The 25 Best Things To Do In Istanbul In December In 2024

Istanbul, the vibrant city that straddles two continents, is a captivating destination to visit in December. As winter sets in, the city comes alive with festive spirit, enchanting decorations, and a myriad of activities to engage in. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or a culture seeker, Istanbul has something to offer for everyone. From exploring magnificent landmarks to indulging in delicious cuisine and experiencing the local traditions, here are the top 25 things to do in Istanbul in December.

1. Visit the Hagia Sophia

Start your Istanbul adventure by visiting the iconic Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Marvel at its grandeur, admire the stunning mosaics, and immerse yourself in its rich history.

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2. Explore the Blue Mosque

Step into the enchanting Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and admire its breathtaking interior adorned with blue tiles. Take a moment to soak in the peaceful atmosphere and appreciate the intricate design.

3. Wander Through the Grand Bazaar

Get lost in the maze-like corridors of the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. Explore its diverse collection of shops, offering everything from textiles and jewelry to spices and ceramics.

4. Take a Bosphorus Cruise

Embark on a scenic Bosphorus cruise and enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul’s skyline. Cruise along the strait that separates Europe and Asia, passing by historical landmarks and picturesque neighborhoods.

5. Visit the Topkapi Palace

Discover the opulence of the Topkapi Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans. Explore its lavish courtyards, admire the dazzling treasures in the Imperial Treasury, and enjoy sweeping views of the Bosphorus.

6. Indulge in Turkish Cuisine

Treat your taste buds to the flavors of Turkish cuisine. Savor traditional dishes like kebabs, mezze, and baklava at local restaurants and street food stalls. Don’t forget to try the famous Turkish tea and Turkish delight.

7. Experience a Turkish Bath

Relax and rejuvenate with a traditional Turkish bath experience, known as a hammam. Enjoy a steam bath, exfoliating scrub, and a relaxing massage, leaving you feeling refreshed and invigorated.

8. Explore the Spice Bazaar

Immerse yourself in the vibrant sights, sounds, and aromas of the Spice Bazaar. Wander through its colorful stalls, filled with an array of spices, dried fruits, nuts, and Turkish delights.

9. Discover the Istanbul Modern Art Museum

Engage with contemporary Turkish art at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. Admire thought-provoking exhibitions, installations, and multimedia artworks that showcase the creativity of Turkish artists.

10. Marvel at the Chora Church

Visit the Chora Church, renowned for its stunning Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Marvel at the intricate details and vibrant colors that depict biblical scenes and saints.

11. Shop at Istiklal Street

Stroll down Istiklal Street, Istanbul’s vibrant pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops, cafes, and galleries. Explore the trendy boutiques, sample local street food, and soak in the lively atmosphere.

12. Explore the Princes’ Islands

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a ferry to the Princes’ Islands. Enjoy a peaceful retreat on these car-free islands, where you can explore charming streets, rent bicycles, or simply relax by the waterfront.

13. Visit the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Step back in time at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, which house a remarkable collection of artifacts from various civilizations. Explore the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum to learn about Istanbul’s rich archaeological heritage.

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14. Attend a Whirling Dervishes Ceremony

Immerse yourself in the mystic tradition of Sufism by attending a Whirling Dervishes ceremony. Witness the mesmerizing dance of the dervishes as they spin in a trance-like state, symbolizing spiritual union with the divine.

15. Discover the Basilica Cistern

Descend into the underground world of the Basilica Cistern, an ancient water reservoir built during the Byzantine era. Marvel at the rows of towering columns and the atmospheric lighting, creating a mystical ambiance.

16. Explore the Suleymaniye Mosque

Visit the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most significant architectural gems. Admire its elegant design, intricate tile work, and panoramic views of the city from its terrace.

17. Go Ice Skating at Bakırköy Ice Rink

Embrace the winter season by going ice skating at Bakırköy Ice Rink. Enjoy gliding across the ice while surrounded by a festive atmosphere and twinkling lights.

18. Experience Turkish Folk Music and Dance

Attend a traditional Turkish folk music and dance performance to witness the vibrant cultural heritage of Turkey. Enjoy lively music, intricate costumes, and energetic dances that celebrate the country’s regional traditions.

19. Explore the Pera Museum

Discover a world of art at the Pera Museum, known for its impressive collection of Orientalist paintings, Anatolian weights and measures, and contemporary art exhibitions. Explore the galleries and immerse yourself in the artistic atmosphere.

20. Take a Cooking Class

Learn the secrets of Turkish cuisine by taking a cooking class. Join a local chef and prepare delicious dishes such as Turkish mezzes, kebabs, and traditional desserts. Enjoy the satisfaction of tasting your culinary creations.

21. Visit the Dolmabahce Palace

Step into the opulent world of the Dolmabahçe Palace, a stunning example of Ottoman architecture. Explore its grand halls, lavish interiors, and the famous crystal staircase. Marvel at the intricate details and exquisite craftsmanship.

22. Take a Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorus

Enjoy a romantic sunset cruise along the Bosphorus, where Europe and Asia meet. Admire the breathtaking views of Istanbul’s skyline as the sun paints the sky in vibrant colors. Indulge in a delicious dinner onboard and create unforgettable memories.

23. Discover the Istanbul Toy Museum

Step into a world of nostalgia at the Istanbul Toy Museum, showcasing a vast collection of vintage toys from different eras. Explore the whimsical exhibits and relive childhood memories as you marvel at the toys of the past.

24. Explore the Galata Tower

Climb to the top of the Galata Tower, an iconic symbol of Istanbul’s skyline. Enjoy panoramic views of the city, including the Bosphorus, Golden Horn, and historic neighborhoods. Visit at sunset for a truly magical experience.

25. Bonus: Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Istanbul

If you’re in Istanbul at the end of December, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve in this vibrant city. Join the festive atmosphere, enjoy fireworks displays, and indulge in a delicious New Year’s dinner at a local restaurant.


With these top things to do in Istanbul in December, you can create unforgettable memories and experience the magic of the city during the holiday season. Embrace the rich cultural heritage, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul.

Please note that the availability and timings of events and attractions may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check the official websites or consult with local tourism authorities for the most up-to-date information. Enjoy your time in Istanbul and have a wonderful December experience!

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