Located at the border of two continents, Istanbul, historically known as Constantinople and Byzantium, is the cultural and economic hub of Turkey. It is also a place of great historical significance. Istanbul is a transcontinental city. Two-thirds of it lie in Europe, while the remaining lies in Asia. It is often seen as the bridge between the east and west. Istanbul is filled with sights of exceptional beauty. The place is filled with parks, mosques, gardens, palaces, museums, and more. Istanbul in January 2021 can be fairly cold. Istanbul temperature in January hovers around 7 to 9 degrees Celsius. It also snows occasionally. So, it will be a good idea to pack ample warm clothing.
Weather In Istanbul In January
The number of things to do in Istanbul in January is aplenty. The weather in Istanbul in January 2021 may be cold, but it does not affect the liveliness of the city. You can go on the classic Bosphorus Cruise that begins from the east of the Galata Bridge and continues right up to Anadolu Kavagi, which is where the natural strait ends in the Black Sea. In recent years, nightlife in Istanbul has also come alive. A vibrant nightlife is spread all throughout the city. There are multiple entertainment venues. The most vibrant nightlife is on the European side, between the Istiklal street and the Tünel. It caters mostly to the students in the region. Summer months provide the most active nightlife, although, on visiting Istanbul in January [and wondering] what to do, you will not be disappointed. For more traditional Turkish form of entertainment, you can visit the Aksaray region. It has multiple small bars, pubs, cafes, and restaurants. On the Asian side, Kadikoy is another place where you can enjoy such a fun nightlife.
Istanbul In January: 10 Places To Visit
So, while you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous city, here are the top 10 places to visit in Istanbul for your January vacation vibes with the loved ones! Scroll down to know what all awaits you here!
- Basilica Cistern: An Enthralling Place
- Aya Sofya: An Ancient Mosque
- Topkapi Palace: Offering Top Royal Vibes
- Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam: An Elegant Turkish Bath
- The Blue Mosque: A Famous Monument
- Istanbul Archaeology Museums: For The Historians
- The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Explore The Rich Heritage
- Süleymaniye Mosque: An Ottoman Era Monument
- Chora Church: The Byzantine Influence
- Galata Tower: For An Awesome City View
1. Basilica Cistern: An Enthralling Place
One of the most unexpectedly romantic places in the city is a cistern that once used to bring water to the city from the European mainland. The Basilica Cistern is a complicated water distribution system that was constructed back in the sixth century. It brought water from the south-east of the Balkans, where the mainland Turkey and a large part of Bulgaria now lies. The cistern was long forgotten but is now renovated as a tourist spot. It is now lit up with lights and soft classical music plays.
Fish swim around the 336 columns that support the ceiling. When you are visiting, try finding that one column that has the upside-down head of Medusa at its base. This shows how the Byzantine builders reused Roman relics during construction. January and February are ideal months for this place as the crowd is very thin.
Entrance Fee: £3.50
Opening Hours: During January, the entry times are from 9AM to 5PM. During the summer months, you can spend more time there in the evenings
2. Aya Sofya: An Ancient Mosque
The sixth-century mosque that was cluttered with scaffoldings has now opened up. This is a Justinian construction that was initially a church. It was then turned into a mosque and today, it is a museum. The building is empty, however, the floors, walls, and ceilings have wonderful artwork that will mesmerize anyone. You can spend hours looking at the beautiful architecture. You can also see the tombs of the Ottoman Sultans as well as that of their murdered sons who were killed because of the potential rivalry between them.
Moreover, you can also see the best carpets in the city that go on display during this time. The carpets are displayed in the soup kitchen that was added when the church was turned into a mosque. Even though Aya Sofya is open all throughout the year, mid-November to mid-March will be the best time to explore the intricacies of the architecture in peace
Entrance Fee: £7
Opening Hours: during January, it is open from 9AM to 5PM.
3. Topkapi Palace: Offering Top Royal Vibes
The Topkapi Palace is a must-see palace in Istanbul. There are many palaces in Istanbul, but in case you decide to skip some during your short trip, make sure that you do not skip the Topkapi Palace. It has been home to the sultans over generations. You can see lush greenery that fills the courtyards. There are intricately designed kiosks. The views of the Sea of Marmara from the palace is something to die for. It also offers beautiful views of Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. You might also enjoy exploring the famous yet secretive harem, which is simply family quarters that is filled with intricately tiled rooms and has a Turkish bath wrapped with gems. It is best to visit the place when there are no cruise ships in town since the place remains crowded on such days. January and February are the perfect months to explore this place.
Entrance Fee: £7
Opening Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM from Tuesdays to Sundays. The harem is open only until 5 PM
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4. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam: An Elegant Turkish Bath
Istanbul offers you a chance to try out the baths that were once used by the Sultans. There are a lot of steamy bathhouses that you can visit in Istanbul. There is the Sülemaniye, Cağaloğlu, Çemberlitaş, and Galatasaray. However, since 2011, the AyasofyaHürrem Sultan Hamam opened up to the public for the first time. Built for the Suleiman the Magnificent's wife, Roxelana, the baths are filled with sounds of flowing water echoing across the halls, the place is wrapped with marbles and the ceilings have high domes. You can also enjoy a massage that was earlier given to a Sultan. This is truly once in a lifetime experience and will leave you craving for more. As the crowd reduces from late October to early April, January is a great time to enjoy the baths at a reduced price. There are separate sections for men and women.
Price: Starting from €70
Opening Hours: all days from 7AM to 11PM.
5. The Blue Mosque: A Famous Monument
One of the most famous places in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque. It is located close to Aya Sofya and is also called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The 17th-century mosque is one of the few mosques that has six minarets. The mosque is not noticeably blue, but the walls are covered with the İznik tiles. Each of them is hand painted and there are over twenty thousand of these across the entire interior of the mosque. They have different tulip designs. You can see why the mosque is so called when you get to the upper levels. The major part of the upper levels is painted blue. Moreover, there are over 200 stained glass windows with detailed designs that let in natural light.
Opening Hours: It is open to all visitors outside the prayer times. January is a great time to see the Blue Mosque since there are very few tourists.
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6. Istanbul Archaeology Museums: For The Historians
Istanbul is truly famous for its museums. If the Istanbul weather in January is a tad too cold for you, you can simply visit the museums and experience the beauty of Istanbul through them. You can roam around the warm interiors and learn a lot about the history of the place and about how the place shaped up to be the modern day Istanbul, Turkey. One of the most significant collections in the museum is the sarcophagus of Alexander. This glorious piece of history has scenes from the life of Alexander the Great carved in stone. There is also a kids section in the museum. So, if you are traveling with your children, make sure that you check out the Trojan horse specially designed for the kids. The Tiled Pavilion shows the oldest Ottoman structures in the city and the ceramics that are present there are truly amazing. You can also see the peace treaty from 1296 BC that is preserved at the museum gate. The ideal time is during the spring or the fall.
Entrance Fee: £3.50
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday. During the month of January, it is open from 9 AM to 4 PM.
7. The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Explore The Rich Heritage
The palace of Ibrahim Pasha is now converted to a museum that shows a different side of Turkish history. You can see a huge collection of carpets from all across the country. The basement has reconstructed nomad tents and even the interiors of a Bursa mansion that existed in the 19th century. Spring is the best place to visit this museum since by end of May, it can get quite crowded
Entrance Fee: £3.50
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM
8. Süleymaniye Mosque: An Ottoman Era Monument
Süleymaniye Mosque has been recently restored and it is one of the 42 mosques that was designed by the Ottoman architect Sinan during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent. The interior is now repurposed for many social services. There is a hospital, multiple madrasahs, a library, and also a hamam, which is Turkish for a bath. The place also serves a Turkish recipe of baked beans to the locals.
Opening Hours: It is open to visitors outside the prayer times. September is a good time to visit this place.
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9. Chora Church: The Byzantine Influence
The Chora Church is the perfect example of Byzantine architecture. The mosaics and the frescoes that adorn the ceiling will take your breath away. It too is a church-turned mosque-turned museum. The ideal time to visit the Chora Church is in March, but it is also a peak season for tourists. So, are you ready to soak in the blessed vibes of this place?
Entrance Fee: £4.50
Opening Hours: Thursday to Tuesday from 9 AM to 4.30 PM in January
10. Galata Tower: For An Awesome City View
To get a bird’s eye view of Istanbul, go visit the Galata Tower. It was used as a watchtower when it was constructed back in 500 AD. However, today it is a popular tourist destination. While you’re out and about in this scenic land, make sure you don’t miss out this one and witness the splendid breathtaking views of the sunset from here!
Entrance Fee: £3.50
Opening Hours: You can visit Galata Tower at any time of the year and it is open from 9AM to 8PM
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Where To Stay In Istanbul in January
As Istanbul offers a large number of options, it can be difficult to decide where you want to stay. There are five distinct neighborhoods. The Beyoglu is the modern part of Istanbul whereas the Sultanahmet is the classic old part of Istanbul. The Bosphorus area provides beautiful views of the sea.
- Beyoglu: The Centre Of The City
- Sultanahmet or The Old City: The Famous Land
- Bosphorus: For An Awesome Time
- Karaköy: The Most Captivating Neighbourhood
- Galata: A History Rich City
1. Beyoglu: The Centre Of The City
Beyoglu is the heart of modern Istanbul. It is also close to the old city and Bosphorus. You can easily visit the Galata Tower, Istiklal street or the Taksim square. There are art galleries, bars, and cafes all around the area. However, some people may find it a little overcrowded during peak seasons.
2. Sultanahmet or The Old City: The Famous Land
This region has numerous hotels and is perfect for those who seek a quiet vacation. The famous Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and even the Topkapi Palace are close by. You can even walk to them from the Sultanahmet. Even though the place has numerous hotels, it is not really a lively place. Do not expect any entertainment after 11 PM. The streets become silent and empty at nights.
3. Bosphorus: For An Awesome Time
This region is famous for its views of the sea. The hotels in the region tend to be more expensive. The quality of life in this region is much higher and there are numerous restaurants and nightclubs in the region. The drawback is the distance to the popular tourist destinations. Often it may take longer to reach places near Sultanahmet.
4. Karaköy: The Most Captivating Neighbourhood
The fascinating neighborhood is located by the waterside and is a former port of the city. Explore the maze-like streets that offer a glimpse of the city’s culture and historic heritage. Find churches, synagogues and religious sites that seamlessly blend into the modern-day Karaköy.
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5. Galata: A History Rich City
Galata is part of the larger Beyoğlu district and more clearly identified by the historic Galata Tower overlooking the neighborhood’s old cobblestone streets and neoclassical buildings. The main street is full of interesting cafés and shops where you can explore the awesome local stuff. Do explore several points of cultural interest like the Mevlevi Museum and the Museum of Turkish Jews.
So, did this make you feel like exploring the mesmerizing views of Istanbul in January? What are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Istanbul trip to Turkey for a soothing holiday with your loved ones in the cozy feels of the January month and don’t forget to pack a little extra in case you change your mind!
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Frequently Asked Questions About Istanbul In January
Does it snow in Istanbul in January?
If it does snow, it snows heavily. There is an average of four snow days in Istanbul every January. If you want those pretty snow pictures, you might be sad to know that on any typical January day it’s not likely to snow.
What is there to do in Istanbul in January?
Istanbul is a historic city and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Apart from historical buildings, you can visit Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Museum. Also, catch the winter discounts at shopping malls, discover the nightlife, visit the Basilica Cistern and take full advantage of the atmosphere at Istiklal Street.
Is Turkey cold in January?
January in Turkey is typically cold and dark, although it won’t be as brutally cold as what you might expect to find in the dead of winter in many other places.
How many days are enough in Istanbul?
The minimum days to explore Istanbul would be around 3 days as this is the number one place in Turkey.
How much is a meal in Istanbul?
An average meal at a modest cafe will cost about INR 200-300 with the drinks.
What is the best area in Istanbul to stay?
The best area to stay in Turkey is the European side of Sultanahmet, which also serves as a top notch tourism destination in Istanbul as it holds the Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and famous Basilica Cistern. You can stay here, but it’s a little more expensive in this area for shopping and food.
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