Winters in Istanbul, though very snowy, aren’t as chilly as one would assume – the temperatures rarely fall below freezing. Summertime in Istanbul is steamy and humid, with average high temperatures of 28 Celsius, driving the inhabitants out of the city to beat the heat.
When to fly to Istanbul
With snowy, scenic winters and sultry summers, Istanbul is a desirable destination for every season.
Peak Season: The sunshine of summertime may have Istanbul residents heading out of town and to the waterfront, but it’s also the most popular time for tourists to visit the city. Cheap flights to Istanbul are difficult to come by from June until the beginning of October. If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul during peak season, it’s wise to book Istanbul flights and accommodations well in advance.
Off-peak Season: Flights to Istanbul from November through the end of February are far less crowded than the planes landing at Ataturk or Sabiha during the summertime. It’s easy to find cheap flights to Istanbul during the off-season, but cold and blustery weather conditions might wreak havoc on your ideal travel plans.
Find flights to Istanbul
Getting around Istanbul
There are a lot of transportation options in Istanbul, but the best way to explore is on foot. If walking isn’t your thing, you can always get a rechargeable Akbil transit pass, which you can buy at special kiosks and offers discounted fares on the local buses, trams, metro lines and ferries. Ferries and catamarans will provide great views as you float along the Golden Horn or cruise up the Bosporus. Buses go all over the city, but are usually slow and crowded. Take note that you need to buy bus tickets from ticket stands before boarding. The metro is a good way to avoid traffic jams, and trams provide some great views of the city. Like many cities, public transportation is crowded during rush hour. Ride in comfort by hailing a dolmus (shared minibus taxi) along its route, or picking it up at a dolmus stand. These shared minibuses cost less than regular taxis. When you board you should always give the driver your destination and ask what the cost will be. If you have your hotel call for a private yellow taxi, make sure the metre is running before you leave.
Istanbul insider information
- If you scored a window seat on your flight to Istanbul you likely witnessed breathtaking views of the city, but nothing quite compares to the sight of the shoreline from the deck of a boat gliding along the Bosphorus at dusk. You can book a spot on a cruise along the Bosphorus departing from either the Asian or European side of the city, and these nighttime tours between continents will provide you with stunning views of the shining lights of both sides of the city.
- Before your return Istanbul flight, spend time moseying through the Grand Bazaar to pick up souvenirs of every shape and size for your loved ones. This massive arcade has stalls hawking everything from ancient framed paintings of whirling dervishes to boxes of Turkish delight to Persian carpets. Haggling will get you far here, so don’t settle for the first price offered on that authentic shawl or Byzantine choker that you have your eye on.
- Your first stop after your flight to Istanbul lands should be Sultahnamet to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The most iconic attributes of the Istanbul landscape face each other across a massive plaza, which makes sightseeing a breeze due to the central location of the city’s most popular attractions. Hagia Sophia, which was built in the height of the Byzantine Empire, served as a model for the construction of the Blue Mosque, and the massive domes and intricate artwork of both draw millions of tourists each year. Before you head into the Blue Mosque, make sure that you’re appropriately dressed – no bare arms or legs, and women should cover their heads before entering the mosque. It’s best to check out the interiors of these incredible structures during the day, but the scene in Sultahnamet at night is nothing short of breathtaking, especially if you happen to be passing through the plaza at the last call to prayer.
- If your flight to Istanbul left you a little jet-lagged, head straight to the nearest coffee bar and indulge in a cup of Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee has been an important component of religious, political and social customs since the Ottoman Empire, and Istanbul today continues to be filled with coffee houses that resonate with intimate conversation.
- On the Asian side of the Bosporus lies Bagdat Caddesi lies Istanbul’s long strip of high-end boutiques and restaurants that closely compares with New York’s Fifth Avenue. If you’re looking to burn some lira thanks to saving money on a cheap flight to Istanbul, Bagdat Caddesi is worth a jaunt.