As a country that experiences all four seasons, many Turkish cities offer their complete beauty every day of a year. Yet, megacities such as Istanbul is one of the few that enchants the visitor if the weather is relatively colder and windy. As the fall begins and the winter approaches, this 16 million population of a city transforms into a concrete, yet magical jungle. Just like its history, Istanbul has always been a harsh land. It has been through countless battles, conquests, and natural disasters that shaped its skyline.
It is a matter of opinion, but Istanbul is arguably more beautiful during colder seasons, than in a warmer climate. The sun shining on top of your head for hours might make the shoreline visits more enjoyable during summer, but cold weather creates a sense of isolation in the public, pushing everyone aside, and giving you rare glimpses of its beauty in empty spaces. Museums and buildings of the Fatih districts, or Prince's Islands where people fill in every single inch of the available space, becomes rather deserted once the cold weather hits. Here are top spots to enjoy if you do end up experiencing Istanbul in winter times.
1) Prince's Islands
This group of islands that handles quite a lot of the city's tourism for swimming and food, is also arguably the most populated location in terms of non-locals. It can be hard to find a spot to relax for a moment during your hike to see the Church of Aya Yorgi in Büyük Ada. The major roads that lead to the church or the swimming spots all have various coffee shops all offer their chairs to the other visitors. All non-walking transportation on the Islands are provided by carriages pulled by horses who work under the sun all day of the Summer season.
If you do visit the islands during the winter season, taking that hike to Aya Yorgi will be easier under the chill wind of the winter. Snow might be a rare occasion considering the location of the Islands, but you may experience the white carpet covering the land, and falling on the mainland Istanbul through the highest points of each island.
Swimming is most definitely be out of the option during winter, as public beaches will be out of season. Rather than swimming, you will replace it with an equally refreshing hiking tour. Although the major population of the natural life will be on their winter sleep, the horses that work overtime during Summer will be all over the islands, running freely. The horses are released to the wild until the next season starts, while there is also a group of horses who are permanently retired, such as the older ones. Just by taking a tour around islands, you can experience once in a lifetime sight, where horses run wild in nature, just near the society.
One of the major attractions of the city, the Bosphorus is equally eye-catching during every season. The wind is never calm on the Marmara Sea no matter the weather. There are private or public boat tours you can take with your friends and family. Especially the night time rides are highly recommended for your first time, as to witness the lighting shows off the Three Bridges that connect Asia and European continents. The most alive sea shore districts, Beşiktaş, Kadıköy, and Fatih, all offer an incredible winter experience as you watch the snowfall down to the city. The dolphins of Marmara may have been traveled to warmer climates, but you can still be followed around by Sea Gulls that you can feed with your Turkish Bagels (Simit).
The restaurants of the Bosphorus will still be open during the winter. The nightlife will continue with them. You can relax at a seafood restaurant to enjoy the nightlife of Kadıköy, or Eminönü, hiding behind a glass window, yet still enjoying the skyline and the musical wonders of Istanbul.
3) Less Crowded Locations
The most eye-catching wonders of Istanbul, such as the Grand Mosque in Fatih, Kız Kulesi (The Maiden Tower) in Üsküdar, or the Galata Tower and Istiklal Street on Beyoğlu districts will be yours to visit. Okay, Istiklal Street may still be overcrowded every season, but you will still live the full experience of Taksim, maybe more so than in the summer.
Taksim Square and Istiklal is a different experience than the city's other touristic locations since Taksim is also a major neighborhood people live on. Although the food culture on them is alive every day of the season, foods such as Baked Chestnut that you can buy off from the walking sellers feel more genuine during winter, because it is the season of chestnuts. The more traditional foods such as Donair, and Kebab is more fun to eat when you are not pressured by the harsh heats of Summer as well.