The best time to visit Istanbul is mid-spring, in April and May, and also fall, from September to October. During these times the Turkish capital enjoys pleasantly mild weather, with temperatures running from the around 62℉ or 16℃ to 77℉ or 25℃.
These periods also tend to see fewer crowds around popular attractions like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque compared to peak season.
Although there’s never really a bad time to go to Istanbul, the transitional Mediterranean climate means that winters can get chilly and tend to see a lot of overcast days with occasional snowfall. The height of the summer holiday season in August never gets oppressively hot, but does see considerable crowds.
Visiting Istanbul by Season
July and August, when much of the European Union goes on vacation, tend to be the busiest months, as well as the hottest. In this period, temperature highs run up to 85℉ or 29℃, which while never too punishing, can take its toll during a long day of sightseeing.
Pack sunscreen and breathable, lightweight clothing for comfort. Note that since many mosques and religious sites require respectful attire, it’s helpful to pack a light shawl during this season.
The benefit of visiting during this period is that both months only have an average rainfall of around 1 inch or 25 mm. Save for an average of three rainy days each month, visitors can expect to enjoy blue skies.
June is an excellent month to visit, with slightly more moderate temperature highs and equally little rain. It also happens to be when the renowned Istanbul Music Festival takes place.
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The autumn months of September and October, when many international visitors have left town, are an especially lovely time to visit Istanbul; it’s still warm enough to enjoy outdoor dining, and boat trips along the Bosphorus.
On average, the two months only have five and seven days of rain respectively, with temperature highs of 77℉ or 25℃ and 68℉ or 20℃. Be sure to bring a light jacket or layers, as it can get cool in the evenings.
The winter months from November to February are when Istanbul sees the fewest visitors. The drawback to this season is that Istanbul sees high levels of precipitation, with the average rainfall peaking in December at four inches or 105mm. Snow in the city is not unheard of.
The perk to visiting during low season is that you’ll have some of Istanbul’s best places like Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque virtually to yourself. If you find yourself on a rainy afternoon in Istanbul during this time of year, just do as the locals do and get cozy in one of the many coffee shops and wine bars of Karaköy.
Spring is the best time to go to Istanbul, with balmy temperatures hovering around 70℉ or 21℃, plenty of sunshine, and relatively low rainfall. As the weather warms up starting around March and April, locals take to the sidewalk cafés and eateries lining the banks of the Bosphorus. Spring blossom is out and the trees are green again.
When Is Rainy Season?
Rainy season in Istanbul is around November and December, when cold winds blow in from the Balkan Peninsula. This period can often be quite damp, with occasional snowfall and frost.
When Is High Season?
High season in Istanbul is roughly from June through August, when school vacation is in session. Despite the crowds, summer is still a perfectly good time to visit, with sunny afternoons and a lively atmosphere in the evening.
If the city heat becomes too much, do as the locals do and take the ferry to the cool of the leafy Princes’ Islands, close to the city in the Sea of Marmara.
When Is Shoulder Season?
As is often the case, Istanbul’s two shoulder seasons are easily some of the best times to visit. Whether you opt to come in spring around April and May or fall around September and October, you can expect consistently mild weather.
When Is Low Season?
Istanbul’s low season lines up with the rainy, cooler winter months of November through February. Visitors who show up during this season armed with rain gear and a warm coat will be rewarded with fewer crowds, and possibly a more authentic experience, away from the peak of summer.