Istanbul in December 2024 (Top 10 Things to Do & See, Festivals)

December is the start of winter in Istanbul, as well as a fantastic month with Christmas and New Year fervor in the city. Average temperature is 10°C and precipitation 123 mm. The weather is cold, little snow. We recommend you to bring a winter coat and portable umbrella. Also take sweater for some warmer days.

The days are still short but started to get longer, the sun set around 18:30.
(Average Max Temp.: 11°C – Average Max Temp.: 5°C)

Public holidays, Festivals & Events

  • Seb-i Aruz (17-24 December, the death anniversary of by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207-1273), a world famous Islamic mystical poet, theologian and a spiritual master (Sufi), ceremonies at the Galata Mevlevi Lodge)
  • Christmas (late December)
  • New Year’s Eve & Festivities (31st of December)

Top Venues

You can follow the calendar of exhibitions and events of our pick of top Istanbul venues from below.

Istanbul’s December Top 10 Attractions

Things to do in Istanbul are endless and it is not possible to mention all the best attractions in Istanbul. We just put together below the most fascinating ones that best suit for December. We also recommend you check out our Istanbul attractions opening hours & admissions, one day Istanbul itinerary or 3 day Istanbul itinerary to have a better idea before you plan your days in Istanbul.


1. Enjoy the colorful New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Features fireworks on the Bosphorus, variety of street celebrations. TaksimIstiklal Street, Nisantasi, Besiktas, Bakirkoy and Kadikoy are the popular districts and neighborhoods to spend a lively partying night.

Explore New Years’s Eve in Istanbul


2. Visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern Trio

Explore Hagia Sophia

Located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, Hagia Sophia is a former church and museum, now a mosque. It is one of the world’s greatest architectural works and accepted as the 8th wonder of the world, experience the history in the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires.

Famous Hagia Sophia in the evening sun rays, Istanbul, Turkey

It’s like stepping into the holy world of Christianity and Islam, merged on the shell-like apse and under an impressive dome, in a mysterious and mystical ambiance, and a wide range of architectural and art works coming from thousands of years. Such as the golden Christian mosaics and colorful frescoes from the Byzantine era.

Tips:

  • Visit early in the morning to avoid long queues.
  • Dress modestly and be respectful of the mosque’s customs.

We recommend the below ticket options for the great value for money.


  1. Hagia Sophia Skip-the-Line Tickets (Instant confirmation, Mobile ticket, cheapest price on net)
  2. 2-Hour VIP Private Guided Tour of Hagia Sophia (superb choice for a group of up to 8 people)
  3. Combo: Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Tour (one of the best)
  4. Hagia Sophia Tour with Historian Guide (if you want a pro-guide with you)
  5. Combo Ticket & Tour (all in one - Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern, our favorite, no need to look for else, trust us)
  6. Hagia Sophia: Guided Highlights Tour and In-App Audio Guide (great one)
  7. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour (good one)

Wanna learn more about Hagia Sophia?

Visit Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace is a magnificent oriental palace and one of world’s richest museums that is situated on a triangular promontory dominating the Bosphorus & Golden Horn.

This is a magnificent oriental palace and one of the world’s greatest architectural works. Once a residence of the Ottoman Sultans, it is also one of world’s richest museums.

It was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 15th century to mid-19th century. It has four courtyards, terraces with astonishing views, as well as precious collections, one of the top tourist attractions in the city.

It houses the finest samples of seal, book binding, jewelry and box craftsmanship as well as inscriptions, as well as the finest collection of Chinese porcelain in the world.

Tips:

  • Allow several hours for your visit to fully appreciate the palace.
  • Don’t miss the breathtaking views from the palace terraces.

We recommend the below ticket options for the great value for money.


  1. Topkapi Palace Museum & Harem Skip-the-Line Tickets with Audio Guide (Instant confirmation, Mobile ticket, cheapest price on net)
  2. Topkapi Palace Ticket, Tour, Audio App (great one, guide and audio app will lead you for all)
  3. Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide (if you want a pro-guide with you inc. Harem)
  4. Combo Ticket & Tour (all top-3 one - Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern, our favorite, no need to look for else, trust us)
  5. Istanbul Must See Highlights Tour (another combo with Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque & Bosphorus Cruise)
  6. Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour (good one)
  7. Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket (good one)

Wanna learn more about Topkapi Palace?

Explore the famous Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern Museum is one of the most impressive and mystical buildings in the city. The two Medusa Heads, which are used as supports under the two columns at the northwest edge of the cistern, take the most interest and attracts the visitors.

The cistern is a very quiet and peaceful place conveyed by the columns through impressive arches.

Tips:

  • Visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
  • Capture the atmospheric reflections on the water’s surface.

We recommend the below ticket options for the great value for money.

  1. Skip-the-Line Tickets to Basilica Cistern (Instant confirmation, Mobile ticket, cheapest price on net)
  2. Basilica Cistern Skip the Line Tickets + Tour (quick entrance + 30 mins. with guide)
  3. Basilica Cistern Skip the Line Tickets + Tour (another quick entrance + 30 mins. with guide)
  4. Combo: Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Tour (one of the best)
  5. Combo Ticket & Tour (all top-3 one - Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern, our favorite, no need to look for else)
  6. Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide (another great one with guide)

Wanna learn more about Basilica Cistern?

We highly recommend you to visit and see all these three museums at once. It would take about 3 hours total. And you should get Skip-the-line-tickets to save yourself from the long queues.

Combo Tickets: Hagia Sophia + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern

This is a great combo ticket. Our favorite. You can visit the above top 3 most visited sights in Sultanahmet with this combo ticket, with skip the lines access. Great value for money. Book your tickets online in advance as they are selling out quickly.

Buy Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern Combo Ticket

Click the red button to buy Combo online tickets and skip the lines.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.


3. Mystical night out with Whirling Dervishes Show

Whirling Dervishes Show is one of the most visited Istanbul attractions with the tourists. It is because that this ceremony is a very unusual event for the tourists and when they hear about it, majority of them try to catch this one hour show and witness the miracle of the whirling dervishes.

There are two popular venues that you can watch this show. Book your tickets online in advance as they are selling out quickly.

Buy Whirling Dervishes Show Tickets at Hodjapasha Culture Center

Buy Whirling Dervishes Show Tickets at Orient Express Hall

Wanna learn more about Whirling Dervishes Show?


4. Enjoy the lively atmosphere at Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is probably the most famous street and entertainment area of the city. It is a long colorful pedestrian street full of all kind of shops, restaurants, cafes and street shows. You can visit the fantastic Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the amazing St. Anthony of Padua Church and Pera Museum there.

In between strolling the Istiklal Street and enjoying the lively atmosphere, you can have a lunch/dinner/snack in one of the pretty restaurants along the way.

Wanna learn more about Istiklal Street?


5. Visit Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is an impressive museum combining the Turkish and Islamic works. Located at the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, one of the most important buildings of 16th century Ottoman civil architecture, in Sultanahmet. You can witness to very unique, more than over 40,000 items at the carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic and ethnography sections. Continue reading…


6. Catch the winter sales at Istanbul’s Shopping Malls

Istanbul also hosts more than 200 modern shopping malls. And some of them are really very huge and amongst the best shopping malls in Europe. As it is one of the winter sales time in Istanbul, we recommend you to visit many of the popular shopping malls and make shopping. Continue reading…


7. Enjoy Istanbul’s lively nights with its bars, pubs and clubs

Entertainment in Istanbul revolves around many of the entertainment venues that the city has to offer. The nightlife in Istanbul has really come alive in recent years and the locals will all tell you that the nightlife spreads out in all directions throughout the city.

With its numerous rooftop restaurants and cafes, music clubs, bars or pubs, cafes, night clubs, music venues and restaurants of Istanbul, you can easily spend the night bouncing from one venue to the next.

Warm Up with Turkish Delights at Istanbul’s Cafes

Café Culture – Cozy Retreats: November is the perfect time to explore Istanbul’s thriving café scene. Seek refuge from the chilly weather in the city’s charming cafes, where you can enjoy traditional Turkish delights, pastries, and hot beverages like Salep and Sahlep.

Tips:

  • Visit historic districts like Beyoğlu and Kadıköy for the best café experiences.
  • Try the iconic Turkish dessert, Baklava, paired with a steaming cup of Turkish tea.

8. Visit Istanbul Aquarium and Aqua Florya Shopping Mall

Istanbul Aquarium, located in Florya district of Bakirkoy, is one of the best theme parks in Istanbul. With its 6,000 square meters area, a special-themed and 1,2 km long travel route originating in the Black Sea towards the Pacific, the fish species, rain-forest, a gift shop with an area of 470 square meters, 1 restaurant having the Panama Canal view on one side and the sea view on the other, it is also one of the best aquariums and theme parks in Europe. You can also enjoy a great leisure time in the Aqua Florya Mall.

We recommend the below ticket options for the great value for money.

  1. Istanbul Aquarium Ticket & Shuttle Bus from Taksim (great one with fast entry and shuttle service)
  2. Istanbul Aquarium, Wednesday Bazaar & 212 Mall (Solo – Group)
  3. Istanbul Aquarium and Aqua Florya Shopping Mall Tour (good one)
  4. Istanbul Aquarium and Aqua Florya Independent Shopping Trip (good one)

Wanna learn more about Istanbul Aquarium?


9. Enjoy the Gastronomy Festival

Istanbul’s International Gastronomy Festival is 3 days long festival for gastronomy and world cuisine lovers, organized by Cooks and Chefs Federation of Turkey, at the TUYAP Fair Convention Center in the Buyukcekmece district of Istanbul. It is also a joint organisation with the World Association of Chef Societies (WACS). Visitors may find and taste world’s different tastes together with Turkish cuisine. It also offers a competition by bringing new chefs in gastronomy as well as chefs from around the world and Turkey, about more than 2000 chefs from 30 countries. More information on tiyatro.iksv.org/en


10. Historical Turkish Bath (Hammam) experience

This will is one of the one time experiences on your Istanbul visit. With a Turkish bath, also called Hammam, you can enjoy an authentic experience, relax your muscles, rest in a steam bath, refresh your body. It will a be unique experience, as well as you will be freshened up. There are many historical hammams in Istanbul where you can enjoy a relaxing steam bath and invigorating scrub by expert attendants.

We recommend the below ticket options for the great value for money.

  1. Turkish Bath at Cemberlitas Hamam by Headout (500 Year Old Historical Turkish Bath close to Grand Bazaar)
  2. Turkish Bath at Cemberlitas Hamam by Getyourguide
  3. Famous Hurrem Sultan Hamam Experience (on the Sultanahmet Square, on the site of the ancient public baths from 100-200 AD)
  4. Turkish Bath & Spa at Catma Mescit Hamam (great experience at historical hamam close to Galata Tower)
  5. Grand Hotel de Pera Turkish Bath (very good one along Istiklal Street)
  6. Doubletree by Hilton Sirkeci Hotel Turkish Bath (another very good one along Sirkeci)
  7. Turkish Bath Package at Beyoglu Aga Hamami (very good one too)

Wanna learn more about Turksh Bath & Hammams in Istanbul?


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