Marvel over Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, means “Holy Wisdom” in Greek, and is considered to be the most holy as well as scenic site for tourists to visit in Istanbul. Being the main location of religious, artistic and political life, this 1400-year-old mosque attracts a large number of tourists every year.
There is more to it than just what pleases the eyes thus making this majestic monumento to be viewed as the 8th wonder of the world. Getting into Hagia Sophia in early December will be the best for you as around this time, the rush of people is comparatively less and you do not have to wait for hours in the queue.
Location: Sultan Ahmet, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Price: 100 Turkish Liras.
Explore the Basilica Cistern
Exploring the Basilica Cistern is one of the best scenic things to do in Istanbul in December. Apart from meeting the water needs in ancient times, this Basilica Cistern carries a rich history of the Byzantium Period. This Basilica Cistern in Turkey is popularly known as ‘Yerebatan’ which means “sinking to the ground”.
If you are a Dan Brown fan, Basilica Cistern will turn out to be the best visit for you in December. There is a place inside the Basilica cistern that often was used as a concert hall, which was the final setting of Dan Brown’s “Inferno”.
Location: Alemdar, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM.
Price: 30 Turkish Liras.
Topkapi Palace Museum
Visiting the best places in Istanbul in December cannot be completed without visiting Topkapi Palace Museum. This place has become one of the world’s richest museums that contain some excellent samples of earlier bookbinding, jewelry, seals and inscriptions.
There is a Holy Relics Chamber in Topkapi museum and it is believed that some personal items of Prophet Muhammad are kept in this chamber. This museum also holds some rare collections of Chinese porcelain that is known for its art and ceramics all over the world. In December, the crowds are less and that will help you enjoy the view of the museum minutely.
Location: Cankurtaran, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM every day except Tuesday.
Price: 72 Turkish Liras.
Cruise at Bosphorus
The primary goal to make your plan to Travel Istanbul in December is to avoid the huge queues of people and to make your journey comfortable. This Cruise journey offers you to explore Mosques, bridges, and many famous palaces of Istanbul. A good Cruise company will offer you to visit the 18th-century Mosque and to enjoy Turkish Coffee.
If you want to enjoy the tour at one go, it will take a maximum of 2 hours to complete. Otherwise, you can also get down at each spot and take another cruise. As December is the ‘off-season’, the cruise ride remains cheaper at this time.
Location: Most famous departure points are Eminonu and Kadikoy.
Price: 12 Turkish Liras for adults and 6 Turkish Liras for children.
One of the most fascinating places to visit in Istanbul in December is the Blue Mosque. All over the world, the Mosques are generally known for their majestic exterior, but in this Blue Mosque, you will be amazed to see the interior decoration adding some extra stars to the ancient architecture.
The intricate architectural designs of this Mosque are considered to be the masterpiece of Islamic art. There are only two mosques in the world having six Minarets; the Blue Mosque is one of them. This Mosque is situated just across the Hagia Sophia and as the daytime is shorter in December, you can enjoy the sunset view in Blue Mosque followed by having dinner around Hagia Sophia.
Location: Sultan Ahmet, Istanbul, Turkey.
Mystical Night Out at the Whirling Dervishes Show
If you are looking for some spiritual essence of Sufism in Istanbul then attending Whirling Dervishes Show is a must for you. This religious ceremony, known as SEMA, continues for around one hour in which you can experience the ancient rituals being performed. The performance in Hodjapasha starts with soothing music, and is followed by a ten-minute video about the principles of Rumi. What can be more relaxing than enjoying Turkish cuisine along with Whirling Dervishes Show on a cruise? You can relish both things at the same time in the Bosphorus Cruise.
Location: Hocapa?a Mahallesi Ankara Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey
Timing: Every day at 7:00 PM.Price: 166 Turkish Liras for adults and 123 Turkish Liras for children.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
If you are an aesthetic person, one of the spectacular places to visit in Istanbul in December is the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. In this museum, the Turkish and Islamic artworks are presented side by side. More than 35,000 rare artifacts are displayed in this museum, for instance, ceramics, woods, ethnographic manuscripts, etc.
This Museum is also known as the “Carpet Museum” because it has an abundance of carpets from the Ottoman period. From the woodwork to the stonework and from precious items to the sacred relics, many unique items glorify this museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
Location: Binbirdirek, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Price: 50 Turkish Liras.
Stroll at Istiklal Street
Strolling in Istiklal Street, also known as “Independence Avenue”, is one of the most entertaining things to do in Istanbul in December. Always try to make your plan to Travel Istanbul in December because winters are the best time to shop in Istiklal Street because you get a discount on almost every item.
There are multiple restaurants, shops, cafes, clubs, and bars in this area where you can grab a bite after you are done shopping. You can also go for some authentic Turkish dishes like Mini Ravioli, Lahmacun, Kuzu Tandir to dine on and Mekan is one of the best restaurants that serve these dishes. Though the daytime remains shorter in December, the opening time of the stores is not affected by this.
Location: Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey.
Visit Istanbul Modern Art Museum
If you are fond of exquisite modern art forms, then the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art is one of the quintessential places to visit in Istanbul in December. Established in 2004, it became the first museum in Turkey to exhibit Modern and neo-modern artworks.
This museum also has a library that contains over 12,000 books. A major portion of the exhibited artworks comes from the private collection of a Turkish family, known as Eczacibasi. The intermingling of cultural identity and creativity paves the way for so many local and international paintings to be exhibited in this museum.
Location: AsmaliMescit, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Price: 72 Turkish Liras.
Egyptian Spice Bazaar
Visiting Istanbul will be incomplete if you do not stop by the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Misir Carsisi, where the fragrance of the tropical East will make you shop for more. The place is also known for The ‘Nar Eksisi’, which is extracted from pomegranate juice, and is a syrup that is an integral part of Turkish Dish.
Apart from this, you can also buy authentic Turkish Coffees and various spices Pul Biber, Sumac, etc. If you want to enjoy a fine turkish dinner at home, do not forget to take these spices along with you. Some ethnic spices are only available in the Egyptian Spice Bazaar in December due to their dependency on seasons.
Location: Rustem Pasa, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM every day.
Historical Turkish Bath
Taking a Turkish bath in a Hammam can be a lifetime experience for you as the Turkish people are carrying a 500-year-old tradition of bathing through this Hammam. Eventually, it became a part of social custom rather than religious tradition.
The traditional Turkish bathhouses consist of three chambers: a hot chamber to take a steam bath, a warm chamber to scrub, and a cool chamber for relaxation. There are three options available for you in a Hammam. Next, you can go for the traditional style where an attendant will take care of your needs. The third one is the miscellaneous service where you can take reflexology, aromatherapy oil massage, etc.
Location: Galatasaray Hammam, just across the Flower passage, Istanbul, Turkey.
Price: 183 Turkish Liras.
Enjoy the Nights at Bars and Clubs
Istanbul is not only the epicenter of ancient culture and heritage but also it is the hub of entertainment. Enjoying the nights at bars and clubs is one of the most marvelous things to do in Istanbul in December. Balkon Restaurant and Bar is one of the best bars in Istanbul where you can spend all night dancing with foot-tapping music.
You can enjoy drinks at Balkon in the cozy ambiance on the rooftop along with food. The DJ nights in Babylon Bomonti nightclub will make you vivacious and it transforms the ambiance of the place. You must book the dates in early December as visiting bars and clubs are less expensive.
Location: Nevizade Street, Istanbul, Turkey.
Sip on Some Thick Turkish Coffee
When you Travel Istanbul in December, you must take a sip of authentic Turkish coffee. The Turkish coffee is made out of unfiltered ground coffee beans and traces back its origin in the Ottoman period. If you want to sip the best Turkish coffee, then reach Fazil Bey’s cafe.
You can savor some of the most famous variants of Turkish Coffee here like mastic or cardamom. Mandabatmaz is another Coffee shop in Istanbul that has their signature brewing process. As the temperature in December remains around 10 degrees celsius, it is the best time to enjoy the day in Istanbul with a sip on some thick Turkish Coffee.
Location: Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee, Kadikoy Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey.
Shopping Paradise Grand Bazaar
This Bazaar, consisting of over 4000 shops and is so big that it got the recognition of the largest encrusted market in the world. This baazar is a heaven for the shopaholics as it offers you a wide range of delightful things. The things you must buy from this Grand Bazaar are jewelry, antiques, carpets, textiles, etc.
All these items come with traditional Turkish design. Apart from these items, the Turkish handbags, herbal products and teas are the most common items that tourists buy from here. In December, as the Grand Bazaar remains less populated, it will give you a chance to bargain before buying anything.
Location: Beyazit, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 10:00 PM to 6:00 PM every day.
Being one of the best places to visit in Istanbul in December, Galata Tower will let you admire the panoramic view of the whole city from the top of a high building. This tower is so high that some places like Golden Horn, Seraglio Point, and Old Istanbul can be seen very easily.
As the number of tourists is less in December, you will be able to click beautiful pictures from Galata Tower without any disturbances. This Galata Tower also has an impressive restaurant where you can enjoy a luxury dinner.
Location: Bereketzade, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Price: 35 Turkish Liras. Free for children under 7 years.
Enjoy the Colorful New Year’s Eve Celebrations
When the time comes for New Year’s Eve celebrations, Istanbul becomes the hub of parties in December. Food, fireworks, parties, dancing, drinking create a carnival like atmosphere of celebrations. The Ritz Carlton is one of the finest restaurants that offer a special menu on the eve of New Year.
The celebration starts with the countdown party and ends with a DJ performance where you groove on the best music from all over the world. Here you will find many famous restaurants that offer some unique cuisines especially for the guests on New Year’s Eve like salmon Caviar, beef cheeks, etc. Having more muslim population, the New Year celebration is more fun filled than the Christmas celebration in December.
Location: Bosphorus shores, Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is the abode of some of the majestic churches of the Ottoman period. If you want to admire the delicate artwork of the ancient Byzantium, then the Chora Church is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul in December. In winter, the climate and the color of the sky make the beauty of this church more attractive.
If you want to know the tumultuous history of Istanbul, hire a guide, pay him some extra Liras and ask him to take you to the Theodosian city walls behind the Chora church, where the blood-curdling history of this city is written.
Location: Dervis Ali, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9 AM to 5 PM.
Price: 65 Turkish Liras for adults.
Visit the Stunning Ortakoy Mosque
Ortakoy Mosque, also known as Mecidiye Mosque, carries the instances of the aesthetic interior of Ottoman architecture. The instances of the Ottoman’s adaptation of European architecture are present in every corner of this Mosque in the form of Baroque painting.
You will also find floral patterned marbles that were used to erect Mihrab and Minbar. Situated just across the Bosphorus Bridge, this mosque is a place of attraction for the tourists because of the view of a spectacular sunset and sunrise. The dome of this mosque is enriched with diverse panels of well-crafted calligraphy. The ornate exterior of this mosque is a tour de force.
Location: Mecidiye, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Taste Some Turkish Raki or Local Wines
Istanbul in December is not complete without sipping some authentic Turkish Raki, which is an anise-flavored drink that is produced by the filtration of grapes. Attending the World Raki Festival in Adana will let you enjoy the taste of the finest authentic brands of Raki in Turkey.
If you want to stimulate your taste buds, trying branded Rakis like Burgaz, Mey, and Elda in Cukur Meyhane tavern in Beyoglu is a must for you. Raki is awesome when accompanied by snacks like white cheese and melon. It is recommended to have Raki with chilled water to get the best flavor of this unofficial signature drink of Turkey.
Location: Cukur Meyhane Tavern, Degüstasyon - Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey.
Ride on the Taksim Tram
Visiting all the famous places is not possible if you skip travelling through trams. A small number of tram services of the T2 route were restored in 1990 to protect the nostalgia of old Istanbul. The trams in Istanbul are usually small which can accommodate only a few passengers.
Some tram routes are part of the heritage tram system of Turkey and offer a sight of many famous and ancient architectures. December is the perfect time to go for this tram ride, as the ticket price becomes economical. The trams in some routes cover a distance of 1.6 km from Taksim to Tunel and connect one part of the city to another.
Location: Taksim Square, ?stiklal Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey.
Timing: 7 AM to 10:20 PM every day.
Price: 5 Turkish Liras.