack warm clothes. The weather in Istanbul in December can be chilly, with average temperatures ranging from 4°C to 10°C (39°F to 50°F). Be sure to pack a warm coat, hat, scarf, and gloves.

Be prepared for rain. Istanbul gets an average of 10 days of rain in December, so be sure to pack an umbrella or raincoat.

Visit the Christmas markets. Istanbul has several Christmas markets, including the ones in Taksim Square, Beşiktaş, and Kadıköy. These markets are a great place to find festive treats, souvenirs, and gifts.

Attend a traditional Sufi whirling dervish ceremony. Sufi whirling dervish ceremonies are a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul. These ceremonies are a beautiful and spiritual experience. Click here to get a FREE Sufi whirling dervish ceremony in Istanbul 

Take a walk along the Bosphorus Strait. The Bosphorus Strait is a beautiful waterway that separates Europe from Asia. You can take a ferry ride or a walk along the waterfront to enjoy the views.

Visit the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul. It was originally built as a church in the 6th century, but it later became a mosque. To learn all about its history and significance, join a FREE Guided Hagia Sophia Tour.

Explore the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is a labyrinthine marketplace with over 4,000 shops. You can find everything from traditional Turkish souvenirs to modern electronics here. Grand Bazaar is a huge place so the best way to explore it is by starting the journey with a guided tour. Click here for more information about a FREE Guided Grand Bazaar Tour.

Take a Turkish bath. Turkish baths, or hamams, are a great way to relax and pamper yourself. You can get a traditional massage, a body scrub, and a soak in a hot bath. Looking for the best Turkish bath in Istanbul? Click here to get more information and an amazing discount!

Try traditional Turkish food. Istanbul has a wide variety of delicious food to offer. Be sure to try some traditional dishes like kebabs, dolmas, and börek.

Learn a few basic Turkish phrases. Learning a few basic Turkish phrases will help you communicate with the locals and make your trip more enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the weather like in Istanbul in December?

December is one of the coldest months in Istanbul, with average temperatures ranging from 4°C (39°F) to 10°C (50°F). It is also one of the wettest months, with an average of 11 days of rain. Snow is rare, but it does occasionally fall in the city.

What should I wear when visiting Istanbul in December?

Be sure to pack warm clothes for your trip to Istanbul in December. This includes a warm coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. You will also want to pack waterproof shoes, as it can rain quite often.

What are the best things to do in Istanbul in December?

Istanbul is a magical city to visit during the holiday season. There are many festive events and activities taking place, including Christmas markets, New Year's Eve celebrations, and traditional Sufi whirling dervish ceremonies.

Are there any outdoor activities I can do in Istanbul in December?

Despite the cold weather, there are still plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Istanbul in December. Visit the Galata Tower for stunning views of the city, or take a walk along the Bosphorus Strait.

How do I get from the airport to the city center?

There are a few different ways to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center. The most convenient option is to take the discounted VIP transfer services supplied by Istanbul Tourist Pass®.

Where should I stay in Istanbul in December?

There are many great hotels to choose from in Istanbul, but the best option for you will depend on your budget and preferences. If you're looking for a luxurious experience, consider staying in a hotel in the Sultanahmet district, close to the major tourist attractions. If you're on a budget, there are plenty of affordable hotels in other parts of the city.

What is the best food to eat in Istanbul in December?

Istanbul is a foodie paradise, and there are many delicious dishes to try in December. Sample some traditional Turkish cuisine, such as kebabs, dolmas, and börek. Don't forget to try some of the city's famous street food, such as simit (Turkish bagel) and gözleme (savory flatbread).

Is Istanbul safe to visit in December?

Istanbul is a generally safe city, but it's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against petty theft. Be sure to keep your valuables safe and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Is Istanbul nice at Christmas?

Absolutely! Istanbul is adorned with festive decorations, creating a magical atmosphere. Many attractions and markets embrace the holiday spirit.

Is Istanbul cold in December?

Yes, December in Istanbul is chilly. Average temperatures range from 4°C (39°F) to 10°C (50°F).

How is it to visit Istanbul in December?

It's delightful! The city is less crowded, making it easier to explore attractions. The winter ambiance adds a unique charm.

Is it worth it to go to Turkey in December?

urkey offers a distinct experience in December with its festive atmosphere and the chance to explore historical sites without the summer crowds.

Is it worth visiting Istanbul in winter?

Winter brings a beautiful charm to Istanbul. You can enjoy attractions without the summer hustle and bustle.

Is December a bad time to visit Turkey?

No, it's a great time! While some areas may be cooler, the festive atmosphere, cultural experiences, and fewer tourists make it an excellent time to visit.

What is the coldest month in Istanbul?

January is typically the coldest month in Istanbul, but December can be quite cool as well.

Is Istanbul cheap in December?

December can be a budget-friendly time to visit. Prices for accommodation and some attractions may be lower compared to peak tourist seasons.

What should I wear in Istanbul in December?

Layered clothing is advisable. Bring a mix of warm and waterproof items, as there may be some rain. Don't forget a good jacket and comfortable shoes for exploring.

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