Always looking to avoid the crowds? Come visit Istanbul in the wintertime when you can stroll through historical museums without the usual tourist flocks, and get a sense of what the locals are doing when the temperature drops. Because Istanbul is definitely not a city that hibernates.
Drinking salep at Pera Palace
library of Pera Palace
Salep is a traditional Turkish drink made from the seeds of a certain kind of orchid. It’s prepared by mixing the powdered form of the seeds with milk and serving warm with specks of cinnamon on top. Sweet and delicious on winter nights.
Visiting Topkapı Palace and the Old City
ceiling of Topkapı Palace
Yes, it might be nice to walk the garden of the Ottoman palace but think about how much you’ll save by not having the wait for the long queues. All museums are open in the winter and they look even more fabulous under the snow.
Bathing at Kılıç Ali Paşa Hammam
baths of Kılıç Ali Paşa Hammam
What a treat to take the hottest of all baths when it’s cold outside! Built by Sinan the Architect in the 16th century, Kılıç Ali Paşa Hammam is among the best in the city if you’re looking for Ottoman-style relaxation. Ask for the home-made quince sherbet at the lounge area after your treatment.
Eating fish at Bebek Balıkçı
dining on the water at Bebek Balıkçı
Some fish specific to the Marmara Sea fatten up in the cold waters of the Bosphorus and get especially tasty in the winter. The food is always fresh and delicious at the perennial Bebek Balıkçı with great views. Look for lüfer or palamut in the menu, the former is best served grilled and the latter deep-fried and with shallots.
Shopping at Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest shopping mall, its narrow streets filled with jewellery and antique shops of all kinds. For a perfect Bazaar day, go early to shop for kilims, peshtemals, cushions or vintage jewellery, and have lunch at Havuzlu Restaurant.