Last Updated on October 26, 2020
Here you’ll find insider guide and helpful information on visiting Istanbul during Ramadan. Ramadan is the holy month of fasting (oruç in Turkish) for Muslims worldwide, in commemoration of the revelation of the Quran, to the Prophet Muhammad. The date of the Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It has 12 months with only 354 days. And while it is a lunar calendar, and consistently falls about 11 days short of the solar year, the dates of Ramadan changes like coming back about 11 days earlier each year.
When is Ramadan in Istanbul in 2021?
Tuesday, 13 April 2021 – Wednesday, 12 May 2021.
Ramadan Feast’s Eve (Religious Holiday – half day)
Wednesday, 12 May 2021
Ramadan Feast (Religious Holiday – goes for 3 days)
Thursday, 13 to Saturday, 15 May 2021
Tips & Adivce for Non-Muslims
The non-Muslims should know couple of things when visiting a Muslim country at this time of year, so that they you remain respectful.
First of all, you won’t face any problems in Istanbul during Ramadan regarding your life style. Istanbul is a cosmopolitan and tourist city, and you can behave like how you do in your home town.
You can feel free to eat and drink, no one would say a word or look badly. But you should respect the people in fast and should not eat or drink (especially alcoholic drinks) in the very public areas, like pushing into their eyes. And it will be better if you dress modestly to show your respect.
You’ll find all the cafes, restaurants, street food sellers, shops, supermarkets, shopping malls in business.
You should know that many Turkish people will not fast too. So you’ll find many locals eating and drinking at the restaurants, cafes, streets, etc. for all day long. So you’ll not be the only one who will not fast. You’ll find lunch and snacks everywhere for sure.
You should keep in mind that the restaurants will be crowded and full for the iftar meal, which is on the sunset time. You should arrange your dinner regarding this issue.
You’ll probably surprised, shocked or somehow can get angry with the drummers’ banging big drums at late midnight about 02:00-03:00 am. Don’t be afraid or get mad. This is a custom during Ramadan to help people wake up for preparing the pre-dawn meal before the fast begins.
A typical day in Istanbul during Ramadan
During Ramadan, majority of the Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn till sunset. The fast is broken after sunset with an evening meal called iftar. And than comes the evening prayers. Ramadan can be considered to be the best month to visit Istanbul to experience the Islamic traditions and the feel a Holy month.
Ramadan is expected to begin in Saturday, 23 May 2020 this year. The city becomes a slow one and noticeably quieter. You can learn about the local culture, experience and enjoy the Islamic traditions and festivities, and try try authentic Turkish cuisine in Istanbul during Ramadan.
Ramadan is celebrated and lived with great enthusiasm in Istanbul every year. The spiritual atmosphere of the city give peace to its visitors with the reflection of sharing, love and tolerance. The city shines with the illumination of mosques, lively festivities with variety of activities, fairs, exhibitions, shopping and turns into a holy atmosphere.
Almost every restaurant in the city prepares special menus for the iftar meal, as iftar is a spiritual sharing that goes far beyond food. And after the iftar, the enthusiasm of the Ramadan prayers can be felt in all the mosques especially in Sultanahmet, Eyup, Maltepe and Uskudar neighborhoods.
Sultanahmet Square and Feshane (in Eyup) becomes a movable feast with Ramadan festivities and variety of activities after iftar meal.
The iftar meals are very special in Istanbul with the breaking the fast in solidarity with about thousands of Istanbulites in the streets of Istanbul, accompanied by classical Turkish music and traditional Turkish cuisine.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality organizes open air iftar meals, as well as at the tents along the many spots of the city.
The traditional Ramadan celebrations and festivities that start after the iftar meals are also special and let the visitors have a good night out until the sahur (the meal before dawn).
Towards Iftar – Evening Meal
You’ll find numerous iftar tents that are set up in almost every popular squares of the city. This is a very enthusiastic thing that brings everyone together. And about all the restaurants prepare special recipes to their guests for iftar.
The pide (a flat bread baked with toppings in a stone oven) and gullac (a dessert made with gullac sheets, milk, sugar, rosewater and walnuts) are Ramadan specific tastes that locals look for during Ramadan.
Many Istanbulites break their fasts in the parks, in a picnic atmosphere on the grass at the popular squares around Holy places, mosques, etc. such as Sultanahmet Square, Eyup, Feshane, Yenikapi, Uskudar and Maltepe city park.
Fairs & Cultural Events
Variety of fairs and cultural events are organized in Istanbul during Ramadan, by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, such as book fairs, exhibitions, poetry nights, traditional art events, panel sessions, calligraphers’ events, whirling dervishes performances, Sufi music and concerts in accordance with the spirit of this Holy month. Sultanahmet Square, Beyazit Square, Eyup, Feshane, Yenikapi, Uskudar and Maltepe city park are the main spots for all these events.
Best Areas to Experience & Enjoy Ramadan in Istanbul
Sultanahmet Square is the historic Istanbul and leads about all of the historical sights of Istanbul that include the must-see mosques such as the Blue Mosque, the museums such as famous Topkapi Palace Museum and Hagia Sophia Museum, historical sites and palaces. The compact and relatively traffic free area makes it easy to explore the region on foot.
Sultanahmet Square becomes very lively during Ramadan where thousands of people visit here for breaking the fast on the gardens, tents, and share the spiritual moments with others. You’ll find stands with Ottoman & Turkish cuisine, book fairs, souvenirs, artworks such as water marbling, calligraphy art and ornaments.
Beyazit Square (see location map) offers a deep spiritual atmosphere for its visitors and home to various Ramadan activities such as book fairs, concerts, Sufi music, poetry readings, theater plays, traditional arts performances, etc. Visitors are also spend great time at the nearby Grand Bazaar.
Feshane (see location map) is a lively place with a big garden that is home to numerous festivals and events throughout the year in Istanbul. It is situated on the shore of the Golden Horn, near Eyup district.
You’ll find variety of lively festivities from Sufi concerts to whirling dervishes performances. Visitors prefer to spend the iftar period here also to visit the holy Eyup Sultan Mosque for night time prayers.
Yenikapi (see location map) is also one of the major spots for Ramadan festivities in Istanbul. Yenikapi hosts an outdoor venue with big tents including all kind of services for visitors.
You’ll find stands with Ottoman & Turkish cuisine, desserts, bagels, as well as traditional artworks, book fairs, souvenirs, etc. You’ll also find activities such as puppet performances for children, concerts, whirling dervishes performances, etc.
Maltepe (see location map) is one of the major spots for Ramadan activities on the Asian side. The festivities takes place by the shores in a very huge activity area (the biggest one on the Asian side) with a bazaar offering traditional Ottoman & Turkish food, artworks, book fairs, souvenirs, etc.
You’ll find lovely events and activities such as puppet shows & theater plays, Sufi music and concerts, whirling dervishes performances, etc.
Uskudar is also a great district on the Asian side and hosts great festivities during Ramadan with many stands and activity areas along the coast with the stunning views of the Maiden’s Tower and Historical Peninsula. Visitors prefer to spend the night at the various cafes and restaurants by the Bosdphorus.
Hotels in Istanbul will be much quieter and you can find good deals on Istanbul hotels during Ramadan. During the day, the restaurants and cafes of the hotels are usually open.
Cafes & Restaurants
Majority of the cafes and restaurants throughout the city are usually open during the day in Ramadan. You can feel free to eat and drink. The restaurants will be less crowded at lunch time. After the sunset till dawn, majority of the restaurants stay open as well.
Nightclubs and Alcohol
Majority of the night clubs are being closed during Ramadan in Istanbul. Several ones stay open, mostly in the tourist zones, but they don’t offer very much entertainment as to respect the Holy month. Majority of the places that offer alcoholic beverages may refrain from doing so in Ramadan.
The shopping malls and bazaars becomes colorful than ever in Istanbul during Ramadan. About all shopping malls and supermarkets are open during Ramadan. Majority of the boutique shops, department stores, and supermarkets stay open until midnight. Especially the ones in tourist zones like Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Eminonu and Taksim. The dazzling shopping malls are also very ideal places to spend a pleasant time in a cool environment.
As the city becomes some quieter, we can say that taking tourist attractions in Istanbul during Ramadan can be much fun and without so much crowd.
Public transportation remain same during Ramadan in Istanbul. You can only face busy hours before sunset with the locals’ hurry to get back their homes for evening meals.