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Everything you need to know about visiting Istanbul

Istanbul is a feast for the senses, and a great place to visit for an exciting, culture-filled weekend. Here's everything you need to know about visiting one of Turkey's most popular cities to help you plan the perfect trip.

What’s the weather like in Istanbul?

It follows a similar pattern to the UAE: very hot summer months and cooler winter months. The hottest time of year in Istanbul is likely to be July and August when temperatures reach around 24°C (75.2 Fahrenheit). The winter in Istanbul is much cooler than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi though (and it can snow!), with daytime temperatures dropping to an average of around 8°C. Cold, but pretty!

Winter months in Istanbul can be cold but pretty

When’s the best time to visit Istanbul?

The weather in the months either side of peak summer are pleasant, usually averaging around 21°C or 22°C in the daytime. Of course these are likely to be the busiest months in terms of visitors so if you don’t mind the chillier weather, head there in winter and you’ll probably find much smaller queues at some of Istanbul’s most popular places to visit (the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar, for example). The Istanbul hotels are also likely to be cheaper in the off-peak months.

How do I find cheap flights to Istanbul?

According to our Best Time to Book data crunching, the cheapest tickets to Turkey can be found in May, when you’ll save 16.4% on the average ticket price. Also, using two year’s worth of data, we’ve identified that the best time to book your ticket to Turkey is 13 weeks in advance, saving you around 22.4% on the average ticket price. So if Istanbul is on your bucket list, you’d better get planning!

Read more about the calculations here: The best time to book your flights

Find the cheapest flights to Istanbul on Skyscanner

Book a cheap flight to Istanbul

What are the best places to visit in Istanbul?

You can’t visit Istanbul without stepping foot inside the stunning Hagia Sophia. It was originally a church, constructed in 537, but was converted to a mosque when Constantinople (as it was known then) was conquered in 1453 by Mehmed the Conqueror. A wonderful mixture of church and mosque features remain, including four minarets that were added after the conversion. It is now one of the most popular attractions in Turkey, and the most popular thing to do in Istanbul. A short walk from the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque (officially the Sultan Ahmed Mosque), which gets its name from the 20,000 16th century blue-colored tiles that decorate its interior. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Istanbul. Other places to visit include the Grand Bazaar market, the banks of the Bosphorus, the Basilica Cistern and the Hippodrome of Constantinople, an ancient chariot race circuit.

Places to visit in Istanbul: Blue Mosque

How to choose the right Istanbul hotel

First of all, you should work out what you want to do in the city. Do you want to explore the old town? Do you want to be where all the action happens? Do you just want to stay in the cheapest part of the city? Once you’ve narrowed your location down, use our Skyscanner hotel search to show you all the hotels in a particular area. After entering Istanbul and your travel dates into the hotel search on our website or mobile app, click on the map on the results page. This will allow you to see all the hotels across the city, and filter them according to neighborhood, amenities, price, rating, and more. It also includes B&Bs and aparthotels so you’ll definitely find an Istanbul hotel to suit your needs.

Istanbul's vista

Search for the perfect Istanbul hotel

Where can I shop in Istanbul?

By far the best shopping experience in Istanbul is at the city’s Grand Bazaar. It’s a warren of small and chaotic lanes (there are more than 60 ‘streets’ in total!) crammed with stores selling traditional Turkish goods such as lanterns, coffee and handcrafted jewelry. Yes, it’s very popular with tourists but this doesn’t make the experience any less fun or interesting. Parts of the architecture are stunning and if you wander off the most beaten tracks you’ll likely stumble across some of the market’s artisans in action in their small workshops.

Should I take an Istanbul tour?

There’s lots to see and do in Istanbul and if you prefer someone else to do the research and planning for you, why not try a walking tour? There are loads to choose from so do your homework and read the reviews before you book. One of the larger operators, Daily Istanbul Tours, offers tours including the Off-the-beaten path Istanbul tour and Istanbul classics small group tour, among others. If you’d like an Istanbul tour with a difference, why not consider a Culinary Back Street Tour? There’s a few to choose from but popular options are the Culinary Backstreets of the Bazaar Quarter tour and the Culinary Secrets of the Old City tour.

Our guide to Turkey

Discover the best Turkey has to offer with our guide to the country’s unmissable hotspots.

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*Published November 2018. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.