The weather and forecast in Istanbul

Neve a Istanbul

The climate of Istanbul is among the most common questions we get asked via e-mail. Especially with an approaching departure, travelers get caught in a kind of panic: “Will it be hot or cold?” “How should I dress?” “Just need a light jacket or a winter coat?”

It’s true… getting caught off guard by the weather is not pleasant. We can imagine your justified and frantic internet searches to find the most reliable weather portal.

Let’s start by saying that Istanbul is on the same parallel as Naples, therefore one might expect the mild climate of coastal areas similar to the cities of southern Italy. In fact this is true only in part. Istanbul is exposed to north currents without any geographic protection, so the climate is half Mediterranean and half mainland.

The winter is usually not particularly harsh and temperatures hardly drop below freezing, although the sensation of cold can be amplified by the wind. Nevertheless, snow is not uncommon; it makes its appearance every year. The small snow storms are linked to episodes of sudden icy waves that come from Russia, and invigorated by the presence of the Black Sea, generally last 3 -4 days. During each winter, there are at least two or three waves of cold. The rest of the season is typical winter; rainy days and cloudy skies alternating with sunny days. The coldest months are January and February.

Spring is definitely the best time to visit Istanbul, pleasant temperatures combined with the explosion of colors of the many varieties of flowers (especially tulips), make the months of April and May perfect for enjoying the city . March may suffer the backlash of winter, but last year was such a spring month in all respects, that by the middle of the month the vegetative awakening was already advanced. June is a wonderful month…the days are long, the heat is stifling, and you can already put together a 3-4 day stay in Istanbul with a visit to the beach in the south of Turkey (Bodrum and Fethiye to Antalya) because in those areas the swimming season starts early.

Summer is hot and muggy. The high humidity during the day is fortunately mitigated by the night breeze. In July and August the temperatures exceed 30 degrees celsius easily, and rainy days are virtually absent. The influx of tourists, especially in August, is very high. If you have the opportunity to choose between the two summer months, then July is definitely preferable to August.

The beauty of September is comparable to June. It is mild and sunny until later in the month, and is still considered summer in all respects, but it is more windy and less crowded. Autumn makes its appearance in October, with the first rains commence and continue through December. Autumn is also a good time for visiting the city. It isn’t too rainy (more or less like Rome) and most of the cultural festivals (such as the Biennale) are held at this time.

A fundamental characteristic of the climate of Istanbul is the presence of the wind, which is equally as pleasant in summer as it is scathing in the winter. The names of the winds that come into the city vary according to their origin. There are at least eight, the most famous are the Poyraz (from the northeast and mitigates the heat/disperses moisture in the summer) and the Lodos (a hot wind from the south- west which usually causes storms).

The presence of the Black Sea to the north and the Sea of Marmara to the south causes the weather to be very changeable. The currents can change quickly, so weather predictions are frequently unreliable. It is not uncommon to observe wrong predictions for the following day, so our advice is to not pay attention to the predictions made 7 days away on international weather portals. Whether you are planning to go to museums or spend a day in the park, it is best to stay flexible enough to rearrange your itinerary if necessary. In addition, the symbol “rain” often does not mean that it will rain all day. Given the variability and the size of the city, a few drops could fall in the morning and then clear up for the rest of the day, or it could pour in Goztepe and stay sunny in Beşiktaş.

The most popular weather portals are,, e They are generated by automatic weather patterns on a large scale, so the level of detail they provide cannot be considered accurate and we recommend that you not take them too seriously.

The most accurate site for the weather forecast in Istanbul is from the national weather service: in the english version there are 5-day forecasts for all major cities, If you want to take a look at the turkish version service is even more precise with detailed forecasts hour by hour and even by neighborhood.

Bosphorus Tour

Among the most popular and famous tourist attractions of Istanbul, a place of honor should certainly be attributed to “Bosphorus Tour”. But, it would be wrong to consider these tours as something simply touristic.

The Bosphorus is always attractive, even for the inhabitants of Istanbul. While living here is really hard, it is always easy to get used to this wonderful show here on Bosphorus. A famous Turkish saying reads: “Life may not be so bad if I can still walk on the shore of the Bosphorus in the end.”

Every now and then, in the hot summer days, we would love to spend a few hours feeding our eyes with the beauty of the palaces and mansion houses (called “yalı” in Turkish) accompanied by the intense blue color surrounding us, the scent of the sea, dolphins and seagulls, and everything.

As you can understand, it is an experience that we highly recommend. However, we would like to give you some advice.

Avoid all the private tours organized by various travel agencies around Sultanahmet. They are generally over-charged and don’t offer anything more than the tours organized by the best-known companies listed below in the article.

That being said, let’s move to the various options available. We have summarized these options into 3 categories for convenience:

1) Short Bosphorus Tours lasting around 2 hours:

It is a certainly preferable option for those coming to Istanbul for the first time in their lives and have only 3-4 days in the city. It lasts 2 hours at the maximum with no stops included. The boats go all the way to the second bridge over the Bosphrous along the European side and turn back along the Asian side. There are many companies organize this kind of short tours. Here they are:

– Şehir Hatları, the ferry company of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, has been organizing Short Bosphorus Cruise starting from 1 April 2013. The tours depart from Eminönü every day at 14.30 with a stopover in Ortaköy at 14.50, returning to Eminönü at 16.30. In the winter time, the tour is done only on weekends. It costs 10 lira, but you can also rent audio guides in Italian by paying 7.50 lira extra.

Turyol, is another famous ferry company that also operates ferries and therefore they have an agreement with the municipality. You can take a short Bosphorus tour from Eminönü every hour of everday from 10 am until 19 pm with a stopover in Üsküdar. During the winter, departures are only up to 17.00. It costs 12 lira. Great option to take a relaxing tour in the late afternoon after having spent the day discovering the city especially in summer time.

Dentur Avrasya, is another known company that also operates ferries. Try starting with a short Bosphorus tour every day from Kabataş at 10:30 to 12:45 – 14:45 to 16:45, with a stopover in Beşiktaş. Departures are limited during the winter (there are only two guaranteed tours at 10.30 and 14.45). Costs 12.50 lira.

Ortur/Kumsal, is a small private company that performs short Bosphorus tours departing from Ortaköy daily every hour starting at 14:20 until 19:20. The tours last just over an hour and are suitable for those who have little time or desire to visit this pleasant and characteristic neighborhood of Ortaköy. Just like Dentur Avrasya tours, departures have a limited number during the winter (guaranteed only until 17:20, but also depends on the weather conditions).

2) Long Bosphorus Tours lasting around 6 hours:

This option is more challenging and it’s recommended only for those who have more days available or for those who are coming to Istanbul for the second or third time. This type of tours arrive at Black Sea entrance up to Anadolu Kavagi (on the Asian side) after 90 minutes. They stop there for about 3 hours and then ride back to the opposite direction. The total duration of the tour is about 6 hours which means you are pretty much spending your day on board. To tell you the truth, there is only a few fish restaurants and a little to see in Anadolu Kavagi. If you like, you can go on a hike to the hills to get an incredible view of Black Sea and Bosphorus. There are two companies running this kind of tours:

– Şehir Hatları performs the Full Bosphorus Tour with two daily departures from Eminönü at 10:35 and at 13:35. The tour lasts around six hours including three hours of stay at Anadolu Kavagi. You can choose to get a one-way ticket for 15 lira or a return ticket for 25 lira, or you can always get off at any stops in between. In the winter period, there is only one guaranteed departure at 10.35.

– Dentur Avrasya runs a long Bosphorus tour along with a departure at 11.15 every day from Kabataş, returning at 16.00 from Anadolu Kavagi. It costs 25 lira.

3) Bosphorus Night Tour

– By 2010 summer, Şehir Hatları started a Bosphorus night tour (Osmanli Gezisi) which is held on Saturdays. It costs 20 lira and departs from Eminönü at 18:25 and arrives at Anadolu Kavagi at 20.00 after 4 intermediate stops on the way. The departure from Anadolu Kavagi is at 22:30 and the return to Eminönü is scheduled for midnight. This tour is highly recommended especially during the nights of the full moon. It is usually functional from the first week of June until mid-September.

Hamam, The Turkish Bath


As always, before considering the details of the topic and analyze the current status and offers of Hamams in Istanbul today, we will take a step back and try to explain briefly what the tradition is.

One of the duties of Islam is cleanliness, sometimes almost an obsession, starting from the ritual ablution (washing) in order to purify themselves before the prayers. In this “cleanliness” context, there are also customs such as taking of the shoes or not having pets in the houses.

The tradition of building public toilets within the city dates back to ancient Rome as a combination of advanced engineering knowledge and developed taste for comfort. The Ottomans preserved this tradition by combining it with their culture’s distinctive features and that is how come they were ended up calling “Turkish”. The Hamam historians remark that they all have the same structure in the central dome, with a marble platform at the base which was meant for relaxing and enjoying the massage.

In the Medieval Age of Europe, spa tradition was in sharp decline while it remained very much alive at the Ottoman Empire for the reasons stated above. In fact, it still remained alive until a few years ago, because until the ’50s and ’60s houses were not all equipped with private bathrooms with running water, so the hamams carried their main cleaning function. The common people from all social classes would go to hamams mainly for washing. But not only that reason. The Hamam also had important social functions as a meeting and entertainment point. In the past, it was also common to eat inside, and also organize pre-wedding ceremonies.

Nowadays hygiene habits have changed considerably at homes. All bathrooms surely have running water, so it was inevitable that the tradition gradually died out until disappearing. In fact, there are still sixty active Hamams in Istanbul, but they are divided into two categories. Except for the four or five “historical hamams” which unfortunately have become real tourist traps, and in which a local would never dream of entering, the other small neighborhood hamams are almost always desolately empty and often having suspicious hygienic conditions. Inevitably, these small hamams will be forced to shut down in the close future. They will not be able to reinvent themselves and have a leading role in the market. Local people who want to get a good Turkish bath treatment and massage go to Spas in large hotels chains nowadays. In fact, they offer excellent quality services (certainly much higher than the services offered by the historical hamams) at affordable prices.


Istanbul on a Cruise

Istanbul Cruise

The majority of tourists that decide to visit Istanbul arrive by airplane. However, it is also possible to reach İstanbul by car, train (passing through Greece) or by ferry.

Lately, more and more people are choosing to visit the Mediterranean with a cruise company, thanks to their very affordable prices.

Costa CruisesMSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Aida Cruises, Carnival Vista and Holland America Line, in recent times, have developed and given increasing importance to the routes of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Depending on the offer available, but, generally, spending between 600 and 1000 euros per person, one can enjoy the experience of a 7 day cruise on a luxurious and beautiful ship (for example: MSC Poesia, Island Princess, Celebrity Reflection, Norwegian Spirit). These ships depart normally from Venice or from Rome and touch the coasts of southern Italy, Greece (Katakolon-Olympia, Athens or some beuatiful islands in the Aegean Sea), Izmir (Smyrna), Kusadasi, Dubrovnik in Croatia, Malta or Tunis, some of them will continue until the Black Sea touching Bulgarian and Romanian coasts.

Obviously, 7 days of cruise with all the meals included and various entertainments available on the ship represent an attractive and convenient option. Nonetheless, when the cruise ship stops in a city as enthralling to see as it is İstanbul, few are not driven by the desire to visit it!

Unfortunately, the time on hand to visit the city is very little, because usually the cruises dock at around 7.30 in the morning and depart the same day at around 17 in the afternoon. The cruise companies use this short time available as an excuse to sell off shore excursions, which are very expensive (at least 120 euros for 7 hours of tour) and, eventually, quite disappointing. In fact, first of all, an identification number is assigned to the excursionists, who are then taken in crammed coaches to few places of interest; for lunch time, they are led to a restaurant passed off as ‘typical’ (but that is not) and, finally, their visit will be ended in a carpet shop in the Gran Bazaar, where a commission on sold items had been already agreed between the shop owner and the tourist guide. In our opinion, these types of tours provide the visitor with a distorted image of the city, which cannot thus be truly appreciated. It is a vision of tourism to which we are strongly against.

It would be much better then, for whom is really interested in the city, to visit it autonomously. However, since the time available is indeed little, it is advisable to organise oneself in advance about the sights one may be keen to visit and the way to get there. So not to waste precious time!

This blog has been conceived precisely to give accurate information to whom has an interest to participate in the life of İstanbul in an intelligent manner, even if only for one day. It is full of tips that will allow you to organise an autonomous day excursion. On the other hand, if you yet prefer to be guided around the city by a knowledgeable inhabitant of Istanbul, we can study together a personalised visit of the city and accompany you. That will also give you the privilege to skip the long queues that are formed at the entrances of the famous monuments.

We are a licensed official tourism agency based in Istanbul. We started our career organizing guided tours in Italian with Italian groups and you can read hundreds of feedback on the italian version of our blog and also on Trip Advisor. Now we can do it also in English and we would like to provide the same quality service also to English speaking visitors.