There are few places can beat the beauty of this charming city: a city that is lucky enough to have four seasons.
Even though many tourists consider Istanbul a summer destination, you'd be surprised if you knew that this place turns into a literal winter wonderland. Here are a few reasons why this startling city is just as incredible in the off season.
1. You're far from the madding crowd
Let's face it; no one likes waiting in line. Time is precious, especially when you have a lot of things to see, and a limited number of days. But don't worry, wintry Istanbul has got your back; Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar are less crowded, so you can take in the magnificence of these indescribably beautiful sights at your own pace.
2. A hamam feels extra indulgent
After a long day of roaming the vibrant city of Istanbul, you shouldn't miss going to the most authentic Turkish experience: the hamam. Let yourself dive in the ultimate level of luxury and steaming hot comfort, and let your chilly worries outside, in the cold. Engage in a handful of self-care activities: from massage to scrubbing do yourself the gift of getting some physical and mental rest. After a hard day's sightseeing, you deserve it.
3. You can shop until you drop at the Grand Bazaar: without the crowds
There's no place you'd rather be on a wintry day, then this "temple" of eastern goods. Are you interested in exploring the magical cuisine of the East? This is the place to be! The Grand Bazaar is filled with an enormous range of spices, that represent the colourful cuisine of Turkey. Try them out, and take a small piece of the flavours and aromas of Istanbul, home! Don't forget to check out the warm coats, the shiny jewels, the antiques- and of course, the vividly coloured carpets- and textiles.
4. You can escape the cold in the warmth of famous sites.
The only thing more beautiful than Istanbul's famous sites, is those same sights, covered in snow. Appreciate the breathtaking masterpieces inside the Hagia Sophia, admire the magnificent tile work in the Blue Mosque and gaze over the winter wonderland from the Galata Tower. Take a moment to watch the snow upon the roofs of Istanbul's skyline.
5. You can overindulge in heavenly salep
Well, you can't visit Istanbul and not choose the best way to immerse yourself in the city; a ferry ride across the Bosphorus. Rumor has it that the most romantic place in Istanbul is the upper deck of a ferry-accompanied by a warm cup of salep; a creamy, sweet drink, covered in cinnamon powder. On a cold winter afternoon, watch the unforgettable view by the ferry windows; when the sun goes down over the Kiz Kulesi, take a sip of your heavenly drink and shape a warm memory that will stay with you, forever.
6. You can drink boza and eat chestnuts on the streets
This cold, yet wintry fermented drink is the perfect accompaniment to Istanbul's chilly days and nights. It has a sweet and sour taste, and a creamy texture and aroma that will make you forget all the calories that go with it. You won't need to look for boza , because it'll find you. There's no way you'll miss a boza seller: they stroll down the streets, yelling "Bozaaaaa". Get in line and claim your beverage. Oh, and don't forget to pick up some roasted chestnuts (Kestane). After this cultural-close up, you can start living like a local.
7. You'll do your bank account a favour
Winter is a low season, which means that it's the best time for your bank account. Embrace yourself; huge discounts await you. You'll be amazed by the significant rates in accommodation prices and plane tickets. Don't be afraid to haggle for tours and certain attractions: locals are keen to get tourists spending their currency in the low season and will be willing to strike a deal.
8. You can immerse yourself in culture
There's so much going on in Istanbul during the winter months. From Book Fairs- where you can 'discover' prominent writers, poets, novelists- to Rumi Festival, celebrating the Islam poet and mystic philosopher Meylana Jelaleddin Rumi.
In February, Istanbul turns into the amusement centre of the East,The International Film Festival will keep you at the edge of your seat, with films that have both big and little exposure. And if you're a foodie, then you really are lucky; the International Gastronomy Festival will offer you a new perspective on Turkish cuisine.
9. You can a merry, but low-profile, Christmas
Are you sick of listening to Jingle Bells for the 30th time? With Christmas just around the corner, many of us can get a headache from all the commercial elements of it. This is not the case for Istanbul, where Christmas resembles any other day. However, all the streets are beautifully decorated- due to an event that Turks not only celebrate- but also love; New Year's Eve! Be part of the countdown, watch the fireworks along the Bosphorus shores and as the Turks say: Gule gule gidin -may you go laughing.
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